2009 CFN SEC Team Capsules
LSU OT Ciron Black
LSU OT Ciron Black
Posted Aug 4, 2009

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Florida | Georgia |
Kentucky | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt

Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Ole Miss | Miss State

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Florida | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 12-0  Conf. Record: 8-0
Best Offensive Player: QQB Tim Tebow, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: LB Brandon Spikes, Sr.
Offense: The offense will be missing the sure-thing receiving stars with Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy gone, but there's speed to burn at running back, the line should grow into something terrific, and the quarterback situation is special. Tim Tebow makes everyone around him better, while John Brantley is a strong backup who'll be a superstar next year. New offensive coordinator Steve Addazio will use a little I-formation to go along with the normal spread attack, but no matter what the scheme, the offense will be balanced after running for 231 yards per game and throwing for 214. The offense finished fourth in the country in scoring and 15th in total yards, and while it won't be quite as good with the shake-up at receiver, it'll still be one of the nation's most efficient attacks thanks to Tebow. He'll try to be used more as a pro-style passer, but when push comes to shove, he'll use his running skills to do some pushing and shoving.
Defense: The defense had to all but start from scratch two years ago with nine new starters thrown into the fire. After a fantastic year when everyone seemed to grow up at once, this should be a brick wall of a D with 11 starters back, all the top reserves returning, and enough overall talent to keep the NFL stocked for years. The stars are at linebacker where Brandon Spikes should be off to the big league with tens of millions in his back account. The ends, Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap, will be ten-year NFL starters while the tackles should have a tremendous rotation. Corner Joe Haden makes a ton of tackles and can lock down on any receiver, while the safeties are ball-hawkers who make every play possible. The overall stats might not be quite as good as last year, mainly because teams will put up garbage-time numbers in blowouts, but the defense will be better.


2. Georgia |
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 10-2  Conf. Record: 6-2
Best Offensive Player: WR A.J. Green, Soph. 
Best Defensive Player: LB Rennie Curran, Jr.
Offense: It's possible for Georgia to lose the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, QB Matthew Stafford, and first-round pick RB Knowshon Moreno and be even better offensively. Why? How? The offensive line. While there are several injury issues from the knee of superstar tackle Trinton Sturdivant to various knee, hip, and shoulder problems at other spots, the line is deep, experienced, loaded, and stunningly young. It might be the best line in the country, even if the starting five might change on a weekly basis like it did throughout the first half of last year. The running backs are extremely deep, very fast, and very good with several excellent options to play around with. Joe Cox won't be Stafford, but he's a long-time veteran who should be serviceable and should keep the chains moving thanks to a line that'll give him ten days to throw. A.J. Green is one of the nation's best receivers, but he needs a No. 2 target to help take the heat off.
Defense: The strengths are tremendous while the potential weaknesses aren't all that bad. However, there's one glaring problem, the pass rush, which might require the coaching staff to get more creative. End Justin Houston appears to be on the verge of stardom, but he's suspended for the first two games of the year and there's no one on the outside who can get into the backfield on a regular basis. On the plus side, the tackles are tremendous and the linebackers are fast, athletic, and extremely talented. However, the concern, along with the lack of a pass rushing end, is the lack of a playmaking corner. Reshad Jones is one of the nation's best safeties, but he can't do it all. He was the only defensive back to pick off a pass, and with Asher Allen off to the NFL, star punt returner Prince Miller and Brandon Boykin have to be stars right away. As always, the defense will be more than fine, and while there might be a few meltdown moments, like there were against Alabama, Florida, and Georgia Tech, this will be one of the nation's top 20 statistical defenses.


