2014 Pre-Preseason Rankings - SEC

Posted Jan 23, 2014

The ridiculously too early lookahead at the 2014 season.

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- SEC East – Pre-Preseason Rankings

1. Alabama
2013 Record: 11-2, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 9

What Needs Working On: Red zone offense. The Tide could get inside the 20, but the offense came up with points less than 80% of the time.

What's Up Going Into The Offseason?: Can Blake Sims somehow replace AJ McCarron? McCarron stepped in and won in place of Greg McElroy, who stepped in for John Parker Wilson, but it's still asking a lot out of Sims, or possibly Florida State transfer, Jacob Coker. Running back isn't an issue with T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry, and a host of superstar high school prospects forming a devastating backfield. Despite a disastrous bowl performance, LT Cyrus Kouandjio is gone to the league of mercenaries, and RG Anthony Steen is done, but the rest of the O line should return intact. The receiving corps should be outstanding with Amari Cooper leading a loaded group.

FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is off to the NFL, and LB C.J. Mosley is done, but there's depth, skill and options across the board with A'Shawn Robinson looking like a rising superstar on the end in place of Ed Stinson, and Brandon Ivory back to man the nose. Adrian Hubbard (gone) and Trey DePriest (staying) are NFL good, but there are other linebackers with speed and next-level talent waiting in the wings. Corners Cyrus Jones and Jarrick Williams return, but they have to be better, while SS Landon Collins should be an all-star. PK Cade Foster and P Cody Mandell are done.

2. LSU
2013 Record: 10-3, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 19

What Needs Working On: Penalties. The Tigers were flagged just under seven times per game – 102nd in the nation – averaging 56.3 yards per outing.

What's Up Going Into The Offseason?: LSU would've been in the discussion for preseason No. 1 if everyone came back, but it's LSU, so a slew of key parts are off to the NFL including the fantastic receiving tandem of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. With Zach Mettenberger done, Anthony Jennings has to build off his experience at the end of the year to hope for some young targets to step up and shine, led by Travin Dural on the outside. Jeremy Hill is going to be starting for some NFL team next year, but Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee can help make the rushing rotation rock behind a line that should be among the nation's best with four starters are back. LT La'el Collins should've left early, and didn't, and guard Vadal Alexander is terrific. However, Trai Turner took off.

Anthony Johnson and Ego Fergson are expected to be two of the top defensive tackles taken in the draft and should each go in the top 50. However, Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter are back on the ends along with Kwon Alexander and D.J. Welter in the linebacking corps. This was a young, YOUNG secondary to help replace SS Craig Loston, who's done, but should be stronger with a little time. Jalen Mills and Tre'Davious White need to grow more into their corner jobs. PK Colby Delahoussaye, who hit 13-of-14 field goals, and P Jamie Keehn are back.

3. Auburn
2013 Record: 12-2, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 3

What Needs Working On: Pass defense. It's a wee bit telling that the Achilles' heel turned out to be part of what cost the Tigers a national title on the final defensive play. Auburn allowed 259 yards per game and 19 touchdowns.

What's Up Going Into The Offseason?: Is it really the system or the players? Tre Mason is likely going off to the NFL early, but there are more backs waiting in the wings with Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant ready to be a bigger part of the attack, while QB Nick Marshall is back to lead the way. OT Greg Robinson left early, and is a sure-thing to go in the top 15, but the other four starters are back up front. Sledgehammer FB Jay Prosch is done, but receivers Sammie Cotes, Quan Bray, C.J. Uzomah and Ricardo Louis are all back.

Dee Ford and Nosa Eguae are done on the defensive front, and top tackling linebackers Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost are back along with Robenson Therezie, CB Jonathan Mincy and FS Jermaine Whitehead, but S Ryan Smith and CB/PR Chris Davis, Davis, Davis are done. PK Cody Parkey is done after a decent year, and P Steven Clark has to be replaced.

4. strong>Texas A&M
2013 Record: 9-4, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 22

What Needs Working On: Run defense. The O might have done big things, but the D gave up yards and points just as fast, allowing 222 rushing yards per game and finishing 109th in the country in total defense.

What's Up Going Into The Offseason?: Luke Joeckel or Kenny Hill, your table is waiting. Good luck following that. With Johnny Manziel off to the NFL to start getting paid for writing his name, can the Texas A&M offense keep on rolling? RBs Tre Williams, Tra Carson and Brandon Williams are too good to not start getting the ball more, and even with LT Jake Matthews likely off to be one of the top five picks in the draft, the line should be outstanding with the other four starters returning. Mike Evans is also gone to the next level, taking away the Aggies' top target, and now it'll be up to Malcome Kennedy and LaQuvionte Gonzalez to pick up more of the slack until Ricky Seals-Jones can be 100% healthy and the superstar No. 1 target everyone expects he'll become.

