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2013 Pre-Preseason SEC East Rankings
Florida QB Jeff Driskel
Florida QB Jeff Driskel
Posted Jan 22, 2013

The too early look at how good the SEC East teams should be in 2013.

CFN 2013 First Look Rankings

SEC East

2012 CFN Final Season Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-29 | Rankings 30-48 | Rankings 49-67
- Rankings 68-86Rankings 87-105The Bottom 19

FINAL 2012 Rankings By Conference
- ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | C-USA | Ind
- MAC | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC | Sun Belt | WAC
- Based On Opinion ... CFN 2012 FINAL Rankings, Top  25
- CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason SEC East Rankings
- CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason SEC West Rankings 

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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 2013 Pre-Preseason SEC West Rankings

1. Florida (11-1)

It’s lost in the storylines now, but last year at this time there were question marks about whether or not Will Muschamp could actually coach, while the team was seen as a bit of an underachiever considering all the talent that Urban Meyer had amassed. The 11-1 season with dominant wins over South Carolina and Florida State on a run that came really, really close to finishing with a trip to the BCS championship came from out of left field, but all anyone will remember this offseason will be the Sugar Bowl clunker to Louisville.

There wasn’t a massive loss of talent early to the next level, but a lot of work needs to be done for a passing game that finished dead last in the SEC thanks to a line that couldn’t keep Jeff Driskel upright. Three starters are back up front, but battering ram running back Mike Gillislee is gone and Driskel has to be far better with almost all the key targets returning.

The defense that finished second in the nation in pass efficiency D and fifth overall in yards allowed and scoring gets seven starters back, hoping for everyone to stay healthy to fill in the gaps up front. The linebacking corps will be fast and athletic, but the bulk is gone with the graduation of Jonathan Bostic, and while losing All-America safety Matt Elam will be a problem, Loucheiz Purifoy will be one of the nation’s top corners and several options ready to step into the safety roles. Punter Kyle Christy will be in the All-America mix, but kicker Caleb Sturgis is gone.

2. Georgia (12-2)

Last year, most of the excitement was about a Dream Team of a defense. Years of recruiting, with a few key transfers, jacked up the expectations for the Dawgs, and the started to come together as the season went on, allowing 14 points or fewer in each of the last five regular season games before the SEC championship. This time around, it’s all about the offense.

Ten starters are back on O, helped mostly by the return of quarterback Aaron Murray, who’ll be on the short list of Heisman candidates. All five starters are back on a line that got stronger as the season went on, and it should be far stronger in pass protection. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall form, arguably, the nation’s most dangerous rushing tandem, and while the loss of Tavarres King from the receiving corps might seem like a big deal, Malcolm Mitchell looks like the next big thing.

The defense has to replace John Jenkins off the nose, linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, and four other starters including three in the secondary. Five of the top six tacklers are gone meaning linebacker Amarlo Herrera and corner Damian Swann are going to have to be the new stars. The Dawgs always find top replacements, but as long as the D can hold serve so the offense can do its thing, everything should be fine.

3. South Carolina (11-2)

It’s hard to believe that it’s not all that long ago when South Carolina was an irrelevant also-ran in the SEC race. Is this the year it finally all comes together and Steve Spurrier has the team that’s able to win the national title? It’s going to be tough considering the Gamecocks have to undergo a bit of an overhaul. Even so, the defense should continue to rock and the offense should be just good enough to get by.

End Jadeveon Clowney will be the national star of the 2013 season as he tries to solidify his place in the top five of the 2014 NFL draft. He won’t have Devin Taylor on the other side taking away some of the heat, but Kelcy Quarles is a strong interior presence and Gerald Dixon Jr. has the size to step in and produce. The linebacking corps has to start from scratch, and two starters are gone from a terrific secondary. Fortunately, Jimmy Legree appears ready to take on a bigger role.

The offense gets seven starters back, but it has to figure out what it wants to be. Marcus Lattimore was lost halfway through the 2012 season and bolted for the NFL, and now a back has to emerge with Kenny Miles done. The quarterback situation will be front and center after Spurrier rotated his passers in the bowl win over Michigan. Connor Shaw has the mobility and the experience, and Dylan Thompson showed that he could produce when called on. They’ll get to work behind a line that welcomes back four starters, but had problems in pass protection, and they’ll need Bruce Ellington to do even more for the receiving corps with all-around playmaker Ace Sanders leaving for the NFL.

