Spring football is winding to a close around the South, leaving behind impressions that we will ponder throughout the summer months.
Who are the breakout players in the SEC this spring? Our staff writers offer their thoughts:
Edward Aschoff: I'm going to go with Florida offensive lineman Brett Heggie. Who in the world, you ask? He's a redshirt freshman people barely knew last year, but has a real shot of being the Gators' starting left guard this fall. He battled it out this spring with freak lineman Fred Johnson, who played both tackle and guard last year, starting eight games. Johnson was the overwhelming favorite to complete Florida's 2016 offensive line, but Heggie is pushing so much that he has a legitimate chance of starting after recovering from a wrist injury last fall. Even if Heggie doesn't start, he will give the Gators solid depth at both guard and center this fall.
David Ching: It's probably unoriginal to choose Ole Miss' Shea Patterson, but he might be the safest pick in the league. The sophomore quarterback clearly has the Rebels' starting gig locked up after taking over for an injured Chad Kelly late last season. Now he seems poised to put up huge numbers -- both passing and running -- in new offensive coordinator Phil Longo's scheme. His performance in the Grove Bowl (21-for-30, 341 yards, two TDs) didn't do anything to slow down the Patterson hype, either.
Sam Khan Jr.: It's silly to read too much into a spring-game performance, but it's hard not to be impressed with how sharp South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley looked in the Garnet and Black game (19-for-31 passing, 301 yards, three touchdowns). Beyond just that performance, coach Will Muschamp has been complimentary of Bentley all offseason, praising the way Bentley has approached everything and even giving him the team's "offensive player of the spring" award. After entering the lineup midway through his freshman season, Bentley showed glimpses of his potential and handled himself well, given the circumstances. His growth this spring makes him a prime candidate to have a big sophomore season, now that he knows he'll be the starter. He's talented and in my opinion, he'll be one of the SEC's best quarterbacks this season.
Alex Scarborough: If we’re to believe that Jarrett Stidham is the next great Tigers quarterback, then Nate Craig-Myers might be the receiver to help him have a big season. With Kyle Davis out, Craig-Myers absolutely lit up Auburn’s spring game, catching five passes for 154 yards. Granted, it was against the second-team defense, but still. For a guy who didn’t do much as a freshman last season (four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown), it was exactly what the coaching staff needed to see. At 6-foot-2, 208 pounds and with good wheels, he could become Stidham’s go-to receiver and stretch the field for an offense that should be in great shape in the running game with Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson at tailback.