As you would expect, now that preview stories have begun to roll out for the SEC in 2017, a major storyline for many teams will be the impact of incoming transfers eligible to play this season.
But what about those who transferred out of these programs? How will their absence impact some of these teams? In many cases, those that transferred out either had little impact while they were with their respective teams, or would not have been considered a key component for the upcoming season anyway.
However, in the SEC, depth is often a deciding factor for teams challenging for a division or conference championship.
Here is a look at one transfer that could be missed for each SEC team in 2017:
Alabama: QB Blake Barnett (new school: Arizona State)
This might be hard for many to remember, but in last year’s season opener against USC, it was Blake Barnett, and not Jalen Hurts, who started. Hurts took over for Barnett early, remained the starter the rest of the season and went on to win SEC Offensive Player of the Year as a true freshman.
Barnett was one of three quarterbacks to transfer from Alabama last year, along with Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell. Now at Arizona State, Barnett is expected to compete for the starting job with the Sun Devils.
Of course, Barnett (along with Bateman and Cornwell) was not going to take the starting job away from Hurts anytime soon. But where this could impact Alabama is depth at the position.
On the depth chart behind Hurts are a pair of true freshmen – Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones. Any injury to Hurts, or if the Crimson Tide’s offense struggles early under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, and instead of an experienced veteran to take over, they will be depending on a two QB without any snaps at the collegiate level on their resumes.
Arkansas: WR Kendrick Edwards (new school: Arkansas State)
Kendrick Edwards, who was dismissed by Arkansas coach Bret Bielema midway through the 2015 season, hardly produced numbers that screamed future All-American: 13 career games, 8 receptions, 121 yards and a TD are all Edwards has to show for his time as a Razorback.
But four of Arkansas’ top five wide receivers from a season ago are gone for 2017. And, with QB Austin Allen already without a 1,300-yard back to hand the ball off to following the sudden retirement of Rawleigh Williams, a 6-5, 215-pound receiver like Edwards to throw the ball to might have been a nice part of the Razorbacks offense to have.
Auburn: RB/WR Stanton Truitt (new school: North Carolina)
On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a major loss for the Tigers. After all, with Kamryn Pettway returning, along with four of the top five receivers from a year ago, and the addition of Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham, this offense could be the best in the SEC.
But every team likes versatility, especially at the skill positions. And Truitt represented that for the Tigers. Although little used, Truitt showed his multi-purpose skills last season as a running back and receiver. He averaged more than 6 yards a carry and over 14 yards a reception.
Truitt could compete for the starting running back job with North Carolina this season, something that likely would not have happened with the Tigers. However, his all-purpose skills certainly would have gotten him on the field at Auburn this season.
Florida: QB Will Grier (new school: West Virginia)
The impact of Grier’s transfer back in 2015 might have been diminished after Malik Zaire announced in early June he was transferring from Notre Dame to the Gators.
Florida’s quarterback issues since Tim Tebow’s final season in 2009 have been well-documented. But before his suspension in 2015, Grier had performed so well Gator fans thought they had finally solved their QB problems.
In six games (five starts), Grier threw for 1,204 yards, 10 TDs and just three interceptions. Then came the suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.
There’s no guarantee Zaire wins the job. But if he performs well and gives Florida the consistent quarterback play for a whole season it has been missing for nearly 10 years, then all will likely be forgotten when it comes to Grier.
However, if Zaire is just another in a long list of struggling QBs at Florida since Tebow, and Grier has a major impact at West Virginia (he is expected to be the Mountaineers starting QB in Week 1), then how much will Gator fans miss Grier?
Georgia: DB Reggie Wilkerson (new school: Iowa State)
This section was very close to being occupied by quarterback Brice Ramsey, after his announcement that he would transfer. However, Ramsey elected to stay, which was great news for Georgia coaches, who knew they would be very thin at the quarterback position had Ramsey left.
Enter Reggie Wilkerson, who as a senior could have pushed for a starting spot in the defensive backfield, or at the very least provided much-needed depth in an area that doesn’t have as much depth as other positions on the defense. Injuries have curtailed what was expected to be a solid career with the Bulldogs. In 20 career games, Wilkerson had just one interception.
Defense could carry the Bulldogs far in 2017, so losing a backup to a school like Iowa State might not seem like a big deal. But remember, potentially 12 of the 14 SEC schools are returning starting quarterbacks. So SEC defensive backfields could be seeing a lot of passes their way.
Did Georgia lose a starter on the defense with Wilkerson? Probably not. Will the depth he could have provided be missed? Stay tuned.
Kentucky: WR Jeff Badet (new school: Oklahoma)
Jeff Badet is coming off a season in which was one of the better receivers in the SEC. Badet led the SEC (6th in FBS) in yards per reception (21.6). He led the Wildcats in receiving yards (670) and was second on the team in receptions (31) and TD receptions (4).
Kentucky does have some depth returning at the wide receiver position in Garrett Johnson and Dorian Baker. But neither has the big-play capability that Badet possessed.
LSU: WR Tyron Johnson (new school: Oklahoma State)
Yes, quarterback Brandon Harris transferring to North Carolina hurts the Tigers’ depth at the position. And he certainly has more name recognition. But the impact of the transfer of Tyron Johnson after the 2015 season could potentially be felt more by the Tigers in 2017.
Back in 2015, Johnson, then a freshman, caught just nine passes. But in those nine receptions, Johnson managed to finish fourth on the team in receiving yards (150), third on the team in TD receptions (2) and second on the team in yards per reception (16.7).