4. Missouri (5-7)

Well that didn’t work. Texas A&M was supposed to be good, but it was Mizzou that was expected to be the Big 12’s curveball thrown at the SEC. Instead, the quarterback play was inconsistent and spotty thanks to injuries and youth, which was a problem across the board. The team was never quite able to put it all together thanks to health issues, but more than anything else, the Tigers didn’t play grown man football often enough.

The offense can’t help but be better with eight returning starters, and that doesn’t include Dorial Green-Beckham, 2012’s super-recruit who didn’t exactly break out as the team’s top receiver. Also missing from last year’s attack was Henry Josey, who spent the season trying to get past a devastating knee injury. He’s expected to be back to normal, and he could have a great year behind a good-looking line that should improve with time. Quarterback James Franklin has to recapture the promise of his sophomore season and has to be more of a playmaker, and it’ll help to get the entire receiving corps back.

The defense is a different story, losing top defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson in the middle and linebackers Zaviar Gooden and Will Ebner. However, Kony Ealy has all the tools to become one of the SEC’s best pass rushers, and corner E.J. Gaines is a good-looking corner to count on.

5. Vanderbilt (9-4)

Going 9-4 with a bowl win over NC State might be just the start for a hot program that’s on the rise. Not only is head coach James Franklin doing a great job of making the Commodores a threat; but he’s loading up on the talent with the potential of cracking the top 20 in the recruiting rankings. This year’s team won’t need too much help to be a factor once again.

The offense needs former Wyoming star Austyn Carta-Samuels to become the type of all-around playmaker who can pick up the slack for a backfield that has to replace starter Jordan Rodgers and leading rusher Zac Stacy. The line needs to replace two starters from a solid group, while the receiving corps is loaded thanks to the return of Jordan Matthews, who could’ve taken off early for the NFL.

The ball-hawking defense that was sixth in the nation in pass efficiency defense and 12th in tackles for loss has a little more reworking to do with tackle Rob Lohr and two other starters gone off the line. Leading tackler Kenny Ladler is back at free safety, helping out a secondary that should be one of the team’s biggest strength. Chase Garnham and Karl Butler for the foundation of what should be a good linebacking corps. Kicker Carey Spear is a good one to rely on, but losing excellent punter Richard Kent is a problem.

6. Tennessee (5-7)

This could’ve been one of the hot teams of the 2013 season if all the parts to the passing game returned for new head coach Butch Jones to work with. It would’ve been nice if quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson were around to sling it around, but they’re not, and life has to go on. The O line that finished fifth in the nation and first in the SEC in sacks allowed gets back four starters to try to protect likely new starting quarterback Justin Worley. Running back Rajion Neal will be a good one if he gets a little room to move, but several receivers have to step up to make up for the loss of all the stars.

The defense was a disaster, finishing last in the SEC in yards and points allowed, and it’ll all start with a secondary that got torched on a weekly basis. Three starters return, and it would be a huge help if the pass rush could do more, even though Darrington Sentimore left early for the NFL. A.J. Johnson is one of the SEC’s new superstar linebackers, and free safety Byron Moore is a keeper who’ll play a big role in the rebuilding job.

7. Kentucky (2-10)

An argument could be made that Mark Stoops has the toughest job among all the BCS coaches – at least for this year. It’s not like the Wildcats are loaded with talent just waiting to bust out; it’s going to take some hole patching and some work to get the right players and the right personnel to be competitive with the big boys, and considering Vanderbilt is rising and the East has resurged, it’s going to be tough to bust through the SEC losing streak.

The offense averaged fewer than 18 points per game and did next to nothing in conference action. The nation’s 116th ranked scoring attack has to find some passing punch, and that means Stoops needs to settle on a quarterback early on after the team played around with true freshmen Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles. Three starters return to a line that wasn’t all that bad, but the skill players have to be far stronger and could use more pop from running back Raymond Sanders.

The defense did what it could, allowing just 391 yards per game, and now it’ll all start in the middle with defensive tackles Tristian Johnson and Donte Rumph the focal point. All the top linebackers are back, led by big tackler Avery Williamson in the middle, but three starters have to be replaced in the secondary.

- CFN 2013 Pre-Preseason SEC West Rankings