Your all-too-early 2019 SEC East snapshot

Pete Fiutak’s Pre-Spring Rankings piece is useful for getting some idea of the losses each of the seven programs in Georgia’s division have suffered.  He also links within this piece to his schedule analysis for each team.

The main takeaway is that everybody’s losing key parts.  There doesn’t appear to be a team similar to last year’s Kentucky squad that patiently built up senior depth over time on its way to a ten-win season.  You would think that would favor the teams that have recruited well.  (More on that in just a sec.)

Some quick non-Georgia thoughts:  Vandy’s gonna Vandy; Kentucky isn’t going to bounce back from losing its two best players; Tennessee looks like it’s going to be weak along both lines of scrimmage; if Mizzou’s secondary improves, Fiutak may have underrated them; “The Gamecocks are an interesting blend of loaded and concerning.”;  it’s hard to see how Felipe Franks takes the next step behind what looks to be a weak offensive line.

As far as scheduling goes, Missouri wins the cross-divisional games contest, facing Ole Miss and Arkansas.  That appears to be a particularly big deal this season, because several East squads have brutal West meetings in store (I’m looking at you, Gamecocks).

Non-conference scheduling isn’t exactly scintillating, but at least South Carolina and Florida are playing two P5 schools like the Dawgs are.

About that recruiting well, thing, well

Last Wednesday’s afternoon release of the 247Sports’ final Top247 recruit rankings provided the latest glimpse of where premier prep football players plan to compete in college. This list compiles the elite talents of a 2019 class destined to impact championship chases and, eventually, NFL drafts in the years ahead.

Georgia is among the country’s best-represented programs with 13 signees making the cut

Recruiting classes won’t be complete for another two weeks but the vast majority of scholarship slots have been filled by most teams. That includes Georgia, which carries 22 signees and one verbal commitment in a class ranked No. 2 overall in the 247Sports composite rankings.

With more than half of those athletes landing in the Top247, it’s clear the Bulldogs are recruiting at a top-tier level. Georgia (20) is second only to Alabama (27) in composite blue-chip prospects (4- or 5-star) in the 2019 cycle.

Here’s how the rest of the SEC East stacks up in comparison with Georgia’s 13 Top247 recruits in 2019:

  • Florida 6
  • Kentucky 0
  • Missouri 0
  • South Carolina 4
  • Tennessee 8
  • Vanderbilt 0

That, of course, follows in the wake of Smart’s previous dominant recruiting classes.  Just to give you an idea of how dominant, here’s a note about Florida:  “In its first cycle under Dan Mullen, Florida is knocking on the door of its first top 10 class in five years.”  Georgia, of course, hasn’t finished outside the top 10 with any of Smart’s recruiting classes and is in the top three since 2017.

I know we’ll hear some buzz as we get closer to the season starter about how Florida is gaining on Georgia — actually, we already have heard some of that — but on paper, at least, it’s hard to see where that’s coming from.  That’s not to say it’s inconceivable the Gators supplant the Dawgs this season, but it’ll take some unusual developments that can’t be seen from here at the moment.

As far as any other team in the East representing a legitimate threat, count me as someone who thinks Missouri has a certain dark horse potential, presuming Kelly Bryant can come in and keep things going offensively.  What do you guys see from here?

*************************************************************************

UPDATE:  One more thing to factor into the equation is Bill Connelly’s returning production numbers.  Tennessee is second in his rankings, which is no surprise, but considering how far the Vols have to go, not such a big deal.

Florida, however, is.