3. South Carolina | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 6-6  Conf. Record: 4-4
Best Offensive Player: QB Stephen Garcia, Soph.
Best Defensive Player: LB Eric Norwood, Sr.
Offense:  A funny thing happens when your offensive line doesn't block anyone. The line has been a problem under Steve Spurrier, and it bottomed out last year allowing 39 sacks and everything went into the tank from there. There wasn't an interception the quarterback didn't like to throw, and often at the most inopportune times, and while they have to be blamed for making too many mistakes, they were also getting knocked all over the place thanks to the poor play of the line. This year, the line should be better, it can't be worse, with plenty of veterans to work around. Unlike past years there likely won't be a revolving door at quarterback. Stephen Garcia should be the starting quarterback as long as his off-the-field problems stop, and there isn't a No. 2 to get the call unless disaster strikes. The backfield has decent running back options to try out, led by true freshman Jarvis Giles, and the receiving corps is interesting, if not polished. There's plenty of size and potential match-up options at receiver, but the corps will miss Kenny McKinley.
Defense: The defense finished 13th in the nation and second against the pass, but it struggled when it had to face a real, live offense. Even so, it was a strong D that should be even better on the line with great size and a fantastic group of tackles to work around. In the 4-2-5 alignment, the Gamecocks have two stars to count on in Eric Norwood and Rodney Paulk. Norwood has SEC Defensive Player of the Year potential and will be the team's best pass rusher. The secondary loses the corners and has to pray for true freshman Stephon Gilmore to be ready for primetime. The safeties should be able to pick up the slack with Darian Stewart moving over from the hybrid Spur position to strong safety and Chris Culliver a sure-thing all-star at free safety

4. Tennessee | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 7-5  Conf. Record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player: WR Gerald Jones
Best Defensive Player: SS Eric Berry, Jr.
Offense: The Tennessee Volunteers, the school of Peyton Manning, Jamal Lewis, and could be called Wide Receiver U., finished 11th in the SEC, and 115th in the nation, in total offense, 107th in the nation in passing, and 107th in pass efficiency. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will go to a more powerful running attack with an emphasis on a passing game that pushes the ball deep. The running backs are in place, with super-recruits Bryce Brown, David Oku and Toney Williams, to go along with Montario Hardesty, working behind a massive line that should be able to lean on defensive fronts without a problem. The receiving corps struggled last year and suffers a huge hit losing Austin Rogers to a torn ACL, but it gets back Gerald Jones to stretch the field. The problem is at quarterback, where Jonathan Crompton and Nick Stephens will battle for the job. Crompton was great in spring ball, but Stephens is the far better fit for what the coaching staff wants to do.
Defense: Tennessee finished third in the nation in total defense, was fourth against the pass, 12th against the run, and 10th in scoring D. In other words, the defense wasn’t the problem. In comes the new coaching staff, and while coordinato Monte Kiffin is considered one of the most brilliant defensive minds in the history of football, and while Ed Orgeron might be the best defensive line coach in the game, it’ll be asking a lot to repeat the production of last season. The Tampa 2, or Cover 2, relies on big-time speed and athleticism in the secondary, and Tennessee has that to spare led by safety Eric Berry, one of the best players in college football. The linebacking corps needs work, but Rico McCoy is a first round-caliber draft pick who’ll clean up a lot of messes. And then there’s the line, which was great last year and should be dominant under Orgeron. With end Wes Brown moving inside, at least in certain formations, there’s more speed and athleticism on the ends. Expect more of a pass rush and a better push into the backfield, even with Robert Ayers now on the Denver Broncos, with Ben Martin and Chris Walker about to explode.


