Every year in the SEC each team loses players that were detrimental to their success in the previous season. The 2014 season will be no exception.
In a year where college football has already seen a record breaking number of underclassmen declare for the NFL Draft in May, the SEC has been hit the hardest. Wednesday was the final day for players to declare themselves eligible for the draft, and by the end of the day a total of 28 underclassmen had announced they will forgo their remaining college eligibility to pursue a career in the NFL. In addition to the enormous group of underclassmen leaving school, there are a large group of talented seniors who will not be back for respective teams in the SEC this fall.
Of these player personnel losses, here are the three that are the most significant to each team.
A.J. McCarron (Quarterback)
Though the career of McCarron did not end quite the way he wanted too; he will still leave The University of Alabama as one of the most legendary players to play for the Crimson Tide. McCarron leaves as the schools all-time winningest quarterback with 37 wins, as well as leading the Tide to two BCS National Championships. The Maxwell Award winner, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner and Heisman Trophy runner-up will also leave as the school’s all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns. McCarron was also the first player in Alabama football history to pass for 30 touchdowns and 3,000 yards in a season. McCarron is the eighth ranked quarterback in the 2o14 NFL Draft, and is expected to be a third-fourth round draft selection, but some draft experts say he could go lower or higher. Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban has not given even the slightest hint as to who the starting quarterback will be for the Crimson Tide next season, but one thing is for certain, whoever it is will some big shoes to fill.
C.J. Mosley (Linebacker)
Mosley surprised a lot of Alabama fans last season when he opted to return to the Crimson Tide for his senior season. The starting inside linebacker mastered Nick Saban’s 3-4 scheme during his time in Tuscaloosa, as he led the team in tackles with more than 100 in both his junior and senior seasons, and was a Consensus All-American in both of those seasons. Mosley was voted by the coaches as the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and was the 2013 Butkus Award Winner given annually to the best collegiate linebacker. Numerous NFL Draft experts have been quoted saying Mosley has “very few weaknesses.” He has been rated the #1 inside linebacker prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft by NFL.com, and is expected to be a first round draft pick.
Kevin Norwood (Wide Receiver)
Although Norwood is only projected to be a seventh round draft selection, he has been pivotal to the success of the Alabama football team over the last three seasons. Norwood burst onto the scene in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game when he made a circus-like catch over Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu, and finished the game as the team’s leading receiver. From that point on, whenever the Crimson Tide needed a play in crunch time Norwood was the guy. Norwood consistently came up clutch in big games, and became A.J. McCarron’s favorite target when the game was on the line. In addition to being a clutch player Norwood also led by example, and earned the respect of his coaches and peers. He was voted by his fellow teammates as one of the three “permanent” captains before the 2014 Sugar Bowl.
Travis Swanson (Center)
Travis Swanson was the heart and soul of an Arkansas Razorback team that struggled in their first year under new coach Bret Bielema. Swanson made 50 starts and never missed one in his four years as the starting center for the Razorbacks, and was selected as team captain for the second consecutive year. Swanson was a 2-time All-SEC 2nd Team selection, and was named one of six finalists for the 2013 Rimington Award (an award given annually to the nation’s best center). Swanson showed his versatility during his career, as he started in the pass-happy offense of Bobby Petrino during his first two seasons, and then transitioned to the run-centric offense of Bret Bielema during the 2013 season. Swanson is rated as the #1 overall center in the 2014 NFL Draft, and is expected to be a late first-second round draft selection.
Chris Smith (Defensive End)
Chris Smith entered 2013 coming off a very productive season where he had 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. He followed that up with with similar numbers this year (8.5 sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss) in route to leading a defense that ranked fourth in the SEC in sacks. Despite playing for a Razorback team that was winless in conference play this season, Smith managed to excel as he was voted to the All-SEC 2nd Team by the coaches. In a conference where every defensive end not named Jadeveon Clowney does not get much attention, Smith (6ft 3in, 268 lbs.) is still rated as the seventh best defensive end in the NFL Draft. He is projected to be a second round draft selection.
