Position Groups with the Biggest Question Marks in the SEC in 2022
Alabama Wide Receivers
By now, everyone who watched college football last year should understand how massive an impact Jameson Williams and John Metchie III made in the passing game and the complementary skillset Slade Bolden provided as WR3. The trio combined for more than 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2021. Their departures leave tight end Cameron Latu (currently injured) as the lead returnee in that passing game. The Crimson Tide will now turn to transfers Jermaine Burton and Tyler Harrell and sophomore Ja'Corey Brooks as its starting receivers.
Arkansas Wide Receivers
The offense was solid last season, but Arkansas did rely on Treylon Burks to do a ton of the work. KJ Jefferson returns at quarterback after a breakout season and should help steady things. It may also help that Arkansas landed Oklahoma's top receiver, Jadon Haselwood, via the transfer portal, and the Razorbacks bring back two 500-yard rushers from a year ago at running back. Former Florida State transfer Warren Thompson will need to step up in his second season with the team but expect a run-oriented attack early in the season.
Florida Defensive Line
Collectively, the Florida defensive line wasn't anything special in 2021, but the unit does lose four seniors--including third-round pick Zachary Carter. Carter was a unique player who could affect the game as both a defensive tackle and defensive end. The returning group does not have much experience at the college level, but Gervon Dexter Sr and Princely Umanmielen improved as top reserves a year ago and will see their roles expand further.
Georgia Running Back
Zamir White and James Cook are out, and Kenny McIntosh assumes the RB1 role, White and Cook formed one of the top backfield duos in the country last season-- accounting for 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns. McIntosh showed fantastic potential with the few touches he had, but he's never been a true feature player in college and has yet to top 328 yards in a season.
The 2021-22 Georgia defense was one of the great units in college football, carrying a team that had many question marks on offense for much of the year. The Bulldogs had eight defenders drafted into the NFL in April, including five first-round picks. Now, defensive coordinator Dan Lanning has been hired as head coach at Oregon, and Georgia returns just four defensive starters. LB Nolan Smith, DT Jalen Carter, and DBs Kelee Ringo and Christopher Smith will be crucial leaders for the newcomers to follow.
Kentucky Defensive Line
Josh Paschall could line up at either defensive tackle or defensive end and was one of the best run-stoppers in the country over the course of his career. He also had a rarely seen balance between his run defense and pass-rushing abilities. Nose tackle Marquan McCall is also gone and was a monster who set the tone in the middle of the d-line. Losing multiple players from a three-man front in one year is a huge challenge. Dt JustinTRogers is the most experienced returning player, while Octavious Oxendine has drawn praise during camp.
LSU Offensive Line
It ,may not have been a great unit in 2021, but any time you need to replace four starters on the offensive line can be difficult. Guards Chasen Hines and Ed Ingram, tackle Austin Deculus, and center Liam Shanahan have all moved onto the next level, leaving behind a group mostly comprised of transfers and freshmen. Transfers Miles Frazier and Tre'Mond Shorts have had the most impactful college careers of the bunch so far.
Ole Miss Wide Receiver
Three Rebels wide receivers (Dontario Drummond, Braylon Sanders, and Jahcour Pearson) head to the NFL. Luckily, Ole Miss will still have Jonathan Mingo, Dannis Jackson, and a host of transfers to take over. Mingo only played in six games in 2021 but is one the best receivers in the country when healthy. He's easily the No.1 receiver in this group with Jackson competing with guys like Malik Heath (Mississippi State), Jaylon Robinson (UCF), Jordan Watkins (Louisville), and Jalen Knox (Missouri) for the other spots. That's an intriguing corps with excellent size, but they have to put it together on the field.
Mississippi State Wide Receiver
The rest of the skill players return, but the Bulldogs are staring at a situation in which last year's WR3 may start the year as WR1, and the rest of the depth chart begins with guys who caught less than 30 passes in 2021. Austin WIlliams is the main returning target for this offense and is all but assured a spot in the starting lineup. Rara Thomas and Lideatrick Griffin are likely to join him, while Washington State transfer Jamire Calvin will need to be more productive after an underwhelming first year in Starkville.
Connor Bazelak was Co-Offensive Player of the Year in the SEC as a redshirt freshman in 2020 and followed that performance with a respectable 2,548 yards as a sophomore. With Bazelak transferring to Indiana, the Tigers will now turn to sophomore Brady Cook, who has just 65 career pass attempts. Cook will have to show he can excel with expanded responsibility for this offense to work.
Missouri Running Back
Unfortuanatley, Cook will not have star running back Tyler Badie at his disposal. Badie was not only a 1,000 yard rusher in 2021, but he also led the team in receiving. This will still be a decently experienced group thanks to Stanford transfer Nathaniel Peat and backup Elijah Young, but neither has been relied upon as much as they will be this season.
Last year's starters, Akayleb Evans and Allie Green IV are both gone. Ennis Rakestraw and Kris Abrams-Draine are now projected to win the starting roles. Rakestraw drew a late buzz as a high school recruit from the Dallas area and was even rumored to have a chance to start for Mizzou as a freshman. Abrams-Draine, meanwhile, made a few starts as a key reserve player last season.
Texas A&M Running Back
Isaiah Spiller had a bit of an off year for most of last season yet still finished with over 1,000 rushing yards, He and Devon Achane combined for 1,921 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground as a duo. While Achane returns, it's the complementary back that remains a mystery for the Aggies. Ainias Smith has played that role some in the past but may fit best at receiver this year. That leaves guys like Amari Daniels and LJ Johnson Jr-- who have little playing time so far in college-- to fight for the RB2 role.
Texas A&M Offensive Line
The offensive line will always be a determining factor in how well an offense fares in a season. This year, A&M has to replace three starters from last season, including first-round pick Kenyon Green. The projected starting lineup includes three sophomores, a junior, and a freshman. So, the faster they can grow together, the better.
Texas A&M Defensive Line
The Texas A&M defense has been outstanding for the last couple of years and now faces the difficult task of rebuilding in the trenches. All four starters from last season's defensive line are in the NFL, which means the new guys have much to fulfill. It's anybody's guess who emerges from the pack.