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2010 SEC Preview - Team By Team Looks
Ole Miss DE Kentrell Lockett
Ole Miss DE Kentrell Lockett
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 8, 2010


Preview 2010 - CFN SEC Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish


Preview 2010

SEC Team By Team


EAST
- Florida Preview | Georgia Preview | Kentucky Preview
- South Carolina Preview | Tennessee Preview | Vanderbilt Preview

WEST
- Alabama Preview | Arkansas Preview | Auburn Preview
- LSU Preview | Ole Miss Preview Mississippi State Preview
   
- 2010 SEC Preview | 2010 SEC Unit Rankings | 2010 SEC Schedules & Picks
- 2010 CFN All-SEC Team & Top 30 Players | Get SEC Tickets
- 2010 SEC Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish

Note: Predictions based on team talent and schedules.

Predicted Champion: Alabama over Georgia

SEC East Predicted Finish

T1. Florida
Predicted Overall Record: 10-2
Predicted Conference Record: 6-2

Offense: Maurkice Pouncey won the Rimington Award as the nation’s top center, Aaron Hernandez won the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end, and Tim Tebow was, well, Tim Tebow. While it might be next to impossible to immediately replace three players of that caliber, especially Tebow, the nation’s No. 6 offense should be even more explosive with John Brantley under center. The Gators won’t scrap the spread, and will likely use tight end Jordan Reed from time to time to be Tebow-like, but Brantley is a next-level caliber passer who’ll push the ball down the field more to a very fast, very promising group of targets. The line might lose Pouncey, but his brother, Mike, will move to center to anchor a veteran group with four starters returning, while Jeff Demps leads a fast group of backs who should shine when they get the chance. There will be a bit more I-formation and a bit less true spread, but it’ll be a shock if the Gators aren’t among the SEC leaders in several offensive categories once again.
Defense: Former Arizona Cardinals secondary coach Teryl Austin will take over the defensive coordinator duties from Charlie Strong, who took off to take over the Louisville head coaching gig, and he has a little bit of work to do. There might not be the star power of last year’s defense with LB Brandon Spikes, CB Joe Haden, S Major Wright, and ends Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham are gone, but there’s no reason to cry poor for a D that should still be great after finishing fourth in the nation in total and scoring defense, 12th in run defense, and second in pass defense. The excitement surrounds the freshmen with a loaded haul of defensive linemen, led by end Ronald Powell, coming in, and safety Matt Elam in the secondary, but they’ll mostly work as key backups. The tackles are loaded with, arguably, the best depth in America, and there are enough solid linebackers to assume the overall production of the last few years won’t fall off the map. The corner situation is a wee bit of a concern, and it could actually be a bit of a problem with no sure-thing pass rusher up front to hit the quarterback. Austin will make sure all the speed and athleticism across the defense swarms, is ultra-aggressive, and puts a premium on taking the ball away.

T1. Georgia
Predicted Overall Record: 10-2
Predicted Conference Record: 6-2

Offense: As it turned out, yes, the early departure of QB Matthew Stafford and RB Knowshon Moreno to the NFL did matter. The offense was inconsistent before finding a groove late in the year, and even then every game was different as the passing game didn’t always take advantage of all the weapons and the running game didn’t explode like it should’ve. 2010’s concerns and issues are the same as 2009’s, but there’s a bit more experience to work with. The line, banged up as it might be, is still going to terrific, and it could be the best in the nation if everyone is healthy. A.J. Green leads a dangerous receiving corps, and there’s plenty of talent and speed in the backfield, but can QB Aaron Murray come through? All the pieces are in place to be far, far better than last year as long as the quarterback play is better and as long as the turnovers (28 given away last season) are kept to a minimum.
Defense: The Georgia defense picked off ten passes and forced two fumbles, but worse yet, it got bombed on by the better quarterbacks and was good, but not phenomenal against the run. Even with all the issues, finishing 38th in the nation in total defense isn’t that bad. Changes needed to be made, though, and in comes Todd Grantham as the new defensive coordinator. With a pro background, most recently as the Dallas Cowboy defensive line coach, he’s going to install a 3-4 with the idea to get even more aggressive. That means pass rushing terror Justin Houston will move to outside linebacker, while the huge front three will be in charge of shooting gaps to get into the backfield. The secondary loses three starters, but it has a world of upside with big safeties, speedy corners, and the potential to be far better and far more consistent with more pressure into the backfield.

