Skip to main content

SEC Wild Card Players in 2015


The SEC features many of college football's biggest names. These players are expected to lead their teams to victory each week through strong individual performances.

Then there's the "wild cards" which includes several different categories. Sometimes it's a do-everything, x-factor player. In other cases it may be a player flying under the radar who is poised to have a breakout season.

Here's a look at the SEC's "wild card players" on offense and defense for each team entering 2015.


Image placeholder title

Florida Gators

Offense: Treon Harris, Quarterback/???

Will Grier is expected to win the quarterback battle in Gainesville, but that won’t stop Harris from making an impact in Florida’s offense. The dual-threat quarterback possesses the speed and natural ability to make a successful transition to wide receiver or aid in certain formations and trick plays as a passer.

Defense: Bryan Cox Jr., Defensive End

Cox has the opportunity to see more playing time after the departure of Dante Fowler Jr. The junior has the NFL pedigree to succeed and could see a spike in production with more reps at defensive end.

Image placeholder title

Georgia Bulldogs

Offense: Jeb Blazevich, Tight End

Blazevich had an impressive debut season, but was overshadowed by the dominance of fellow freshman teammate Nick Chubb. The 6-5, 232-pound tight end had 269 yards and two touchdowns on 18 receptions and was the Bulldogs’ third-leading receiver. Blazevich should add to his totals this season as he figures to serve as a security blanket for expected starting quarterback Brice Ramsey.

Defense: Trent Thompson, Defensive Tackle

Let’s be honest, the Class of 2015's top prospect is not going to spend his entire first season on the bench. Thompson has the best size/first-step combo of anyone on Georgia’s roster and the instincts and raw ability to be a Week One starter.

Related: College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2015

Image placeholder title

Kentucky Wildcats

Offense: Stanley "Boom" Williams, Running Back

Williams was Kentucky’s best running back in 2014, despite playing in a “back by committee” rotation. He led the Wildcats with 486 yards and five touchdowns, which included a 126-yard performance against Louisville — then the nation’s No. 2 rushing defense — in the Wildcats’ final game. The sophomore should see a bigger role in his second season and rank among the conference's best backs.

Defense: Matt Elam, Defensive Tackle

Elam entered his college career with high expectations. He rated as a four-star prospect and the No. 2 player in the Bluegrass State in 2014. The 6-7, 370-pound sophomore has the size to clog the line of scrimmage but must improve his stamina to be an every-down player.

Image placeholder title

Missouri Tigers

Offense: Maty Mauk, Quarterback

Mauk was the conference’s most disappointing quarterback despite his team winning its second consecutive SEC East Division title. In 2015, he will be without his four most productive receiving targets and needs to prove his worth as a dual-threat quarterback. Missouri’s success will rely on whether Mauk can live up to the lofty expectations he faced last preseason.

Defense: Charles Harris, Defensive End

Harris looks to become the next breakout Missouri defensive end to replace the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He had an early start when Shane Ray missed the majority of the SEC Championship Game due to a targeting penalty. But the sophomore needs to produce in order to step out of the shadow cast by Ray and former teammate Markus Golden.

Image placeholder title

South Carolina Gamecocks

Offense: Pharoh Cooper, Wide Receiver

Cooper is — by far — the best player on South Carolina’s roster. His addition to the list isn’t due to his expected value, rather that he’s the perfect example of an x-factor player. He led the Gamecocks in every statistical receiving category all while contributing as a passer and rusher in unique formations. Cooper will continue to emerge as a star in the SEC in his senior season despite the Gamecocks' lack of a proven passer.

Defense: Marquavius Lewis, Defensive End

South Carolina’s defensive line was abysmal in 2014. The Gamecocks ranked last in sacks and tackles for a loss among SEC teams. Enter Lewis, a four-star prospect with JUCO experience who should earn and an immediate spot in South Carolina’s starting lineup.

Image placeholder title

Tennessee Volunteers

Offense: Alton "Pig" Howard, Wide Receiver

Like Cooper, Howard aided his team in several areas all while leading in receiving yards. As a senior, the versatile wideout will head up a talented group of playmakers in what is expected to be an improved Vols offense. His value may be underrated playing alongside several former top prospects, but Howard is a consistent pass catcher that provides the Tennessee's offense with playmaking ability in multiple ways.

Defense: Curt Maggitt, Defensive End/Linebacker

Maggitt enjoyed his first full season since arriving in Knoxville in 2011. The redshirt junior led the Vols with 11 sacks in a hybrid role as a defensive end and outside linebacker. Maggitt opted to return for his final season at Tennessee and is expected to pair with sophomore phenom Derek Barnett to form one of the SEC’s top pass-rushing duos.

Related: College Football's Most Improved Teams for 2015

Image placeholder title

Vanderbilt Commodores

Offense: Johnny McCrary, Quarterback

McCrary will be Vanderbilt’s most important offensive player in 2015 following Patton Robinette’s retirement. The sophomore showed both glimpses of potential and struggles in his several starts. For better or worse, McCrary will be the biggest factor in whether Vanderbilt’s offense can find success.

