Talent isn’t in short supply in the SEC West
We’ve always known that the SEC West is the most dominant division in college football. Offensively, each team has at least one dynamic offensive playmaker. Previously, I ranked each SEC East team by offensive firepower, now let’s rank what will be a competitive SEC West.
7. Auburn Tigers
The Tigers return a reliable one-two punch at running back. Tank Bigsby returns as one of the better running backs in the SEC. He comes off a 1,099 yard and 10 touchdown season. Jarquez Hunter also had a nice freshman year with 593 yards and 3 scores.
Auburn has returned Shedrick Jackson who was the Tigers’ second leading receiver last season. Ja’Varrius Johnson was also a contributor as well in the offense. Malcom Johnson Jr. and Ze’Vian Capers will be given more chances this fall as they return as well.
6. Arkansas Razorbacks
After being in the dark the previous four year, Arkansas became relevant by winning nine games last season. Offensively, they had their best season since 2015.
Heading into this fall there are questions in the receiving room as someone will have to replace the production left by Treylon Burks. The candidates will be Warren Thompson and Ketron Jackson Jr. who return from last season. The Razorbacks were able to acquire Jadon Haselwood from Oklahoma who recorded 6 scores on 399 yards. Matt Landers went and balled at Toledo before ending up back in the SEC this offseason.
The Razorbacks should have no issues running the football, though. Yes, Trelon Smith is gone, but Arkansas returns three good options at running back. Raheim Sanders comes off a 578 yard season. Dominique Johnson led the team in rushing touchdowns while running for 575 yards himself. AJ Green completes the trio as another good option.
5. Mississippi State
In Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense, running backs don’t usually put up the flashiest rushing numbers, but still get plenty of touches out of the backfield. The tandem Jo’Quavious Marks and Dillon Johnson are those two that fit the description. Both backs ran for just north of 400 yards in 2021. In the receiving game, though, Marks and Johnson combined for 148 receptions for 924 yards.
The Bulldogs lost a 1,000-yard receiver in Makai Polk but return…
- Their second-leading receiver: Jaden Walley (55 rec. 628 yards, 6 touchdowns)
- Their third-leading receiver: Austin Williams (52 rec. 617 yards, 4 touchdowns)
- Lideatrick Griffin (26 rec. 269 yards)
- Rara Thomas (18 rec. 252 yards, 5 touchdowns)
Mississippi State has talent returning and the quarterback to produce at a high level in 2022. Mike Leach has improved the Bulldogs and we’ll see what’s the next step they will take this season, but expectations should be high in Starkville.
4. Texas A&M
Devon Achane will be the lead back for the Aggies in 2022 replacing Isaiah Spiller. On just 130 carries, Achane picked up 910 yards, equaling 7.0 yards per carry and a team high 9 touchdowns. Not to mention he hauled in 24 catches for 261 yards. Behind Achane will be Amari Daniels and L.J Johnson Jr. filling in the role that he played last season.
Devon Achane is a GAME CHANGER 🔥 pic.twitter.com/KAC0n0TBgX
— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 8, 2022
Ainias Smith returns as one of the most dynamic players in the SEC. Smith was the Aggies second leading pass catcher behind tight end Jalen Wydermyer while leading A&M with 6 touchdowns. He wasn’t involved much in the running game last season but in 2020 Smith carried the ball 49 times for 293 yards and 4 scores. Jalen Preston and Moose Muhammad iii return and joining them is 5-star recruit and the second-ranked receiver in the nation Evan Stewart.
Replacing the talented Wydermyer is going to be a tough ask as Max Wright and Blake Smith take over. Nevertheless, Texas A&M is a talented team and as we’ve seen in the offseason is looking to challenge Alabama in the SEC West.
3. LSU Tigers
New OC Mike Denbrock is going to have a lot to work with in his first season in Baton Rouge. John Emery returns in the backfield after missing the entire 2021 season. Noah Cain comes in from Penn State while Tre Bradford and Armoni Goodwin also return in the backfield for the Tigers. LSU’s tight end room has a lot to prove, but the strength of the LSU Tigers’ offense is going to come from its wide receiver room.
Kayshon Boutte returns as one of the nation’s best wideouts. After a sensational freshman season, Boutte did damage before an ankle injury sidelined him for the rest of the year. He amassed 38 receptions for 509 yards and 9 touchdowns were the stat line through six games. A healthy Boutte will produce this fall and he won’t be alone.
— PFF College (@PFF_College) March 21, 2022
Jack Bech as well as Malik Nabers (both freshman) both return off of 400-yard plus receiving seasons. Brian Thomas Jr. also comes back from a productive season while Jaray Jenkins was LSU’s leading receiver behind Boutte with 502 yards and 6 scores. From the transfer portal, the Tigers added Kyren Lacy who was one of Louisiana’s better receivers.
2. Ole Miss Rebels
The “transfer portal king” Lane Kiffin was active in the transfer portal this offseason helping reshape Ole Miss’s offense after losing some top tier talent. Starting in the running back room, Zach Evans comes over from TCU after leading the Horned Frogs in rushing. What’s impressive about Evans is his 7.3 yards per carry throughout his career. Joining Evans in the backfield is SMU’s Ulysses Bennett IV who led the AAC in 2020 while averaging 6.4 yards per carry last season.
Jordan Watkins was one of three 500-plus yard receivers for Louisville last season. Malik Heath comes from down the road in Starkville where he recorded 442 yards and 5 scores in the Air Raid offense. Jaylon Robinson started at Oklahoma, but has shined at UCF the past two seasons before coming to Oxford this spring. At tight end, Michael Trigg arrived with Jaxson Dart from USC.
Now, returning for the Rebels is Jonathan Mingo who was impressive in the six games he appeared in. Dannis Jackson return as well and even though Jalen Knox didn’t play last season, he recorded 1,031 yards in three years at Missouri.
Ole Miss’s offense was dangerous last year. They led the SEC in yards per game while finishing fourth in PPG. With the talent they have this season it shouldn’t be a challenge to replicate it.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
With Brian Robinson Jr. gone to the NFL enter Jahmyr Gibbs. The Georgia Tech transfer was the most productive offensive player for the Yellow Jackets last season. Gibbs led the Yellow Jackets in rushing while also catching 35 balls for 465 yards. Behind Gibbs return solid options in Trey Sanders, Roydell Williams and Jase McClain.
Staying in the Peach State, the other big name the Crimson Tide acquired via the transfer portal is wide receiver Jermaine Burton. During Georgia’s national title run, Burton was the Dawgs second-leading receiver behind tight end Brock Bowers. With a more pass friendly offense and a better quarterback in Bryce Young, Burton is more than likely to have an even better season in terms of production.
With Jameson Williams, John Metchie iii and Slade Bolden on NFL rosters, the Tide will turn to Traeshon Holden, Ja’Corey Brooks, Jojo Earle, and Christian Leary to take steps forward in 2022. Tight end Cameron Latu recorded the third most yards on the Crimson Tide last season while catching the second most touchdowns at 8. Tyler Harrell is another transfer coming from Louisville who led the Cardinals with 6 touchdowns to go along with an amazing 29.1 yards per reception.
— InsideBamaRecruiting Alabama Football (@RTRnews) April 22, 2022
The bottom line is that every year the Crimson Tide returns top tier talent while replenishing the talent lost. Alabama’s offense was the best in the SEC last season and expect it to remain the same this fall.