Robert Thomas (Defensive Tackle)
Another player on the talented defensive line for the Arkansas Razorbacks, Thomas was climbing up draft boards mid-season before he suffered a season-ending leg injury. The 6 foot 3 inch, 325 pound senior defensive tackle tallied 3.5 sacks, 6 tackles for loss, and 31 total tackles in only seven games. Though he is still recovering from a broken leg, Thomas received an invite to the NFL Combine (February 19-25) in Indianapolis, and is rated in the top half of defensive tackle eligible to be drafted. However he is not expected to be drafted, but is expected to be signed as a free agent.
Tre Mason (Running Back)
If the 2013 Auburn offense was a machine, then Tre Mason was the engine that made the machine operate. No player in college football finished the season stronger than Mason did as he led the SEC Champion Auburn Tigers on their run to the BCS National Championship Game. In the last six games of the season Mason rushed for 1,063 yards, an average of 177.2 yards per game. He finished the season ranked first in the SEC, and eighth nationally in rushing yards (1,816 yards) breaking Auburn great Bo Jackson’s school record along the way. He also finished ranked first in the SEC in rushing touchdowns (23), and 3rd nationally. The accolades piled up for Mason too. Mason, a junior, was voted the 2013 SEC Offensive Player of the Year. He was also a Second-Team All-American, a Doak Walker Award Finalist, and a Heisman Trophy Finalist. Mason is the second rated running back in the 2014 draft, and is expected to be a second round draft selection.
Greg Robinson (Offensive Tackle)
Not much was expected from the Auburn offensive line coming into the 2013 season, but in a year that has been deemed the “Miracle Season” by the Auburn faithful, the Auburn offensive line went from mediocre to perennial. One of the primary reasons for that was Left Tackle Greg Robinson. Robinson, a redshirt sophomore, emerged as one of the best offensive tackles in the country. The 6 feet 5 inch, 320 pound Robinson was voted All-SEC First Team, and helped pave the way for two 1,000 yard rushers. Robinson is the second rated tackle in the draft, and is expected to be a top ten draft pick.
Dee Ford (Defensive End/Outside Linebacker)
Dee Ford was one of the bright spots on a defense that otherwise struggled in 2013. Ford finished the season ranked second in the SEC in sacks and tackles for loss with 11.5 and 14.5 respectively. A hybrid defensive end/linebacker, Ford was voted All-SEC First Team, and showed out of the big stage with two sacks on Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston in the BCS National Championship. Ford is rated as the 6th best outside linebacker in the 2014 NFL Draft, and projected to be selected in the second round.
Dominique Easley (Defensive Tackle)
Dominique Easley may have been bitten by the injury bug during his career, but he still made a substantial impact on the Florida Gators team. That impact was felt when he was lost to a season-ending ACL injury in the third game of the season, as the Gators struggled to a 4-8 record. Easley was a Pre-Season 1st Team All-SEC selection, and was enjoying an All-American caliber season prior to his injury. Even with the ACL injury Easley is the ninth rated defensive tackle, and is projected to be a second-third round draft pick.
Loucheiz Purifoy (Cornerback)
A talented Junior, Purifoy excelled as the number one starting cornerback in the 2013 season. Purifoy was a key playmaker on a stingy defense that ranked 15th in the country in scoring defense. He was second on the team with seven pass breakups; he also had 24 total tackles, 2 interceptions, and 3.5 tackles for loss. Purifoy (6 feet 1 inch, 190 pounds) was a Second Team All-SEC selection by Athlon Sports. He is the ninth rated cornerback in the 2014 NFL Draft, and is projected to be second-third round draft pick.
Trey Burton (Tight End/H-Back)
Trey Burton was Mr. Versatility for the Florida Gators. Although his stats this past season may not indicate so, he has played a major role in his team’s success during his career. Whether it be fullback, tight end, h-back, or quarterback Burton did a little bit of everything in college. He finishes his career 720 rushing yards, 16 rushing touchdowns, 976 receiving yards, 4 receiving touchdowns, and he also passed for 103 yards in his career. Not much has been said about where Burton will land in the 2014 NFL Draft, but where ever he lands he will be bringing a lot to the table.
Aaron Murray (Quarterback)
Aaron Murray, a leader, a warrior, an excellent quarterback, and the heart and soul of the Georgia Bulldogs football team. Murray’s legacy at Georgia is what you want to make it. Some fans loved him, and some fans hated him. One thing is for sure though, you had to respect him. In a season that was decimated be injuries, there was one constant for the Bulldogs this season, number 11. Murray leaves as the SEC’s all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns. Although his senior season was cut short by an ACL injury in the eleventh game of the season, Murray still managed to pass for over 3,000 yards. In fact Murray threw for more than 3,000 yards in all four seasons as a starter in Athens; making him the first and only player in SEC history to do that. That is consistent production that will be very difficult to replace. Considered a little undersized by NFL scouts, Murray is a projected to go in the fourth or fifth round in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Arthur Lynch (Tight End)
What you see is what you get with Arthur Lynch. A talented senior tight end, Lynch provided a big, dependable target for Aaron Murray over the past two seasons as a starter. Lynch appears to be next in the long line of tight ends to be drafted in the Mark Richt era (Ben Watson, Leonard Pope, Martrez Milner, and Orson Charles). The fifth year senior was voted All-SEC First Team, and eclipsed 400 yards in each of the past two seasons. Lynch is the 6 rated tight end in the draft, and is projected to be a third round selection.
Kenarious Gates, Dallas Lee, Chris Brunette (Offensive Line)
Having a group of experienced offensive linemen is a difficult thing to come by in college football, and that is why this trio of seniors will be greatly missed come the 2014 season. Between Kenarious Gates, Dallas Lee, and Chris Brunette the three of them combined for 109 starts in the collegiate careers at the University of Georgia. These three helped protect Aaron Murray for three of his four 3,000 yard passing seasons, as well as paving the way for standout running back Todd Gurley who has rushed for a combined 2,374 yards in the last two seasons. All three are projected to be late round draft picks.
Avery Williamson (Linebacker)
Avery Williamson is one of the more under-appreciated, underrated players in all of college football. He was the unquestioned leader of a team and a program that was trying to find their identity in year one of the Mark Stoops era. For two consecutive seasons now Williamson has tallied more than 100 tackles, and ranks second in the SEC with 244 combined tackles the previous two seasons. Williamson is a two-time All-SEC Second Team selection, and projected to be a late round draft selection.
Donte Rumph (Defensive Tackle)
One of the key contributors to the Kentucky defensive line, Donte Rumph held his ground with the best that the SEC had to offer in 2013. Rumph, a two year starter, totaled 47 tackles, six tackles for loss, and two sacks. He also forced a fumble. He helped lay the foundation for the Wildcat future under the defensive-minded Mark Stoops. Rumph is not expected to be drafted, but that does not mean you will not see him on an NFL roster next season. He is expected to be signed as an undrafted free agents.
Raymond Sanders III (Running Back/All-Purpose)
Although Raymond Sanders III’s career with the Kentucky Wildcats ended on a sour note, his production will still be missed come this fall. Sander’s was dismissed in November before his final game as a Wildcat, but prior to that he enjoyed a solid season. Sanders served in an all-purpose type role for the Wildcats as he rushed for over 400 yards and caught for over 100 yards. He accounted for 683 all-purpose yards (second on the team) and three touchdowns. Sanders may have played his last football game, as he is not expected to be drafted or signed as a free agent.
Jarvis Landry & Odell Beckham Jr. (Wide Receiver)
Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. may have been the most talented receiving duo in the entire country in 2013. Both juniors, their first two years on campus the philosophy on offense was not overly predicated on the passing game. In steps new offensive coordinator and former NFL head coach Cam Cameron, and breakout seasons ensue from both Landry and Beckham. Prior to this season, you had to go all the way back to the BCS National Championship Season of 2003 to find the last 1,000 yard receiver for the Tigers. This season both Landry and Beckham individually eclipsed that mark in only 20 combined games (Beckham did it 9, Landry did it 11). Landry finished the season with 77 receptions, 1193 receiving yards, and 10 receiving touchdowns. Beckham finished the season with 59 receptions, 1152 receiving yards, and 8 receiving touchdowns. In addition to that Beckham was also the return man for LSU, as he also eclipsed 1,000 yards in return yardage. Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. are expected to be selected in the first two round of the NFL Draft, with Beckham being rated slightly higher because of his punt and kick return skills.