With LSU losing two of its top three receivers from 2016 to the NFL Draft (Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural), there almost certainly would have been a starting spot available for Johnson this season.
Mississippi State: QB Damian Williams (new school: Texas State)
Williams was in a tough spot, having played backup QB to Dallas Cowboys star Dak Prescott in 2014 and the SEC’s leader in TD runs in Nick Fitzgerald last season.
Williams’ numbers were very respectable. In his last two years with the Bulldogs (2016 and 2014 – he redshirted his 2015 season) Williams completed 64 percent of his passes for 437 yards, five TD passes and zero interceptions. Last season in limited snaps, he averaged over 5 yards a carry (5.2), displaying the dual-threat capability that had him challenging Fitzgerald for the starting spot last summer.
Williams was never going to unseat Fitzgerald as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback, since Fitzgerald could be the best QB in the SEC. But depth is always huge at the QB position — especially when a quarterback runs as much as Fitzgerald does — and Williams’ transfer makes that position a little thin overall entering 2017.
Missouri: QB Marvin Zanders (new school: Vanderbilt)
Just like with Damian Williams at Mississippi State, quarterback Marvin Zanders was not going to take the job from starter Drew Lock. But Zanders’ decision to transfer might make Missouri’s depth at quarterback even less thin than the Bulldogs without Williams.
Zanders’ numbers last season were actually solid for a backup: 10-for-12 passing (83.3 comp pct), 114 pass yards, one TD pass, and zero interceptions. And despite playing in just eight games in a backup role, Zanders was still third on the team in rush yards (198), second in yards per carry (5.7) and tied for third in TD runs (2).
But Zanders only saw time in two games after November began and threw just one pass over the Tigers’ final six games last season.
Ole Miss: OT Christian Morris (new school: Tennessee State)
It’s been an interesting ride through college for Christian Morris. Initially signed by UCLA, he transferred to Ole Miss after his freshman season.
After a neck injury in 2015 against Texas A&M seemingly ended his playing career, Morris decided to transfer to Grambling State, joining former Ole Miss QB DeVante Kincade on the Tigers roster. But during this past spring, Morris changed his mind and elected to transfer to Tennessee State, choosing to stay closer to his family.
As for how Morris’ transfer impacts the Rebels, they return four starters on the offensive line from a season ago, so it was unlikely that had he stayed with Ole Miss, Morris would have found his way on the field as a starter.
But once again, depth is a vital part of a team’s success, particularly in the trenches. On the offensive line, of the 14 players on the roster, only two are seniors, and nine are freshmen or sophomores.
South Carolina: RB David Williams (new school: Arkansas)
Will a pair of freshmen leading the Gamecocks in rushing last season in Rico Dowdle (764 yards) and A.J. Turner (497), it’s understandable that David Williams decided to transfer to a school to get more carries.
Williams’ career at South Carolina was hardly spectacular – 794 rush yards over three seasons, with 5 career TD runs. He had one 100-yard rushing game, as a freshman in 2014 against Furman.
As a graduate transfer, he’ll get a shot to earn carries in an Arkansas backfield that must replace Rawleigh Williams III.
Tennessee: RB Jalen Hurd (new school: Baylor)
Jalen Hurd’s impact on his new school, Baylor, will not be felt until 2018. The impact of his absence from his former team will be felt much sooner.
Hurd’s decision to leave the Volunteers during the middle of the 2016 wasn’t a major loss at that time. It actually appeared to bring the Vols closer. Tennessee still had a star dual-threat QB (Joshua Dobbs) and split Hurd’s workload between John Kelly and Alvin Kamara.
But entering 2017, only Kelly is back. And although he was productive (630 yards, 6.4 yds per carry), Kelly still only had 98 carries last season, fourth on the team.
After Kelly, the only three running backs who carried the ball in 2016 were freshmen last season. And combined, Carlin Fils-aime, Jeremy Lewis and Taeler Dowdy had just 22 attempts.
Texas A&M: QB Kyle Allen (new team: Houston)
At one time, Texas A&M had more quarterbacks than they knew what to do with, in Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray. Both are long gone, with Murray transferring to Oklahoma and Allen joining Houston.
Allen figures to have the bigger impact on his new team, since Murray will be backup to Heisman Trophy candidate Baker Mayfield. And while the Aggies were able to overcome Allen’s transfer by having Trevor Knight at quarterback last season, Knight is gone, leaving a significant void at the position entering this season.
Jake Hubenak had some moments last season taking over after Knight was injured. In back-to-back weeks against Mississippi State and Ole Miss, Hubenak combined to complete 61 pct of his passes for 435 yards, five TD passes and two interceptions. However, those were against two of the three lowest-ranked defensive units in the SEC last season.
Hubenak could win the job over true freshmen Kellen Mond and Connor Blumrick. If Allen puts up huge numbers in the Houston offense, how much hotter will the seat get for Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin?
Vanderbilt: QB Wade Freebeck (new school: undecided)
The departure of Wade Freebeck might not seem like a big loss, and if things work out for Vanderbilt it probably won’t be. Kyle Shurmur established himself as the starter last season and threw 95 percent of the team’s passes in 2016.
Freebeck’s career was hardly spectacular; he threw just one TD pass and seven interceptions in three seasons.
But for an offense that will have to perform even better in 2017 to make up for the losses on defense, having quarterback depth would be a big help.
And now that Freebeck has departed, behind Shurmur on the depth chart is a junior (Shawn Stankavage), a redshirt freshman (Deuce Wallace) and a true freshman (Jacob Free).
Combined collegiate passes thrown: 0.
Source: Saturday Down South