SEC Preview Story
Alabama should have no real concern on getting another SEC Championship this year. While a lot of great talent has left for the draft such as defensive tackle Jonathon Allen, cornerback Marlon Humphries, and tight end OJ Howard, Alabama has well than enough talent to reload for another title run. With sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts leading the team with a national championship appearance under his belt, he will be ready to lead his team with two preseason all American offensive lineman: running backs Bo Scarbaugh, Damien Harris and #1 running back in the nation in the class of 2017 Najee Harris. The defense will be anchored down by All American safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and will depend on a freakishly huge defensive line in Da’Ron Payne and DaShawn Hand. If Alabama can get their first win of the year against #3 Florida State they should have ample amount of momentum riding into the rest of the year against the SEC.
Auburn is looking solid this year as they have finally been able to answer their questions at quarterback naming Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham starter over Sean White. Many players and coaches have high expectations of Stidham with him showing glimpses of great play this offseason. Auburn will also have a solid running back in Kamyron Pettway taking snaps this year along with formidable backup Kerryon Johnson. Their defense may be very young, but will play efficiently together as they were able to prove last year and not losing any key pieces. Auburn should have a fairly decent year coming up opening up against Georgia Southern at home.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I will only tell you one time: BEWARE OF THE BULLDOGS. The Bulldogs will the best running back tandem in the country with Nick Chubb coming off his knee injury and Sony Michel who proved how valuable he can be to this team in Chubb’s absence. The Bulldogs will also have talented receivers Riley Ridley and Javon Wims for sophomore quarterback Nick Eason to throw to when he’s not handing it off to Chubb or Michel. Georgia is another team with a very young inexperienced defense, but has been able to get some top recruits and transfers that defensive mastermind Kirby Smart will be able to tinker around with. Don’t be surprised if Georgia is playing Alabama in the SEC Championship game this year to duke it out in another classic game in their long rivalry.
Leonard Fournette is an irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind running back, fortunately LSU has some “Guice” in their refrigerator. Derrius Guice will be able to perform this year and prove that he will be able to pick up where his predecessor left off. They will also be getting quarterback Danny Etling back; however, he will have to play behind a somewhat questionable offensive line that had trouble against the better pass rushing teams of the SEC last year. They also lost a lot of great talent on defense including safety Jamal Adams, cornerback Tre’Davious White, and linebacker Duke Riley. Even though they have a complete stud in Arden Key returning, it is too early to tell if he has enough help on defense for the Tigers to maintain the same level of play this year. Ed Orgeron will do his best to lead this young squad against the rest of the SEC in what many believe is a very favorable schedule for them. Don’t expect them to be any better than they were last year though.
Mississippi State and South Carolina: The Wild Cards
A lot of people will sleep on these two teams as middle of the pack SEC teams that will probably finish around .500 for the season and make it to the Little Caesars and Famous Idaho Potato Bowl’s this season. However, they just might be capable of much more than that. Mississippi State and South Carolina are both teams that have the potential to finish in the top 4 of the SEC behind Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. State has a young SEC star in the making in quarterback Nick Fitzgerald who was able to make a little bit of noise for himself last year and will only get better this year with more snaps. Their defense has some holes that need to be filled; however, if Dan Mullen and crew can find a way to fill them, they could be an interesting team. Same goes to South Carolina and their quarterback Jake Bentley who the Gamecocks have a lot of faith in to play up to potential this year. The ‘Cocks also have a stellar linebacker in Skai Moore who will lead a somewhat underrated defense. Both of these teams have potential to compete in their respected divisions. Then again, they could just finish .500 as expected. That’s the beauty and the madness of a wild card team.
Texas A&M just produced the number one draft pick in Myles Garrett this year as he goes onto Cleveland in hopes of taking the NFL by storm. Unfortunately, back at College Station, there’s really no one close to his caliber of stepping in his shoes. The Aggies have lost a lot of talent from last year’s squad and does not have enough experienced talent to replace it. The Aggies still have arguably the best wide receiver in Christian Kirk, but he will have young, unproven quarterback in Jake Hubenak throwing to him. Not sure how this season pans out for the Aggies. How it’s looking right now, they’ll probably go 7-5, and kill whoever they have to play in the Liberty Bowl.
Ole Miss and Tennessee: End of the Road
Chad Kelly. Gone. Josh Dobbs. Gone. Evan Engram. Gone. Alvin Kamara. Gone. DJ Jones. Gone. Cameron Sutton. Gone. Hugh Freeze. Gone. Derek Barnett. Gone. Tennessee and Ole Miss’ chances of being elite again this year in the SEC. Gone.
Just keep your heads up as basketball season approaches.
Same as Kentucky’s preview.
Florida has lost a couple of key pieces such as defensive lineman Caleb Brantley and Teez Tabor and Quicy Wilson out in the secondary; however, Florida should still have some firepower left this upcoming season. Randy Shannon has now taken over as defensive coordinator and has safety Nick Washington and the Gators leading tackler from last year Marcell Harris returning this year on what should be an above average defense. The offense will have a lot to prove this year, but have a lot to look forward to with star receiver Antonio Callaway coming back. The Gators also have an intriguing quarterback situation with redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire, and last year’s starter Luke Del Rio. In all honesty, the Gators really can’t go wrong with any of these choices as quarterback. The Gators will have to fend off Georgia and South Carolina to get back to the SEC Championship, but they should be capable of doing so barring any setbacks.
Arkansas is a complicated team to evaluate. They are the type of team that can get blown out by Kentucky, but find a way to get a clutch victory over a team like Florida. Bret Bielema coaches his guys up to be one of the gutsier teams in college football, and they will more than likely continue to play that way this season. The Hog’s will have of their offense and defense returning this year including quarterback Austin Allen who was able to put up decent numbers. Not sure what Arkansas has in store this year with their new transition to a 3-4 defense, but expect for them to beat some teams this year they have no business beating.
Vanderbilt is another one of those peculiar teams in the SEC. They are coming off of a season where they had a late season resurgence playing hard quality football against other SEC competition. This led them to having two quality upsets against ole Miss and Tennessee and a bowl game victory against NC State. Vanderbilt also has the luxury of having a great number of starters return to their team on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. They look forward to having back quarterback Kyle Shurmur has well who played well at the end of the season showing what he is capable of doing under Derek Mason’s system. Vanderbilt of course is not the “team to beat” in the SEC, but it would be a regrettable decision to sleep on them this year as they are very capable of picking up some victories against most of their SEC East foes.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Levi Edwards is a Junior JMC student at Samford University!