T5. Kentucky | Offense | Defense
| Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 6-6  Conf. Record: 2-6
Best Offensive Player: WR Randall Cobb, Soph. 
Best Defensive Player: CB Trevard Lindley, Sr.
Offense: Everyone needed to be replaced from the big-time UK offense of 2007, and it showed finishing 106th in the nation in offense and averaging just 22.6 points per game. There should be a big improvement this season with most of the key starters returning. It'll all start up front with a potentially strong line with four senior starters leading the way, but there has to be more of a push for the ground game. There's speed to burn in the backfield, and if everyone is healthy, there should be plenty of fireworks when the athletic backs get the ball in their hands. The receiving corps can fly, but there needs to be more from the tight ends and a No. 2 target has to step up and shine next to Randall Cobb. QB Mike Hartline was fine at times last year, but nothing special, and now he'll try to become more of a leader and a playmaker for the offense. He has the arm, the receivers have the speed, and the line will provide the time. There's no reason UK should have the nation's 105th most efficient passing game again.
Defense: The defense came up with a nice season, even though it finished 11th in the league in total defense and eighth in scoring D. Now there's some rebuilding to be done after losing seven starters, including three starters off the great line. Jeremy Jarmon, the All-America caliber end who was coming back for his senior season, was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance, but there are nice options waiting to step in and try to shine up front around veteran tackle Corey Peters. LB Micah Johnson and CB Trevard Lindley are two superstars to build around in the back seven, and while there isn't a ton of experience coming back. On the plus side, this is a fast, athletic defense that should be able to swarm around the ball and make up for mistakes with hustle. This won't be the SEC's best defense, but it'll be effective.


T5. Vanderbilt | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 5-7  Conf. Record: 2-6
Best Offensive Player: OT Thomas Welch, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: CB Myron Lewis, Sr.
Offense: The offense was an unmitigated disaster finishing 117th in the nation in total offense and averaged just 19.15 points per game. The biggest offender was the passing game, but that should change in a hurry if the young, promising receiving corps plays up to its potential and if the good tight end pair of Brandon Barden and Austin Monahan improve. The quarterback play has to be better with Mackenzi Adams, Larry Smith, and Jared Funk all battling to provide more of a spark. The ground game will be average, even with several quick backs, meaning the offense will need rushing production out of the quarterback again. On the plus side, along with the receivers, the line should be a major area of improvement with all five starters returning along with a slew of versatile backups.
Defense: The defense was special last season as it kept the team in game after game, came up with the big plays needed and the right times, and set up the offense to pull off a few wins. While it would’ve been nice to have D.J. Moore back for another year at corner, the cupboard is hardly bare with everyone returning on the front seven and CB Myron Lewis and S Ryan Hamilton back for the secondary. The pass rush will be fantastic with speed and quickness all across the board, but the one concern could be bulk. It wasn’t a problem last year, but the run defense struggled at times. This year’s D won’t make as many big plays as last year’s, but it could be better overall.


Alabama | Offense | Defense  | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 10-2  Conf. Record: 6-2
Best Offensive Player: WR Julio Jones, Soph.
Best Defensive Player: DT Terrence Cody, Sr.
Offense: Pound the ball, keep the chains moving, answer every score with a big drive, and let the defense win the game. Offensive coordinator Jim McElwain will do a good job once again with a strong group of running backs working behind a big, talented line that should be terrific by the end of the year. John Parker Wilson wasn't always great, but he came through when needed; Greg McElroy might be better as the new starting quarterback. Having an NFL talent like Julio Jones to throw to is a big help, and the addition of former Georgia Tech tight end Colin Peek will be huge for a passing game that needs targets. There won't be anything flashy out of the Bama attack, other than Jones, but if all goes well, it'll be brutally effective.
Defense: Forgetting for a moment how the defense didn't wake up against Utah until it was too late, 2008 was a special season against the run and this season the defensive front should be even better. Terrance Cody should be a starting anchor in the NFL right now, while linebackers Rolando McClain and Dont'a Hightower will soon be there. The front three in the 3-4 is huge with tackle-sized players at each spot, and that includes the backups, while the fantastic linebacking corps, a major strength after being a concern going into last year, will clean everything up. The secondary is functional and will put up nice overall stats, but the better passing teams should be able to move the ball considering the front seven doesn't generate much pressure.


