SEC's Top Players Returning from Injury in 2015

Ole Miss needs a healthy Laquon Treadwell.

Injuries are a big part of any college football season. Whether it’s a starting quarterback, a No. 2 receiver or a defensive lineman part of a deep rotation, injuries will always have an impact on a team.

 

To help preview the season, Athlon is taking a look at some of the injured players from 2014 and their return in 2015.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

Players with a season-ending injury or ones that missed a major chunk of the 2014 campaign were considered for the article. Players that just missed a few games because of injuries and returned were not considered for this article.

 

Here’s a look at a handful of key players returning from injuries from the SEC in 2015:

 

SEC's Top Players Returning from Injury

 

Jeff Badet/Alexander Montgomery, WR, Kentucky

Badet and Montgomery combined for 38 receptions in 2013 but finished 2014 with zero catches due to injuries. Getting both players back will help improve the overall talent and depth at receiver for quarterback Patrick Towles.

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-America Team

 

Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida

Davis is expected to push for a starting job under new coordinator Geoff Collins, but the Georgia native is recovering from a knee injury suffered against South Carolina. Prior to his injury, Davis made one start and recorded 23 tackles last year.

 

Related: College Football's Best Cornerback Tandems for 2015

 

Kenyan Drake, RB, Alabama

Drake suffered a season-ending leg injury in Alabama’s 23-17 loss to Ole Miss. Prior to the injury, Drake recorded 112 yards and four rushing scores and caught five passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Even though Derrick Henry is expected to be a workhorse and one of the nation’s top running backs, there’s plenty of carries for Drake as Alabama’s No. 2 option.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

A.J. Hilliard, LB, Texas A&M

The linebackers are under the spotlight in College Station this year, as last season’s group had its share of ups and downs. Hilliard was a starter for the Aggies in 2014 but missed 12 games after suffering a broken ankle in the opener against South Carolina. He’s expected to start in 2015.

 

Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn

Jones emerged as one of the SEC’s top cornerbacks in 2014. In 13 games last season, Jones recorded 36 tackles, 11 pass breakups and six interceptions. The senior had offseason foot surgery and is expected to be at full strength by the opener. 

 

Related: SEC 2015 All-Conference Team

 

Alex Kozan, OG, Auburn

A back injury forced Kozan to miss all of the 2014 season, and the Colorado native’s return will be a huge addition to a solid offensive line. Kozan started all 14 games for Auburn in 2013 and earned freshman All-SEC honors. He should be among the nation’s best at guard this season.

 

Davonte Lambert, DL, Auburn

Lambert was a key pickup in the junior college ranks for coach Gus Malzahn, as the Georgia native played in 11 games and recorded 3.5 sacks last year. However, Lambert suffered a torn ACL late in the season and did not participate in the spring.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn

Auburn’s defense has struggled under coach Gus Malzahn, but there’s plenty of optimism entering 2015. New coordinator Will Muschamp was a one of the top hires of the offseason, and Lawson’s return should bolster a pass rush that managed only 10 sacks in SEC games. The Georgia native recorded four sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss in 2013 and is expected to be at full strength from a knee injury by the fall.

 

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

 

Kendrick Market, S, Mississippi State

The Bulldogs are set at cornerback with Will Redmond and Taveze Calhoun, but concerns remain at safety for coordinator Manny Diaz. Talented freshman Jamal Peters is expected to see significant snaps, but Market’s status for the upcoming year is uncertain after a torn Achilles in the Egg Bowl. In 12 games last season, Market recorded 49 tackles and one pass breakup.

 

Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia

After a promising freshman season (759 yards and eight scores), Marshall has been limited by injuries in each of his last two years. The North Carolina native has only played in eight games since 2013 and has 270 yards and one score in that span. If he can stay healthy, Georgia will find opportunities for Marshall as a backup to Nick Chubb.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

Mike Matulis, OG, South Carolina

The Gamecocks have to retool their offensive line after the departures of guard A.J. Cann and tackle Corey Robinson. Matulis is expected to push for a starting job at guard, and the senior has missed a majority of snaps the last two years due to injuries. Matulis has 10 career starts.

 

Jake McGee, TE, Florida

McGee was a graduate transfer pickup from Virginia, but his 2014 season never got on track. The senior suffered a broken leg in the opener and missed the rest of the year. McGee caught 71 passes in his career with the Cavaliers.

 

Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia

After catching 85 passes through his first two years, Mitchell has played in just 10 games and caught 31 passes over the last two seasons. A knee injury has limited Mitchell since 2013, but the senior hopes to finish out his career on a high note. If healthy, Mitchell is an All-SEC receiver and needs to have a big season with the departures of Chris Conley and Michael Bennett.

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-America Team

 

Antonio Morrison, LB, Florida

Morrison was an All-SEC linebacker last season, finishing 2014 with 101 stops, one interception and one sack. However, Morrison suffered a significant knee injury in the bowl win over East Carolina. Will Morrison return to full strength by the opener?

 

Denzel Nkemdiche, LB, Ole Miss

The injury bug hit Ole Miss hard on both sides of the ball last season. Nkemdiche suffered a broken ankle in the loss at LSU and finished 2014 with 28 tackles and one sack. Getting Nkemdiche back to full strength will be a huge boost for coordinator Dave Wommack, as the senior can push for All-SEC honors in 2015.

 

Related: College Football's Top Cornerback Tandems for 2015

 

Marquez North, WR, Tennessee

A shoulder injury derailed North’s hopes of building off a solid freshman campaign. In 2013, North caught 38 passes for 496 yards and one score. However, in 10 games in 2014, North grabbed 30 receptions for 320 yards and four touchdowns. The junior is expected to be the No. 1 target for quarterback Joshua Dobbs.

 

Related: SEC 2015 All-Conference Team

 

Tee Shepard, CB, Ole Miss

Shepard has bounced around a lot in his collegiate career, signing with Notre Dame in 2012 and later playing one season with Holmes Community College. Shepard was poised to push for a starting job in the secondary last year. However, a toe injury in fall camp prevented Shepard from playing in 2014. He’s expected to start in 2015.

 

Related: SEC 2015 Predictions

 

Steven Scheu, TE, Vanderbilt

Scheu was one of Vanderbilt’s top offensive players last season, catching 39 passes for 525 yards and four scores. The Commodores need Scheu at full strength this year, but the senior suffered a leg injury in the spring and is questionable to play in the first game of 2015.

 

Dwayne Thomas/Corey Thompson, DB, LSU

Defensive backs coach Corey Raymond is getting a few reinforcements for 2015. Thomas played in only five games in 2014 due to a knee injury and finished the year with 24 tackles and one pass breakup. Thompson missed all of 2014 with a knee injury and was not at full strength in the spring. Thompson has played in 23 career games and made five starts from 2012-13.

 

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

The backstory on Treadwell’s leg injury has been well documented, and it was no secret the Rebels struggled without their No. 1 option. In the last three games against FBS opponents, Ole Miss scored only 34 points and was shutout against Arkansas. Treadwell’s recovery is on track, and the junior is expected to be at full strength by the opener. In nine games last season, Treadwell caught 48 passes for 632 yards and five scores.

 

Related: College Football 2015 All-America Team

 

Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

The development of Ole Miss’ offensive line is critical after this unit allowed 31 sacks in 2014. Tunsil is the key cog in the trenches, as the junior is the SEC’s top offensive lineman. However, Tunsil is recovering from a leg injury suffered in the Peach Bowl loss against TCU. All signs point to Tunsil making a full recovery by the opener, and he will have two non-conference games to prepare before the showdown against Alabama in Week 3.

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