Some friends and I got into a debate the other day. Here was the question: Every team had some good players in 2008 who are not coming back for this season. Can you name the five SEC players who will be missed the most in 2009? Here are my picks. Understand that these guys weren’t necessarily the best player on their respective teams. But based on what these teams need this season, I think these five guys will be missed the most:
1. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia: How could I pick Moreno instead of QB Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 draft choice? Simple. Right now I think Georgia is more confident about the play of senior quarterback Joe Cox than it is at the running back position. If Moreno was back to run behind this veteran offensive line, I believe the Bulldogs would be good enough to make a serious run at Florida in the SEC East. Georgia has some good running backs. I just don’t see any GREAT running backs. At least not yet. Moreno was a great running back.
2. Andre Smith, OT, Alabama: Because the Alabama defense is still so good, I couldn’t go with safety Rashad Johnson, who I thought was a really great player. But the Crimson Tide is really going to miss the big fella at left tackle. He allowed Alabama to run the ball whenever it wanted to, even when opponents were putting eight in the box. The Crimson Tide offense could just beat up opposing defenses and wear them down over the course of a game. Alabama’s offense will still be solid, but the Tide won’t be able to impose their will on teams like they could last season with Smith as their anchor.
3. Peria Jerry, DT, Ole Miss: Here’s what you need to know about Jerry (6-2, 299), who was drafted in the first round by the Falcons. In 2007, when he wasn’t in the Ole Miss lineup, the Rebels finished 101st nationally in rushing defense, giving up 199.08 yards per game, and 88th in total defense (423.42 ypg). Last season Jerry was virtually unblockable and the Rebels were fourth in rushing defense (85.54 yards per game) and 19th in total defense (2008). Some Ole Miss fans tell me there won’t be a drop off on the defense because DE Greg Hardy is finally healthy. I don’t buy it. I think the Ole Miss defense is going to really miss Jerry. He was that good.
4. Percy Harvin, WR, Florida: I’ve changed my thinking on Harvin. For the longest time I felt that Florida would be able to plug another one of its speed guys in Harvin’s position and that the Gators wouldn’t miss a beat. But during the summer a couple of SEC coaches convinced me I was wrong. They said that Harvin was an exceptional talent who, when healthy, was impossible to contain. Granted, Harvin didn’t go for long stretches without getting dinged up and so Florida had to learn how to play without him. But when he was in the game, he completely dictated what the defense did. Consider this: Harvin had 660 yards rushing last season with only 70 carries for an average of 9.4 yards per carry. He averaged 16.1 yards per reception (40 catches for 644 yards). So you’re talking about a player who averaged almost 12 yards (11.85 to be exact) every time he touched the ball last season. The Gators are going to be very good, but I don’t think they will have anybody like that this season.
5. Jeremy Jarmon, DE, Kentucky: With the defensive trio of Jarmon, LB Micah Johnson and CB Trevard Lindley (of Hiram) coming back, Kentucky had good reason to be optimistic about its defense and a chance to go to a school-record fourth consecutive bowl game. But in May Jarmon was declared ineligible by the NCAA for testing positive to a banned substance. Jarmon took an over the counter supplement in an effort to get a little leaner. But he didn’t check with his trainers and was caught on a random NCAA drug test because the supplement contained a banned substance. He went in the supplemental draft in July and was taken by the Redskins. With Jarmon returning, Kentucky had a star player at each of the defensive position groups. It’s a big loss for the ‘Cats.
So those are my five players who will be missed the most in the SEC. Who did I leave out?
Please follow me on Twitter: