College Football BRKOUT Candidates: SEC

JD Yonke
College Football Analyst
Sam Murphy
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College football can’t get here soon enough. We’re all wondering around this godforsaken offseason itching for any sort of news or headlines to fill the void. Luckily, spring practices and games have started to ramp up, which means the rumors are abundant! Whether it’s a gut feel, based on rumors, or a blind dart throw, we’re here to give you the breakout candidates you may not know about heading into the season! So, let’s get it started with the SEC:

WR John Metchie III, Junior, Alabama – JD

Bryce Young is the obvious answer as a breakout candidate for Alabama, as the former 5-star is in line to be the next big name QB for the Crimson Tide. That answer’s a little too obvious though, so let’s dive a bit deeper. Alabama has churned out a litany of star WRs in recent years (Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Devonta Smith — those names ring any bells?), and we’re all left guessing who will be next to put up major receiving stats. Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are off to the NFL. That leaves us with Metchie. He flew under the radar as a 4-star recruit out of Jersey. When Waddle went down with injury in 2020, Metchie stepped up to the tune of 55-916-6. Saban’s offensive attack has been lasered in on the top dogs to carry the load, and I expect Metchie to firmly establish himself as one of the best receiving threats in the nation. Anyone who can run like this:

and hit like this:

… should have your attention.

RB John Emery Jr., Junior, LSU – Sam

Sure, this is a pretty chalky pick from theBRKDWN’s own LSU homer, but if Emery doesn’t do it now, will he ever? The former 5-star RB from Denham Springs, Louisiana has shown flashes of his abilities, but failed to stay healthy long enough last year to grab the RB1 slot (finished year with 75-378-3). This year, everything is in place for him to finally live up to the hype. The entire offensive line is returning and the offensive scheme will be much more similar to 2019 as opposed to 2020. I don’t think Emery completely takes over as an every-down back, but it’s his time to step up and make it clear he’s the next RB1 in Baton Rouge.

QB Haynes King, Freshman, Texas A&MJD

The Kellen Mond era in College Station is (finally) over, and King is the presumed next-man-up for the Aggies. A 6’3” 200lb dual-threat from Longview, Texas, King looks the part as a multi-year starter. Of course he has to win the starting job first, and that’s no guarantee this year, but he was second on the depth chart last year after enrolling early and impressing the coaching staff with both smarts and talent. It’d be an upset if he doesn’t win the starting job. Although listed as a Freshman, he saw limited action in mop-up duty last year, and he impressed with 43 rushing yards against Alabama in the first drive of his career. (The drive ended with an interception, alas). King carries some pedigree as a former 4-star prospect who led his high school to their first state championship in 81 years as a Junior. He would finish as Longview’s all time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns en route to being ranked the #5 dual-threat QB in the class of 2020 by 247sports. He can really run the ball and should be an immediate threat in that regard. Expect King to establish himself as the QB of the future for A&M in 2021.

RB Demarkcus Bowman, Redshirt Freshman, Florida – Sam

Another former 5-star running back coming out of high school, Bowman will see his first SEC action this season after transferring from Clemson after two games in his freshman season. This will certainly be the most highly-touted RB in Dan Mullen’s tenure at Florida and having a guy like Bowman is huge to take pressure off a new starting quarterback in Emory Jones. Jones has played a couple series here and there during his first two seasons, but never long enough to show anything special or get into a rhythm. I expect Mullen to lean heavily on Bowman to start the year after losing the top two pass catchers and a Heisman-contending quarterback.

RB Chris Rodriguez Jr., Junior, Kentucky – JD

I guess you could say that Rodriguez’s breakout party came last year when he led the SEC with 6.6 yards per carry. Still, Rodriguez is far from a household name entering 2021, and I expect him to make a whole lot of noise this year. Despite splitting carries with AJ Rose and Kavosiey Smoke, Rodriguez has run for 1361 yards in his career on an impressive 7.1 yards per tote. Rose has moved on and Rodriguez established himself as the leader of the rushing attack toward the end of last year. He’ll be the unquestioned top dog this year. The offense will likely lean heavily on him as they break in a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterback in town. As icing on the cake, Kentucky hired a new running back coach in John Settle, who most recently coached RBs at Wisconsin from 2015-2021. Poaching an RB coach who oversaw two Doak Walker Award winning seasons from Jonathan Taylor can only be good news for Rodriguez. I’m not saying that we can expect that much this year, but it’s a positive sign for a Kentucky team looking to play power football and feed their backs all they can handle. They have an established brand of football and Rodriguez should be the centerpiece to that attack in 2021. Expect plenty of carries and over 1000 yards as Rodriguez strengthens his NFL draft capital and establishes himself as one of the best backs in the SEC.

WR Jermaine Burton, Sophomore, Georgia – Sam

Burton had to be on everyone’s radar coming into the season as a potential breakout candidate. Now, the hype will only ramp up more following the news of George Pickens tearing his ACL during spring practice. Burton was able to show flashes of greatness with a huge 8-197-2 statline against Mississippi State, and rounded out a solid freshman season with 27-404-3. Without Pickens, someone is going to need to step up if this Georgia offense wants to make the leap to the nation’s elite, and Burton is the most likely candidate, but he’ll need to be more consistent.

DT Maason Smith, Freshman, LSU – Sam

JD and I said we’d like to try and get one defensive player included in these pieces, so I took the liberty to close this out as a homer. Smith arrived on the LSU campus in January as an early-enrollee at 6-foot-6, 312 pounds, and as the best prospect in Louisiana and the No. 2 DT in the country according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings. As if the hype coming in wasn’t enough, Coach O has said Smith has emerged as “the best interior pass rusher” on a loaded returning defensive line. The hype is there, it’ll be interesting to see if Smith can live up to the expectations.

LB Blaze Alldredge, Senior, Missouri – JD

A graduate student on a list of breakout candidates, how does that happen? Alldredge will be a new face in the SEC after transferring in from Rice, where he was a program cornerstone who racked up tackles and awards. He’s a two-time C-USA coaches first-team selection with 214 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, and 6 sacks in his college career. That’s in only 28 games, mind you. He’s a stat machine who fits nicely in a Missouri defense that will be hurting after losing star linebacker Nick Bolton. New defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has to be licking his chops at the opportunity to slot such an experienced player into the middle of the field. Expect Alldredge to step in immediately as a team leader both in the locker room and in the stat sheet.

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