The amount of talent and success that can be found in the Southeastern Conference is almost unfair. The SEC's national championship streak may have ended two years ago, but the conference's streak of having the best players in the land is ongoing.
The conference had 54 players drafted in this year's NFL Draft. According to NFL.com, that makes it nine years in a row that the SEC has led the nation. During that span, the conference had 77 players taken in the first round.
Having so many talented players makes it even harder to win the SEC's Offensive or Defensive Player of the Year Awards. However, those who win these award will reap the benefits when it comes time to get drafted.
Ten out of the last 12 winners of the SEC Offensive Player of the Year Award have been drafted in the first round (Darren McFadden won the award in 2006 and 2007), while the exact same can be said for the Defensive Player of the Year during that same time span.
There are many talented candidates that are capable of winning the SEC Offensive Player of the Year Award, but this article will highlight the five candidates that we feel have the best chance of winning it in 2015.
The Georgia faithful grew worrisome last season when they heard that starting running back Todd Gurley was suspended indefinitely. However, the emergence of freshman running back Nick Chubb quickly eased their concerns.
Chubb had 224 rushing yards in the five games before Gurley's suspension and ran for 100+ yards in each of the remaining eight games. He finished the year with 1,323 rushing yards and 213 receiving yards. His efforts were enough to win him the SEC Freshman of the Year Award. There is no doubt that Georgia's offense will be the "Nick Chubb Show" this season and his numbers will be even better.
Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Derrick Henry owns the national high school record for career-rushing yards with 12,124 yards, so, needless to say, he was a superstar before he even arrived in Tuscaloosa. Saban does not guarantee starting positions, but he certainly gave the 6'3", 242 pound running back a shot.
Henry has, for the most part, lived up to his hype. He rushed for a team-leading 940 yards and 11 touchdowns last season despite having 22 fewer carries than T.J. Yeldon. With Yeldon gone, Henry will have full control of the Tide's ground game. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin favors the pass game, but, until the quarterback situation gets figured out, he will have to rely even more on Henry.
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Leonard Fournette is just another example of a running back that was hyped up to be a superstar before he even got his first collegiate carry. It was a slow go at first, but Fournette earned his superstar status and eventually became confident enough to strike a Heisman pose after a touchdown run.
Like Derrick Henry, Fournette led his team in rushing yards (1,034) and touchdowns (10) despite splitting carries with running backs Terrance Magee and Kenny Hilliard. Magee and Hilliard will be gone, so that opens the door for Fournette to put up some Heisman numbers (or, in this case, SEC OFPY numbers). He will average over 20 carries a game unless an LSU quarterback can prove otherwise.
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
Before the start of the 2014 season, the media picked Mississippi State to finish fifth in the SEC West. The Bulldogs went above and beyond expectations and eventually found themselves atop the college football rankings for the first time ever.
State would have never made it that far without quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott threw for 3,449 yards and 27 touchdowns, while adding 986 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Ironically, there is a good chance that he will not lead the SEC in passing in 2015 due to Texas A&M's Kyle Allen. However, there is not another player in the conference that means more to his team than Prescott.
Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina
Amari Cooper was the SEC's Offensive Player of the Year in 2014, and now another Cooper may be next line. South Carolina's Pharoh Cooper was the only other receiver besides Amari to break the 1,000-yard mark last season.
Cooper averaged over 16 yards per catch, and he may just be the best overall athlete the SEC has to offer consider he saw time as a receiver, running back, quarterback, and punt returner. He contributed 1,489 yards to the Gamecocks' offense last season, and he may be responsible for even more this season.