Zach Mettenberger (Quarterback)
Many LSU fans considered Zach Mettenberger the achilles heal of an offense that often struggled in 2012, but with a new offensive coordinator and a new offensive philosophy Mettenberger went from achilles heal to playmaker. With a big time, NFL caliber arm and a talented group of receivers Mettenberger shredded opponents through the air this season. Excluding the final regular season game where Mettenberger went down with a knee injury, he threw for an average of 257.3 yards per game against conference opponents and had a 10 touchdown to 3 interception ratio in those games. Even with that knee injury Mettenberger is still one of the highest rated quarterbacks in the draft, and is expected to be selected somewhere in the second or third round.
Jeremy Hill (Running Back)
Jeremy Hill came out of no where in 2012 in a mid-October home game against eighth ranked South Carolina rushing for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns. Hill, a redshirt freshman at the time, had only 71 rushing yards through the first 6 games of the season leading into that game. Since that point (October 13, 2012) Hill has rushed for 2,085 yards, a statistic that ranks second in the SEC, only behind Tre Mason. Hill has also combined for 28 rushing touchdowns in only 25 games over the past two seasons. Jeremy Hill is the eighth rated running back in the 2014 NFL Draft, and is expected to be a third round draft selection.
Donte Moncrief (Wide Receiver)
Ever since Donte Moncrief has walked on campus he has been the Ole Miss Rebels go-to guy at the wide receiver position. Moncrief, a true junior, lead the Rebels in receiving yards in each of his three seasons as a starter. Moncrief really began to excel when Hugh Freeze was hired as head coach and brought his spread-style offense with him. In each of the past two seasons Moncrief has ranked in the top five in the conference in receiving yards, and has also accounted for 16 receiving touchdowns in those two seasons, as he really distinguish himself as Bo Wallace’s favorite target. In his three years as a starter Moncrief had 156 reception, 2,371 receiving yards, and 20 receiving touchdowns. Donte Moncrief is expected to be a third round draft selection.
Jeff Scott (Running Back/All-Purpose)
Jeff Scott gave the 2013 college football season one of its most electrifying plays on opening night. On a nationally televised game against conference rival Vanderbilt on the first night in college football, the Rebels were trailing 35-32 and there was 1:07 remaining in the game. Scott then took a hand-off and ran 75 yards for a game-clinching touchdown. That was just the kind of big play Rebel fans had come to expect from Jeff Scott. During his time at Ole Miss Scott played a similar role to that of Dexter McCluster. Similar in stature to McCluster, Scott (5 foot 7 inches, 170 pounds) was an all-purpose type player as he rushed for 2,301 yards, caught for 406 yards, and totaled 966 yards as a returner. He also accounted for 20 touchdowns in his career. Scott’s senior season was cut short due to injury and is not projected to be drafted, but is expected to be signed as an undrafted free agent.
Tyler Campbell (Punter)
Tyler Campbell has been one the best special team players in the history of Ole Miss football. Trailing Merle Hapes, Campbell is Ole Miss’s second all-time leader in career punting average, averaging 44.6 yards per punt over the course of his career. Campbell was a four year starter for the Rebels, and has earned All-American and All-Conference honors during his collegiate playing career. Campbell was also the 2010 FBS punting champion with a nation-best 46.37 yard per punt average. Campbell is one of the few punters projected to be drafted, and is expected to go in the seven round.