The good and bad news for a defense that was so porous – almost everyone is back. Leading tackler Steven Jenkins is done, and nickel defender Toney Hurd's eligibility is up, but everyone else is back with eight of the ten top tacklers returning. Darian Claiborne looked like the real deal at middle linebacker, and now he has a year of experience. More is needed from the defensive front to get into the backfield, and it might start with Gavin Stansbury on one end. All the kickers are back with Josh Lambo hitting 8-of-10 field goals and Drew Kaser averaging a terrific 47.4 yards per punt.

5. Mississippi State
2013 Record: 7-6, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 53

What Needs Working On: Punt returns. The Bulldogs struggled to generated too much from the return game, especially on punts averaging just 3.63 yards per return.

What's Up Going Into The Offseason?: The potential is there for the Mississippi State defense to come up with something special. DE Denico Autry and DB Nickoe Whitley are finished and LB Deonte Skinner is off to the NFL, but the rest of the D is loaded. Benardrick McKinney leads a loaded back seven that welcomes back everyone with Kendrick Market returning leading a good-looking young group. The tackle combination of P.J. Jones and Kaleb Eulls should be solid, and there's size behind them.

It's Dak Prescott's offense to run now full-time, but he won't have LaDarius Perkins to hand off to. Josh Robinson, Nick Griffin and Ashton Shumpert will be the main backs in the rotation, while receivers Jameon Lewis, Robert Johnson and Malcolm Johnson are all back – as are all the other top targets. Forget about replacing the production of OG Gabe Jackson, but the rest of the line returns full of seniors to what should be a strong run blocking group. P Baker Swendenburg is done, but PK Devon Bell is back – he has to be better after hitting just 6-of-14 field goals.

6. Ole Miss
2013 Record: 8-5, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 36

What Needs Working On: Red zone offense. The Rebels finished 21st in the nation in total offense, but they struggled to score inside the 20 finishing 109th in the nation in red zone offense coming away with points 74% of the time.

What's Up Going Into The Offseason?: Now is when it's supposed to get fun with all the young talent about to mature with, depending on the alignment, nine starters possibly back. Robert Nkemdiche should become a dominant force now on the inside next to Issac Gross on the nose. The linebacking corps should be outstanding with Denzel Nkemdiche and Serderius Bryant a dangerous tandem. FS Cody Prewitt should be one of the nation's best defensive backs leading a loaded secondary with all the starters returning.

The D should be fantastic and the O will be fine with Bo Wallace looking to take another step forward as one of the SEC's top quarterbacks. I'Tavious Mathers and Jaylen Walton are back in the backfield, and the receiving corps has the potential to be great, even with Donte Moncrief off early to the NFL and Ja-Mes Logan done. Laquon Treadwell is special and Vince Sanders is a good one. The line loses Evan Swindall at center, Piece Burton at right tackle and Jared Duke at left guard, but Laremy Tunsil is going to be special at left tackle if he can stay healthy. Both kickers have to be replaced losing blasting punter Tyler Campbell and PK Andrew Ritter.

7. Arkansas
2013 Record: 3-9, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 95

What Needs Working On: Turnover margin. The Hogs had their chances in several games, but mistakes were a big problem, finishing 111th in the nation in turnover margin. Arkansas lost the ball 23 times and came up with just 14 takeaways.

What's Up Going Into The Offseason?: Is the running game going to do what Bret Bielema wants? Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams combined for almost 2,000 yards, and they should be solid again with three starters back. Leading receivers Javontee Herndon is gone, but TE Hunter Henry and WR Keon Hatcher return, and now the quarterback play has to be better with Brandon Allen coming off a mediocre year.

The top two tacklers – SS Alan Turner and LB Braylon Mitchell – are back, and while top hitters FS Eric Bennett and LB Jarrett Lake are gone, the rest of the back seven returns. Top pass rusher Chris Smith is gone on one side, but Trey Flowers is a good one on the other side. There's a ton of beef inside, but Byran Jones is gone at one tackle. PK Zach Hocker is gone, but P Sam Irwin-Hill is back after averaging 44.3 yards per try.

- SEC East – Pre-Preseason Rankings