The SEC will never be what the Pac-12 has become. Programs such as Alabama, LSU and several others will never draw up game plans the way West Virginia or Texas Tech does in the Big 12.
That being said, however, the game itself is moving towards a more passer-friendly brand, and the nation’s most dominant conference possesses both the talent in the players and the brains throughout its coaching staffs to win games (and titles) by air if need be.
Yes, Alabama is a running back factory, but as a true freshman, Amari Cooper finished fifth in the conference with 999 receiving yards. He should have no problem cracking the 1,000-yard plateau with a full offseason to work on timing and routes with senior star quarterback AJ McCarron. His 11 touchdowns were second in the SEC, and we’re pretty sure Bama fans prefer seeing their players sitting pretty at No. 1.
Jordan Matthews is going to be a senior, and he headlines what promises to be one of the league’s most potent passing attacks. The Vanderbilt superstar led the SEC with a whopping 94 receptions and finished second behind only Arkansas senior Cobi Hamilton with 1,323 reception yards on the season. He may be pushed by his very own teammate, however, in soon-to-be Dores junior Chris Boyd. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Georgia native reeled in 50 balls for 774 yards and could make a push for that elite 1,000-yard mark himself in 2013.
Down in the depths of the Bayou resides another dynamic receiving duo. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry both managed to put up solid numbers — 713 and 573 receiving yards in 2012, respectively — despite the well-documented struggles of first-year starter Zach Mettenberger. A full offseason of solid practice, as well as the motivation of a final year to impress teammates, fans, coaches and NFL Draft scouts, should be more than enough motivation for a huge senior year out of Mettenberger. Beckham and Landry both stand to gain a ton should Mettenberger’s game take a step forward.
Two more young men that will grow and produce right alongside their gunslinging quarterbacks are Mike Evans of Texas A&M and Donte Moncrief of Ole Miss.
As just a freshman, Evans hauled in 82 passes thrown by another freshman in Aggies star signal-caller Johnny Manziel. Evans’ measurables are insane, to use the scientific term, as he stands in at 6-foot-5 and 218 pounds with speed and fantastic hands. He piled up 1,105 receiving yards and would have earned recognition as one of the conference’s top first-year stars had he not be overshadowed by his teammate. Expect even bigger things from the sophomore dynamos.
Moncrief and his passer, Bo Wallace, are both going to be juniors, and both are hoping to blow away Ole Miss faithful with their expected pitch-and-catch performances. The Rebels improved from two wins in 2011 to seven last year. If Moncrief improves upon his 66 catches for 979 yards and 10 touchdowns, not only should Ole Miss improve upon that wins total yet again, but the receiver may just earn recognition as the premier player at his position in a conference stacked with talented weapons.
Is Moncrief going to be the best wideout in the SEC in 2013? Or will an up-and-coming sophomore such as Evans or Cooper dominate the league through the air?
Will Mettenberger find his accuracy and make superstars out of Beckham or Landry? What about Vanderbilt? Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels may wind up hitting Matthews more than 100 times in 2013. Would that be enough to earn him recognition as the conference’s top wide receiver?
That, of course, is an answer we here at Gamedayr are leaving up to you.