Rushing, passing, receiving: Projecting the top 5 in each category in the SEC

The SEC has been known for defense for much of this decade. This season, SEC offenses actually may set the pace.

SEC running backs are, as a group, the best in the nation. For the first time this decade, there is reason to be excited about the SEC’s quarterbacks. There will be some potential big-timers throwing the ball around SEC stadiums this season – and not all will be playing for non-conference opponents. And the SEC wide receivers, as a whole, are an exciting group, as well.

All that offensive talent (read that sentence again and rejoice) made today’s exercise somewhat difficult: We’re predicting the top five in the league in rushing yards, passing yards and receiving yards.

Here we go.

LSU derrius guice

LSU’S DERRIUS GUICE, by Chris Parent/LSU athletics

Rushing yards

There were 11 1,000-yard rushers in the SEC last season, which set the single-season league record. The previous record had been nine, first set in 2012, then tied in 2015.

Of the 11 who reached the plateau last season, nine return. The two who didn’t: LSU’s Leonard Fournette, who was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, and Arkansas’ Rawleigh Williams, who had to give up football this spring after suffering another neck injury.

Here are our five projected yardage leaders, in reverse order.

5. Devwah Whaley, Arkansas: Whaley would’ve backed up Williams, but now becomes “the guy.” He can handle it. Williams rushed for 1,360 yards last season. That is attainable for Whaley.
4. Kamryn Pettway, Auburn: If not for an injury that cost him three games last season, Pettway would’ve been the SEC’s leading rusher last season. As it is, he still finished fifth with 1,224 yards. He saw more time than expected because of nagging injuries for Kerryon Johnson, and they will share carries this season. In addition, QB Jarrett Stidham will get some carries and also ramp up the passing attack, which will somewhat lessen Pettway’s impact. Still, Pettway should be able to get to at least 1,300 yards.
3. Nick Chubb, Georgia: Chubb rushed for 1,130 yards last season despite not being 100 percent after a knee injury robbed him of half the 2015 season. He will share carries with Sony Michel, who is talented in his own right, but 1,400 yards is reachable.
2. Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky: He shared time with Stanley “Boom” Williams last season, but Williams turned pro. Snell rushed for 1,091 yards last season, and a legit goal this season is 1,400 yards – a level only two UK backs (Moe Williams in 1995 and Artose Pinner in 2002) have reached.
1. Derrius Guice, LSU: He led the league with 1,387 yards last season. With Fournette gone and a distinct drop-off in talent behind him, Guice could be a 1,600-yard guy this season.
SEC single-season record: Alabama’s Derrick Henry, 2,219 in 2015.

RELATED: From small towns to the big time: SEC standouts make the jump

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