PLAYERS TO WATCH
LEONARD FOURNETTE – RB, LSU
Seven games through the regular season a year ago, virtually all of America had Leonard Fournette penciled in the top line to win the Heisman Trophy when he averaged over 193 yards per game on the ground and helped carry his team to No. 2 in the polls.
Then he ran into some Alabama team that shut him down so bad, he might as well have had zero yards on the day. The Tide held Fournette to just 31 yards…. not 131. Three-one. Never bet against an Alabama defense under Saban and his staff.
That demoralizing performance was the beginning of the end for LSU and their hopes of doing great things in 2015 as they proceeded to lose two more in a row after losing to ‘Bama 30-16.
As we stated before, the Tigers’ success this season will start and end with Fournette in the backfield. The dude has already shown what he is capable of over a long stretch of the season and should he stay healthy, I’d be willing to bet he’s back in Heisman contention from Week 1 onward.
SONY MICHEL – RB, UGA
As the season progressed a year ago, it was Georgia running back Nick Chubb who took stranglehold of the first-team duties after Todd Gurley departed for the NFL. Unfortunately for Chubb and the ‘Dogs, he suffered a gruesome injury that sidelined him for the season, and in came fellow tailback and classmate Sony Michel.
Michel totaled just 276 yards on 41 carries through the team’s first five weeks. The injury to Chubb came in Week 6 for Georgia against Tennessee and Michel was pressed into first-team duties. He racked up 145 yards in that game on 22 totes and finishing the season with over 1,100 yards on the ground, giving Georgia sold and admirable work considering the circumstances.
The jury is still out on whether or not Chubb will be 100 percent and if so, when he will be good to go. However, it’s got to be somewhat relieving for Georgia knowing that they have a guy in Michel that can handle the ‘every snap’ role, thus taking the pressure off Chubb to rehab quicker than normal. Both backs are heading into their junior year in Athens.
For as strong the SEC usually is every year, top to bottom better than every other conference across FBS, the quarterback position across the league is usually average at best, sometimes mediocre. In fact, one could say Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs is among the top-3 in the league in terms of overall makeup and potential.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound play-caller will be entering his senior season and has seen significant improvement each and every year down in Knoxville. Last year, Dobbs threw for 2,291 yards and ran for another 671 yards. That total yardage accumulated, along with a 58-yard pass he hauled in during the season, is more than 1,400 up from his sophomore season. He was also 2nd to only Jalen Hurd on the team in rushing TDs with 11.
Tennessee could very well be a sexy pick to win an SEC East Division that is typically not as deep as its West counterpart in the conference. Dobbs is going to be a huge part of that as he will have a number of ‘key’ games this season, including road games at Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas A&M.