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Preview of SEC 2010

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The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way – SCORE. If at first the game – or the breaks – go against you, don’t let up… put on more steam. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle… for this is the WINNING EDGE. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes.

Florida Gators

Until someone other than the Gators win the SEC East, they are still the ones to beat.  Sure Tim Tebow is gone and that will mean schematic changes to better suit John Brantley’s abilities. I don’t see the offense dropping off much statistically if indeed Brantley is as good as some people say he is.

Replacing Brandon Spikes at middle linebacker would normally be a real task, but due to solid recruiting and development of depth, the play shouldn’t drop off too much.  The bigger question on defense is who is going to be the defensive coordinator?  Charlie Strong was replaced by some guy named George who bolted for the Buffalo Bills after one month. Chan Gailey must have done a masterful selling job to get anyone to leave sunny Florida for that place.

But the biggest question of all is what act will Urban Meyer pull? While he may have had some chest pains, I still suspect now as I did then that he was pulling some prank.  He didn’t help his case by going off on a reporter last spring. It displayed either a fragile ego or self-doubt about whether in his own mind the Gators can repeat as champs. Only time will tell, but again they are the champs until someone knocks them off.

Georgia Bulldogs

Unfortunately for Richt, the SEC, more than any other BCS conference, is a “what have you done for me lately?” league.  Despite a stellar record of 90-27, since taking over for the Bulldogs, to fans and boosters in Athens, Richt still has not been able to win the ‘big one,”and a repeat performance of last season’s 4-4 conference record could send him job hunting next January. Georgia should still be a solid team, but clearly they have slipped from where they were a few years ago.  The key will be how well the defense recovers from last year’s dismal showing.

Georgia is still going to recruit well, but this year more than ever could decide whether Georgia stays on top of the helm or possibly seeing a new head coach in a few years especially as the other teams in the division regain their footing.

South Carolina Gamecocks

“The Old Ball Coach” has made a very small splash since returning to the SEC five years ago.  Long gone are the days of his “fun ‘n gun” offenses he had when he led the Florida Gators to their first National Championship.  The Gamecocks expected big things from Spurrier, and although his overall record since taking the helm in Columbia, his SEC record is an average 18-22 in his five-year tenure.  I still think he could coach a few more years.  After all, if he was to be fired, who would South Carolina replace him with?

I could see the Gamecocks pulling off an upset or two and challenge for 2nd place in the division.  This year is their best chance to make some real noise before he hangs it up.

Tennessee Volunteers

Plenty has already been written about the tales in Big Orange Country over the past two years. My initial impression of Derek Dooley is he will right the ship, but true success won’t be realized until around 2012 or so. It always takes a good 2-3 recruiting classes to get going in the right direction unless you have the luxury of coaching in Florida, Texas or California. Then of course, you have to develop the players and he has on paper assembled a fine coaching staff. Now it is a matter of seeing it all jell together.

The biggest question mark for Tennessee this off-season has been the roster turnover. Between Kiffin and Dooley, around 15 players have left the team for various reasons. So depth and getting everyone on the same page are going to be issues as the season moves forward.  I’m thinking the Vols will win in the neighborhood of 5-7 games.

Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky finally welcomed its head coach in waiting to take over the job, after Rich Brooks stepped down after the ’09 season.  Joker Phillips hopes to pick up right where Brooks left off and continue taking Kentucky to new heights.  If Kentucky makes a bowl in 2010 it will be their fifth consecutive. That was virtually unheard of when Brooks took over in 2003.

Kentucky has an extremely talented offensive weapon in Randall Cobb and  also boasts one of the top running backs in Derrick Locke. The problem is finding a quarterback.  Morgan Newton filled in admirably for Mike Hartline last season.  But the offseason competition for the starting job in 2010 continues into the fall, between those two.  If that quarterback question is answered, Kentucky can make a decent run and even pull an upset somewhere along the lines.

