Jeremiah Holloman could emerge as one of Georgia's top targets following the departure of the team's top three receivers
The 2018 college football season may have lacked intrigue at the top of the SEC's divisions with Georgia (East) and Alabama (West) plowing through the competition on the way to Atlanta for the championship game, but there was a lot of movement in the ranks below as teams jockeyed for position in hopes of catching the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide in 2019.
Each season, teams across the country part ways with the graduating seniors but some programs also have to combat the loss of early NFL draft entrants. This year 32 SEC underclassmen declared for the NFL with Alabama (seven) being hit the hardest. The roster disruption allows for other teams to gain ground putting a heavy emphasis on younger talent to step up their game.
With spring practices upcoming and fall camp just eight short months away, SEC teams are left scrambling hoping to fill big shoes of All-Americans and All-SEC performers through talent already on the roster or with incoming 2019 recruits.
Out: DL Quinnen Williams
The loss of Williams seems irreplaceable but rest easy Crimson Tide fans. Don't forget that Williams replaced another top talent, Da’Ron Payne; and so goes the reloading at Alabama.
In: D.J. Dale, incoming freshman
There is a list of potential replacements for Williams, but time will tell who is ready for the task. Stephon Wynn Jr. and LaBryan Ray fit the size requirement coming to Tuscaloosa with a lot of hype. The player to watch for out of the 2019 class is Dale. At 6-foot-3 and 323 pounds, even Williams is a fan of Dale’s stating, “He’s bigger than me. He is ready.”
Out: Greedy Williams, CB
Teams did not challenge Williams often and when they tried, he typically made the opposition pay. He picked off two passes, broke up nine, and defended 11 others.
In: Kary Vincent Jr. (rising junior) and Kelvin Joseph (rising sophomore)
LSU is set at one corner with Kristian Fulton returning after contemplating making the jump to the NFL. That leaves the other spot open for either Vincent or Joseph to claim going at it for the other corner spot. Vincent has the inside track after starting seven games last season in which he registered 31 tackles, an interception, and six pass breakups. All eyes will be on 2019 five-star early enrollee Derek Stingley to see what he can bring to the field this spring.
Out: Devin White, LB
The All-American White will be missed for more than just his spectacular, all-around production. White also was a leader on and off of the field for the Tigers.
In: Patrick Queen, rising junior
Sophomore linebacker Jacob Phillips has an opportunity to fill the leadership void after finishing second on the team in tackles (87) last season, but filling White's slot at inside linebacker will come down to a spring competition that could carry over into fall camp. Queen got a lot of important time on the field in 2018 as a sub for White and Phillips. He played in all 13 games and was seventh on the team with 40 tackles. Micah Baskerville and Damone Clark were both four-star recruits in the 2018 class with Baskerville appearing in eight games with one start.
Out: Benny Snell Jr., RB
It is unfair to ask any player to replace the production of Snell, but someone has to do it. All Snell did was run for nearly 3,900 yards with 48 touchdowns on the ground in three seasons as a Wildcat.
In: Asim Rose, rising redshirt junior
Rose averaged 6.2 yards per carry on 71 attempts with five touchdowns last season. He has a nice blend of size and speed but he could face some competition. Redshirt freshman Kavosiey Smoke played in just two games last season while incoming three-star recruit Travis Tisdale could make an early impact as well.
Out: Jarrett Stidham, QB
Stidham may not have had the overall season desired in 2018, but his loss will be greatly felt by the Tigers. He threw for 2,749 yards with 18 touchdowns, completing 61 percent of his passes. No other quarterback on the roster received noteworthy snaps with Malik Willis completing 5 of 7 attempts for 24 yards.
In: Joey Gatewood (rising redshirt freshman) and Bo Nix (incoming freshman)
Gatewood was a prized four-star recruit in the 2018 class out of Jacksonville, Florida, receiving some time on the field this season but mainly as a Wildcat threat. Nix, a four-star in the 2019 class, is already enrolled at Auburn ready to challenge for a starting spot this spring.
Out: Jeffery Simmons, DT
Simmons headed to Starkville as a five-star recruit and leaves as a potential first-round NFL draft pick. He leaves a sizeable void for defensive line coach Brian Baker to fill in the center of the Bulldogs' 3-4 defense.
In: Lee Autry (rising senior)
Autry is among the candidates who could end up at nose guard in 2019. He is the most experienced but younger guys like James Jackson and Cameron Young can't be overlooked. Don't be surprised if Baker goes with a committee approach and mixes and matches up front.
Out: Trayveon Williams, RB
Williams left College Station in style after leading the SEC in rushing yards (1,760) and touchdowns (18). He went for 236 yards and three scores in the big Gator Bowl win over NC State and replacing him will be no picnic.
