2013 SEC Preview - East Team Breakdown
Kentucky RB Raymond Sanders
Preview 2013 - CFN East Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish
SEC East Team By Team
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Note: Predictions based on team talent and
2013 CFN Prediction: 11-1
2013 SEC Prediction: 7-1
Offense: If everything goes according to plan, the offense should be close to unstoppable, even in the rough and tumble, defense-oriented SEC. It starts with the quarterback - if it feels to you like veteran Aaron Murray has been in the conference as long as Steve Spurrier, you're hardly alone. Once again, the biggest concern is giving Murray more time to avoid making mistakes. Star sophomore tailback Todd Gurley and his running mate, Keith Marshall, should be even better at providing that time, as they make this potent offense multi-faceted. Add to that a mature offensive line, now with more than 100 career starts - vs. just 31 this time last year - along with a first unit receiving corps that's SEC grade, and Murray should have ample time to make the right decisions. As if that were not already enough, there is experience to boot – ten of last year's 11 starters return.
Defense: Well, that didn't work. There were a lot of individual talents on the 2012 Georgia defense, but as a unit they struggled to play consistently at a high level. Thus, the season's performance was hit or miss, especially during the first half. The defense seemed to come together a bit after the Florida win, but that likely had just as much to do with the easy competition up to the title game. Given the talent on the Bulldogs' defensive roster last year, finishing twelfth in the conference in rushing defense was simply inexcusable. And yet, Georgia was still just a stone's throw away from beating Alabama for the title. Consistency is just as important as run defense, and the Dawgs must achieve this with only "three" starters returning for 2013. Fortunately for Georgia and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, the cupboards are stocked with all the talent a coach and fan base could want. Given that Georgia's offense will be even more potent this season, its defense needs only moderate improvement – but they'll have to do it with several players still wet behind the ears. But how green are they, really?
2. South Carolina
2013 CFN Prediction: 10-2
2013 SEC Prediction: 6-2
Offense: The offense is more efficient and effective than dangerous and explosive, but there's enough speed at receiver and enough quickness at running back to change that a bit. While Marcus Lattimore might have been an elite talent before getting hurt, the new rotation of running backs could combine to become more effective and more dangerous. There's no questioning the speed and athleticism at receiver, but the consistency has to be there to help out the quarterbacks. Connor Shaw is the starter, but Dylan Thompson is No. 1A with the experience and talent to do even more in a rotation. The line is huge and experienced, but it's not going to pass block against the quicker lines and has to start consistently playing up to its bulk.
Defense: There might be some key losses with linebackers Shaq Wilson and Reginald Bowens gone along with key playmakers DeVonte Holloman and D.J. Swearinger, but the defense that finished 11th in the nation and 13th in scoring defense is loaded again with tremendous athletes and lots and lots of speed. The spotlight is going to be on Jadeveon Clowney and his big campaign, but he's not the only pass rusher on the front four. After leading the SEC in sacks, there should be more of the same with all the linemen able to get to the quarterback. The secondary will be a strength, helped by the return of corners Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree, but the linebacking corps needs to undergo a few changes and needs some of the great prospects to turn into steady producers.
2013 CFN Prediction: 9-3
2013 SEC Prediction: 5-3
Offense: The offense was supposed to change things around under offensive coordinator Brent Pease, and it did to a point. The Gators were far more physical and far better at pounding away for the ground game, and now it'll be up to Matt Jones to carry the workload in place of Mike Gillislee working behind a banged up line that needs to replace the left side and has to be far, far better in pass protection. There as next to nothing happening down the field, and while there are good receivers in place, can they produce? Can quarterback Jeff Driskel get them the ball? This will once again be a pounding, old school Big Ten attack that should be extremely effective, but not explosive.
Defense: The Florida defense came up with good stats two years ago, but didn't play any offenses with a pulse. The Florida defense came up with great stats last year, and it played a slew of high-powered attacks – the D was just that good. As always, the Gators lose some NFL talents with tackle Sharrif Floyd, linebacker Jon Bostic and safety Matt Elam off to the next level, but there's talent, athleticism and depth across the board to expect another special year. Ronald Powell is trying to come back from a knee injury and should be a factor at either one end or outside linebacker, while Dominique Easley appears ready to be the next great Florida lineman and Antonio Morrison should be another Bostic for the linebacking corps. If he doesn't end up at receiver, Loucheiz Purifoy should be the nation's best corner, and there are more than enough great athletes in the secondary to expect another great season from the pass defense.
