This Monday was supposed to have been the start of SEC Media Days, a time where The Plainsman brings you content to get you ready for Auburn’s upcoming season. This year is different with the annual media event currently postponed. The Plainsman wanted to continue providing our readers content similar to Media Days; to prepare our readers if there is a football season, we interviewed other SEC sports editors and their staff.
As the week progresses, be on the lookout for similar interviews from around the SEC. Don't worry if you miss one; the bottom of each story will be updated with links to previous "State of the SEC's."
Natasha Malone and Reed Darcey are the sports editor and deputy sports editor respectively for The Reveille at Louisiana State University. Starting off our coverage of The State of the SEC, here’s a preview of the defending champs, LSU.
Christian: Who do you think will be a breakout player for LSU on offense?
Reveille: “Coming out of high school, Terrace Marshall was the top-ranked prospect from Louisiana and a top-3 receiver in the country. Last year, his sophomore year, he tallied 670 yards and 13 touchdowns, despite missing three games. Pro Football Focus awarded him their highest red zone receiving grade among returning wide receivers.”
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“In 2020, Ja’Marr Chase is expected to man mostly the slot, drawing double teams and leaving Marshall more one-on-one looks on the outside. Someone will have to step up and fill the void left by Justin Jefferson’s departure to the NFL. Proven but with untapped potential, Terrace Marshall is next.”
Christian: Who do you think will be a breakout player for LSU on defense?
Reveille: “Jabril Cox could have left North Dakota State and the FCS, entered the NFL Draft and been selected in the fifth, fourth, or maybe even third round. Instead, he chose to bet on himself and transfer to LSU, where he is expected to play a large role immediately.”
“At NDSU, he was an All-American in consecutive years. He won the conference Freshman of the Year award, multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards and three national titles. LSU’s new Defensive Coordinator Bo Pelini faced Cox while he coached at Youngstown State, and after the game, told Cox that he was an NFL player, reported The Athletic.”
“Sometimes I don’t know what the NFL guys look for,” Pelini said after the game, “but how you’d watch this kid on film and say that you don’t want this kid on your football team, I mean, you don’t know much about football if anybody says that.”
Christian: What are your overall expectations for the Tigers this season?
Reveille: “Despite the obvious losses of the program in Joe Burrow and Joe Brady, LSU is poised to have another successful season in 2020. As expected, there will be a drop-off after those losses, along with many other notable names. Under Ed Orgeron, the Tigers will continue to do what they did last season: prove people wrong. Best case scenario, LSU goes 11-1, with a hard-fought loss on the road to Florida, Texas A&M or Auburn.”
Christian: What is one big storyline for LSU this season?
Reveille: “LSU’s defense heads into the 2020 season with an abundance of noteworthy storylines. Position battles, new faces, and a new scheme headline the beginning of a new era under first-year defensive coordinator Bo Pelini.”
“LSU is getting back to its vintage, attack-style ways of defense in the 4-3 under Pelini, and coach Ed Orgeron couldn’t be more excited about it. After somewhat of an uncharacteristic campaign in 2019, the move to the 4-3 will allow the defense to be more aggressive, particularly at the line of scrimmage.”
Christian: Coming off arguably the greatest season in college football history, how much pressure is on this team to perform?
Reveille: “At LSU, it is common to lose highly touted players year-in and year-out. The expectations are always sky-high in the Bayou. Nothing changes based on last season’s success. There is no rebuilding, only reloading, and I expect LSU to exemplify that very thing in the upcoming season.”
Christian: Who do you think will be a breakout player for Florida on offense this year?
River: “I think Kyle Pitts is the big answer, and the reason why I say that is because he’s already been pretty good. But with the receiving core that Florida has and some of the people leaving that we’ve had like Van Jefferson, I think he’s gonna be a massive target for Kyle Trask.”
Christian: Who do you think will be a breakout player for Florida on defense this year?
River: “I think I’ll go with Kaiir Elam. He’s a sophomore cornerback. Now that CJ Henderson is gone, he’ll be looking to step in a big role that No. 1 CB. He looked pretty good last year as a freshman, and I think having to step up and fill those shoes is gonna be a big deal for him.”
Christian: What are your overall expectations for Florida this year?
River: “I think my expectations are the same thing that’s been happening, which some of the Gator fans might not be excited about. I think that the Gators can finish with a strong record, possibly one or two losses, I think they’ll go to a New Year’s Six Bowl, and I think they’ll win it. But right now, I don’t see them making a College Football Championship run because I still don’t know how confident I am that they can beat Georgia.”
Christian: What is one big storyline for Florida this season?
River: “I think obviously the big storyline is Georgia. I know a lot of Gator fans harp on it, but this seems to be a moment of weakness for Georgia, kind of. I think that beating Georgia and being able to win that game is extremely important for Florida, so Dan Mullen can prove he can do it and if they are able to do it then this team can prove that they are contenders like they want to be.”
Mattison: Who do you think will be a breakout player for Missouri on offense this year?
Eli: “Well, I think, whoever it is, is going to be the starting quarterback. It’s probably going to be Shawn Robinson. He’s a redshirt junior who transferred from TCU, but sat out last season. Again, he’s the favorite for that. Taylor Powell, he’s a redshirt junior too, he’s been the backup for a couple of years. Connor Bazelak will be a redshirt freshman. He looked good last year, but he tore his ACL so he probably won’t win the starting job.”
“Whoever wins that is going to have to be a breakout for the offensive I think. The past couple years it’s been something of a sure-fire thing of who’s going to be the quarterback, last year being Kelly Bryant, before that Drew Lock. There’s actual competition going into this year, so I just think by default you’re going to see someone break out in that role.”
Mattison: Going off of that, who do you think will be a breakout player on defense?
Eli: “I’m not sure he’ll be a breakout too much, but Nick Bolton is going to be the obvious guy to watch. He’s one of the best in the college game already. He’ll probably go to the draft after this year, so I think he’s the obvious one.”
“Otherwise, the probably sneaky one to watch is Kobie Whiteside. He’s a defensive tackle. He led the team in sacks last year. I don’t know if he’ll do that as much this year, just because he won’t have as much of a defensive line around him, so there will be more attention on him. But if there’s going to be pressure up front, it’s going to come from Whiteside.”
Mattison: What do you think are the overall expectations for the Tigers this season?
Eli: “It’s kind of tough just because it’ll be a new coach with Drinkwitz. Nobody really knows what to expect from him. He only had one year at App. State, so there’s not a ton in the sample size. I think a bowl game is certainly the expectation because there wasn’t a bowl game last year with a rough end to the season."
"I think people want to see an offensive-minded team, which it should be, and some sort of improvement from last year. There will be people who want them to challenge winning the SEC East. I don’t know about that his year, but a bowl game is in the expectations.”
Mattison: What is one big storyline you expect to come out of Missouri this season?
Eli: “I think all of the attention is going to be on what Drinkwitz can do. He’s pretty unproven in college football. He’s very unproven at a power five or an SEC level and what his offense looks like. Obviously, we don’t know what the offense is going to look like. There’s no spring camp, no spring game, and there are voluntary workouts right now. So if he’s able to put something really good together, that’s going to be huge. There could easily be some growing pains and some struggles that go with it as well.”
Catch up on the other State of the SEC's here:
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