2007 SEC Season
2008 SEC Early Lookaheads
| South Carolina
| LSU |
| Miss State
Why to get excited: The Gators spent last year retooling and
reloading after a national title winning 2006, and now they come out
loaded with eight starters returning on offense, including QB Tim Tebow,
eight on defense and punter Chas Henry, who helped them finish ninth in
the nation, and first in the SEC, in net punting. Not only that, but
they're even better with former USC RB Emmanuel Moody ready to roll. The
four true road games (Georgia doesn't count): Tennessee, Arkansas,
Vanderbilt, Florida State. After the trip to Knoxville, that's not that
Why to be grouchy: While Miami might not be Miami, when it
comes to battling for the national title, it's still asking for trouble
to play the Hurricanes, along with the trip to Florida State and games
against Hawaii and The Citadel. Getting Ole Miss and Arkansas from the
West is a big break, but LSU has to go to The Swamp. Most of the
starters are back on defense, but there wasn't much of a pass rush last
year and now Derrick Harvey is gone.
The number one thing to work on is: Better play from the pass
defense. Massive changes were needed in the secondary going into last
year, and it showed with the SEC's worst pass defense. The group had
problems with accurate passers, bombers, and everyone in between, and
while part of the problem was a lack of a pass rush, the corners have to
be better. The spotlight will be on Wondy Pierre-Louis and Joe Haden.
Biggest offensive loss: WR Andre Caldwell
Biggest defensive loss: DE Derrick Harvey
Best returning offensive player: QB Tim Tebow, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Brandon Spikes, Jr.
Why to get excited: Does anyone have a better buzz coming out of
the 2007 season? Last year was supposed to be a stepping-stone season to
this year, and all the questions were answered with the offensive line
turning into a strength, RB Knowshon Moreno emerged as a superstar, and
the defense was a killer with a terror of a pass rush and a rock-solid
run D. Nine starters are back on defense and eight are back on offense.
Why to be grouchy: The margin between being great and being a
national title contender is razor thin in the SEC. The loss of
huge-legged PK Brandon Coutu might be enough to cost the Dawgs a game.
The schedule isn't conducive to win a national title with road trips to
South Carolina, Arizona State, LSU, Kentucky and Auburn, along with the
neutral site day against Florida. The SEC West slate doesn't get much
worse than at LSU, at Auburn, and Alabama.
The number one thing to work on is:
Yeah, this was a nasty team over the second half of the season with
almost everything clicking, but the passing game was merely average and
might not be all that better. Matthew Stafford has the talent to be a
top pro prospect, but he needs targets to work with. Mo Massaquoi is
fine, but nothing special, and Sean Bailey is gone.
Biggest offensive loss: C Fernando Velasco
Biggest defensive loss: DE Marcus Howard
Best returning offensive player: RB Knowshon Moreno, Soph.
Best returning defensive player: LB Dannell Ellerbe, Sr.
Why to get excited: The program has a plan with Rich Brooks
coaching his final season before passing the torch over to Joker
Phillips, a former UK receiver who was a key reason the offense took off
over the last few seasons. The offensive line will revolve around three
decent starters and RB Tony Dixon, at least early on, while the defense
gets back eight starters and both kickers.
Why to be grouchy: QB Andre Woodson. Gone. WR Keenan Burton and
RB Rafael Little. Gone. TE Jacob Tamme. Gone. The offense put up big
numbers, but it struggled in under pressure late losing four of the
final five regular season games. The Florida State academic suspensions
saved the day in the Music City Bowl. The schedule is built for several
losses with road trips to Louisville, who'll be bent on payback,
Alabama, Florida, Mississippi State and Tennessee.
The number one thing to work on is: Better line play. There's
experience returning on both fronts, and now everyone has to be better
after having a nightmare of a time in pass protection and getting little
to no consistent pass rush. Until the new starting quarterback emerges,
the O line needs tackles Garry Williams and Justin Jeffries to play at
another level, while someone has to emerge on defense to take the heat
off Jeremy Jarmon.
Biggest offensive loss: QB Andre Woodson
Biggest defensive loss: LB Wesley Woodyard
Best returning offensive player: OT Garry Williams, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: DE Jeremy Jarmon, Jr.
Why to get excited: It's now or never for the Steve Spurrier era.
