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2007 SEC
PREVIEW AND PREDICTIONS

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH (with projected records)

 

SEC EAST

1. Florida (10-2)
2. Tennessee (9-3)
3. Georgia (9-3)
4. South Carolina (7-5)
5. Kentucky (7-5)
6. Vanderbilt (5-7)

SEC WEST

1. Louisiana State (11-1)
2. Auburn (9-3)
3. Alabama (8-4)
4. Arkansas (8-4)
5. Mississippi (5-7)
6. Mississippi State (4-8)

 

BEST PLAYER AT EACH POSITION

QB Erik Ainge - Tennessee
RB Darren McFadden - Arkansas
WR Earl Bennett - Vanderbilt
TE Jacob Tamme - Kentucky
OL Jonathan Luigs - Arkansas
K Ryan Succop - South Carolina
DL Glenn Dorsey - Louisiana State
LB Wesley Woodyard - Kentucky
DB Simeon Castille - Alabama
P Britton Colquitt - Tennessee
ST Keenan Burton - Kentucky

 

COACH ON THE HOT SEAT

Houston Nutt - Arkansas
It’s hard to believe that a head coach who took his team to the SEC Championship Game just a season ago could have his job in jeopardy. A handful of reasons exist: his offense has been pretty one-dimensional with no passing game in sight or the QB to deliver such, and off-the-field issues have haunted this team as two of their best recruits in recent years decided to transfer in QB Mitch Mustain and WR Damian Williams. Some parents and boosters have been doing some serious complaining...winning just isn't enough.

 

SURPRISE TEAM(S)

Kentucky, South Carolina, Vanderbilt
If one team had to be named, the title would go to Coach Rich Brooks and his Kentucky Wildcats after beating Clemson in last year's Music City Bowl (to finish 8-5). They have more offensive (skill) talent than most teams in the conference, if not in America. But the truth is that three teams on the East side have a legitimate shot at pulling out big surprises. Aside from UK, South Carolina and Vanderbilt also fit this mold. Steve Spurrier has the defense necessary and a QB who now should understand this system well enough to turn the corner. The same qualities describe the Commodores. Coaches may want to keep a lid on expectations out of Nashville, but the fact remains...this is the best offense in terms of overall personnel seen there in over a decade. The problem with all three of these teams is that they play in the nation’s toughest conference, and that means they also have to play each other. Reaching seven or eight wins and pushing for the divisional crown is certainly a tall task, but too many sleeping giants could produce just that.

 

BIGGEST GAMES (NationalChamps.net Score Pick)

September 1
Tennessee at California (Cal favored by 4 points)

September 8
South Carolina at Georgia (Georgia favored by 3 points)
Virginia Tech at Louisiana State (LSU favored by 7 points)

September 15
Tennessee at Florida (Florida favored by 1 point)
Arkansas at Alabama (Alabama favored by 2 points)
Louisville at Kentucky (Louisville favored by 8 points)

September 22
Georgia at Alabama (Georgia favored by 2 points)
South Carolina at Louisiana State (LSU favored by 9 points)

September 29
Alabama vs. Florida State @Jacksonville, FL (Florida State favored by 4 points)
Auburn at Florida (Florida favored by 1 point)

October 6
Kentucky at South Carolina - Thursday (South Carolina favored by 3 points)
Georgia at Tennessee (Tennessee favored by 4 points)
Florida at Louisiana State (LSU favored by 6 points)

October 13
Auburn at Arkansas (EVEN)

October 20
Tennessee at Alabama (Alabama favored by 3 points)
Auburn at Louisiana State (LSU favored by 7 points)

October 27
Florida vs. Georgia @Jacksonville, FL (Florida favored by 4 points)
South Carolina at Tennessee (Tennessee favored by 3 points)

November 3
South Carolina at Arkansas (EVEN)
Louisiana State at Alabama (LSU favored by 3 points)

November 10
Florida at South Carolina (Florida favored by 1 point)
Auburn at Georgia (Georgia favored by 2 points)
Arkansas at Tennessee (Tennessee favored by 3 points)

