Missouri – LB Ty’Ron Hopper
Missouri is expected to have one of the better defenses in the SEC in 2023 and Hopper is a big reason for that. In his first season in CoMo after transferring in from Florida, Hopper emerged as one of the better linebackers in the SEC. On the year he had 77 tackles, 13.5 TFL (tied for third most in SEC football and the most of any returning player heading into 2023), 2.5 sacks, 1 INT, and 1 Forced Fumble. Many expect Hopper to lead the Mizzou defense this year and potentially have an even better season than last year.
South Carolina – WR Antwane Wells Jr.
Antwane “Juice” Wells Jr. was a key playmaker for South Carolina in 2022 after transferring in from James Madison after a record setting career there. Wells put up 68 catches, 928 receiving yards, and 7 total TD’s (6 receiving, 1 rushing) a year ago to earn First Team All-SEC honors. Wells is expected to be one the top receivers in the SEC this year, and along with returning QB Spencer Rattler whom I also considered for this list, will be crucial in South Carolina’s bid to continue their upward trajectory after last season. Wells is one of just six returning First Team All-SEC players in the conference this season (which includes two specialists).
Tennessee – WR Bru McCoy
I had a tough time choosing between McCoy and several of Tennessee’s other strong offensive playmakers (such as the RB tandem of Jaylen Wright and Jabari Small). However, I think that McCoy is one of the most talented receivers in the SEC and has the slight edge. In his first season at Tennessee (after transferring in from USC) in 2022, McCoy had 52 catches, 667 receiving yards, and 4 TD’s. Those numbers stick out even more when you consider that McCoy was sharing targets with last year’s Biletnikoff Award winner in Jalin Hyatt, plus Cedric Tillman for the six games that he was healthy.