T1. LSU | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 10-2  Conf. Record: 6-2
Best Offensive Player: OT Ciron Black, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: LB Perry Riley, Sr.
Offense: The big question going into last year was at quarterback, but it was generally acknowledged that everything was going to turn out to be fine in the race between Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch. Hatch got hurt and Lee couldn't stop throwing the ball to the other team. Call it a step back to take a big leap forward as the problems forced Jordan Jefferson to be thrown to the wolves over the last month of the season. Now he's the quarterback, and appears ready to be the man for the next three years. There are some terrific pieces to work around with Charles Scott leading a veteran group of running backs, Brandon LaFell working for LSU as a No. 1 receiver instead of as a highly paid first round draft pick, and OT Ciron Black anchoring a nice line. The Gary Crowton offense will revolve around Scott and the running game as much as possible, but there's too much speed at receiver to not have a few deep plays here and there. This should be one of the SEC's better offenses, but it might not be consistent. Even so, when the points come, they'll come in bunches.
Defense: The defense wore the LSU uniforms, and it had several players that were part of the team that won the national championship in 2007, but it didn't look like LSU. The pass rush was spotty, the secondary was a sieve, and there weren't nearly enough big plays all across the board. Welcome to 2009, and welcome to John Chavis, the former Tennessee defensive coordinator who's going to have this ultra-athletic group flying around. The line loses three starters, including Tyson Jackson, but it might be more productive with pass rushing terror Rahim Alem in a full-time role and Drake Nevis about to become a star on the inside. The linebacking corps is loaded with Perry Riley, Kelvin Sheppard, and possibly top-tackling safety Harry Coleman flanking Jacob Curtera, who should be an all-star caliber defender in the middle. The secondary has speed and experience, but someone has to pick off a pass now and then and there has to be more production against the better passing teams.


3. Ole Miss | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 9-3  Conf. Record: 5-3
Best Offensive Player: QB Jevan Snead, Jr.
Best Defensive Player: DE Greg Hardy, Sr.
Offense: Everyone was wondering if Houston Nutt would bring in his pure-running offense that helped make superstars out of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. While the ground game was great, the big surprise was a passing game that became special with the emergence of Jevan Snead and a very fast group of receivers who did a great job of stretching the field. The receivers and backs are deep and talented, and they'll be even better if Snead gets time to work. As good as the offense was last year, finishing third in the SEC in offense and passing efficiency, fourth in passing and second in rushing, helped in a big part by the fantastic line. The line has to do some major patching and won't be anywhere near as good as it was last year, but the talent and experience should help make up for it.
Eight starters are back on a defense that was among the best in the nation at getting into the backfield, finishing first in tackles for loss and fourth against the run, and despite the loss of star tackle Peria Jerry, there could be even more production. Once he's back from a foot problem, end Greg Hardy will be one of the nation's elite pass rushers, but he's hardly alone. The Rebels will generate pressure from all four spots on the line, while the ultra-athletic, veteran linebacking corps will be all over the place including in the backfield. The secondary was thrown to the wolves last year and was fine, helped by a schedule that didn't see many passing teams until the Cotton Bowl against Texas Tech, and while it won't be great, it won't be a weakness.

T4. Arkansas | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 7-5  Conf. Record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player: RB Michael Smith, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: DT Malcolm Sheppard, Sr.
Offense: The offense was trying to put square pegs into round holes as the dominant running offense under Houston Nutt tried to go to a more balanced attack. Big strides were made with an improved passing game that saw several young wide receivers get their feet wet to go along with the emergence of D.J. Williams as one of the nation's best tight ends. All the top targets are back, while the backfield is loaded with talented, quick runners led by 1,000-yard back Michael Smith, who might turn out to be the best in the SEC. The big problem in the transition was the line that was a turnstile in pass protection. Three starters return and Mitch Petrus is back at guard after missing all of last season, but if the front five isn't better, the offense won't be consistent even with the emerging stars at receiver and in the backfield. All eyes will be on the quarterback situation with Michigan transfer Ryan Mallett finally eligible and ready to go. He's not going to be a world-beater from day one, but in time, he should grow with the young receivers and become special if he's allowed to make mistakes early on.
Defense: The Hogs finished last in the SEC in most of the major defensive categories and was tenth in pass defense. Now there's room for a major improvement under defensive coordinator Willy Robinson with a big, veteran defensive line, a fast and productive linebacking corps and a promising secondary that needs to be better, but will benefit from not playing too many teams that can throw. All the starters return to the defensive front seven, so now there needs to be a more consistent pass rush, more done against the better running teams, and more big plays overall. The defense struggled to take the ball away and was awful on third downs. More takeaways and decreasing the third down conversion percentage from 42% to around 35% would do wonders.


