Find us on iTunes!
A Look At The SEC Part 1
July 27, 2012KentuckySports.co
As the football season inches closer and closer, I figured it would only be fitting if someone broke down the SEC this year for those who adore UK football like myself. This is part one of a part two series (I'll get to that..you know...whenever) at a look at the SEC. Today, let's focus on the SEC East:
Georgia Bulldogs: Coming off an SEC East Championship and losing to LSU in the SEC Championship game, the Georgia Bulldogs have had some signs that things are unravelling between the hedges. With the recent dismissal of Isaiah Crowell because of a weapons charge and a decommitment of 5-star running back, Derrick Henry, the Bulldogs will are searching for a replacement for their leading rusher last year. There are players who can fill the void (Ken Malcome and Keith Marshall). But, on the bright side of things, they do have Aaron Murray returning for his third year under center for the Dawgs. However, they did lose his favorite target and former high school friend, Orson Charles, to the Cincinnati Bengals. Not to mention they also lost key front line to protect Murray. It's going to be interesting to see how this season goes for head coach Mark Richt. While they avoid the big teams from the SEC West, they do have a tough schedule ahead of them as they face new to the SEC Missouri Tigers in the second game of the year. A lot could be riding on Murray's shoulders this year.
South Carolina Gamecocks: It goes without saying the Steve Spurrier has totally turned culture around for the Gamecock faithful. It has gotten to the point to where some believe that 10 wins will not be enough this year. They are picked to finish second behind the Georgia Bulldogs this year in the SEC East mainly because of the aforementioned Bulldogs avoid the big boys of the SEC West. With the Stephen Garcia experiment finally coming to a close, Connor Shaw is the man who will be under center for the Gamecocks. He played very well in the games he played in last year (112 completions for over 1,200 yards and 12 TDs) and will have a beast of a running back in Marcus Lattimore to hand the ball off to. With the Florida football program slowly declining and the Tennessee program a mess, I would like to say that the Gamecocks are still a work in progress at becoming one of the elites in the SEC. The past four years the Gamecocks have signed Mr. South Carolina to the team, and they also have a defensive line that is considered one of the top 10 in the country. With a schedule like theirs, I can only see them losing two, possibly three games all year. Needless to say, expectations are very, very high this year for the Gamecocks.
Florida Gators: While the Gators are always a great team, last year they took a little bit of stumble after losing their coach, Heisman quarter back and almost every position player to the NFL. Will Muschamp has had a year to get his feet wet as the head coach of the Gators. But with last year's 7-6 record, the Gators are looking to make a strong run this year in the SEC. They have a great defensive team this year with players such as Ronald Powell, Dominique Easly and Sharrif Floyd (who tore his ACL but is expected to return in October) the Gators' defensive line is stacked to be one of the best in the country. But, as Gator tradition it seems, there are high touted players like Dante Fowler Jr and Jonathan Bullard expected to fill the gap where Floyd has left. With Percy Harvin leaving for the NFL, you would have thought the offense would have taken a huge blow. But as Lee Corso says, "Not so fast my friend." The Gators do have a Percy Harvin-like player in Andre Debose. Debose had sparks of greatness last year, but had too big of expectations to fill. But, it wasn't all his fault. The passing game for the Gators last year was a struggle (89th overall) and John Brantley could not pick up where Tim Tebow left off. It doesn't look there is a clear winner between Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel for the quarter back position, so that is something to keep your eye on as the season goes along.
Vanderbilt Commordores: Season two of the James Franklin experiment is underway for the 'Dores who finished a surprising 6-7 last year. Franklin had the team riding high and believing in themselves all year long, and look for them to be a surprise this team year in the SEC East. With Aaron Jordan Rodgers (yes, he's the younger brother of Aaron) returning this year for his sophomore year and key SEC-type players such as Zac Stacey, Warren Norman and Jordan Matthews all coming back, Vandy is poised to turn some heads this upcoming football season. If (and this is a big IF) Vandy can pull off some big wins in the SEC this year, look for them to go bowling this year.
Kentucky Wildcats: Ah, yes. This is the one you all have been waiting for. Expectations are very low this year for the Wildcats of Kentucky. But don't tell that to the younger players of the football Cats, as they are poised to try and upset teams this year. The big question this year for the Wildcats is who will be the quarterback for them. While Maxwell Smith is the apparent front runner for the starting job, Morgan Newton will make it tough for Smith to win the job over him. If Newton were to win the starting job, this is his proving year (it's also his last year). Newton was a highly touted prospect coming out of Carmel, Indiana and has, in my opinion, failed to live up to the expectations he was given (they weren't THAT much). The Wildcats do have something to smile about and that is Josh Clemons coming back from his 2011 injury. The Wildcats do have a better receiving core this year, but the real question will be can the offensive line hold up long enough for the Smith/Newton to throw the ball. The Wildcats are projected to have near the bottom offense, and the questions on defense will be who can fill the shoes Winston Guy and Danny Trevathan left behind. This, unfortunately, might also be the proving year for Joker Phillips. While Phillips has great recruiting classes to be had, the Wildcats are projected to be (according to Phil Steele) to be the fourth worst in the NCAA this year. I really do believe that Joker needs at least five years to prove himself to be a good coach for the Wildcats. You have to remember that he is still recruiting his players, for his style of offense. It is obvious that Rich Brooks' players do not fit in to his mold, so I ask the Wildcat faithful to be patient.
Tennessee Volunteers: The Volunteers were one win away last season from being bowl-eligible. But they ran into the buzz-saw that was Matt Roark and the Kentucky Wildcats, thus leaving them out of the bowl picture. The Volunteers look to bounce back after a rough season last year, and look ahead to the upcoming 2012 Volunteer season. The fans of ol' Rocky Top are looking to finally having a better season then last, but there isn't much to look forward to this year. Tyler Bray is coming back is about the only thing to look forward to this year, and the Volunteers are really hoping he can perform better than his season last year. The Volunteers also have star wide receiver, Da'Rick Rogers coming back, so look for the Bray-Rogers duo to strike up the band when they score a touchdown. But as you read more and more about this team, the fans are holding their breath for a better season and to finally climb back on top of the SEC East.
That's all for me. I'll be back some time before the season starts to break down the SEC West for you all. You can find me on twitter @stieneKYSCO.