3. South Carolina
Predicted Overall Record: 7-5
Predicted Conference Record: 4-4

Offense: Steve Spurrier will be calling the plays again, but the spotlight will be on former Appalachian State assistant Shawn Elliott as he tries to make chicken salad out of chicken sh … feathers on an offensive line that has specialized in allowing the quarterback to get flattened over the last three years. The backfield is there with star RB recruit Marcus Lattimore added to a mix of good-looking runners, and QB Stephen Garcia returns as the likely star of the show, but there will be more of a zone-read running scheme added to the mix this year making true freshman Connor Shaw a major factor in the quarterback rotation. The big receiving corps, led by sophomores Alshon Jeffery, D.L. Moore, and Tori Gurley, could be the strength of the offense and can’t be forgotten about as the attack tries to do more on the ground.
Defense: The defense has been terrific over the past few years, and this year’s version could be the best yet under Steve Spurrier. After finishing in the top 15 in the nation in total defense in each of the last two years, it’ll be a shock if it’s not three in a row. There are four huge losses in LB Eric Norwood, CB Darian Stewart, DT Nathan Pepper and DE Clifton Geathers, but everyone else is back led by a whale of a secondary that could be the best in the SEC. Corners Stephon Gilmore and Chris Culliver are destined for all-star status, while Akeem Auguste should shine at safety. The linebacking corps is small, but extremely quick, while end Cliff Matthews leads a good line that should among the most athletic in the conference.

4. Tennessee
Predicted Overall Record: 6-6
Predicted Conference Record: 3-5

Offense: The offense started to hit its stride midway through last year, but it wasn’t steady. Now it’s going to be wildly inconsistent, and the hope will be for it to work for any appreciable stretch under new coordinator Jim Chaney. The receiving corps has the potential to be among the most talented in the SEC, and the backfield is loaded with great runners, but they might all be kept under wraps unless the quarterbacks and linemen show they can play. All five starters have to be replaced up front, and while it might take a little while to produce, the payoff should be enormous; this is a more talented line than last year’s. Quarterback will be the bigger problem with Matt Simms (Phil’s son and Chris’s brother) and star prospect Tyler Bray looking to survive under fire.
Defense: Gone is the Monte Kiffin Tampa-2 defense, but that doesn’t mean new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox won’t be aggressive and won’t rely on his safeties to be stars. The Vol defense was phenomenal against the pass and struggled against the run, and that might be the same issue again with a try-hard group of banged up linebackers and a shaky tackle situation. The ends, Chris Walker and Ben Martin, are among the best in the SEC, and the emergence of safeties Janzen Jackson and Darren Myles will ease the loss of Eric Berry, but there are a lot of cracks to fill in around them. The defense will have its moments, but it’ll be inconsistent and will likely have one or two meltdown games.

5. Kentucky
Predicted Overall Record: 6-6
Predicted Conference Record: 2-6

Offense: The speed and athleticism are in place and the playmakers are there, so UK has to show under new offensive coordinator Randy Sanders that there can be some steady production after averaging just 26 pounds and 332 yards per game. The first step is to find a quarterback, and while Mike Hartline is the gritty veteran, Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski could be a better fit for the up-tempo style. The backfield has plenty of speed and should be the strength of the team if Derrick Locke can build on last year’s strong season, while Randall Cobb leads a receiving corps that will be fantastic if the quarterback play is better. The biggest concern is on the line where four starters have to be replaced from one of the best front fives in the SEC. It’s a big group that should be fine, but it has to be cohesive.
Defense: The defense lost five excellent starters, most notably linebackers Micah Johnson and Sam Maxwell and DT Corey Peters, but everything will be fine if there isn’t a major rash of injuries. This is a very athletic, fast defense that should be more solid than spectacular. Three starters return to a promising secondary, but it lacks a lock-down, No. 1 corner and might have problems if the pass rush is as non-existent as it was last year. UK finished last in the SEC in both sacks and tackles for loss, and new head coach Joker Phillips isn’t going to settle for another year without more plays in the backfield. The linebacking corps has tremendous upside and the line should be better against the run, but the production has to match up to the athleticism.