Defense: Nigel Bowden, Linebacker

Bowden was one of the few bright spots for the SEC’s worst team. The redshirt freshman recorded a team-best 79 tackles despite battling injuries at season’s end. Bowden should continue his progress with head coach Derek Mason returning to his comfort zone as the team’s defensive coordinator.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

SEC West

Image placeholder title

Alabama Crimson Tide

Offense: O.J. Howard, Tight End

Howard was expected to be one of the SEC’s best tight ends in 2014, but went without a reception in five of Alabama’s 14 games. He managed to finish fourth in receiving yards, but failed to record a single touchdown. Howard should see an increased role with the departures of Biletnikoff winner Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White.

Defense: Jonathan Allen, Defensive End

Allen was one of Alabama's best defensive linemen as a sophomore last season. He recorded 15 total tackles, three tackles for a loss, half a sack, a forced fumble and one QB hurry in 12 games. As a junior, he will be one of the team's leaders and could see a statistical increase.

Image placeholder title

Arkansas Razorbacks

Offense: Hunter Henry, Tight End

Arkansas loves to run the football, but when it passes, there’s a good chance it's going to Henry. The tight end had 37 catches for 513 yards and two touchdowns, which earned him honorable mention All-SEC honors. Henry should see more reps with the departure of A.J. Derby in a passing offense that puts an emphasis on the tight end and has question marks at wide receiver.

Related: 14 Position Groups Under Pressure in the SEC for 2015

Defense: Deatrich Wise Jr., Defensive End

Wise looks to replace one of the conference’s top defensive ends in former teammate Trey Flowers alongside JaMichael Winston. Many believe Wise has more playmaking ability which pairs well with the steady production of the experienced Winston. The duo should continue the Razorbacks’ success on the defensive line in 2015.

Image placeholder title

Auburn Tigers

Offense: Jeremy Johnson, Quarterback

Auburn’s offense is built to contend for a national championship. The Tigers have a plethora of talent at skill positions and should see an improvement on defense under new coordinator Will Muschamp. Johnson will be the biggest factor in whether the team reaches its full potential or comes up short of an SEC Championship Game appearance.

Related: Analyzing Auburn Quarterback Jeremy Johnson's Heisman Trophy Candidacy

Defense: Johnathan Ford, Defensive Back

Ford recorded a team-best 93 tackles from the safety position. He also added three interceptions, which tied for the second most among Auburn players. Ford’s tackling numbers may decrease playing behind one of the SEC’s best linebacking corps but he will still contribute as a versatile free safety.

Image placeholder title

LSU Tigers

Offense: Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings, Quarterback

Like Auburn, LSU has plenty of talent on offense. Unfortunately, the Tigers lack a quarterback with as much upside as Jeremy Johnson between Harris and Jennings. Neither player proved to be a consistent starter in 2014. The edge goes to Harris, whose lapses were blamed on a lack of experience as a true freshman and has a higher ceiling among the two passers.

Related: No Pressure: LSU's Season Will Hinge on Quarterbacks

Defense: Kevin Toliver II, Defensive Back

Toliver, a five-star prospect, joins an LSU defensive backs group that may be the best in the conference. The Tigers have depth, but he’s too talented not to be used immediately. Toliver should see playing time in different formations and could make an impact.

Image placeholder title

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Offense: Donald Gray, Wide Receiver

Mississippi State has a desperate need at wide receiver. The Bulldogs must replace top targets Jameon Lewis and Malcolm Johnson. Enter Gray who, despite a 5-9, 185-pound stature, recorded 55 receptions for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns at Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College.

Defense: Jamal Peters, Defensive Back

Peters is Mississippi State’s top prospect. He will be a favorite to compete for playing time after enrolling in June. Head coach Dan Mullen told The Clarion-Ledger in February that Peters “might be on the two-deep rotation” even before stepping on the field.

Image placeholder title

Ole Miss Rebels

Offense: Chad Kelly, Quarterback

Kelly’s personality alone earns him the reputation of a “wild card.” But his talent was too much for Ole Miss to pass up despite off-field altercations. Kelly has the opportunity to redeem himself in a talented Rebels offense that includes a potential first-round draft pick in Laquon Treadwell and the SEC’s top tight end, Evan Engram.

Defense: Robert Nkemdiche, Defensive Tackle

Nkemdiche was the nation’s consensus No. 1 high school prospect in 2013. He’s lived up to the hype as the anchor on a talented Ole Miss defense, but plays a position that lacks star power. Nkemdiche has the speed to play defensive end and the frame of a defensive tackle. In 2015, he will be a top-5 NFL prospect and should contribute to the Rebels’ success in several areas.

Related: Is 2015 Now or Never for Ole Miss in the SEC West?

Image placeholder title

Texas A&M Aggies

Offense: Speedy Noil, Wide Receiver

Noil had an exciting freshman campaign as both a wide receiver and return specialist. He led the Aggies with 1,418 all-purpose yards and 583 receiving yards, the third most among Aggies receivers. Noil’s receiving totals should increase with the departure of Malcome Kennedy and a full year of college experience.

Related: College Football's All-Sophomore Team for 2015

Defense: Daeshon Hall, Defensive End

The addition of John Chavis will improve Texas A&M’s defense. We know Myles Garrett enjoyed a record-setting freshman campaign but Hall will also benefit from The Chief’s arrival. Hall bulked up to 260 pounds and is primed for a breakout season in 2015.

— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.