After a rough collapse over the second half of last year losing the
final five games, the pressure is on Spurrier to finally show off some
more of that magic that made him such a legend in the first place. If
everyone stays healthy (a major problem last season), this could be a
true SEC title contender with solid replacements for the losses on
offense, and ten starters returning on defense, not including LB Jasper
Brinkley, who chose to return for his senior year with a knee injury.
The first three road games of the year, before mid-November, are at
Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Kentucky, but ...
Why to be grouchy: ... the final two games of the year are at
Florida and at Clemson. Along with home dates against Georgia and
Tennessee, the Gamecocks have to face LSU. Yes, enough talent returns to
hope for a much, much better season, but losing RB Cory Boyd won't help
the SEC's worst rushing attack, while the health of Jasper Brinkley
alone might not be enough to resurrect the league's worst run D.
The number one thing to work on is: Turnover margin. USC gave it
away 28 times and only came up with 21 turnovers to finish 101st in the
nation in turnover margin. To get through the nasty SEC slate and to
have any sort of a shot at winning the SEC East, everyone has to stay
healthy, players like QB Chris Smelley have to be better, and there
can't be many mistakes. Winning the turnover battle is a major part of
Biggest offensive loss: QB Blake Mitchell
Biggest defensive loss: DE Casper Brinkley
Best returning offensive player: WR Kenny McKinley, Sr.
Best returning defensive player:
LB Jasper Brinkley, Sr.
Why to get excited: Considering the league the Vols play in, the
schedule isn't all that bad, especially late. Road trips to UCLA, Auburn
and Georgia, along with the home date against Florida, makes things
nasty early on, but if Phil Fulmer can get through 4-2, things get as
good as can be reasonably asked for playing Mississippi State, Alabama,
at South Carolina, Wyoming, at Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Ten starters
return on offense including the entire offensive line that led the
nation in fewest sacks allowed. RB Arian Foster's decision to come back
for his senior season was a big plus.
Why to be grouchy: Yeah, most of the key parts are back on
offense, but the two biggest parts, offensive coordinator David
Cutcliffe and QB Erik Ainge, are gone. The defense was shockingly
average, and now it has to replace three starters on the line,
heart-and-soul playmakers Jerod Mayo and Jonathan Hefney, and solid
tackling LB Ryan Karl.
The number one thing to work on is: Getting into the backfield.
Outback Bowl win over Wisconsin aside, the Vols had a nightmare of a
time getting to the quarterback and struggled way too much to stop the
running game behind the line. With only two starters coming back on the
defensive front seven, the coaching staff needs the off-season to figure
out how to manufacture more of a pass rush.
Biggest offensive loss: QB Erik Ainge
Biggest defensive loss: LB Jerod Mayo & FS Jonathan Hefney
Best returning offensive player: OG Anthony Parker, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: SS Eric Berry, Soph.
Why to get excited: The quarterback situation is excellent with
Mackenzi Adams and Chris Nickson two strong, veteran options who can
each keep defensive coordinators up at night. The defense finished 16th
in the nation and was tremendous against the pass. Everyone returns to
the secondary, led by top corner D.J. Moore and big hitting safety
Reshard Langford, and the team's two best pass rushers, DE Broderick
Stewart and LB Patrick Benoist, are back.
Why to be grouchy: The window might have slammed shut. Vandy
should've been able to get to a bowl game in each of the last two
seasons, didn't, and now it's rebuilding time with all five starters
gone off the offensive line, top linebackers Jonathan Goff and Marcus
Buggs gone off the defense, and all-star receiver Earl Bennett leaving
early for the NFL. The rest of the SEC East, outside of Kentucky,
appears to be better, while Vandy has gotten a lot worse.
The number one thing to work on is: Throwing the ball. Good luck.
Again, Adams and Nickson can play, but they can't do it all on their
own. The passing attack only averaged 176 yards per game, and things
aren't going to get much better with Bennett gone. George Smith has to
step up and become a number one go-to guy on the inside, while Justin
Wheeler has to do more on the outside.
Biggest offensive loss: WR Earl Bennett
Biggest defensive loss: LB Jonathan Goff
Best returning offensive player: QB MacKenzi Adams, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: CB D.J. Moore, Jr.