T4. Auburn | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 7-5  Conf. Record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player: WR Mario Fannin, Jr.
Best Defensive Player: DE Antonio Coleman, Sr.
Offense: After last year's disaster under Tony Franklin, Tiger fans have little interest in the spread offense. However, new offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is an elite coach who'll make a world of difference for an attack that was 110th in the nation in scoring and 104th in yards. Tulsa had the nation's most productive offense over the last few years under his watch, and now the hope is that some of the magic will kick in right away. The potential at receiver is there with several big, talented prospects who have to come through after struggling to make things happen for the passing game. The running backs are the strength with three excellent runners in Ben Tate, freshman Ontario McCalebb, and Eric Smith, while Mario Fannin will be used in a variety of ways as both a runner and a receiver. The line needs work, but Lee Ziemba is a nice tackle to work around. And then there are the quarterbacks. Malzahn made statistical stars out of Paul Smith and David Johnson at Tulsa, and neither one was an elite talent. It'll be an issue to find the right triggerman with Neil Caudle the best passing option, and Kodi Burns the best running threat. However, Burns can't throw, and he could be pushed out of the race in a hurry if true freshman Tyrik Rollison is ready.
Defense: The defense did a good job last year considering there wasn't any help from the offense. However, while the D allowed a mere 318 yards and 18 points per game, it didn't help out the struggling O with turnovers. That'll change in a big hurry with Ted Roof running the defensive and with a head coach like Gene Chizik. The defense will be even more aggressive with a no-name, veteran linebacking corps that will be all over the place against the run, and a defensive front that'll be ordered to get into the backfield more now that the scheme will be a true 4-3. The secondary will be the team's strength if it's fully healthy, but it's not likely to be the case with top safety Mike McNeil trying to come back from a broken leg, corner Aarion Savage recovering from a knee injury, and leading tackler Zac Etheridge also hurting.


6. Miss State | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 2-10  Conf. Record: 0-8
Best Offensive Player: RB Anthony Dixon, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: LB K.J. Wright, Jr.
Offense: What do you do for an offense that finished 115th in the nation in scoring and 113th in yards? You bring aboard someone who knows how to get an offense moving. Now, is head coach Dan Mullen going to be able to jump-start the Bulldog offense despite not having a Tim Tebow or Percy Harvin to count on? The MSU attack welcomes back seven returning starters, but first, it needs to get more out of a veteran line that had a nightmare of a time in pass protection. Tyson Lee is back as the starting quarterback, but he'll be pushed this summer by superstar recruit, Tyler Russell, who's expected to be the main man for the program for four years. The star of the offense will be Anthony Dixon, the senior back who has gotten in better shape and will be used as a receiver and under center along with his rushing duties. The receiving corps needs a ton of work, but the coaching staff knows this and hammered the position hard in the recruiting season. Everything won't come together right away for the spread attack, but there are good players to build around for 2010.
Defensive coordinator Carl Torbush only gets five starters to work with, but there won't be much of a drop-off, it any, from a D that gave up 328 yards per game. The addition of JUCO transfer Pernell McPhee at tackle and Chris White at linebacker will be an instant boost, while the return of MLB Jamar Chaney from an ankle injury, to go along with K.J. Wright, might give MSU the SEC's best starting linebacking trio. CB Marcus Washington is the only starter returning to a fast and promising secondary that should surprise with good safeties in Charles Mitchell and Zach Smith to get excited about. The key will be to find a sure-thing pass rusher after the D finished last in the SEC in sacks. Last year's veteran secondary was helped by the lack of passing teams on the slate, but this year's defensive backfield will need more help from the front seven.