November 17
Kentucky at Georgia (Georgia favored by 5 points)
Vanderbilt at Tennessee (Tennessee favored by 8 points)

November 24
Arkansas at Louisiana State (LSU favored by 6 points)
Florida State at Florida (Florida favored by 7 points)
Alabama at Auburn (Auburn favored by 6 points)
Clemson at South Carolina (South Carolina favored by 7 points)



IN A NUTSHELL
SEC EAST

FLORIDA
BIGGEST LOSS
OFFENSE: QB Chris Leak, WR Dallas Baker, C Steve Rissler
DEFENSE: DE Ray McDonald, LB Earl Everett, FS Reggie Nelson

  • QB Tim Tebow can run (team's second-leading rusher); he had a marvelous spring game
  • Florida has tons of playmakers at receiver, including (former, for now) All-SEC performer Andre Caldwell
  • Sophomore WR Percy Harvin may be the most electric player in the conference; WR Louis Murphy had a breakout spring
  • RB is a little unsettled after projected starter Mon Williams tore his ACL in spring drills; Kestahn Moore is now the top gun
  • Solid OL returns four starters, including Second Team All-SEC Drew Miller, a guard who now moves to center
  • The entire defense has been decimated with departures; four underclassmen declared for the NFL
  • The MVP of the National Championship game, DE Derrick Harvey, had 11 sacks last year; he is the star of the defense; the DL has almost no experience other than Harvey
  • Limited depth exists at the LB spot; injuries could cause problems
  • Only two spots have been settled in the secondary - CB Markihe Anderson and SS Tony Joiner
  • Defensively, the Gators will have as many as six true freshmen (from the nation's No. 1 recruiting class) being counted on as starters or major contributors
  • Brandon James gives the team a solid punt and kick returner capable at any moment of taking one to the house, something missing the last four years
  • A new punter and kicker must be found

GEORGIA
BIGGEST LOSS
OFFENSE: TE Martrez Milner, OT Daniel Inman, RB Danny Ware
DEFENSE: DB Tra Battle, DE Charles Johnson, LB Tony Taylor

  • QB Matthew Stafford has finally been tabbed the starter; he came on strong at the end of ’06 in beating Auburn, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech
  • RB Danny Ware left early for the NFL, but the unit is stacked with multiple talents - Kregg Lumpkin appears to be in full health after struggling with a knee injury from three years ago; he is the team's leading returning rusher
  • RB Thomas Brown appears healthy after recovering from a torn ACL; RS Frosh Knowshon Moreno lived up to his hype this spring
  • Coach Richt claims there is no better FB in the United States than Brannan Sutherland
  • Sean Bailey's return from a knee injury gives Georgia a deep threat at receiver
  • The OL has to be rebuilt with only two starters back in Velasco and Adams; both had to change positions
  • Departures on defense have been hard; only one full-time starter is back on the entire front seven
  • Jeff Owens is primed to be one of the SEC's premier defensive tackles
  • Though lacking experience within their front seven, the LBs are blessed with speed
  • Experience exists in the secondary; the Dawgs had four quality CBs until top gun Paul Oliver was dismissed for academic reasons
  • Healthy kicker Brandon Coutu will again flirt with the Lou Groza Award; a hamstring injury slowed him down in 2006

KENTUCKY
BIGGEST LOSS
OFFENSE: OT Michael Aitcheson
DEFENSE: LB Durrell White

  • Strength of the team is on the offensive side; this is the deepest and most skilled set of players found here in over a decade
  • Senior QB André Woodson had a breakthrough ‘06 season (3,515 yards passing, 31:7 TD/INT ratio); those numbers earned him Second Team All-SEC honors
  • Yes, the SEC's best passing attack has senior WR Keenan Burton back (led the SEC in receptions); WR Dicky Lyons had 50 catches as well
  • TE Jacob Tamme was a First Team All-SEC player
  • RB Rafael Little had 1,405 all-purpose yards despite missing four games with a knee injury; his quick feet equal great open field skills
  • The OL is the big question mark; spring injuries and suspensions have ravaged UK; for the offense to progress, this unit has to revamp
  • Longtime Rich Brooks-understudy Steve Brown takes over as defensive coordinator
  • This Wildcat defense ranked near the bottom statistically in just about every major category on a Division I-A level; the DL got pushed around (108th rushing defense); the DB unit (118th nationally) can do no worse with solid experience at the safety positions
  • The LB unit is bolstered by possibly the best one in the SEC, Wesley Woodyard (long time starter); all three LBs return but have to improve as a unit
  • With Little and Keenan Burton set in the return game, UK could have the best runback specialists nationwide