LaDarius Perkins (Running Back)
Due to the emergence of Dak Prescott, LaDarius Perkins had a little bit of a quite 2013 season, but that does not take away from what he did over the course of his career with the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Perkins was still the team’s second leading rusher in 2013, and rushed for 2,554 yards and 15 touchdowns over the course of his career. The bulk of those yards coming in his standout 2012 season in which he rushed for 1,024 yards and eight touchdowns. Perkins has been one the Bulldogs top three leading rushers each of his four seasons on campus, and has also come up big in the passing game as he has accounted for 714 yards receiving and ten receiving touchdowns. Perkins is not expected to be drafted, but could potentially hear his named called in the last round. He is expected to sign as a free agent though.
Gabe Jackson (Offensive Guard)
Gabe Jackson has been one of, if not the most consistent and productive linemen in Mississippi State football history. A highly coveted prospect coming out of high school, Jackson was a four year starter and made 52 consecutive starts for the Bulldogs. Jackson was a two-time All-SEC First Team selection, and was second team All-American. Jackson leaves as one of the more decorated linemen in Bulldogs’ history. Gabe Jackson is the forth rated offensive guard in the 2014 NFL Draft, and is expected to be a second round draft selection.
Nickoe Whitley (Safety)
To put it simply, Nickoe Whitley was a disruptive force during his career at Mississippi State. Over the course of Whitley’s career he force a staggering 20 turnovers. 15 of those turnovers were interceptions, a statistic that ranks second all-time in school history. Whitley, a four year starter, was responsible for the game-winning play against arch-rival Ole Miss in the 2013 Egg Bowl. Whitley stripped the ball from Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace’s grasp just as he was about to rush for a touchdown that would have tied the game. The play secured a 17-10 victory in overtime. Whitley also totaled 143 tackles over the past two seasons, and was one of the top four leading tacklers in both seasons. He projected to be a sixth-seventh round draft selection.
Michael Sam (Defensive End)
Coming off of an 5-7 record their first season in the SEC, the Missouri Tigers needed some players to step up if they expected to revert back to their winning ways they enjoyed in the Big 12. Well Michael Sam did just that in 2013. Sam nearly tripled his defensive statistical output from the 2012 season, as he saw his sack total jump from 4.5 to 11.5, and his tackles for loss total jump from to 7.0 to 19.0. Sam gave SEC quarterbacks nightmares as both of those totals led the conference. He also had 48 tackles and two forced fumbles on the year. He was a First Team All-American and All-SEC First Team selection, and was voted by the Associated Press as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Sam was also a finalist for the Lombardi and Nagurski Award (Both given annually, the Lombardi to best defensive lineman or linebacker and the Nagurski to the best overall defensive player). Sam (6 feet 2 inches, 255 pounds) is expected to be converted to an outside linebacker in the NFL, and is projected to be drafted in the second-third round.
Henry Josey (Running Back)
After missing the entire 2012 season due to injury, Henry Josey returned in 2013 and made Missouri fans remember why he was so good in 2o11. During the 2011 season Josey rushed for 1,168 yards, in 2013 he nearly replicated that number rushing for 1,166 yards. Josey saved his best for conference opponents, rushing for an average of 92.8 yards per game in nine conference games, including 123 yards in the SEC Championship Game (a game he left midway through the third quarter due to injury). Josey finished his career at Missouri with 2,771 rushing yards, and 30 rushing touchdowns. Both statistics rank fourth best in school history. Henry Josey is not expected to be drafted, but could be picked up as a free agent.
Kony Ealy (Defensive End)
Much like his teammate and fellow defensive end Michael Sam, Kony Ealy really stepped up his game in the 2013 season. Ealy finished the year with 8.0 sacks and 14.0 tackles for loss, his second consecutive season eclipsing double figures in tackles for loss. His sack and tackles for loss totals ranked fifth and third respectively in the SEC. Ealy was voted All-SEC First-Team by the Associated Press. Standing at 6 feet, 5 inches, 275 pounds, Ealy is a specimen, and is the eleventh overall rated player in the draft, and second rated at his position. He is projected to be a first round draft selection, many saying he could go in the top 20 picks.