In: Jashaun Corbin, rising sophomore
Of the players currently on the roster, the heir apparent appears to be Corbin. He was third on the team in rushing with 346 yards as a true freshman. Corbin may get the bulk of the carries but it's possible another true freshman could see significant touches in 2019. Vernon Jackson has the size (6-3, 240) to serve as a short-yardage or goal-line option right away. It's also worth pointing out that unless something changes in the 2019 recruiting class, head coach Jimbo Fisher does not have another tailback coming in.
Out: Jonah Williams, OT
Williams was a three-year starter for the Crimson Tide who was named an unanimous All-American and won the SEC's Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the best blocker in 2018. Alabama has recruited well along the offensive line but it will be difficult to replace someone who gave up 3.5 sacks in 44 career games.
In: Alex Leatherwood, rising junior
Leatherwood played guard during the 2018 season but has replaced Williams before; including taking over for him after an injury in the national championship game two seasons ago. Leatherwood started every game in 2018, earning second-team All-SEC honors from the coaches.
Out: A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf, WR
The Ole Miss offense will look completely different in 2019 with the loss of prolific senior quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, senior receiver Damarkus Lodge, and offensive tackle Greg Little, an early draft entrant. But, the most damaging loss could be receivers Brown and Metcalf. Brown led the SEC in yards (1,320) and was second in receptions (85) while scoring six touchdowns. Metcalf’s season was limited to seven games, but the big target still pulled in 26 passes for 569 yards with five touchdowns.
In: Elijah Moore, rising sophomore
Moore is not a traditional Y receiver, but out of the slot he could carry a lot of the Rebels offense in 2019. His freshman season ended with 36 receptions for 398 yards with two touchdowns. Help is coming with four-star 2019 recruit Dannis Jackson and three-star Jadon Jackson.
Out: Jace Sternberger, TE
Sternberger was arguably the best newcomer to the SEC last season matriculating to College Station from Oklahoma A&M after one season at Kansas. All Sternberger did is lead all SEC tight ends in receptions (48), yards (832), and touchdowns (10).
In: Glenn Beal, rising sophomore
There is no clear-cut replacement, but Beal fits the bill. Beal played as a true freshman last season and is a big (6-5, 265) target. A pair of true freshmen — four-star Baylor Cupp and three-star Jalen Wydermyer — also will get their chances to shine. Cupp is an early enrollee giving him a leg up on the competition.
Out: Mack Wilson, LB
Leading tackler Dylan Moses returns to anchor the linebacker corps, but another inside run stuffer is needed. Wilson made 71 tackles last season, including five for a loss, while also recording two interceptions, a sack, and five pass breakups.
In: Ale Kaho, rising sophomore
Look for young talents like Kaho and Laylen Moody to make noise this spring. Kaho, a former four-star recruit, played as a true freshman last season, primarily on special teams, but picked up valuable experience along the way. Moody, like Kaho, did not get a lot of meaningful snaps during the season at inside linebacker, but played in 14 games. New faces in the incoming recruiting class to watch for are four-stars Shane Lee and Christian Harris.
Out: Riley Ridley and Mecole Hardman, WR
The top three passing threats for the Bulldogs in 2018 are now preparing for life in the NFL – receivers Riley Ridley and Mecole Hardman along with tight end Isaac Nauta. Riley was the go-to guy with nine TD catches while Hardman had seven. Nauta could be replaced in the passing game by four-star 2019 target Ryland Goede.
In: Jeremiah Holloman (rising sophomore) and Dominick Blaylock (incoming freshman)
Finding new receivers for Jake Fromm might not be too difficult. Holloman proved to be a big-play threat averaging a team-high 17 yards per reception as a sophomore. Blaylock, a five-star recruit, will be challenging everyone on the roster for playing time in August.
Out: Elijah Holyfield, RB
Holyfield's 1,018 yards and seven rushing touchdowns will be missed, but the Bulldogs' backfield cupboard is far from bare.
In: D’Andre Swift, rising junior
Swift led the team in rushing yards (1,049), carries (163), and touchdowns (10). He'll be complemented by Brian Herrien and James Cook. Herrien will be a senior who had 295 rushing yards and three touchdowns while Cook averaged 6.9 yards per carry with two scores as a freshman last season.
Too Talented to Replace Easily
Greg Little, OL, Ole Miss
Deionte Thompson, DB, Alabama
SEC's Other NFL Draft Early Entrants (alphabetical order)
Tyrel Dodson, LB, Texas A&M
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, DB, Florida
Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
Vosean Joseph, LB, Florida
Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia
Jachai Polite, DE, Florida
Ryan Pulley, DB, Arkansas
Quarte’ Sapp, LB, Tennessee
Jordan Scarlett, RB, Florida
Darius Slayton, WR, Auburn
Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama
Saivion Smith, CB, Alabama
Jawaan Taylor, OL, Florida
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.