- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
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We liked the ACC Blog's idea of coming up with five candidates for Offensive Player of the Year so much that we decided to borrow it for the week. In fact, with so many strong contenders in the SEC, we went ahead and came up with five more players to keep an eye on.
Today, we start with the offense. On Thursday, we'll have the defense.
Note: Players are listed in alphabetical order.
Georgia RB Nick Chubb
Todd Gurley rushed for 3,000 yards and scored 44 touchdowns in his three-year career at Georgia. In terms of the school’s all-time best, he’s right there with Herschel Walker, Garrison Hearst and Knowshon Moreno. So why hasn’t this been the Summer of Sadness in Athens? Why don’t we hear Bulldogs fans singing eulogies for Gurley, who went in the first round of the NFL draft? Because of Chubb, of course. When you lead the league in rushing touchdowns, finish second in rushing yards and have the most explosive runs of anyone in the conference (20 or more yards) as a true freshman, you can make a lot of people forget. And Chubb did all that despite not seeing starters reps until Week 6.
LSU RB Leonard Fournette
OK, so he didn’t live up to the ridiculous Heisman Trophy hype. How many freshmen could? But what we saw toward the end of last season proved that Fournette is one of the best running backs in the country, despite his relative lack of experience. The nation’s former No. 1 overall recruit went from "so-so" to "holy cow." Against Texas A&M and Notre Dame, he had 289 yards and three touchdowns rushing, including this ridiculous hit. If he brings that kind of dominance into 2015, he could carry the LSU offense on his own -- and with that mediocre passing offense, he could very well have to.
Alabama RB Derrick Henry
It's time to see what El Tractorcito is all about. As you can see, he already has a clever nickname. As the country's record-holder for career rushing yards in high school, he certainly has the hype. And considering he ran for 990 yards as a sophomore last season, he has the production, too. But with T.J. Yeldon now off to the NFL, it's officially Henry's show at Alabama. A monster of a running back (he is listed at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds), he's just as capable of wearing down a defense as he is running by one. Granted, Kenyan Drake will steal some of his carries, but with an inexperienced quarterback, there should be plenty of snaps to go around.
Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott
It feels like Dak Prescott has been playing quarterback in the SEC forever now. As a fourth-year junior last season, he put up monster numbers, finishing eighth in the Heisman Trophy balloting. But in light of his league-leading 42 total touchdowns, it's important to note that in a lot of ways he's just getting started. Remember last year was his first full season as a starter. The former three-star prospect had to wait behind Tyler Russell before he won the job, and even then he showed some room for improvement. With more experience and some tweaks to his game in the pocket, we could see an even better Prescott in 2015.
Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell
Forget vying for the SEC Comeback Player of the Year. With Laquon Treadwell already running routes and jumping on trampolines after his gruesome injury against Auburn, you can go ahead and hand him the award now. But if Ole Miss finds a quarterback who can get him the ball, watch out. There might not be a cornerback in the SEC capable of covering him. He's too big. He's too fast. He's got too good a set of hands. The one fair matchup might be Vernon Hargreaves III, and we'll be lucky enough to see how that plays out when Ole Miss goes to Florida on Oct. 3. A big day against the Gators' stout defense could put Treadwell on the map, much like it did for Alabama's Amari Cooper last season.
Five more to keep an eye on:
23hSam Khan Jr. and Alex Scarborough
5dDavid Ching and Edward Aschoff