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Monday, Sep 22, 2014
Colleges

SEC in transition, lacking in star power


Published:   |   Updated: July 16, 2014 at 06:53 AM

— Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel insists there are still plenty of superstars in the Southeastern Conference.

The only problem is nobody’s heard of them yet.

One year after high-profile players such as Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel brought a rock star feel to SEC Media Days, the buzz is largely missing this week at the league’s preseason showcase.

Part of the reason is a lack of experienced quarterbacks. McCarron, Manziel, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, South Carolina’s Connor Shaw and Georgia’s Aaron Murray are gone after impressive careers.

There are still some accomplished players in the league — especially at running back. Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon and Georgia’s Todd Gurley are among the nation’s best.

Driskel said it won’t be long before others become nationally known as well.

“Some of the guys haven’t put up the numbers or the championships that guys in the past have,” Driskell said. “But there’s always going to be talent in the SEC. It’s just a matter of who makes the plays this year. You get guys who end up being household names who weren’t at the beginning of the year.”

But the shadow of Manziel, McCarron and Co. still looms, even months after they played their last college game.

When Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin took the podium on Tuesday afternoon, two of the first three questions he received were about Johnny Football.

After the second one, an amused Sumlin said “Is this the SEC Media Days?”

Indeed, but no one can argue they are missing star power.

Arguably the league’s most recognizable quarterback — Auburn’s Nick Marshall — didn’t come to media days after being cited for possession of a small amount of marijuana. Mississippi’s Bo Wallace is the only returning quarterback in the league who threw for at least 2,000 yards last season.

Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and Driskel are among the most intriguing breakout candidates at quarterback.

The strength of the league might be at running back, where veterans like Yeldon, Gurley and South Carolina’s Mike Davis return for another season. All three averaged around 100 yards per game during their sophomore seasons and scored at least 10 touchdowns.

But there’s a good chance some of the league’s best players — along with the league’s best teams — are relative unknowns at this point.

“Nobody picked Missouri and Auburn to win the divisions last year,” South Carolina Steve Spurrier said. “That’s why we play the game. We don’t know who’s going to win ’em.”

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