Every team has multiple players it’s counting on to either step into a new role, contribute early, replace a longtime starter, bounce back from a rough season or simply raise their level of play to meet expectations they have for the individual. This week we’re looking at one “player under pressure” on each SEC team that falls under that umbrella. On Tuesday we looked at those players in the SEC East, today we turn our attention to those players in the SEC West:
Bo Scarbrough, RB, Soph.: Crimson Tide fans are plenty familiar with Scarbrough since he spent his sophomore and junior seasons of high school at Tuscaloosa (Alabama) Northridge High; they know what he brings to the table. Still, succeeding a Heisman Trophy winner is a tall task, one that Scarbrough is charged with now that Derrick Henry is gone. At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Scarbrough has the physical tools to fit nicely into the Alabama offense but has only 18 career collegiate carries to his credit so far. Now’s his chance to prove that the hype is warranted.
Colton Jackson, OT, Fr.: The redshirt freshman emerged from training camp as the first-team left tackle, meaning he’ll succeed Denver Kirkland on the blind side. The Razorbacks have been one of the SEC’s better teams up front the last two years but are replacing three starters up front, including Kirkland. The 6-6, 302-pound Jackson will have to learn quickly -- along with the other new faces in the lineup -- if the Hogs are to maintain their high level of offensive line play.
Carl Lawson, DE, Jr.: Since his freshman All-American season in 2013, Auburn fans have been anticipating a breakout campaign from Lawson, but injuries have disrupted his last two seasons. He missed all of 2014 and six games of 2015 with injuries. When he was in the lineup, he showed flashes of his ability. He opted to return to Auburn for another season rather than declare for the NFL draft, meaning that 2016 is big for him. It's not just because Auburn’s defense needs a healthy Lawson; his draft stock needs it, too.
Brandon Harris, QB, Jr.: When is the quarterback at LSU not under some pressure? If the Tigers are to be serious contenders for the College Football Playoff, their best offensive weapon (running back Leonard Fournette) must be complemented by a consistent, effective, passing game and that starts with Harris. Physically, he’s equipped to get the job done. Will his third year on campus and third year with Cam Cameron be the one where it all comes together?
Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Soph.: Succeeding a player as decorated as Dak Prescott is difficult and Fitzgerald -- while not declared the starter -- seems to be the favorite to land that role. He competed with Damian Williams, Elijah Staley and Nick Tiano this spring. That competition will continue into training camp but, whether it’s Fitzgerald or one of the latter three, there’s huge shoes to fill at quarterback for Mississippi State. Fitzgerald served as Prescott’s backup in 2015 and completed 11-of-14 pass attempts for 235 yards and three touchdowns.
Greg Little, OT, Fr.: Laremy Tunsil was a mainstay at left tackle while on campus, but he’s now in the NFL and there’s a void to be filled. The Rebels recruited Little, the No. 1 recruit in the state of Texas and No. 2 overall player nationally in the 2016 ESPN 300. Little will undoubtedly be a serious candidate to start at the position for Ole Miss. Starting as a true freshman in the SEC is hard enough; doing so on the offensive line is an even tougher task.
Trevor Knight, QB, Sr.: The Aggies have struggled to find consistency at quarterback the last two seasons and hope that Knight can give them that from start to finish in 2016. The defense is expected to be improved even more this season, and Knight has probably the SEC’s most talented receiving corps at his disposal. Will he take care of the ball better than he did at Oklahoma? If he can, the Aggies have a chance to surprise people in the SEC West; if not, it’ll be hard to beat the division’s elite teams.