Saturday Down South picks five most important returning SEC players

Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers is back for another season in Austin. Saturday Down South views his decision as one of the five most important returns in the SEC.

Ewers was a terrific player in 2023. Over the season, Ewers was No. 9 in the Power Five in passing yards (3,462) and No. 8 in completion percentage (68.5). He added 28 touchdown passes to only six interceptions on the season.

The third-year quarterback is expected to take another step forward in 2024. Though he’ll be throwing to different receivers, there will not be much of a talent drop-off, if any. Ewers’ top targets will likely be Alabama transfer wide receiver Isaiah Bond, five-star receiver Johntay Cook and Houston receiver transfer Matthew Golden.

Here’s a look at Saturday Down South’s five most important returning players in the SEC.

Bru McCoy, Tennessee

Tennessee wide receiver Bru McCoy (15) makes a catch while defended by Clemson cornerback <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Nate Wiggins;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Nate Wiggins</a> (2) during the first half of the Orange Bowl game between the Tennessee Vols and <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Clemson Tigers;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Clemson Tigers</a> at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Friday, Dec. 30, 2022.

This is a significant returning player for Tennessee. The former Texas player brings a high level of playmaking ability for the Volunteers as they head to an expanded SEC. Tennessee will travel to Norman, Oklahoma, for the team’s first SEC test of the year. Having a veteran receiver will help 2023 five-star quarterback Nico Iamaleava should he win the starting job.

Jaxson Dart, Ole Miss

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

If you go through the Ole Miss Rebels’ schedule you’ll have a difficult time finding many losses. The Rebels are a real threat to win 10-or-more games and reach the SEC title game. Starting quarterback Jaxson Dart is a huge reason for that. Dart completed 65.1% of his passes for 3,364 yards, 23 touchdowns and five interceptions. The incumbent signal-caller will have tough tests in 2024, but his team is strong enough to get back to another double-digit win season.

Quinn Ewers, Texas

Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers (3) looks to pass the ball against <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Baylor;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Baylor</a> of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in Waco, <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Texas;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Texas</a>.

You will get no argument from us on Quinn’s inclusion on this list. Ewers improved his completion percentage by nearly 11 percent from 2022. The receivers he will throw to have different skills, but all have the speed and route running ability to create separation and give Ewers easy throws to make. Houston receiver Matthew Golden has the football savvy to find open grass with ease. Look for Ewers to compete for the Heisman Trophy in 2024.

Jalen Milroe, Alabama

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Retaining Milroe, should he stay, would be a huge victory for new head coach Kalen DeBoer. In my estimation, Milroe joins Ewers as one of the two top Heisman contenders for the 2024 season. Last year, Milroe threw for 2,834 yards, 23 touchdowns and six interceptions while completing 65.8% of his passing attempts. The Alabama starter added 531 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground on 161 carries. Milroe should be the offense for the Crimson Tide next season.

Carson Beck, Georgia

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The most productive quarterback from 2023 in a trio that includes Milroe and Ewers returns for another season. Last year, Beck put up 3,941 yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions behind a 72.4% completion rate. The second-year starter is set up for a strong second season, although he will face perhaps the toughest schedule of any team on the list. The Bulldogs face their primary conference title challengers (Alabama, Texas and Ole Miss) on the road. A quarterback such as Beck can weather that storm and get Georgia back to the College Football Playoff.

Story originally appeared on Longhorns Wire