Jadeveon Clowney (Defensive End)
After a monster 2012 season that was highlighted by “the hit heard around the world” in the Outback Bowl against Michigan, the expectation level for the 2013 season was set exceptionally high for Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney struggled to meet those high expectations in 2013 as he managed just 3.0 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. This came after a season where Clowney had 13.0 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss. Nevertheless Clowney will be missed, as he was undoubtedly the most game-planned for defensive player in college football this year. This enabled other players on the defensive side of the ball to step up and have break out seasons. Clowney is also part of a group of players at South Carolina that have won 11 games in three consecutive seasons. Prior to him joining the team, no team in South Carolina history had ever won 11 games once. Many draft experts stated that Clowney would have been the #1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft had he been eligible, and he is once again rated the #1 overall player in the 2014 NFL Draft. He is expected to be one of the first five selections of the first round.
Conner Shaw (Quarterback)
If you wanted to see what a gritty football player looks like, then you needed to watch Conner Shaw during his collegiate career at the University of South Carolina. Shaw battled through injuries though out his career to become the school’s all-time winningest quarterback, and earned the respect of Gamecock fans along the way. Shaw’s 28-5 record as a starter is very impressive, but not nearly as impressive as his 24 passing touchdown to 1 interception ratio he had during his senior season. A true leader on and off the field Shaw showed his dual-threat ability throughout his career as he finished with 6,074 passing yards and 56 passing touchdowns, and 1,125 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. Conner Shaw is expected to be a sixth-seventh round draft selection.
Kelcy Quarles (Defensive Tackle)
Kelcy Quarles may have been the player that benefitted the most from how much game-plan attention Jadeveon Clowney received. While Clowney was being double and triple teamed, Quarles quietly had one of the best season’s in the conference racking up 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. Quarles ranked in the top five in the SEC in both of those statistics. The loss of Quarles is such a massive blow to the Gamecocks because now they do not have an heir apparent to replace Clowney on the defensive line; much like Clowney did when he replaced All-SEC defensive lineman Melvin Ingram. Quarles is the eighth rated defensive tackle in the 2014 NFL Draft, and is projected to be selected in the second-third round.
Antonio Richardson (Offensive Tackle)
The 2013 Tennessee Volunteer football team was one that was built on the success of their offensive line. In a group that returned all five starters, Antonio Richardson stood out above the rest. Richardson, a junior, started that last two seasons at left tackle protecting the blindside for Volunteer quarterbacks. He has gained attention for not allowing some of the best pass-rushers in the conference to sack the quarterback. In particular Jadeveon Clowney. He went one-on-one with Clowney each of the past two seasons and gave up only one sack in two games. Richardson has been named All-SEC Second Team twice. He is the sixth rated offensive tackle in the 2014 NFL Draft, and is projected to be drafted in the second round.
Ja’Wuan James (Offensive Tackle)
Another member of what was an outstanding offensive line, Ja’Wuan James coupled with Antonio Richardson to created one of the best offensive tackle duos in all of college football in the 2013 season. Starting opposite Richardson at the right tackle position, James also held his own against elite SEC competition as he was part of an offensive line that only gave one sack when playing Jadeveon Clowney, Kelcy Quarles, Michael Sam, and Kony Ealy (All players expected to be drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft). James is the tenth rated offensive tackle in the 2014 NFL Draft, and is projected to be drafted in the second-third round.
Daniel McCullers (Defensive Tackle)
If you were going to run the ball on the 2013 Tennessee Volunteer defense you had to go through the massive Daniel McCullers to do so. Standing at 6 feet 8 inches and tipping the scales at 351 pounds, McCullers consistently plugged the A and B gaps creating space for the Tennessee linebackers to make plays. McCullers finished the season with 33 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and a fumble recovery. Daniel McCullers is the eleventh ranked defensive tackle in the 2014 NFL Draft, and is projected to be drafted in the third-fourth round.
