February 27, 2024

Predicting the SEC’s top performers in week four

With most teams in SEC play this week, these players have the most favorable matchups against their week four opponents.

Leonard Fournette, LSU RB

Junior running back Leonard Fournette looks to build on his strong performance last week against Mississippi State (147 yards and two touchdowns). This Saturday, he will be facing the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium. After facing three straight spread offenses, the Auburn’s defense will need to control the line of scrimmage versus LSU’s pro-style offense.

You may remember last year, when Fournette dismantled Auburn from start to finish, rushing for a then career-high 228 yards. He broke the first play from scrimmage for 71 yards and scored on the next play, on his way to racking up three touchdowns in the game. If he plays anywhere near that well on Saturday, LSU should be victorious.

Josh Reynolds and Christian Kirk, Texas A&M WRs

Texas A&M’s two leading receivers, senior Josh Reynolds and sophomore Christian Kirk, should both provide big play threats for quarterback Trevor Knight against Arkansas. The Razorback secondary has struggled so far this season, giving up an average of 224 yards a game through the air. The unit gave up almost 400 yards alone to Kenny Hill and TCU.

Both Reynolds and Kirk have caught passes of over 50 yards through the first three games. While Reynolds is averaging 17.6 yards per catch, Kirk is averaging 10.3 and is tied for 26th in the country with 18 receptions on the year. Look for Trevor Knight to get both of his receivers involved early and often.

Derek Barnett, Tennessee DE

Last week, head coach Butch Jones said junior defensive end Derek Barnett played “one of the best games in his career” versus Ohio. Barnett finished the day with five tackles, one tackle for loss and two quarterback hurries. This week, he will be the facing the Florida Gators and graduate transfer Austin Appleby. The Gators’ quarterback situation plays right into his strengths as a pass rusher. Appleby is a pocket passer and not particularly mobile while trying to escape pressure.

Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop can utilize Barnett in several different ways. A versatile player like Barnett can be lined up either on the right or left side of the ball. This week against the Florida Gators, he could be lining up for a mismatch against true freshman right tackle Jawaan Taylor. Barnett needs to dominate Saturday in order to give the Vols their best chance to win.

FRESHMAN BONUS: Jacob Eason, Georgia QB

Ole Miss just can’t seem to avoid freshman quarterbacks. First, it was Deondre Francois at Florida State in the opener. Then, it was Jalen Hurts for Alabama last week. Now, they must face potentially the most talented of the trio when they host Georgia and Jacob Eason.

The reigning CBS National Freshman of the Week is fresh off his comeback win over Missouri, where he threw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns. Now, he must go into hostile Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and face an Ole Miss defense looking to avenge their performance from last week and get their first win against a ranked opponent.

Edited by Dalton King 

Featured image by Sumner Gilliam 

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Dominic is in his second year writing on staff at TNJN. Along with being a staff writer, he also covers the UT men's basketball beat. He is currently a senior at the University of Tennessee majoring in Journalism and Electronic Media. Follow him @dominiclobianco on Twitter!