Sorry, couldn’t resist the header.
Anyway, there are a couple of good spring practice previews (good because neither makes predictions) out this morning worth a look: one in the Chattanooga Times Free Press and one at Rivals.com.
From this early vantage point, the SEC looks more wide open than it has for a while. I think there are a few reasons for that:
- The quarterbacks. Jay Greeson notes that “More than half of the league has some sort of questions around the quarterback position, and that figures to be job No. 1 for just about every team in the SEC not named Alabama, Arkansas, LSU and South Carolina.” Well, yeah, but even at those four places it’s not like any school is returning a Heisman Trophy candidate. When the top returning player at the position, statistically speaking at least, is someone whose coach regrets not being able to yank from a game last season when he played poorly, that doesn’t speak too well of the talent pool.
- Losses at the big boys. Yes, I agree that Saban and Meyer are the top coaches in the conferences and their squads have plenty of talent. But any way you look at it, the Tide has to replace nine starters on defense and has to break in a new place kicker, while Florida has to replace the SEC’s player of the decade, along with a few other kids who are likely to be high picks in the next NFL draft. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it won’t be easy, either. Or at least not as easy as supporters of both programs would have you think.
- Righting the ship at LSU and Georgia. There’s no denying the slippage that’s occurred at both schools in the past two seasons. And in both cases, it’s hard to blame that on a lack of talent. Is the coaching focus back this year?
- The middle tier muddle. It’s hard to say if there’s a school ready to emerge from the middle of the conference pack. On paper, you can make a case that South Carolina should, but this is South Carolina we’re talking about. Tennessee looks too talent-deficient to contend. Auburn’s got some momentum and a soft schedule, but that defense looks a little shaky from here. Ditto for Arkansas, except you can discard the “a little” qualifier.
And of course, none of this takes in the kids that won’t be suiting up until fall practice (who knows how much impact Marcus Lattimore winds up having this season?).
What you y’all see as the biggest questions in the conference right now?