Johnny Manziel (Quarterback)
Can one even begin to explain how much Johnny Manziel has meant to the Texas A&M football program? Before even getting into the statistics and the accolades, you first have to understand where the Aggie football program was prior to Manziel arriving on campus. Texas A&M had been an underachieving program that struggled to meet expectations and went 26-25 in the four seasons leading up to joining the SEC. In steps Johnny Manziel, and since that point the Aggies have gone 20-6. He has revitalized a proud fan base, and made the Texas A&M football program relevant once again. In only two seasons as a starter Manziel had nearly 10,000 yards of total offense, coming up just short with 9,989 yards (7,820 passing, 2,169 rushing). He also accounted for a staggering 93 touchdowns (63 passing, 30 rushing). Manziel won the 2012 Heisman Trophy, the 2012 Davey O’Brien Trophy, and is a two-time All-American. Manziel is the third rated quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft, and is projected to be one of the first ten selections of the first round.
Jake Matthews (Offensive Tackle)
When Luke Joeckel declared early for the 2013 NFL Draft, Jake Matthews made the transition from right tackle to left tackle. The transition came with ease to Matthews. Considered to be one of the best run blocking tackle in the country, Matthews also excelled at pass blocking this season protecting Johnny Manziel’s blindside. Matthews racked up accolades over his career at Texas A&M as he was twice voted a First Team All-American, and was also twice name All-SEC First Team. Matthews is the top rated offensive tackle in the 2014 NFL Draft, and is projected to be selected in the first five selections of the first round.
Mike Evans (Wide Receiver)
Just like Johnny Manziel, Mike Evans will forgo his remaining two years of eligibility to enter the 2014 NFL Draft. In only two seasons as a starter Evans established himself as one of the premier wide receivers in the conference, and when the moment mattered the most he made it count. In the two biggest games of the regular season against Alabama and Auburn Evans combined for 18 catches, 566 receiving yards, and 5 touchdowns. Evans eclipsed the 1,000 yard receiving mark in both years as a starter totaling 2,499 receiving yards and 17 receiving touchdowns in his brief two year career. Mike Evans is the second rated wide receiver in the 2014 NFL Draft, and is projected to be a first round draft selection.
Jordan Matthews (Wide Receiver)
You could probably call the last three seasons the “golden age” of Vanderbilt football. Vanderbilt has gone from SEC doormat to contender, and one of the primary reasons for that is Jordan Matthews. Matthews developed into Vanderbilt’s go-to receiver in a breakout 2011 season where he finished fifth in the SEC with 778 receiving yards. He followed that up by ranking second in the SEC in 2012 with 1,323 receiving yards, and ranking first in 2013 with 1,477 receiving yards. Matthews will leave the school not only as the Commodores’ all-time leading receiver, but also as the SEC’s all-time leading receiver with career totals of 262 receptions, 3,759 receiving yards, and 24 receiving touchdowns. In 2013 Matthews was named a First Team All-American, and was a semi-finalist for the Biletnikoff Award. He is the eighth rated wide receiver in the draft, and is projected to be selected in the second round.
Kenny Ladler (Safety)
Kenny Ladler was the leader of a very underrated 2013 Vanderbilt Commodore defense. Ladler has been a standout for the Commodores ever since he set foot on campus in Nashville. As part of a senior class that won a school record 26 games, Ladler was Vanderbilt’s leading tackle each of the past two seasons from the safety position (90 tackles in 2012, 91 in 2013). Ladler’s production will be most missed in the turnover department where he intercepted five passes and forced five fumbles in 2013, both team highs. Ladler was rewarded for his efforts being voted All-SEC First Team by the coaches. He is the sixth rated free safety in the draft, and is projected to be drafted in the forth-fifth round.
Wesley Johnson (Offensive Tackle)
Wesley Johnson is also another member of the winningest senior class in school history that will be greatly missed. Johnson was a four year starter for the Commodores as the 2013 BBVA Compass Bowl marked his 51st consecutive start. He anchored an offensive line that set school records for total offense and points scored. Johnson was voted All-SEC First Team by the coaches, and All-SEC Second Team by the Associated Press. He is projected to be a fifth-sixth round draft selection.
Research for this article complied courtesy of:
Chattanooga Time Free Press
And each respective SEC team’s official athletic website.