2013 CFN Prediction: 8-4
2013 SEC Prediction: 4-4
Offense: The offense has a few different things happening at once. Missouri was at its best over the years in the Big 12 when the passing game was efficient and fast. However, injuries on the line and at quarterback – and a severe case of SECitis – became a problem with no consistency, no efficiency and not enough physical play. The call has gone out for the team to be tougher, and it'll start for offensive coordinator Josh Henson to get more out of a veteran line. Four starters are back, but it's not built to line up and blast away on anyone. The backfield should be better with a healthy James Franklin fighting for the starting quarterback job, and star running back Henry Josey back after spending more than a year off rehabbing a knee injury. The strength is a loaded receiving corps with a host of NFL-looking targets led by Dorial Green-Beckham.
Defense: Speed and athleticism aren't going to be a problem with quickness all across the board, but can the Tigers hold up against the power teams? The problem last year was a line that failed to get to the quarterback enough and didn't hold up against the powerful ground attacks. A massive disappointment, the secondary got ripped apart late in the year allowing over 1,200 yards with nine scores in the final three games, but corner E.J. Gaines leads a fast group that should be in for a better season if the line can start generating a pass rush. Sheldon Richardson is gone from the interior, but the ends should be terrific and the linebackers can fly. Getting around the ball will never be a problem, but it's time to get more physical.
2013 CFN Prediction: 6-6
2013 SEC Prediction: 3-5
Offense: Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian inherits an awesome offensive line that grew and matured last season allowing just eight sacks, and now it comes back loaded with veterans and fringe all-star candidates. Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane are terrific backs who'll crank out yards in chunks at times, and there's decent upside at quarterback with excellent young prospects battling veteran Justin Worley to replace Tyler Bray. And then there's the receiving corps. No one could instantly replace the over 2,200 yards and 21 touchdowns from Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson and Zach Rogers, and losing tight end Mychal Rivera will also hurt. If the receivers don't shine quickly, the offense will sputter.
Defense: The pieces are there to play around with, and there should be a massive overall improvement, but there's a long way to go for the defense to be merely decent. The D made a few big adjustments from the old Monte Kiffin Tampa-2 and the results were completely and utterly disastrous finishing dead last in the SEC in total defense and scoring defense with no toughness up front and few stops from the secondary. Defensive coordinator John Jancek's first job was to switch things up to a true 4-3 and simplify the roles a little bit. On the plus side, he has plenty of experience to work with and lots of promise across the board starting with one of the SEC's best linebackers, A.J. Johnson. The expected return of linebacker Curt Maggitt and safety Brian Randolph from torn ACLs should give the D two top playmakers, but they need to be 100% and the production needs to come from all the other pieces. The corners have to start picking off passes and the big line has to start stopping the run on a consistent basis.
2013 CFN Prediction: 6-6
2013 SEC Prediction: 2-6
Offense: No, the Vandy attack won't blow up on the top SEC defenses, but it'll be extremely effective. The offense was expected to be stronger last season with eight starters back, and it came up with a good year averaging 380 yards and 30 points per game. Eight starters return to this year's attack with the talent and upside to do even more and be more explosive. The strength is at receiver where Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd are back, but they need someone to throw them the ball. Jordan Rodgers is gone, but former Wyoming starter Austyn Carta-Samuels is a good baller and there are a slew of good young options ready to show what they can do. The line technically gets four starters back, but it might as well be five and should be dominant at times for a ground game loaded with a great group of speedy backs ready to do more.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop did a whale of a job. The Vandy defense finished last in the SEC three years ago, but it kept improving and last season managed to move on despite the loss of a few irreplaceable starters. With a solid pass rush, great tackling and an aggressive style, the 2012 defense finished 19th in the nation. The secondary that turned into a killer gets three starters back, and while the depth might be a bit lacking, this group will be a positive. Chase Garnham leads a deep and athletic linebacking corps, and the line, while inexperienced, has a world of upside and won't have any problems replacing three starters.
2013 CFN Prediction: 3-9
2013 SEC Prediction: 0-8
Offense: Press the fast-forward button. Offensive coordinator Neal Brown is going to crank up the attack and get everything moving. Don't expect much power and don't look for much in the way of a thumping running game with a high-octane passing game taking center stage – at least that's the goal. However, the strength of the offense might be a deep group of running backs working behind a veteran line that should be better. The receiving corps has to be more explosive, and a most importantly, a quarterback has to emerge from the pack of young, maturing options. However things look, the idea is to get the tempo rolling and keep defenses on their heels.
Defense: The defense wasn't necessarily the problem last season, doing a good job rushing the passer and holding up relatively well against the run. There are athletes across the board for defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot to play around with in his 4-3 alignment, but it's all going to be a work in progress. The secondary was hit hard by injuries, but on the plus side, several young players got in meaningful work. The line should be the biggest plus with pass rushers Alvin "Bud" Dupree on one side and JUCO transfer Za'Darius Smith on the other, while there's a good group of veteran tackles with size and quickness in the interior. The linebackers can all move with tackling-machine Avery Williamson and speedster Miles Simpson ready to put up big numbers again.