SOUTH CAROLINA
BIGGEST LOSS
OFFENSE: WR Sidney Rice
DEFENSE: CB Fred Bennett

  • Senior QB Blake Mitchell enters his third season as the starter under Coach Spurrier; he is primed for his best season yet
  • Kenny McKinley appears ready to become the top receiver; JUCO transfer Larry Freeman had a solid spring taking over for Sidney Rice
  • Plenty of options exist at TE; All-SEC player Andy Boyd returns for another season
  • The OL continues to be a concern; Spurrier has flirted with so many different options, the final depth chart may not be set until late August
  • Defense is the strength for the Gamecocks as ten starters are back
  • Numerous highly regarded recruits will bolster the DL; many enrolled early (green shirted) to participate this spring
  • Youth movements on the DL allowed Casper Brinkley to shift to LB and join his brother Jasper, who is one of the best in the SEC
  • Spurrier called out DBs Stoney Woodson and Carlos Thomas as the most improved players this spring
  • Ryan Succop was outstanding in handling all of the kicking duties (16-for-20 in FGAs, including a 55 yarder; 43.6 punting average)
  • Shane Beamer (son of Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer) will take over the return and coverage teams...learn well from your father, Shane
  • Some have given South Carolina a chance to win the SEC East; their daunting schedule will make that extremely difficult

TENNESSEE
BIGGEST LOSS
OFFENSE: WR Robert Meachum, OT Arron Sears
DEFENSE: DT Turk McBride, CB Jonathan Wade

  • Senior QB Erik Ainge’s partial meniscus tear was repaired in March; he is expected to be ready before fall (camp)
  • Ainge is the best package of experience/skill in the SEC; he set the single-season school record by completing 67% of his throw in ‘06
  • Finding quality receivers looks to be a challenge (only 26 receptions amongst the returnees)
  • TEs Brown and Cottam have been so productive, UT will now utilize more two-TE sets
  • The RBs are stacked with three returning starters - LaMarcus Coker has the quickest burst; Arian Foster was slowed by an injury but was the most impressive in the spring
  • The OL must replace two key losses, but is still capable of being even better
  • Stopping the run proved cumbersome last fall, enough so that the Vols may tinker with a new 3-4 alignment
  • The DL has the talent, so getting it to translate on the field is a must; DE Antonio Reynolds is primed to be a big-timer
  • The LB corps is loaded; (up to) five contributors could start on most other teams
  • FS Jonathan Hefney is a NationalChamps.net Preseason All-American (led team with five INTs; was 2nd in tackles with 96); help in the deep middle will have to come from one or two JUCO signees
  • The CB situation had become sketchy - Inky Johnson is done with injury; 2003 Freshman All-American Roshaun Fellows has knee issues
  • Britton Colquitt has proven to be the punter he was expected to be, a front-runner for the Ray Guy Award averaging 44.9 yards punting