Vanderbilt Commodores

It was already going to be a rough season in Nashville. The last thing the Commodores needed was to lose their most successful coach of the last 25 years.  When Bobby Johnson abruptly retired last week, it garnered the most buzz in recent history for Vanderbilt. It was almost as big as Johnson taking Vanderbilt to its first bowl game since 1983 and its first bowl win since the ’50s.  Interim coach Robbie Caldwell steps in at least for this season, with a huge mountain to climb. Although SEC Freshman of the Year RB Warren Norman returns, they will have to replace their entire offensive line.

Vandy might win a few games in 2010. But the bigger question remains, who will the team go after for a head coach at seasons end? Will it be someone like Phillip Fulmer? Would anyone want to take the job that Bobby Johnson left after a “successful” eight seasons in which he took the team to a 29-66 overall record?  One thing is for sure about coaching as is illustrated at a place like Vanderbilt that is rarely mentioned: if you are wanting to coach on the basis of money and fame, you are getting into this profession for the wrong reasons.

Alabama Crimson Tide

They are in a similar situation to Florida. Who can knock them off? Alabama has reloaded and will deservedly be ranked No. 1 in the preseason. This offense could be one of the best that the Crimson Tide has had in a long time. There are playmakers everywhere on that side of the ball.

But in case you didn’t watch them play at all last season, defense is what kept the team undefeated for the second straight regular season.  Now, nine of the starters have either graduated or gone on to the NFL.  Can Alabama replace them with equally-talented players? It’s only natural to expect some sort of drop-off, at least for the first few weeks of the season.  The SEC West is theirs to lose.

At least, their coaching situation is more settled. Saban having realized that he is not cut out for the NFL should be content to remain at Alabama for as long as they allow him to stay.

LSU Tigers

LSU is the one team that should make Alabama nervous.  Speaking of LSU, the Tigers are coming off a “bad” season by their own measures.

It was a year in which injuries forced running back by committee, and QB Jordan Jefferson just wasn’t consistent enough to win some close games.  Throw in Les Miles inability to manage a clock and his head-scratching play calls, at times, and you have a volatile mixture that could land the ’07 National Champion head coach in the unemployment line.

I realize that’s tough for most to swallow, but this is the SEC. It’s a win big, win now, and don’t take a step back mentality.  If LSU struggles again in 2010, while losing five or more games, Les Miles will likely be looking for a new job next year. I could see him going to Michigan.

Auburn Tigers

Gene Chizek has the Tigers on the right path, but it will still be a good year or two before they can be a consistent threat for the championship.  They need to find a new quarterback and some new defensive players.  They could pull a few surprises, but at best they are looking at a third place finish.

The Tigers finished with a Top Ten recruiting class and should land a few good prospects in the upcoming season.

Arkansas Razorbacks

Bobby Petrino has a fine quarterback in Ryan Mallett and some running backs to work with.  But the defense was bad and there is no indication that it has improved. I could see them winning 5-7 games this year.  They are capable of playing some interesting games and possibly winning out over Georgia and LSU especially if those teams overlook them.

Mississippi State Bulldogs

The Bulldogs have a fine head coach in Dan Mullen who will make them more competitive in a Vanderbilt like way.  They will still need a few more years of good recruiting classes to maximize the potential that Mullen is capable of bringing to this team and possibly even contend for a title down the road.  But when you are coaching here, the stars are aligned against you.

Ole Miss Rebels

The Rebels had their best chance last year with a top quarterback, good  talent at the other skill positions, a top defense, and a good head coach, but the ‘Rebs still couldn’t get it done.

Now it has lost much of that talent and it will take a few years before they are back in that position.  Houston Nutt will keep them in the conversation for a while, but a killer October/November schedule will cause the Rebels to fade fast down the stretch.  At least he doesn’t have to contend with the pressure cooker that Miles or Richt is contending with.

Written by chrisforliberty

July 20, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Posted in General

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