The countdown to kick-off continues with four more potential SEC breakout candidates. The East should be more competitive this year, but the West is still the stronger of the two divisions.
Up next, we have Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Texas A&M. As always, feel free to agree or disagree.
Ole Miss Rebels
Damore’ea Stringfellow, Wide Receiver: Ole Miss took a major hit to their offense when Laquon Treadwell and Cody Core departed for the NFL. Treadwell is one of the best receivers to ever play for the Rebels, and replacing his ability to succeed on the short to intermediate routes is a tall order. If anyone can fill that void, it would be Damore’ea Stringfellow.
Stringfellow only had 36 receptions for 503 yards and five touchdowns, but when you watch his tape, he actually displays some similarities to Treadwell. At 6’2 220 pounds, the former Washington Husky is a physically gifted receiver who can beat press coverage and put pressure on opposing defenses in a variety of ways.
Guys like Quincy Adeboyejo and Evan Engram have garnered all the attention in regards to the Ole Miss passing attack, but don’t be surprised in Stringfellow emerges as the top option for Chad Kelly in Oxford.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Lashard Durr, Cornerback: Will Redmond was one of the better cornerback prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft class, but the Bulldogs are now looking to replace the former second team All-SEC standout. While there aren’t a ton of options available to fill that void, former Copiah-Lincoln Community College cornerback Lashard Durr might be the best option.
Even though Durr was only a three-star, the 5’11 190 pound corner from Gulfport, Mississippi has displayed physicality since joining the Bulldogs back in the spring. Durr has struggled to adjust to the SEC level of competition, but that doesn’t mean that he should be counted out as a potential breakout player for State this year. It might take some time, so expect some growing pains along the way. Durr is a talented player who can emerge as a key defender as early as this year.
Keon Hatcher, Wide Receiver: Hatcher was in the midst of a major breakout in 2015 when a foot injury ended his season after only two games. In the two games he started, Hatcher had 198 yards receiving and two touchdowns. At the time of the injury, Hatcher was leading the SEC in receiving yards. Naturally, it was a major blow to the offense when he went down.
After having a small setback with his foot in the spring, Hatcher is finally healthy and looking to emerge as the Razorbacks top receiving option. The 6’2 207 pound receiver from Owasso, Oklahoma has the necessary size and athleticism to be an impact player in the SEC, he just has to show that he can stay healthy moving forward.
I’m rested, fresh, healthy. I’m ready to do what I was supposed to do last year.
If he can avoid anymore setbacks with the foot, look for Hatcher to challenge fellow receiver Dominique Reed as Austin Allen’s favorite target.
Texas A&M Aggies
Trevor Knight, Quarterback: Texas A&M might have the best receiving core in all of college football. They have the two towering receivers in Ricky Seals-Jones (6’5 235) and Josh Reynolds (6’4 195). On top of those two talents, they also have Speedy Noil -- who is a former five-star prospect with the ability to make plays in the open field -- and Christian Kirk -- who is another former five-star receiver who led the team in receptions (80), receiving yards (1009) and receiving touchdowns (7) in 2015.
This type of talent at the receiver position benefits no one more than former Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight. The graduate transfer is looking for a fresh start after a disappointing run in Norman, and he might have found the perfect situation to resurrect his career.
New offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone spent the spring implementing an up-tempo offense that got the ball out of Trevor Knight’s hands and into the hands of the previously mentioned receivers. With little to no run game to speak of currently, it’ll be crucial to the Aggies’ success for Knight to regain his freshman form and take reigns of an offense that is desperate for a quarterback.