The 2018 season is fast approaching. SEC media days are right around the corner. Most teams are in the final stages of their workout programs and prepping for the start of fall practice. Soon the preseason predictions and accolades will get released. The familiar names will be there as always. In the SEC West, Alabama and Auburn will be getting plenty of attention due to their talent levels and recent success. It is also getting closer to the time when fresh new names will get thrust into the spotlight. Players will have the opportunity to break out of the shadows and get their names front and center. Having already looked at who could be a potential star on the Eastern side, now we can take a look at which players could breakout in the SEC West.
SEC West Potential Stars
Toting the Rock
Najee Harris – Tailback – Alabama
Considering all the talent that fills the Crimson Tide roster, it can be difficult for a freshman to break into the lineup. Najee Harris was a highly coveted recruit coming out of high school, but still found it hard to find the field his first year in Tuscaloosa. Stuck behind veterans Bo Scarborough and Damien Harris, the freshman only got 61 carries in 2017. His 370 yards and three touchdowns were both fourth on the team. Harris should be firmly in the rotation this year and see his opportunities and production increase immensely. The rising sophomore is a big power back, following in the mold of Scarborough and Derrick Henry before him. Alabama will play in plenty of big games this season, so Harris will have a chance to become a household name if he performs up to his potential.
Aeris Williams – Tailback – Mississippi State
The Bulldogs are some people’s dark horse to make a run at an SEC West title this season. A lot of that praise stems from the return of star quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, and a strong defense. If you are overlooking Aeris Williams and his impact, you are making a big mistake. The senior ran for 1,107 yards in 2017, and has over 2,000 yards for his career. Combined with his quarterback, they form an explosive rushing tandem. Williams had four 100 yard games as a junior, including 146 yards in a victory over LSU. The 6’1” 217 lb. tailback will look to continue breaking tackles and grinding out the tough yards this season. His toughness and punishing style will also open up rushing lanes for the dynamic Fitzgerald. If the Bulldogs are to surprise folks in the SEC this season, Williams will need to be at his best.
Trayveon Williams – Tailback – Texas A&M
The Aggies will have a new direction this season, looking to move forward under a new coaching staff. Head man Jimbo Fisher will have a talented running back corps to lean on in his first season in charge. Trayveon Williams leads that group with his burst of speed and shiftiness. After gaining 1,057 yards as a freshman, his production tapered off a bit in his second season. His 798 yards on the ground still led the team, and he also added 20 receptions for another 192 yards. Williams has scored 16 touchdowns on the ground in two seasons.
He has shown the ability to fight for tough yards in the red zone, while also having the speed and vision to break big runs. The Aggies will lean on the running game as they figure out their quarterback situation. If they want to make noise in the SEC West race, Williams will need to be a big part of that.
Jordan Jones – Wide Receiver – Arkansas
Arkansas is flipping its offensive philosophy on its head. No longer will they be the power running, grind-it-out team Bret Bielema team. New head coach Chad Morris takes over with a spread out and fast paced offensive attack. Jordan Jones could be the player who benefits most from this switch. As a freshman, he was third on the team with 21 catches and 401 yards. His 19.1 yards per catch show how dangerous he can be as downfield threat. Jones also averaged 11 yards on his eight carries last season. His big play ability is something the Razorbacks haven’t had much of lately. Coach Morris will undoubtedly try to maximize his touches, hoping to get his best big play threat the ball as much as possible.
Darius Slayton – Wide Reciever – Auburn
The hope for Auburn is that after an up and down first season, quarterback Jarrett Stidham will have a big 2018. If he is able to do so, getting the ball downfield to Darius Slayton will be key. As a sophomore he averaged 22.2 yards on his 29 receptions. His 643 yards were second on the team, and he tied for the team lead with five touchdowns. Slayton is the clear cut deep threat for the Tigers, and his speed on the outside will help open up space for the rushing attack. At 6’2” 191 lbs, he also has the size to battle defensive backs for jump balls if he isn’t able to simply run past them. He is not just a deep threat, as he also turned a couple of screen passes into big plays with broken tackles.
Foster Moreau – Tight End – LSU
This junior from New Orleans may end up being the hardest worker on this list. Not only will Foster Moreau be relied on as a dependable pass catcher, but he will be asked to bang in the trenches as a blocker as well. LSU is a running team at heart, so Moreau may spend most of his time opening holes for his backs to utilize. When his number is called, he has shown he can make plays. A huge target at 6’6” 250 lbs, he was second on the team with 24 catches last season.
His three touchdown catches were tied for the team lead. If they want to contend in the SEC West, LSU will need to expand their offense beyond just a ‘three yards and a cloud of dust’ identity. Moreau will look to improve on his 278 yards receiving, and help make up for the production lost with Derrius Guice and D.J. Chark leaving for the NFL.
Jordan Ta’amu – Quarterback – Ole Miss
The JUCO transfer played in only seven games in the 2017, but he still made an impact. Jordan Ta’amu is a dual threat under center, with the ability to beat a defense with his arm and his legs. He threw for 1,682 yards and 11 touchdowns in his limited action. Ole Miss went 3-3 in the games he started, including a win over rival Mississippi State to end the season. He completed 31 of 40 passes for 382 yards in a win at Kentucky, and had two rushing scores against both Arkansas and Louisiana.
With Shea Patterson transferred out to Michigan, the starting job is his alone now. Ole Miss can’t compete for an SEC West crown, or a bowl game due to NCAA penalties. However, with Ta’amu at quarterback, and the likes of A.J. Brown and Damarkus Lodge to throw to, this Rebel team will still be fun to watch.
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