2013 was the year of the quarterback in the SEC. Stars like Johnny Manziel, A.J. McCarron, Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger and Connor Shaw littered SEC rosters. All of those guys will be on NFL rosters next season leaving new starters at many schools in 2014.
It will be tough to match the production those five guys put up over the last two seasons. While there is talent and some experience stepping behind center in the SEC, it’s safe to say that 2014 won’t be dominated by quarterback play.
However, 2014 could be the year of the running back for teams in the nation’s top conference. Teams return experience and considerable talent on depth charts in 2014. Defenses better be gearing up to stop the run — otherwise some SEC offenses could run wild.
Starting with just some of the returning leaders in rushing, names like Todd Gurley, T.J. Yeldon, Mike Davis and Alex Collins jump right to the forefront. Those guys all have player of the year potential, and should they remain healthy they will be offensive horses in 2014.
Then you move down into guys who had solid seasons last year like Jerron Seymour, Jonathan Williams and Russell Hansborough. Hansborough should see more carries with Henry Josie departing the Missouri Tigers, and Seymour will probably be leaned on heavily for the Vanderbilt Commodores in a transition year.
Many teams have backups who would easily be starters at other schools. Names like Keith Marshall, Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry lead the list of guys that will be backing up some of the top rushers in college football. Those three may even be considered the 1B on the depth chart rather than No. 2.
Then there are the newcomers hitting campus this fall to join the fray. Guys like Leonard Fournette, Racean Thomas, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb all come into camp with much hype and looking for playing time. The depth and talent at running back in the SEC for 2014 is staggering.
The last couple of years have seen the SEC change drastically. A league known for running the football and playing hard-nosed defense all of a sudden saw 3,000-yard passers all over the place. With the turnover at quarterback, we should see a course correction in 2014.
The competition for leading rusher in the SEC will be fierce this season. So many guys could hold that title by season’s end, and there are quite a few who could be Heisman candidates.
One thing is certain; 2014 will be a year to remember for running backs in the SEC, and we can all look forward to jaw-dropping highlights in the fall.