VANDERBILT
BIGGEST LOSS
OFFENSE: WR Marlon White
DEFENSE: LB Kevin Joyce

  • With all 11 starters back on offense, no team can boast more experience
  • Earl Bennett is the star at WR, a NationalChamps.net First-Team All-American; only needs 48 receptions to set SEC career record
  • QB Chris Nickson was an up-and-down experiment in his first season; he had 517 yards of total offense versus Kentucky and was the team’s leading rusher
  • It all starts up front (OL returns intact); tackles Chris Williams and Brian Stamper are NFL talents
  • Jackson-Garrison rushed for 614 yards; Jeff Jennings returns after missing '06 with a knee injury
  • Depth is an issue on the DL; improving on their 91st ranked run defense is a must
  • DE Curtis Gatewood did well moving from LB and posted seven sacks; the speedy former prep roundball star will be a big factor
  • All-SEC LB Jonathan Goff stayed for his senior year; if he plays as expected, he could position himself high in the 2008 NFL Draft
  • The secondary is desperate for playmakers, especially on the corners; numerous players have been in the rotation with little success
  • SS Reshard Langford should emerge as one the conference's premier safeties
  • The whole kicking game needs major improvement; Bryant Hahnfeldt was 8-for-17 on FGAs and punter Brett Upson averaged just 37.4 yards per try
  • It’s a make-or-break season for Coach Bobby Johnson and the Commodores; all of the talent stacked is the best here in a long time
  • With eight home games, sights are set on going to a bowl for the first time since 1982

 

SEC WEST

ALABAMA
BIGGEST LOSS
OFFENSE: RB Kenneth Darby
DEFENSE: LB Juwan Simpson, CB Ramzee Robinson

  • Expectations of the program with Nick Saban and new staff are bigger than ever; anything short of an eight-win season will be a let down
  • New offensive coordinator Major Applewhite won't be using the spread offense he used at Rice to set school records
  • No major losses on offense from 2006 outside of FB and an underachieving Kenneth Darby
  • QB John Parker Wilson is a legitimate threat and will make this offense capable of playing with anyone
  • One of the TBs has to step up and place his name on the national scene
  • Plenty of depth at receiver; DJ Hall set a school record last season with 1056 yards in receptions
  • Defense has been a staple in Tuscaloosa, but suffers heavy losses; can defensive mastermind Nick Saban continue the tradition?
  • Alabama will find that defensive coordinator Kevin Steele (former Florida State assistant) is a superb coach and recruiting guru
  • Defense will switch between a 4-3 to a 3-4
  • One of the nation's best CBs, Simeon Castille, will bolster a secondary that finished 19th nationally in pass defense
  • The special teams will be a plus with kicker Jamie "Money" Christensen and punter P.J. Fitzgerald returning

ARKANSAS
BIGGEST LOSS
OFFENSE: OT Zac Tubbs, OT Tony Ugoh, QB Mitch Mustain
DEFENSE: DE Jamaal Anderson, CB Chris Houston

  • No secret, the passing game has to improve for Arkansas to return to the SEC Championship Game and, yes, for Houston Nutt to keep his job (see HOT SEAT section)
  • Casey Dick is the only proven QB (less then 50% completion rate); highly touted prep star Mitch Mustain transferred to USC
  • No team in the country has two RBs that match the quality of Heisman runner up Darren McFadden and All-SEC performer Felix Jones
  • New offensive coordinator and old QB coach David Lee will have difficulty changing this offense with Dick and his aerial struggles at QB
  • Only two starters are back on the OL; the good news...center Jonathan Luigs is the frontrunner for the Rimmington Award
  • Peyton Hillis is an underrated blocking and pass-catching FB; his missed the last four games of 2006, the Hogs lost three of them
  • Senior WR Marcus Monk is one of the SEC's best; he won't get much help since highly touted Damian Williams also transferred
  • DE Jamaal Anderson and CB Chris Houston jumped early to the NFL
  • Injuries crushed the defense during the spring; senior DT Marcus Harrison was lost to a torn ACL
  • Coaches hope to have DB Michael Grant and OLB Freddie Fairchild back from knee surgeries
  • Big time DE Antwain Robinson has been in the doghouse and was also injured during the spring; luckily, DE Malcolm Sheppard has emerged to help the front line
  • Incoming frosh Alex Tejada will have a chance to remedy last year's kicking woes
  • With kickoffs now starting at the 30-yard line, Jones and McFadden will return the kicks...yikes!!

