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."
Hannah Underwood is the sports editor at The Battalion at Texas A&M University. With Kellen Mond going into his final season and Jimbo Fisher entering his third year, Texas A&M is looking to have a breakout season in the SEC West, here's a look at their program.
Jake: Who’s a breakout player for Texas A&M on offense this year?
Hannah: “A&M has a good bit of talent on offense, especially in its younger players, but running back Isaiah Spiller is probably at the top of that list. As a freshman in 2019, he was thrust into the starting role as transfers and injuries hit the position hard and eventually left him as the Aggies’ sole scholarship running back by mid-December.”
“He struggled early on in the season, but soon became a consistent contributor, and he should easily be one of A&M’s biggest playmakers in 2020.”
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Jake: Who’s a breakout player for Texas A&M on defense this year?
Hannah: “Another Aggie that had a big freshman season, safety Demani Richardson finished 2019 third on the team with 71 tackles, earning him a spot on the Freshman All-SEC Team. While his freshman debut was successful, there’s no reason to think his sophomore campaign won’t be bigger.”
Jake: What are your expectations for the Aggies this year?
Hannah: “Heading into Jimbo Fisher’s third season in Aggieland, expectations are pretty high for the team. For the first time since 2011, A&M has a homegrown senior quarterback in Kellen Mond, who, despite losing two receivers to the NFL Draft, still has plenty of options at the position.”
“Namely, Jhamon Ausbon returns for his senior season with several years of catching passes from Mond under his belt, stemming from their time as roommates at IMG Academy.”
“With a majority of its talent returning from last season (and assuming the schedule remains as it is), a 10-win season isn’t a crazy expectation, even if it’s something A&M hasn’t had since 2012.”
Jake: What’s one big storyline for Texas A&M this year?
Hannah: “Something A&M didn’t have much of last season was experience. While they had only five seniors on their 2019 roster, the Aggies have almost three times that many this season. However, the question remains: how have the young players grown over the offseason?”
“With the absence of the spring game and the uncertainty that continues to surround the season, we are no closer to an answer than we were after the bowl game, but this is still one of the most exciting unknowns for A&M heading into the fall.”
Christian: Who’s a breakout player for South Carolina on offense this year?
The Daily Gamecock: “There are lots of guys that are really set up to have huge seasons on the offensive side of the ball. Shi Smith and Marshawn Lloyd are two that come to my mind off the bat.”
“Shi is coming off a solid junior year, and it’ll finally be his time to shine as the #1 wideout with Bryan Edwards leaving for the NFL. Lloyd is coming in with a lot of hype, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a lot of carries opening week. Even though he’s a freshman and he’s coming into a young backfield crowded with potential, he could very much be starting.”
Christian: Who’s a breakout player for South Carolina on defense this year?
The Daily Gamecock: “Defense wise all eyes are going to be on Jordan Burch. One of the top recruits in the nation coming out of high school a lot of critics are on the fence about how he will be able to perform going against SEC offensive lines, but nevertheless, I think he’s poised to have a good season.”
“Another guy I’d say is DB Jaycee Horn. He helped lead the way in a young secondary last year, and draft analysts are already saying he’ll be the second DB off the board in the 2021 draft. Don’t be surprised when he’s a first-round draft pick next year.”
Christian: What are your expectations for the Gamecocks this season?
The Daily Gamecock: “247 Sports awarded us with the nation’s toughest schedule for the second year in a row this season, so I think a .500 season is a reasonable prediction.”
“We really just can’t catch a break scheduling wise, and with a young team, it’ll be interesting to see how things turn out.”
Christian: What’s one big storyline for South Carolina this season?
The Daily Gamecock: “Definitely Muschamp’s future at Carolina. He managed to bring in one of the best recruiting classes the school has ever had despite a lackluster season last year, so I think that bought him more time.”
“Obviously if we sink under .500 fans aren’t going to be happy, and you might see some grumblings about him getting fired, but I guess we’ll see how things play out.”
Jake: Who is a breakout player for Arkansas on offense this year?
Drew: “I think we saw a lot of the Razorbacks’ young talent last year, and 2020 will be an opportunity for those guys to really start to make this offense their own. In particular, WR Treylon Burks should be a top target for whoever is under center for the Hogs. We’ve already seen his explosiveness on punt returns, and I think that 5-6 catches a game should be normal for him this year.”
Jake: Who is a breakout player for Arkansas on defense this year?
Drew: “The hiring of former Missouri head coach Barry Odom as Arkansas’s new DC should give the Hogs a little more of a push on the defensive side of the ball. I’m really excited to see what Clemson transfer Xavier Kelly, Jr can do off of the edge as a defensive end.”
“The Razorbacks applied virtually zero pressure to opposing quarterbacks last season, so if Kelly can boost the pass rush game, it could be a big help for the defense.”
Jake: What are your expectations for the Razorbacks this year?
Drew: “Newly-hired head coach Sam Pittman has one job to do as the Razorbacks head coach this year. Win the Hogs three “must-win” non-conference games (that means the three non-power five opponents who aren’t Notre Dame) and win an SEC game.”
“4-8 isn’t usually considered meeting expectations, but after this program has been stripped and beaten down to the bottom of FBS football, that’s a realistic expectation to make the fan base believe that the Hogs are on their way back. And anything better is a bonus.”
Jake: What’s one big storyline for Arkansas this year?
Drew: “A storyline for Arkansas this year is going to be the quarterback battle. Florida transfer Feleipe Franks should have the starting job on lockdown, but transfer quarterbacks for Arkansas didn’t pan out last year (see Nick Starkel, Ben Hicks). And with sophomore KJ Jefferson showing some promise late last year as an athletic, mobile quarterback with a decent arm, it could be another quarterback carousel for the Hogs in 2020.”
Catch up on the other State of the SEC's here:
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