- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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The SEC may be known for defense, but expect the offenses to get some more recognition this fall.
The SEC returns a solid group of quarterbacks, running backs and receivers. In fact, the seven of the top 10 passers return, along with six of the top 10 rushers and four of the top 10 receivers.
That means some pretty talented offensive trios will be back in the SEC this fall.
So which one is the best?
Well, you have Alabama, which returns quarterback AJ McCarron, running back T.J. Yeldon and wide receiver Amari Cooper. McCarron threw for 2,933 yards and 30 touchdowns, while Yeldon, who was Eddie Lacy's backup last year, rushed for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns. Cooper added 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns, but was arguably one of the league's best players at the end of the season.
At Texas A&M, Johnny Manziel is back, and so is his top rusher and receiver. While things are certainly different in College Station with the loss of offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, left tackle Luke Joeckel and receiver Ryan Swope, the playbook and game plan shouldn't change too much. Manziel was the country's best player last year, registering 5,116 yards of total offense and 47 touchdowns, while Ben Malena rushed for 808 yards and eight touchdowns. Mike Evans had 1,105 and five touchdowns.
Georgia returns a lot of offensive firepower, starting with quarterback Aaron Murray and running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. However, leading receiver Tavarres King is gone. No biggie, really, because the very talented Malcolm Mitchell is back and will be playing receiver full-time. Murray will likely continue to break record after record and should become the first SEC quarterback to pass for 3,000 yards in four seasons. Last year, Gurley led all SEC running backs with 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns, while Mitchell had 572 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
Ole Miss proved that Hugh Freeze's spread wasn't too hard to learn in his first year, as the Rebels had one of the league's top offenses. Quarterback Bo Wallace and his 3,384 total yards of offense and 30 touchdowns are back along with leading rusher Jeff Scott (846 yards and six touchdowns) and leading receiver Donte Moncrief (979 yards and 10 touchdowns). If Wallace cuts down his turnovers, the Rebels' offense should be very fun to watch again.
But there are certainly other trios that could turn in big seasons. Missouri has a healthy James Franklin and Henry Josey coming back. They were one of best quarterback-running back duos in the Big 12 back in 2011 and both are finally close to being full speed again. Also, rising sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham had a big spring and should be the Tigers' top receiving target this fall.
South Carolina might have two quarterbacks to pick from, but when Connor Shaw is on the field he gives the Gamecocks a nice dual-threat at the position. Add receiver Bruce Ellington, who led the Gamecocks with 600 yards last season, and rising sophomore running back Mike Davis, and South Carolina has quite the offensive trio to work with. Davis had a big spring and could be a real gem for this offense.
Maybe even Florida develops a good triple threat with quarterback Jeff Driskel, running back Matt Jones and one of its receivers. Quinton Dunbar is the leading receiver coming back, but the staff is excited about the potential true freshman Demarcus Robinson has. Still, Florida's receivers have a long way to go.
And LSU could have a dynamic trio if running back Jeremy Hill plays this fall. He's currently suspended, but he's one of the best backs in the league. Zach Mettenberger improved a lot late last season and expect Jarvis Landry to be his top deep-threat option this fall at receiver.