 

AUBURN
BIGGEST LOSS
OFFENSE: TB Kenny Irons, OG Tim Duckworth, OG Ben Grubbs
DEFENSE: LB Will Herring, CB David Irons

  • The health of QB Brandon Cox is a must; back ups are short on both experience and the talent needed to lead
  • Cox has to play like a senior; his value to the team with an unproven RB and new OL is immense
  • OL must come together with the right combination to cover the heavy losses; only one full-time starter is back...
  • Tackle King Dunlap is the leader on the OL; his 6'8, 321 pound frame is daunting
  • The TE position has a nice trio in the rotation with senior Cole Bennett returning from a broken ankle
  • The RB situation is a question mark, but one with potential; an incumbent has to rise out of the pack
  • All-American Quentin Groves returns at DE; the move of DT Sen'Derrick Marks to end gives Auburn speed and power on the outside
  • Back seven on defense has experience; none has proven to be All-Conference material…yet
  • Freshmen will compete for starting kicking and punting duties

LOUISIANA STATE
BIGGEST LOSS
OFFENSE - QB JaMarcus Russell, WR Dwayne Bowe, WR Craig Davis
DEFENSE - FS LaRon Landry

  • JaMarcus Russell left early for the pros; Matt Flynn is not as strong or physical but has the accuracy; Flynn was MVP of the 2005 Peach Bowl
  • Highly touted prep QB Ryan Perrilloux needs to stay focused as a back up; LSU will call on him at some point
  • Offensive star will be senior WR Early Doucet; he will draw the most attention with Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis gone (NFL)
  • Upwards of five quality RBs will jostle for carries; Jacob Hester can play FB or TB
  • Senior guard Will Arnold is a Preseason All-American, even though he missed more than half of last season due to injury
  • DT Glenn Dorsey came back for his senior year and is the best pure DT in college football; he has skills, speed and power
  • DE Tyson Jackson figures to play a prominent role with his team leading 8.5 sacks
  • Finding a replacement for All-American FS LaRon Landry will be difficult; senior corners Jonathan Zenon and Chevis Jackson will help ease the transition
  • How well this offense adjusts to new offensive coordinator Gary Crowton will dictate early success


MISSISSIPPI
BIGGEST LOSS
OFFENSE: OG Andrew Wicker
DEFENSE: MLB Patrick Willis, WLB Rory Johnson

  • Promising Tennessee transfer Brent Schaeffer suffered a nightmare season in ’06; he finished last in most SEC categories
  • Senior walk-on Seth Adams is currently penciled in as the starter at QB ahead of Schaeffer after replacing him for the last two games of ‘06
  • RB BenJarvis Green-Ellis was a First Team All-SEC selection with over 1,000 yards
  • Four starters are back on the OL; tackle Michael Oher has been tabbed a NationalChamps.net 2007 Preseason All-American
  • Every contributor is back at receiver, but can someone deliver the pass?
  • Five starters must be replaced with the defensive back seven; especially at LB, where new starters must be found at each position
  • Freshman Josh Shene ended Ole Miss' troubles at place kicker (14-for-17 FGAs)
  • Head coach Orgeron has been stockpiling some major talent, but still lacks depth across the board

MISSISSIPPI STATE
BIGGEST LOSS
OFFENSE: QB Omarr Conner
DEFENSE: MLB Quinton Culberson, FS Jeramie Johnson, DE Michael Heard

  • The health of QB Michael Henig is a major concern after breaking his collarbone twice last fall; the Bulldogs signed QB Josh Riddell out of the California JUCO ranks to help if Henig cannot go
  • JUCO transfer WR Tony Burks emerged big-time late last season but had a marginal spring
  • The run game is built around RB Anthony Dixon; don't count top recruit Robert Elliott out in terms of getting carries
  • Players have been shuffled to new positions on defense, forcing younger guys to step up
  • DE Titus Brown is Second Team All-SEC; aside from him, though, the DL is still a concern; three new starters must be found
  • Inexperience at CB is also a concern now that All-SEC Derek Pegues has been moved to FS; he also returns punts and kicks...two for TDs
  • Only three seniors dot the current depth chart on the starting defense

 

 
TOP FIVE UNIT RANKINGS
  Running Back Defensive Line
  Wide Receiver Linebacker
  Offensive Line Defensive Back