The SEC West is expected to be one of the best divisions in college football, but there’s so much that can affect that — even before the season starts.
For example, the LSU Tigers, who are projected to be one of the top teams in the West, are trying to overcome a slew of losses along the offensive line. Last Saturday, the team was without three of their key guys up front — left tackle K.J. Malone, center Will Clap and right tackle Toby Weathersby — for the fall’s first scrimmage.
In addition, the Tigers will be without former starting offensive guard Maea Teuhema this season after he was suspended for not being in good academic standing with the school. It’s been an eventful start to the season, but the Tigers aren’t the only team with news coming out of camp.
Here’s a look at some of the latest news coming out of the SEC West.
The Crimson Tide still have a few position battles that have yet to be decided. Redshirt sophomore Matt Womack has continued to see work with the starters at right tackle, but he’s being pushed by a pair of true freshmen. Alex Leatherwood, a 5-star recruit, has been impressive, and Jedrick Wills, a 4-star guy, has also worked his way into starting reps after enrolling in May.
In recent days, starting cornerback Anthony Averett and freshman running back Najee Harris have been limited in positional drills that were open to the media. It’s not clear what ailments the two players have, but it’s something to monitor as the showdown against Florida State on Sept. 2 approaches.
Tide fans did receive some good news on Thursday, however. It was announced that former cornerback Javier Arenas would be joining the team’s coaching staff. A fan favorite from 2006 to 2009, Arenas was an All-American his senior year and was a second-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2010 NFL Draft.
After losing star running back Rawleigh Williams III to early retirement due to an injury, the good news is that the team might have another star in the making at the running back position. Sophomore Devwah Whaley has continued to improve following an impressive first season in Fayetteville, which saw him rush for 602 yards and 3 touchdowns on only 110 carries.
It was announced in late July that Whaley was added to the Doak Walker Award watch list, and it’s entirely possible that he could emerge as one of the SEC West’s best running backs.
There’s been conflicting reports this week as to whether or not potential starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham struggled in the Tigers first scrimmage of fall camp. It was originally reported that the Baylor transfer was sacked twice and threw a pick-six, but the interception has since been attributed to last year’s starter Sean White.
Another surprising development is the emergence of redshirt sophomore Prince Tega Wanogho at offensive tackle. After playing in 10 games last season, the former 4-star defensive end is pushing last year’s starter, Darius James, for the starting left tackle spot. It should be noted that if James lost the job on the blindside, he would more than likely switch to right tackle, with Braden Smith moving back to guard.
According to the Clarion-Ledger, Brian Cole, a 4-star player who originally attended Michigan before transferring to East Mississippi Community College, was seen working with the cornerbacks this past week. It’s an interesting development considering he was seen working exclusively at safety previously.
Mississippi State lost Kivon Coman and Mark McLaurin — who were tied for second on the team in interceptions with two — in addition to Cedric Jiles at cornerback, so Cole’s transition could give a boost to a team that is lacking talent relative to the rest of the SEC West.
The fiasco that has taken place in Oxford has been one of the biggest storylines this offseason, but as the season approaches, it might be time to turn our focus to the field.
One of the biggest obstacles facing the Rebels’ offense is finding someone to replace Evan Engram, the school’s career leader in receptions (162), receiving yards (2,320) and receiving touchdowns (15) by a tight end. It looks like there may be some clarity at the position following a long offseason battle.
Walk-on Dawson Knox has reportedly emerged as the top option to replace the New York Giants’ first-round draft pick. It’s rare to hear of a non-scholarship player making so much noise, but unless one of the other tight ends step up, it looks like Knox will be jogging out with the starters on Sept. 2 against South Alabama.
Kevin Sumlin still hasn’t named his starting quarterback for the opener against UCLA on Sept. 3, but the identity of the offense has become increasingly clear.
According to SportsDay, A&M running backs coach Clarence McKinney had this to say during a recent TV interview:
“We feel like the strength of our offense right now is probably our offensive line and our running backs.”
Sophomore Trayveon Williams and senior Keith Ford are expected to handle the majority of the workload after combining for 1,726 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2016. Williams, a 4-star prospect from Houston, was named to the Maxwell Award watch list in July.
Source: Saturday Down South