It's obvious that as Jacob Eason goes, so goes the Georgia offense. The same could be said for Jake Bentley at South Carolina or Benny Snell at Kentucky.
What about the guys you don't know? What about the under-the-radar players who might not be stars but could nonetheless have a significant impact on their team's season?
On Monday, we'll look at those potential players from the SEC East. On Tuesday, it will be the West's turn.
Florida: WR Tyrie Cleveland
Whether it’s Feleipe Franks or Malik Zaire at quarterback, the Gators' offense needs playmakers outside of embattled receiver Antonio Callaway. Enter Cleveland, the 6-foot-2, 196-pound former Under Armour All-American who started four games as a true freshman last season. His 98-yard touchdown against LSU, coupled with a season-long average of 21.3 yards per catch, makes Cleveland a potential difference-maker when it comes to opening up a formerly stagnant offense.
Georgia: WR Javon Wims
Like Florida, the Bulldogs can’t afford to hang their hat on a single receiver carrying the offense. Terry Godwin is good, but he’s not an extraterrestrial. For help, look toward former junior college transfer Wims, who was a tad underwhelming during his first season on campus last season, starting just three games and totaling 17 total receptions. At 6-foot-4 with good speed, he still has potential. If Eason takes the second-year leap everyone expects, Wims could become a good red-zone target.
Kentucky: DE/LB Denzil Ware
In a reversal of fortune last season, it was Kentucky’s offense that had to do the heavy lifting, carrying a subpar defense to the program’s first bowl berth under coach Mark Stoops. With significant improvement needed in the front seven, keep an eye on Ware, who has already started 24 straight games at defensive end/outside linebacker. Now an upperclassman, the 6-foot-2, 245-pound junior could develop into a solid NFL prospect. He certainly has the size and pass-rushing skill to boost a defense that struggled to affect the quarterback in 2016.
Missouri: DL Marcell Frazier
Frazier says he doesn’t want to talk to the media this season, but that won’t stop us from talking about him. Missouri is a defensive line factory, and the redshirt senior appears to be the next NFL prospect ready for export. Despite starting just five games as a junior, he racked up 8.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and four quarterback hurries.
South Carolina: LB Skai Moore
Remember him? You should, even though it may have felt for the past year or so that he disappeared from South Carolina. No, he wasn’t off in the NFL, although it would have been a reasonable assumption after he led the team in tackles in three consecutive seasons. Rather, shortly after Moore announced that he would return for his senior year, he suffered a season-ending injury (herniated disk). Now he’s off the trainer’s table and back in the fold as one of the league’s most athletic linebackers, poised to lift a defense that struggled for much of last season.
Tennessee: RB John Kelly
Losing Jalen Hurd during the season was a bitter pill to swallow. Seeing Alvin Kamara turn pro early was tough, although not altogether unexpected. When two talented backs walk out the door, it helps to have someone waiting in the wings like Kelly. After doing next to nothing the first five games of last season, the 5-foot-9, 212-pound junior showed what he was capable of by totaling 612 yards and four rushing touchdowns during the final eight games of the year. With a new offensive coordinator and a new starting quarterback, Kelly’s name could be called early and often in 2017.
Vanderbilt: DL Nifae Lealao
It’s going to take more than one man to help a Vanderbilt defense that ranked dead last in the SEC in sacks and among the worst in tackles for loss nationally last season. A 6-foot-5, 312-pound nose guard like Lealao is a good place to start. The senior was a bright spot last season, showing not just the size and strength to punish in the running game, but also the quickness to fight off blocks and disrupt the quarterback. If he develops into one of the best interior linemen in the SEC as coach Derek Mason expects, it would be a huge boost to a struggling defense.