Here are 2018’s top 10 teams, according to the revamped version of S&P+, re-ranked in order of 2019 returning production:

  1. LSU (76 percent, 15th)
  2. Florida (74 percent, 26th)
  3. Clemson (64 percent, 53rd)
  4. Oklahoma (64 percent, 57th)
  5. Ohio State (63 percent, 62nd)
  6. Alabama (63 percent, 63rd)
  7. Michigan (63 percent, 68th)
  8. Georgia (62 percent, 69th)
  9. Auburn (60 percent, 84th)
  10. Mississippi State (57 percent, 92nd)

It’s safe to say Alabama will begin second in the preseason polls, and sportsbooks are listing Georgia in the top four. But there could be legitimate reason for putting four SEC teams near the top, including LSU, which overachieved last year’s returning production, and Florida. The Tigers and Gators went a combined 21-6 in 2018 and ranked fifth and ninth, respectively, in the revamped S&P+. And now they’re both going to be projected to improve by a decent amount.

In fact, if we were to use returning production as the only S&P+ projection factor — eschewing recruiting and recent history — here’s how the projected top five would take shape. Again, this would be based on nothing more than last year’s S&P+ ratings and this year’s returning production, not the complete formula:

  1. Alabama (+36.7 adjusted points per game)
  2. Georgia (+33.2)
  3. Clemson (+30.2)
  4. LSU (+28.9)
  5. Florida (+27.1)

Remember, Dan Mullen made a good living on returning talent at Mississippi State.  If Florida is in better shape than I initially expected in that regard, the Gators could be formidable.

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43 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football

43 responses to “Your all-too-early 2019 SEC East snapshot

  1. gastr1

    In the West, I’m surprised he has Auburn ahead of Texas A & M. Seems to me A & M might be as good as #2 over there, but can’t see Auburn having much of anything without a star RB and QB.

    Like

    • Russ

      Yeah, the A&M game late in the season worries me. We can’t afford a slip up there.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jim

        No doubt. I think our schedule next year overall is tough. In addition to A&M and ND, despite the record that last 10-12 years auburn isn’t easy, Florida and UT will get year 2 bounces. If we somehow go undefeated in the regular season we will have really earned it

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        • Otto

          A&M bothers me because if timing, it after Auburn and UF the toughest annual games, and at a point where you usually get a cupcake to heal up. The good news is if the team sweeps the east and splits the west, UGA is in control of their own destiny. The placement of the game is dangerous in that injuries and fatigue could result in a loss in that game or have the team worn down in the post season. Thankfully UGA does not face the chop blocks against GT.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Mayor

    I remember when Ray Goff used to out recruit FU. But then, Dan Mullen doesn’t strike me as another Steve Spurrier either.

    Like

  3. Al

    Undefeated in the East again. That TAMU game late in the season scares me, though.

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  4. Derek

    I haven’t watched Kelly Bryant much, if at all, but not holding off a kid straight from HS in September seems an indictment.

    Hard to see any east team being within 2 tds of us should we stay healthy.

    The biggest problem everyone has in the east is a gross lack of offensive playmakers. We’d have to have an off day offensively and the other team would have to play out of their minds on defense to keep a game with us both close and low scoring. Is there a draftable qb or RB in the east not in Athens right now?

    I really see next year as a 2 game schedule: ND and TAMU. One of the games at UT, at the barn and the WLOCP might be interesting but even that’s unlikely. Again, should we stay healthy.

    Like

    • Biggus Rickus

      Rountree, Chandler, Vaughn and Perine could be drafted, though none are likely to go above the third round. Maybe Bentley will go late in the draft? I can’t see another QB being drafted.

      Like

    • gastr1

      I was totally unimpressed in games I watched Bryant, personally. An awful passer. They’d have to really re-think the offense with Bryant instead of Lock because their skills are virtually the opposite of each other’s.

      Like

      • AlphaDawg

        Bryant was always just a stop gap to Lawrence. Take in mind many recruiters felt the same way about Lawrence as they did about Stafford, that’ll he’ll be the 1st overall pick in the draft in 3 years, and many thought he was a better recruit than Fields was. They were saying that when he was a HS senior. As much as people knock on the hair piece at ESPN, he was dead right proclaiming Stafford a 1st overall draft pick as a senior in HS and he’s had similar comments about TL.