6. Vanderbilt
Predicted Overall Record: 1-11
Predicted Conference Record: 0-8

Offense: Abysmal. Inept. Disastrous. Any negative word can fit what the Vandy offense was last year as it finished 110th in the nation in total offense, 113th in scoring, and 119th in passing efficiency. The line wasn’t bad, the receivers were athletic, and the freshman running back tandem of Warren Norman and Kennard Reeves were terrific. And then there was the quarterback play. Larry Smith struggled to complete the short to midrange throws, much less anything deep, and the running game was shut down cold by the better defenses. This year’s offense has to replace four starters on the line and desperately needs more out of Smith or backup options Jared Funk and Jordan Rodgers. New offensive coordinator Jimmy Kisler has his work cut out for him, but first he has to do more to make the quarterbacks productive.
Defense: After a special 2008, the defense was a major disappointment considering all the returning starters. The front seven couldn’t stop the run, the secondary came up with good overall stats but had problems with anyone who could throw, and the defense went from carrying the team to a bowl game to failing to come up with enough big stops to make a difference. To be fair, the offense provided absolutely nothing in the way of help, but that might be the case this year, too. Defensive coordinator Jamie Bryant has to get more out of the defensive front that failed to get into the backfield enough, while Chris Marve and the linebackers can’t spend all their time again cleaning up messes. Even with the loss of all-star playmaker Myron Lewis, the secondary should be a major plus with the expected emergence of safety Sean Richardson and corner Casey Hayward as stars.

SEC West Predicted Finish

1. Alabama
Predicted Overall Record: 10-2
Predicted Conference Record: 6-2

Offense: Hand off, rinse, repeat. The Alabama offense ran 601 times last year to just 346 passing attempts, and why not? With a big, strong, talented line paving the way, Mark Ingram rumbled his way to the Heisman Trophy while also finishing as the team’s No. 2 pass catcher. Throw in ultra-talented backup Trent Richardson, and the Tide has the makings of another devastating ground attack. But the passing game isn’t just along for the ride, even though that might be the perception of QB Greg McElroy’s job. The senior was the perfect fit (at least he was after a midseason funk) keeping the interceptions to a minimum and keeping the chains moving. Unlike last year, he’ll be able to open it up a little bit more with Julio Jones leading a receiving corps that would be among the most productive in America in just about any other offense. The line gets three starters back and will be every bit as dominant as last season’s was, but it has to do a better job in pass protection after allowing 20 sacks.
Defense: Kirby Smart’s defense was suffocating last season finishing second in the nation in almost every major category (total defense, scoring defense, run defense, and finished tenth in pass defense), and now it’s time to do some retooling. The linebacking corps loses Butkus Award winning linebacker and leader Rolando McClain, but the return of Dont’a Hightower from a knee injury will ease the pain. He’ll be flanked by several excellent athletes in a strong rotation, while the big front three will be a brick wall against the run. However, top pro prospect Marcell Dareus, a first-round talent at defensive end, is going to be under the microscope all year long, if he’s allowed back on the field, after attending a party thrown by an agent. The secondary will be the biggest concern early on losing three NFL-caliber starters, but they’ll be replaced by more future pros as the talent level has been raised even higher. Safety Mark Barron, the one returning starter in the defensive backfield, has the Thorpe Award talent and should be one of the team’s key leaders.

