For the third year in a row I'm attempting to put together a list of the 25 places, people and things that I'm most looking forward to during the upcoming season of SEC football. Now that we're inside of 100 days until kickoff, it's time we got focused on what's ahead. Kicking off this year's list: quarterbacks in search of identities, pastries you won't find at Dunkin' Donuts, and one big Bulldog.
25) Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams. While Ryan Mallet has garnered a lot of headlines in Fayetteville, Williams may be just as important to the Hawgs' upcoming season. Arkansas has weapons on the outside in receivers Joe Adams and Greg Childs, but Williams is a future NFL player with great receiving skills in his own right. Williams has over 1000 receiving yards over the past two seasons, and should be a contender for the Mackey Award, given to the nation's top tight end.
Williams's personal story is also very touching, and is one you should expect to hear about when we play the Razorbacks in 2010. College football certainly has no shortage of guys who come from tough situations. That doesn't make D.J. Williams any less easy to root for, especially if like me you enjoy watching a versatile tight end make his team's offense work.
24) An Oreo Donut from Ike & Jane on Prince Avenue in Athens. It's a doughnut. It's covered in Oreo crumbs. I assume that this one requires no further support or explanation. They also serve a bacon peanut butter doughnut called "The Elvis", a prospect which I find less appetizing and more intriguing. I haven't tried one, but that doesn't mean I won't because, you know, bacon. If anyone has sampled the Elvis, I'd appreciate a review. Unless you're just going to dash my hopes by telling me it doesn't live up to the hype. In which case I'd appreciate you not ruining my bacon-wrapped fantasies, thank you very much.
23) LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson. Will the real Jordan Jefferson please stand up? Jefferson was a star coming out of Destrahan High and secured the starting job ahead of Jarrett Lee (who Daryl Gamble just picked off again) and Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch. Coming into 2009 he looked poised to continue the growth he exhibited after taking over at the end of 2008. But his career so far has been as much about the Tigers' last-second meltdown against Ole Miss last season (with which he had some help) as about his immense physical talents. LSU's John Chavis-directed defense should be good this season. But if LSU is to challenge Alabama in the SEC West, Les Miles will have to be able to trust Jefferson with the ball in crunch time. In his third year as at least a part-time starter, it's about that time.
22) The Florida Gator front seven. I'm not so much looking forward to this one as I am curious what it will look like. There was not a better defensive end tandem in the SEC last season than Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham, who combined for 16 sacks. Brandon Spikes was always a threat to
gouge your eyes out in frustration change the momentum of the game, and Ryan Stamper was an underappreciated asset. As much as Florida needs to replace Joe Haden and Major Wright in the secondary, they desperately need to have some guys step in up front. The Gator defense kept a lot of games close last season while the Steve Addazio Offensive Spectacular flew down the field so fast that it appeared to be standing still. It remains to be seen whether this year's Florida defense will provide the same cover for the John Brantley-led Gator offense.
21) Kwame Geathers. While there are a lot of questions surrounding the Georgia defense scheme-wise in 2010, one of the biggest personnel questions is this: how do you replace not one, not two, but three defensive tackles taken in the NFL Draft? Todd Grantham and Rodney Garner are the ones getting paid to find the answer, of course. It helps that they only have to find one guy to start at nose tackle in the new 3-4 defense. For now that guy is Deangelo Tyson. And while Tyson has two years of solid playing experience under his belt, behind him is where things get dicey. They'll be a whole lot less up in the air if Geathers lives up to his preseason hype and prodigious family football legacy. At 6'6 and 325 pounds, Geathers looks like what you'd think a 3-4 nose is supposed to. He's quick for his size, and the coaches have raved about his physical transformation since stepping on campus last year late and overweight.
I'll be back next week with items 20-16, until then . . .