        Like

  5. That’s the punch line. Florida lost every bit as much as Georgia did off of their team last year. Basically, their very best players on both sides of the line, with nowhere close to the depth that the Dawgs have. So how are the gaining?

    Like

    • Clayton Davis

      This is not quite correct: https://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2019/1/31/18204093/2019-ncaa-football-returning-starters-experience

      Florida returns quite a bit more of their overall production than Georgia.

      Like

      • Uglydawg

        But are they returning because they aren’t NFL caliber?..or at least early round NFL caliber? Returning can mean returning mediocrity.
        Not saying that is the case, but is it?

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        • Uglydawg

          Or maybe they were all sophs and freshmen.

          Like

          • Clayton Davis

            The data looks only at returning actual production, weighted towards returning QBs, receivers, and DBs, not just raw returning starters or total amount of returning starts. I think in Florida’s case, the ones who were good enough to leave early did, and they didn’t lose much at all to graduation.

            It’s not that Florida is automatically going to be more talented than Georgia at all. It just puts more of the onus on the new starters to prove their recruiting rankings.

            Like

    • Macallanlover

      They have a talent shortage versus UGA for sure, but that could be overcome, upsets aren’t that rare in CFB. But the shortfall no one talks about is at their head coach position, imo. I think he was adequate at Missy State, but there were few expectations and he rarely rose above them.

      Now he is doing a lot of foaming at the mouth, and spewing some pretty unrealistic things for someone who hasn’t accomplished much above blah. I hope he keeps pumping the crowd and taunting rivals with his awkward smack talk. Folks who run their mouths in advance of delivering results don’t usually succeed, Mullen strikes me as one of those guys.

      Like

      • Cojones

        FU came up too far last year for us to disregard Mullen this year.

        Like

        • Macallanlover

          I won’t totally disrespect the opponent in advance, they are certainly capable of playing us competitively, I just am less sold on Florida since he arrived there, than what I had expected. Not so sure they were that much better last year.

          I think the LSU and Michigan games are all they really had to crow about, and I put little stock in how teams play (or don’t) in bowl games any more. So they beat one unexpected team during the season, and that was at home, while losing to Kentucky at home and needing a miracle comeback at Vandy. Marginally better, just decent at recruiting, and lost some talent to the NFL.

          I feel pretty good about us versus them. And I particularly like they way he is attacking us and praising them in advance. UGA tends to play well when they are disrespected. (Welcome back.)

          Like

          • Coweta Dawg

            And historically a Mullen offense v. Kirby defense seems to break Kirby’s way. KS may have always had a better surrounding cast, but that hasn’t changed either has it?

            Like

  6. GruvenDawg

    Barring injuries this should be the year we can make a run at the playoffs with Kirby’s players and blueprint. We should be able to neutralize Bamas D-line with our o-line which is crazy considering where we were just 4 years ago.

    On defense the secondary overall should be improved, I am hoping someone can step in and be a Deandre Baker-lite on one side. With better inside LB play we should be more aggressive with our outside LB’s and D-line. If the OLB’s develop and gel early we should see more sacks and tackles for loss. The target on defense should be top 5 and hopefully top 2 in defensive efficiency.

    Offense needs the young WR’s to step up and be ready to play. Lots of talent at WR but not a lot of proven depth in our system on game days. With a junior QB and experienced Oline I would assume a better run pass balance for the season if the head coach sees the benefit. We will not be as explosive on O as Bama but we should be very balanced. I am hoping for something closer to a 55% run 45% pass balance. I am against shutting the O down in the 4th quarter when leading mentality. Let Stetson and the young WR’s still run the offense. They all need game reps and the WR’s need to grow up fast. I also think we need to prepare in case lord forbid something happened to Fromm. I really hope Coley works throughout the year on having a plan B and C option for when a team shuts down our inside run game. I also want to see his 2nd half adjustments and counter adjustments to the other team. Coley has the keys to a Ferrari hopefully he doesn’t drive it like a F-150. The floor should be a top 15 offense with top 5 offensive efficiency.

