Players returning from injury critical to SEC West race

Laquon Treadwell's return from a broken leg could have a big impact on the SEC West race. Michael Chang/Getty Images

Alabama won the SEC last year despite losing running back Kenyan Drake midway through the season to a leg injury. Had Carl Lawson and Alex Kozan been healthy, would Auburn have made it back-to-back trips to Atlanta?

And what if Laquon Treadwell doesn’t get hurt at the end of the Auburn game? What if he and star left tackle Laremy Tunsil stayed healthy all season? Would it have been Ole Miss in the College Football Playoff instead of Alabama?

The fact is those injuries played a major role in each team’s fortunes last season.

"Both of the guys [Lawson and Kozan] had an impact on leading us to that SEC championship and the national championship game, and both of them were big blows," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said at SEC media days.

This season, Lawson and Kozan are healthy. As are Drake, Treadwell and Tunsil. All five players should once again make a significant impact on the landscape of the SEC -- only this time they’re expected to do it on the field.

Click here to read the AP story from John Zenor on the returning players.