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2012 Pre-Preseason Rankings - SEC
Missouri QB James Franklin
Missouri QB James Franklin
Posted Jan 17, 2012

The too early look at how good the SEC teams should be in 2012.

CFN 2012 First Look Rankings

SEC East

2011 CFN Pre-Preseason First Look Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 20  

2011 CFN Final Season Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 20

- CFN 2011 FINAL Rankings

It might seem way too early, but considering the returning starters and the teams coming back, where does everyone stand before Signing Day and spring ball? Here's CFN's first look at all the teams for 2012 based on how good they appear to be at the moment.

- CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason SEC West Rankings
1. Georgia (10-4)

It wouldn’t be Georgia without a few early entries into the NFL draft, but tight end Orson Charles is the only big loss this season with free safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Jarvis Jones coming back. The defending SEC East champs are loaded on offense with quarterback Aaron Murray having a more mature receiving corps to throw to and a burgeoning star in Isaiah Crowell – if he can stay in one piece – to handle the rushing workload. The O line that’s been a work in progress for what seems like a decade has even more retooling to do, but that’s nothing new for head coach Mark Richt. It’s going to be fine.

The defense should be a next-level killer losing just one starter – corner Brandon Boykin – and with depth to spare. The line will be a brick wall if 2011 superstar JUCO transfer John Jenkins can be the NFL nose tackle he was expected to be right away last season, while Jones could be the SEC’s best pass rusher from his outside linebacker spot. Both kickers – placekicker Blair Walsh and punter Drew Butler – are gone after tremendous careers.

2. South Carolina (11-2)

Defensive end Devin Taylor decided to come back for his senior year to jack up the hype for what the USC with 2011 top recruit Jadeveon Clowney seemingly ready to blow up into superstardom on the other side. The defensive tackles have to be replaced, but the linebackers should help pick up the slack for a while and the secondary – even with the early loss of corner Stephon Gilmore to the NFL – should be a plus.

The key to the season is getting superstar running back Marcus Lattimore back and healthy. He’s reportedly ahead of schedule on rehabbing his injured knee, but he can’t be counted on right away. Quarterback Connor Shaw has to prove he can throw a forward pass on a regular basis, and he’ll have to do it without Alshon Jeffery, who left for the NFL after being badly ignored throughout the 2011 season.

3. Florida (7-6)

There’s no excuse. The talent level is every bit as strong as LSU’s and Alabama’s, and now it’s time for everyone from the epic 2010 recruiting class to mature into shape. The defense should be truly special with ten starters returning including end Ronald Powell, a former top overall recruit with NFL upside. The key is improving an offense that didn’t do much of anything last year and now will be without offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, quarterback John Brantley, and running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. The receivers and line, though, should be terrific. Again, there’s no excuse, and this needs to be a big season with several players likely to bolt early for the NFL next year.

4. Missouri (8-5)

The Tigers are off to the SEC East with a team good enough to make plenty of noise. The offensive line loses three starters, but Mizzou has become a factory for turning out steady front fives. Everything will revolve around dual-threat QB James Franklin with the hopes of star back Henry Josey to return healthy after suffering a bad knee injury. He’s not a lock to come back this year, meaning Kendial Lawrence might have to carry the load. Tight end Michel Egnew is gone, but leading receiver T.J. Moe is back. The defense has a ton of work to do on the line, and strongside linebacker Luke Lambert is done, but the back seven is athletic and good prospects are ready for bigger roles up front.

5. Tennessee (5-7)

Can Tennessee ever get out its mediocre rut? Tyler Bray might be the best quarterback in the conference, and he could blow up if receivers Da’Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter can stay healthy. The offense line struggled in the running game, but it started four underclassmen and now gets all five starters back. Tauren Poole was a talented running back who never got room to move, and now he’s done. The defense that finished 27th in the nation loses leading tackler Austin Johnson in the middle, but all four starters return to a terrific secondary and the line gets enough pieces back to be better. However, finding more of a pass rush would be nice.

6. Vanderbilt (6-7)

Head coach James Franklin got the team to a bowl game in his first season, and now he has a better team coming back. Jordan Rodgers is the unquestioned starting quarterback, and he has a good group of skill players to work with led by RB Zac Stacy and big receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. Making it all work is a line that gets four starters back. The defense loses the man in the middle, Chris Marve, and ball-hawking defensive backs Casey Hayward and Sean Richardson are done. However, six starters are back and enough depth returns to expect even more from a defense that finished 18th in the nation.

7. Kentucky (5-7)

The SEC was miserable offensively last year, and Kentucky was the worst of the bad lot. With three starters gone off the offensive line, the pass protection that was so woeful should have problems improving right away, but junior right guard Larry Warford is a decent one to work around. The quarterback play has to be better, with Morgan Newton needing to get healthy and Maxwell Smith needing to use his experience to be better. All the top running backs return, and the team’s best receiver, La’Rod King, is back. The defense has the impossible task of replacing safety Winston Guy and linebacker Danny Trevathan, and four of the five top defensive backs are gone, but all four starters on the line are back.

- CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason SEC West Rankings