    I don’t think focus will be an issue for this team. We should be tested early with ND and late with Texas A&M with the SEC gauntlet in between. I really hope that the player leadership takes the reigns early and drives this team all year, this will determine how far this team can go.

    I think we go undefeated in the SEC east for the third straight year. I can see us being 11-1 or 12-0 heading into the SEC championship game. I do believe we get over the Bama hump this year in the SECCG game. The playoffs will depend on the matchups but I like our chances against anyone.

    Like

    • Russ

      I think our secondary overall will be better due to more balance. We don’t have a Baker, but what we do have are some really good players that got a lot of experience last season, plus some new talent.

      I think our defense is going to be lights out.

      Like

      • Macallanlover

        I agree about our secondary, still not comfortable at ILB this year, so defense is a work in progress for the first half of the year. If they are as good as you expect, we are definitely a contender for SEC title, maybe more. 11-1 or 10-2 in my early expectation.

        Like

  7. 3rdandGrantham

    It certainly is nice for Mizzou that they draw Arkansas as their permanent SECW draw yearly while we get AU, UT gets Bama, and SCU gets a rapidly ascending TAMU program. That alone gives them a huge scheduling edge; especially in years like recent/upcoming where Mizzou draws Ole Miss or MSU as their other SECW opponent in rotation.

    In 2019 and 2020 Mizzou doesn’t have to play ANY of the big four from the West – Bama, AU, LSU, and TAMU. Instead, they get Ole Miss or MSU paired with Arkansas. Meanwhile, we play AU and TAMU this year, and Bama and Auburn in 2020. Talk about a monster edge in scheduling for them; we better not lose to Mizzou either year, or they easily could have the inside track to the SECC.

    Like

  8. Russ

    Our weakness is no real backup at QB. That worries me, as an injury to Jake could derail the season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Otto

      Agreed a replay of ’05 is a worry but the OL is the best in Athens in many years

      Like

    • Uglydawg

      You tread on treacherous ground making a statement like that before the Spring Game, Russ. (I kid)
      Actually we might be pleasantly surprised at how capable #2 is. I know, I know..his size..but there’s been a lot of high praise from the players and coaches. When have we ever seen a scout team QB get that kind of mention? Kirby could have gone after a more traditionally gifted JUCO QB or transfer, but he didn’t..With this O line, a lot of QBs could look good standing back there with protection. And the running game should keep Fromm pretty safe. My fear is the flu or something like that hitting the team, but that’s the risk for every program.

      Like

  9. Jack Burton

    Healthy Fromm = East domination

    The season really comes down to our CB development over the summer. At the moment, other than Divaad Wilson, things look BLEAK.

    Like

    • RandallPinkFloyd

      Bleak seems hyperbolic. Stokes played really well down the stretch. Wilson looks good, Tyson Campbell just needs some confidence. JUCO DB coming in and don’t sleep on Mark Webb.

      Like

      • Jack Burton

        Concerning that Webb couldn’t crack the lineup last season considering the options oppo Bake.

        Stokes is lean but has good ball skills. His size is worrisome.

        I have zero faith in any JUCO DBs. Maybe I’ll finally get past that with Daniels.

        Like

  10. PTC DAWG

    Agree on Mizzou being a dark horse..I think they finish 2nd in the East. UF finishes 3rd, again. The real question is, can UT escape the basement? The fan in me hopes not.

    Like

  11. JasonC

    One asterisks to the recruiting success is the transfers. If you remove Fields, Ford and a few others from the classes, we drop a little. Granted, most other programs are losing a player or 2 to transfers, but we lost at least one 5-star, which I believe is the highest ranked player UGA has ever signed.

    247 also had an article tracking the top 50 transfers. I skimmed through it. Several teams saw a lot of losses and gains. One team that seemed to be raking in the transfers was Miami.