T2. Auburn
Predicted Overall Record: 9-3
Predicted Conference Record: 5-3

Offense: If last year was an inconsistent step under offensive guru Gus Malzahn, then this year should be when the rewards come after the growing pains. It all starts with a line that might have a few depth issues, but returns four very good starters led by OT Lee Ziemba and C Ryan Pugh. Darvin Adams is the best receiver you’ve probably never heard of, and he’ll be deadly with a slew of good targets to take some of the heat off. The ground game that finished 13th in the nation could be even better even without 1,362-yard rusher, Ben Tate. Onterio McCalebb was 2009’s super-recruit, Michael Dyer was this year’s star, and Mario Fannin could be more explosive than both of them. It all comes down to the quarterback situation that desperately needs Florida transfer Cameron Newton to be every bit as good as he appeared to be this offseason. If he’s great, then Malzahn can speed up the play-calling and expand the offense like he wants to.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Ted Roof wanted the Tigers to be more aggressive and do more to get into the backfield, but it didn’t necessarily happen without the consistent production hoped for. Now there’s experience and depth to potentially do far more after giving up 20 points or more against everyone but Louisiana Tech in the opener. The problem is in the uncertainty, mainly at safety. Just about every safety option is coming off an injury of some degree, but there’s an expectation that enough pieces are in place for Daren Bates, a starting safety last year, to play a key role at linebacker to join Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens as the strength of the defense. The line needs a pass rusher to emerge to replace Antonio Coleman, but there should be a strong rotation at end, while Mike Blanc leads a decent group of tackles. If everyone is healthy, the potential is there for this to be a top 20 defense. Not everyone is going to be healthy.

T2. Ole Miss
Predicted Overall Record: 9-3
Predicted Conference Record: 5-3

Offense: Only three starters return, but there’s enough speed, athleticism, and upside to hope for a more consistent year. The skill player losses might appear to be huge with QB Jevan Snead, RB Dexter McCluster, and WR Shay Hodge off doing bigger and better things, but the emergence of a better conditioned Brandon Bolden and a suddenly solid Enrique Davis should get the ground game moving, and there’s too much breathtaking speed at receiver to not hit several home runs. QB Nathan Stanley is a huge, strong passer with excellent upside, while Oregon transfer Jeremiah Masoli could be the SEC's best quarterback if he gets on the field right away. Call it a case of addition by subtraction losing the 20 picks and problems of Snead. It’s a Houston Nutt offense, so there will be plenty of options to run the Wild Rebel, the ground game will be the bread-and-butter, and there will be times with everything clicks and the floodgates open up (like the Tennessee game of last year). The line is bookended by two terrific tackles (Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie), but the interior needs a little time to jell.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix might have to replace five starters including three key defensive backs, but the nation’s 21st ranked defense (and 15th in scoring D) isn’t likely to suffer a huge drop-off. The defensive front will be tremendous with NT Jerrell Powe and DE Kentrell Lockett good enough to be playing on Sundays, while JUCO transfer Wayne Dorsey will easy the loss of Marcus Tillman on the end. There isn’t star power in the linebacking corps, but it’ll be a rock-solid group with Jonathan Cornell and Allen Walker two unsung seniors who’ll come up with big years working behind the great line. Even with all the losses, the secondary will be fine as long as corners Jeremy McGee and Marcus Temple can handle having bigger roles, and if JUCO transfer Damien Jackson is half the free safety Kendrick Lewis was. As always, this will be an ultra-aggressive, very fast group that should make more big plays than it allows.

T2. LSU
Predicted Overall Record: 9-3
Predicted Conference Record: 5-3

Offense: Yeeeesh. The offensive line stunk, and everything crashed from there. Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton’s attack sputtered and coughed finishing last in the SEC and 112th in the nation in total yards with little running game, not enough from the passing game, and too many problems up front allowing far too many sacks (37). The line might not be special, but it’ll be more about being physical and doing more for the ground game than anything else, and if QB Jordan Jefferson gets time and the running backs get holes, the O will finally start to move. The receiving corps has talent, even without Brandon LaFell, and Michael Ford leads a dangerous group of running backs that should be far more effective than last year’s group, but, again, it’s all up to the line. The Tiger front five gets back three starters with the two new faces to the equation, Will Blackwell and Alex Hurst, coming off of great offseasons on the right side.
Defense: The defense came up with a far better year than it got credit for. It wasn’t a great D, there were way too many inconsistencies, and several players had disappointing years, but the Tigers sill allowed a mere 16.2 points per game. Defensive coordinator John Chavis did a nice job despite the lack of a steady pass rush and with a mediocre year from the front seven, and while only four starters are back, the potential is there to be far better. At the very least, this will be an ultra-athletic group led by a loaded secondary with four corners holding down the starting spots highlighted by Patrick Paterson, arguably the nation’s best corners. There are a few young, very talented ends to form a strong pass rushing rotation, but the tackle situation is a bit of a question mark as is outside linebacker with athleticism needing to overcome inexperience.