    Like

  12. Biggus Rickus

    On returning production, Florida didn’t lose any receivers, running backs or QBs. I think their receivers are good, and their running backs are solid SEC players, but Feleipe Franks is never going to be anything more than a slightly above average QB, if that. Their defense is also spotty, and Georgia has outrecruited them by leaps and bounds the last several years.

    Like

  13. Probably for yesterday’s Playpen, but if this doesn’t make you smile today, nothing will. Things like this restore your faith in professional athletes.

    https://www.facebook.com/PGATour/videos/353801068549322/?tn=K-R&eid=ARAqZSa4rMRMEdUBXZD88Ekkz3YFJB9P-Ec9ijzrBv40a83mhzvUn9cRFZqAQl3DAWaQqO3c86QXPIvy&fref=mentions&xts[0]=68.ARBMx_PY0rA9RUSuLq8BPD1wUFIliswW8hvwOZ1R0YCuv9tvHMbqj9msB2UqlFUU9bIuH4LUi2OQVAl078Pu7xo5kkz02y7mmselk61aXgibzJxrwS99hAtg514hoWjfioby-sn_6zJhUr6DG9Z1VVODyks11onBPa_y2sT2PSr7-I0c2oeqc15AstVyaQIhBjn3D0hzNoC6vlBmJ5rt2ja6EXon2gdOX1tbrrxAf5lJsVMc6DCHi-mrBKYcOzhuPaz1saMbQ89cQ4euP0LS3FSr6l4iV0frw0HSLa4Wb3tPeZGTpR_jZbwgOStcmfM5AryEAiP8fjA-e3W3lA-52ogBIRQLj0elKRY

    Like

  14. Justin

    Color me skeptical about Florida until Franks can prove that he can hit an open receiver. My wife is a Gator and I watch every game with her. On a regular basis we both cannot believe that he’s a starting QB in the SEC.

    He had a ridiculous season of stat padding. 8 of his 24 TDs came against FCS opponents. His stats against FBS teams under .500 last year (4 games, 59.1%, 9.4 YPC, 10 TDs, 2 INT, 171.71 QB rating. Against teams above .500 (7 games, 55.2%, 6.2 YPC, 6 TDs, 4 INTs, 113.74 QB rating. On top of that, the only two qualifying QBs with a lower QB rating than Franks on third down were Nick Fitzgerald and Ty Storey.

    Dude was mediocre overall and flat out bad against above .500 teams (re: not necessarily good teams). On top of that he loses FOUR starters on the o-line in front of him. I just don’t see it.

    Like

  15. Aladawg

    There’s a lot of optimism and some is warranted. Those not being concerned about the schedule including road trips to Knoxville, Vandy when healthy and Auburn at the barn are forgetting the week to week mentality of 18-22 year old kids. Then add Florida with a superior coach to McElwain, TAMU with increasing talent, Notre Dame and a sneaky Missouri and a mature QB with USC make an undefeated campaign very unlikely realistically. Lose the wrong game and there you are. I love our talent level in all but D-line depth(Remember that is typically where Championships are won). We must grind people with that O-line, protect Fromm and not take the foot off the offensive pedal so guys can learn the offense. Still I don’t see us beating Bama after that treacherous November. I’m hopeful, but not unrealistic.

    Like

    • Biggus Rickus

      Georgia hasn’t really struggled with an SEC East opponent in two years, so until it happens, I’m skeptical. They could lose to Notre Dame and/or Texas A&M, but I expect they’ll go 11-1 again, play Alabama in the SEC title game, and we’ll see what happens.

      Like

  16. stoopnagle

    I posted earlier, but it didn’t take. I agree with you Senator: Georgia is the class of the division; Florida is getting the hype because they won 10 and beat Michigan soundly in the Peach Bowl; but Mizzou is better and getting the schedule breaks. Their off-week before us after the WLOCP worries me as much as Auburn’s bye. Throw in the Aggies at the bitter end of all things, too, and we’re the best team in our division but the schedulers in B’ham did their damndest to level the playing field as much as they can.

    Like