5. Arkansas
Predicted Overall Record: 8-4
Predicted Conference Record: 4-4

Offense: Offensive coordinator Garrick McGee gets to step into a loaded situation, and as long as QB Ryan Mallett is healthy, the attack should blow up. After finishing 20th in the nation, and third in the SEC, in total offense, and first in the league in both scoring and passing, the Hogs should go ballistic with Mallett working with (arguably) the nation’s deepest and best receiving corps led by TE D.J. Williams and a slew of very big, very fast veterans who can all hit the home run. With a form of the Pistol offense being implemented (at least from time to time), Mallett should be able to utilize the downfield passing game even more while being able to get his deep backs more involved. The Hogs have four good runners who can all produce behind a pedestrian, but veteran line.
Defense: The Hogs have finished last in the SEC in total defense in each of the last two seasons and were a disaster at times against the pass last year, but with seven starters returning, a slew of good backups, and with experience and options for every spot, there’s hope for a night-and-day turnaround. Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson is playing around with the secondary moving some key starters around, like corner Rudell Crim to safety, to try to generate some semblance of production, while there’s a battle for spots at middle linebacker and at defensive tackle. The outside linebacker situation is great with Jerry Franklin and Jerico Nelson a solid twosome, and with Freddy Burton able to step in at any time. The pass rush improved last year and the run defense got stronger, but now the defense has to be more consistent and has to improve on a decent second half of the season.

6. Mississippi State
Predicted Overall Record: 6-6
Predicted Conference Record: 2-6

Offense: A year after the MSU offense was among the ten least productive in the nation, head coach Dan Mullen and offensive coordinator Les Koenning got things moving as the Bulldogs went from 115th in the nation in scoring to 72nd, and 113th in total offense to 65th. This isn’t going to be a high-octane attack, and the SEC’s best running game might take a wee step back without Anthony Dixon carrying the load, but it’ll be a better offense. Four starters return to the line and the fifth player, RG Tobias Smith, would’ve started last year if he didn’t get hurt. With the best front five the program has had in years, a decent group of promising backs will combine for yards, while bruising QB Chris Relf will add about 500 yards to the mix if he can keep uber-talent Tyler Russell on the bench. The receiving corps, led by Chad Bumphis, will be great, but they won’t be used enough unless Russell, the better passing option of the two, is in.
Defense: What You Need To Know: The defense might have finished tenth in the SEC in yards allowed and 11th in points allowed, but it was a good year overall that had a few rough patches. New defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will turn up the heat with more swarming and a more aggressive style of play, and he has the young athletes to do it. There’s a nice base of veterans to keep things steady with Pernell McPhee one of the SEC’s better pass rushers, K.J. Wright a terrific linebacker, and Charles Mitchell a burgeoning star at safety, but the talent is in the sophomores with at least 13 underclassmen expected to play big roles. Overall, the defense has to get into the backfield more and has to start hitting the quarterback, and Diaz should do a good job of making that happen with his energy and his demand for his players to fly all over the place.

EAST
- Florida Preview | Georgia Preview | Kentucky Preview
- South Carolina Preview | Tennessee Preview | Vanderbilt Preview

WEST
- Alabama Preview | Arkansas Preview | Auburn Preview
- LSU Preview | Ole Miss Preview Mississippi State Preview
   
- 2010 SEC Preview | 2010 SEC Unit Rankings | 2010 SEC Schedules & Picks
- 2010 CFN All-SEC Team & Top 30 Players | Get SEC Tickets
- 2010 SEC Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish