Posts Tagged ‘Alabama’

Preseason Top 25

Friday, May 26th, 2017

by Fred Perdue

FP

 

 

 

 

NCAAFB

Usual suspects dominate Preseason Top 25

Signing day and Spring Football have come to an end and the dog days of summer are here which means preseason ranking season has arrived as many of the top teams in the nation wrap up their spring semester and hit the practice field for summer workouts and practices. With no football until September there is a ton to talk about and we will gladly start here.

 

  1. Alabama:

 

 

2016 record: 14-1, 8-0 SEC
Way-Too-Early Last ranking: 1
Returning starters: 6 offense, 5 defense, 1 special teams

 

The motivation behind this season is clear. The Crimson lost a heartbreaking national title to the arm and legs of one DeShaun Watson and now the Tide are hungrier than ever to reclaim their throne at the top of the college football world. Former New England Patriots assistant Brian Daboll is tasked with taking over the offense and taking Sophomore Quarterback Jalen Hurts to the next level as a passer. Bo Scarborough, Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs will share carries while 5-Star Freshman Najee Harris looks to find his place in the rotation. Junior Calvin Ridley should garner All-America honors, with seniors Cam Sims and Robert Foster and freshman Jerry Jeudy rounding out the key targets. Jonah Williams will move from Right to Left Tackle. The secondary will be the strength of the defense featuring versatile defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick will flip between safety and corner and will be accompanied by backfield mate Ronnie Harrison and seniors Anthony Averett and Tony Brown returning at cornerback.

 

An early season test vs Florida State in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to kick off the season will tell us all we need to know about this iteration of the

 

 

  1. Ohio State:

 

 

2016 record: 11-2, 8-1 Big Ten
Returning starters: 8 offense, 7 defense, 0 special teams

 

The Buckeyes were a year ahead last based on the returning talent and they still made another appearance in the CFP. This time around they are primed and ready with a more than stacked defense led by Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes and Nick Bosa on the defensive line J.T. Barrett and the offense struggled in the passing game in 2016 but have shown some improvement under new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. Running back Demario McCall and receiver Johnnie Dixon showed big play ability in the spring game and should be involved heavily going forward

 

Key Early Season Matchup: vs Oklahoma, September 9th, 2017

 

 

  1. Florida State:

 

 

2016 record: 10-3, 5-3 ACC
Returning starters: 7 offense, 9 defense, 2 special teams

 

 

Jimbo Fisher did a masterful job with the pieces or lack thereof that he had last year, notching his 5th straight double digit win season. Quarterback Deandre Francois was the toughest signal caller in the nation and all the hits and busted offensive line assignments will pay off because it’s time for him to break out. The offensive line is still a project but if they can protect Francois expect explosive plays all season long. Freshman running back Cam Akers went off for 102 yards in the spring game, which has to give the coaching staff some confidence. Derwin James who missed last season with a left meniscus tear and looks to be primed and ready to wreak havoc on the ACC will lead the defense. An early season test against #1 Alabama on September second in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta will tell us about the Noles early.

 

 

  1. USC

 

 

2016 record: 10-3, 7-2 Pac-12
Returning starters: 6 offense, 8 defense, 2 special teams

 

The hype behind the Trojans is on a level not seen since the Pete Carrol/Reggie Bush/Matt Lienhart era. The Trojans started out slow last season until they made switch from Max Browne to Sam Darnald and their fortunes quickly changed. Darnold is receiving looks from the NFL but his focus has to stay with the Trojans for at least another year. This team is very young and inexperienced and can’t drop the injury bug. Toa Lobendahn, Viane Talamaivao and Steven Mitchell all missed spring practice, while Porter Gustin, Deontay Burnett, Chuma Edoga and Kenny Bigelow, among others, dealt with health issues. The Trojans might be the best team in the nation but we need to see more before we jump on the hype train.

 

 

  1. Penn State

 

 

2016 record: 11-3, 8-1 Big Ten
Returning starters: 9 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams

The Nittany Lions under James Franklin have resurrected quickly and after upsetting Ohio State last season they didn’t turn back. The Nittany Lions return all but one starter on the offensive line, Saquon Barkley will contend for a ton of hardware while Trace McSorley will be the heart and soul of this team. The Big Ten just might be for the taking if they can survive their midseason stretch of Michigan (Oct 21st), Ohio State (Oct 28th) and Michigan St (Nov 4th).

 

 

  1. Clemson

 

 

2016 record: 14-1, 7-1 ACC
Returning starters: 5 offense, 7 defense, 1 special teams

Clemson climbed the mountain and slayed the evil Saban. Now the journey of being defending champions begins and unlike many defending champions, a large majority of the pieces aren’t returning so Dabo Swinney will have to rely on some new names and faces. Junior Kelly Bryant exited spring as the frontrunner to succeed Watson. A loaded front seven will take the pressure off until he is ready to lead this team.

 

 

  1. Washington

 

 

2016 record: 12-2, 8-1 Pac-12
Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense, 1 special teams

 

The Huskies have tasted success under coach Christ Petersen en route to a birth in the CFP. Jake Browning returns under center and in case you missed it, this offense is loaded. John Ross ran his way into the NFL but Dante Pettis and Chico McClatcher return, as do RBs Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman. The defense was hit hard but a viable pass rush behind Vita Vea and Greg Gaines should be enough.

 

 

  1. Oklahoma

2016 record: 11-2, 9-0 Big 12
Returning starters: 8 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams

Every year Oklahoma comes in highly touted and every year they disappoint despite the talent on the roster. The offensive line is one of the best in the country but without Biletnikoff Award winner DeDe Westbrook and backfield tandem Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine the offense will take some time to gel early. With Ohio State looming early in September the Sooners will need to get things going quickly.

 

 

  1. Oklahoma State

 

 

2016 record: 10-3, 7-2 Big 12
Returning starters: 7 offense, 6 defense, 1 special teams

QB Mason Rudolph turned the NFL and for a good reason.  LSU transfer WR Tyron Johnson joins a stacked receiving corps led by James Washington should light up the scoreboard. Don’t expect much defense from the Cowboys so shootouts galore will be the storyline week to week. Fun times in Big 12 country.

 

 

  1. Auburn

 

 

2016 record: 8-5, 5-3 SEC
Returning starters: 9 offense, 8 defense, 1 special teams

Auburn has had a ferocious defense for the last few years when healthy but the offense has been so pedestrian that we hardly notice. Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham looks to change that and coach Gus Malzahn is in full support as he allowed him to sling it around the yard in the Tigers Spring Game. Kamryn Pettway is college football's leading returning rusher, pair him with Kerryon Johnson and you have one heck of a backfield.

 

 

 

  1. Michigan

 

 

2016 record: 10-3, 7-2 Big Ten
Returning starters: 4 offense, 1 defense, 0 special teams

 

Jabrill Peppers and 10 other draftees are gone so now that the previous regimes hold overs are gone, it’s time to see if the Wolverines take a step back or take the Big Ten back from Ohio State. Former No. 1 recruit DE Rashan slides into a starting role. If incumbent starting QB Wilton Speight can improve as a passer, the Wolverines could be formidable.

 

 

  1. Wisconsin

 

 

2016 record: 11-3, 7-2 Big Ten
Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense, 1 special teams

 

The Badgers had one of the toughest schedules last season. In 2017, they avoid Ohio State and Penn State but crossover match ups against Michigan and at Nebraska will be challenging. Sophomore QB Alex Hornibrook has to improve his timing and anticipation for him to be successful. All-America tight end Troy Fumagalli will be one of Hornibrooks favorite targets and the combination of Bradrick Shaw, Chris James and Taiwan Deal should be enough to compensate for the loss of running back Corey Clement.

 

 

  1. LSU

 

 

2016 record: 8-4, 5-3 SEC
Returning starters: 7 offense, 5 defense, 1 special teams

The Ed Orgeron era begins with a bang as potential Heisman contender Derrius Guice runs behind a stout offensive line. It will be up to QB Danny Etling to take in new offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s offense. The defense should be stout if DL Arden Key gets going. While it may not be pretty in Baton Rouge, it should be effective.

 

  1. Georgia

 

 

2016 record: 8-5, 4-4 SEC
Returning starters: 7 offense, 10 defense, 2 special teams

 

The first year under Kirby Smart went about as expected. Freshman Quarterback, injuries and inconsistences on defense due to youth and injuries will drive any coach mad. Jacob Eason is a year older and further in the system and should improve. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are both healthy but the offensive line has to improve.

 

 

  1. Stanford

 

 

2016 record: 10-3, 6-3 Pac-12
Returning starters: 7 offense, 9 defense, 1 special teams

 

The formula hasn’t changed in Palo Alto. Smash mouth football with a tough offensive line will be in full effect. The cast of characters will change as Christian McCaffrey has moved on and Bryce Love is now the guy. David Shaw has his work cut out for him.

 

  1. Louisville

 

 

2016 record: 9-4, 7-1 ACC
Returning starters: 5 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams

 

The Cardinals dropped their last three games including getting shellacked by LSU in the bowl game. Former Florida Gators assistant Mike Summers is back to help with the offensive line after Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson was sacked 46 times last season. Bobby Petrino has Jackson working more under center and going through more progressions as he reads routes down the field. The defense lost CB Shaq Wiggins to transfer and that is only the beginning of the issues that plague the Cardinals porous defense.

 

  1. Kansas State

 

 

2016 record: 9-4, 6-3 Big 12
Returning starters: 8 offense, 6 defense, 2 special teams

 

Bill Snyder, who is coaching while undergoing treatment for throat cancer. Quarterback Jesse Ertz returns along with four offensive linemen, and Kansas State hosts West Virginia and Oklahoma. The schedule is set up to make a run at a Big 12 Championship

 

  1. Florida

 

 

2016 record: 9-4, 6-2 SEC
Returning starters: 9 offense, 5 defense, 2 special teams

 

Former Miami Hurricanes Head Coach takes over as the Gators Defensive Coordinator which means the Gators should have a hyper aggressive defense which it will need to make a splash when they face Michigan at Jerry World. The Offensive line will be anchored by Martez Ivey. The quarterback position has been an issue since Tim Tebow walked the halls and as the QB battle ensues, Feleipe Franks seems to have the lead on Kyle Trask but only time will tell in a battle that could go to the wire.

 

 

  1. South Florida

 

 

2016 record: 11-2, 7-1 AAC
Returning starters: 7 offense, 9 defense, 2 special teams

 

New Head Coach Charlie Strong inherits dynamic quarterback Quinton Flowers. As a junior in 2016, Flowers threw for 2,812 yards and 24 scores and accounted for 1,530 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground. The defense gave up 31.6 points per game last season but should improve with the arrival of Strong who is an expert on that side of the ball.

 

 

  1. Miami, Fla.

 

 

2016 record: 9-4, 5-3 ACC
Returning starters: 6 offense, 8 defense, 1 special teams

 

The Canes showed some promise in 2016 under Mark Richt. Now Richt will be tasked with finding a new signal caller to replace Brad Kaaya who went on to the NFL. Malik Rozier is the only one with experience and once heralded recruit Jack Allison has transferred. Freshman N’Kosi Perry may put some pressure on Rozier in summer. Whoever the quarterback is they will inherit explosive perimeter players in budding receiver and freshman All-American Ahmmon Richard and Braxton Berrios with Mark Walton in the backfield.  Nine starters return on defense that was young but productive late in the season. The baby Canes should blossom if they can get past Florida State on September 16th. Beware Canes fans, this is a work in progress.

 

  1. West Virginia

 

 

2016 record: 10-3, 7-2 Big 12
Returning starters: 4 offense, 3 defense, 2 special teams

 

The hype surrounding former Florida quarterback Will Grier who transferred to WVU a year ago is uncanny. Completing 12 of 18 passes for 202 yards, and drawing praise from coach Dana Holgorsen for his command of the offense, expect huge numbers from the offense as this could be one of the best redemption stories of the year.  One starter returns on

 

 

 

  1. Texas

 

 

2016 record: 5-7, 3-6 Big 12
Returning starters: 8 offense, 10 defense, 1 special teams

 

Tom Herman is in year one looks to energize an offense that looked pedestrian at times. Shane Buchele isn’t in the clear yet with Sam Ehlinger coming in to challenge for the position. Texas has 10 returning starters and several other contributors back in the fold. Expect a slight turn around but this process could be slower than expected.

 

 

  1. Mississippi State

 

 

2016 record: 6-7, 3-5 SEC
Returning starters:  6 offense, 4 defense, 1 special teams

 

Don’t let the record fool you. Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs are a solid team just waiting to jump on any team that is taking them too lightly. QB Nick Fitzgerald quietly led the SEC in total yards last season. He needs to improve as a passer but that will come in time. Redshirt freshman CB Cameron Dantzler emerged in the spring, joining JUCO S Brian Cole in a potentially ball-hawking secondary. JUCO DT Deion Pope could be another big addition for new coordinator Todd Grantham.

 

  1. Washington State

 

 

2016 record: 8-5, 7-2 Pac-12
Returning starters: 7 offense, 9 defense, 2 special teams

 

Luke Falk is back for another season and so is All-American G Cody O’Connell. The Cougars offense should be high flying as any Mike Leach lead team is but the question is can the defense step up and hold teams to a respectable score so that the offense isn’t in a shootout every week. We don’t know that yet so for now the Cougs need to earn their way around these parts.

 

 

  1. Boise State

 

 

2016 record: 10-3, 6-2 Mountain West
Returning starters: 5 offense, 6 defense, 0 special teams

 

Quarterback Brett Rypien entering his third season as a starter. Boise State has to replace star tailback Jeremy McNichols, who ran for 1,709 yards with 23 touchdowns last season, and his expected replacement, Alexander Mattison, missed the spring after undergoing shoulder surgery. The Broncos were looking for two new starting linebackers, and then senior Joe Martarano, the expected starter in the middle, left the team to pursue baseball. Junior college transfer Michael Young emerged as a potential starter at one of the cornerback spots.

 

Best of The Rest

Oregon

Baylor

Nebraska

Notre Dame

Michigan State

Tennessee

Utah

Texas A&M

UCLA

TCU

 

Fred Perdue, for War Room Sports

Quick Slants – 8/22/16

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

by Fred Perdue

FP

 

 

 

 

QS

The week we all have waited for. College Football returns on Aug, 27th 2016. Let’s start the week off right with the Quick Slants.

 

Alabama Responds To USC’s Jabs

Va. Tech reveals “Battle At Bristol” Uni’s

USC Names Starting QB

Bristol Speed Is Undergoing Its Transformation

Notre Dame picked the wrong time to have a hiccup. Head Coach Brian Kelly Sends A Message

Ole Miss is continuing to distance itself from its southern roots.

 

Fred Perdue for War Room Sports

Click here to check out Quick Slants, THE PODCAST!

Follow and Interact with Fred on social media @FPerdueSports

Quick Slants – 8/17/16

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

by Fred Perdue

FP

 

 

 

 

QS

Netflix Renews “Last Chance U” for second season

Pitt Panthers to rock throwback uniforms for homecoming vs Georgia Tech

Air Force reveals ‘AIRPOWER’ Sharktooth helmet

New Georgia Bulldogs grad transfer Maurice Smith is missing Tuscaloosa already.

 

Fred Perdue for War Room Sports

Click here to check out Quick Slants, THE PODCAST!

Follow and Interact with Fred on social media @FPerdueSports

Quick Slants – 8/15/16

Monday, August 15th, 2016

by Fred Perdue

FP

 

 

 

 

QS

We are just two weeks away from kickoff and things are heating up around the nation and big decisions are being made by choice or by force.

Jimbo’s decision for a starting QB just got a bit easier.

The Alabama vs Maurice Smith saga is over.

The Ali Legacy Lives On

College Football: Where Dreams Are Realized

QB’s from Netflix Series “Last Chance U” both signed at SEC Schools.

 

Fred Perdue for War Room Sports

Click here to check out Quick Slants, THE PODCAST!

Follow and Interact with Fred on social media @FPerdueSports

College Football: 2016 SEC Preview

Friday, August 12th, 2016

by Fred Perdue

FP

 

 

 

 

SEC Preview

 SEC

 

As summer camps come to a close, the hard work is about to pay off. Big time players will make big time plays in big time games. Blood, sweat and tears will be shed as the most dominate conference in the nation takes their respective fields once again. Bearing another national champion in the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2015, teams within the SEC and around the country see the losses and view it as a weakness. Florida looks to repeat as SEC Champs. LSU looks to regain its crown while Ole Miss and Tennessee look to overcome demons of the past and get to the mountain top. Let’s take a look at the toughest conference in college football today… THE SEC

Preseason Media Poll

 

Eastern Division (First-place votes in parenthesis)

School Points
Tennessee (225) 2,167
Florida (57) 1,891
Georgia (45) 1,860
Kentucky 933
Vanderbilt (2) 810
Missouri 807
South Carolina (2) 800

 

Western Division (First-place votes in parenthesis)

School Points
Alabama (246) 2,220
LSU (76) 1,984
Ole Miss (5) 1,479
Texas A&M (3) 1,130
Arkansas (1) 1,047
Auburn 890
Mississippi State 518

 

SEC Champion

School Votes
Alabama 223
LSU 59
Tennessee 29
Georgia 7
Florida 5
Ole Miss 4
Texas A&M 1
South Carolina 1
Vanderbilt 1
Arkansas 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alabama

Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Stadium: Bryant-Denny Stadium

Capacity: 101,821

Mascot: Big Al

Conference: SEC

 

Schedule:

AL

Head Coach: Nick Saban

Offensive Coordinator: Lane Kiffin

Defensive Coordinator: Jeremy Pruitt

 

2015 record 14–1 (7–1 SEC)

Returning Starters

Offense: 6

Defense: 5

 

Key Losses

Jacob Coker-QB, Kenyan Drake-RB, Richard Mullaney-WR, Ryan Kelly-C, Dominick Jackson-OT, Derrick Henry-RB, Jarran Reed-DE, Denzel Devall-DE, Dillon Lee-LB, Reggie Ragland-LB, Cyrus Jones-CB, Geno Matias-Smith-FS, A’Shawn Robinson-NG (NFL). Kirby Smart-DC (Georgia HC)

 

Offense

The Alabama Crimson Tide are the gold standard in college football. Head Coach Nick Saban guided his team to its 4th national title in the last 7 seasons. The Tide head into the 2016 season with what seems like the same question, a first year quarterback. The Tide have won their last three titles with first-year starters (McElroy, McCarron, Coker). Cooper Bateman, sophomore David Cornwell, redshirt freshman Blake Barnett, and freshman Jalen Hurts will battle for the signal caller duties. Whoever wins out will certainly have some explosive weapons to throw to. Wide Receivers Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart, and Tight End O.J. Howard emerged in a big way down the stretch of the 2015 season and look to ride that wave into the 2016 campaign. Star junior left tackle Cam Robinson will try to put away a tumultuous offseason and focus on things on the field as he leads a rebuilt offensive line with senior Alphonso Taylor anchoring the right side. Derrick Henry has moved on but in typical Crimson Tide fashion, talented running backs are plentiful. Damian Harris is a name many aren’t familiar with but is very consistent between the tackles and to add a little thunder to his lightning, Bo Scarborough, who is very similar in stature to Henry.

 

Defense

Jeremy Pruitt returns to take over a defense that may be better the previous iteration. Kirby Smart has returned home as the Head Coach of the Georgia Bulldogs but life goes on in Tuscaloosa. The scheme will stay the same. The days of lumbering slow interior defensive lineman in the 34 defense are over. The Crimson tide have opted for more athletic bodies in the trenches, which has proven to help in an ever evolving college game dominated by spread offenses.

 

In past seasons the Crimson Tide defense has lost the likes of Courtney Upshaw, Dont’a Hightower, Dre Kirkpatrick, and struggled the following season. The 2015 Alabama defense lost a host of talent in the front seven as well as a two-way player in defensive back Cyrus Jones, who was a primary return man. The 2016 iteration of the Alabama defense will more than make up for the losses on both ends. Defensive Lineman Jonathan Allen spurned the NFL to come back to handle unfinished business. Reuben Foster has waited his turn and has improved by leaps and bounds. Tallying 73 tackles last season, which was good for second, Foster has improved in pass coverage and finds his way into opposing teams’ backfields. This is Foster’s defense now and his fingerprints will be all over it by seasons end. Pass Rusher Tim Williams recorded 10.5 sacks coming off the bench in obvious passing situations. Now being thrust into a starting role, the former ESPN 300 member looks to wreak havoc on all opposing quarterbacks. Alabama boasts one of the best secondaries in the nation. With Minkah Fitzpatrick, Marlon Humphrey, Eddie Jackson and Tony Brown all coming back, teams will really find it hard to throw the ball.

 

Special Teams.

The Tide rarely have weaknesses but if any it would be their kicking game. Kicker Adam Griffith garnered second-team All-SEC honors last season after connecting on 23 of his final 28 field goal attempts, but missed four of his five field goal attempts during Alabama’s spring game in April. When the Tide seem to struggle the most is when their kickers don’t cash in. Saban and Co. will need to have this fixed before it becomes an issue.

 

Biggest Concern Heading into 2016

Many fans will point to the quarterback but 3rd down will be the biggest question mark for the Tide this season. The 2015 offense converted a mere 37% of 3rd down chances, the team hasn’t been below 40% since 2009. The Tide have to covert at a high clip to keep their eventual first year quarterback in rhythm and sustain drives.

 

 

 

 

 

LSU

Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Stadium: Tiger Stadium

Capacity: 102,321

Mascot: Mike the Tiger

Conference: SEC

 

Schedule:

LSU 

Head Coach: Les Miles

Offensive Coordinator: Dave Aranda

Defensive Coordinator: Cam Cameron

 

2015 Record: 9-3

 

Returning Starters

            Offense: 9

            Defense: 10                  

Key Losses

Vadal Alexander-OT; Jerald Hawkins-OT (NFL), Lamar Louis-SLB, Deion Jones-WLB, Jalen Mills-NB (NFL), Jamie Keehn-P

 

Offense: The Leonard Fournette Heisman campaign was in full tilt in 2015. Expect much of the same in 2016 and this time he isn’t coming alone. Sophomore Derrius Guice rushed for 436 yards last season and should give some much needed help to the Heisman hopeful. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities to see two 1,000 yard backs in Baton Rouge, behind an offensive line that didn’t lose much. With OC Cam Cameron no longer in the booth, Quarterback Brandon Harris, along with Wide Receiver duo Malachi Dupre and Travis Dural, look to give the offense a spark. Harris is the most gifted quarterback in the SEC but his talent has to meet the production at some point if the Tigers want to have College Football Playoff aspirations.

 

Defense:

The Tigers hang their hat on defense. With so many young players last season it’s amazing how they managed to be so good. With that being said, Dave Aranda will be the third defensive coordinator in the last three seasons bringing a new 3-4 defense with him. ends Arden Key and Lewis Neal will be asked to be more stand-up, outside rushers but Aranda won’t abandon the traditional hand in the dirt approach that has produced so many great defensive linemen at LSU. Aranda is preaching a more aggressive take with this defense. In the middle of this defense is Kendall Beckworth. His talents will be heavily relied upon as the linebacking corp is thin, which gives opportunities for young guys to get playing time. The defensive backfield is where LSU will be able to flex its muscle the most. Tre’Davious White returns for his senior season after leading his team in pass break ups in 2015. Jamal Adams earned second-team All-SEC honors due in large part to some big time hits and his four interceptions last season. Alongside him, Rickey Jefferson, a crafty veteran who can provide good coverage and leadership. The Tigers should be able to overcome some youth a bit better than last season with some entrenched leaders.

 

Special Teams

Trent Domingue was the primary place kicker for the Tigers going 23 for 27 in 2015. The Aussie infusion of talent has been a consistent trend. Aussie redshirt freshman Josh Growden may be tasked to replace the graduated Jamie Keehn, another Aussie who was LSU’s starting punter for the last three seasons.

 

Biggest Concern Going into 2016 Season

The struggles at quarterback have been apparent for years in Baton Rouge. Brandon Harris has to be more consistent on early downs. The Tigers’ running game will only carry them so far. Brandon Harris has to STEP UP.

 

Ole Miss

Location: Oxford, Mississippi

Stadium: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium

Capacity: 59,347

Mascot: Rebel

Conference: SEC

 

Schedule:

OM 

Head Coach: Hugh Freeze

Offensive Coordinator: Matt Luke, Dan Werner (Co-Coordinator)
Defensive Coordinator:  Jason Jones, Dave Wommack (Co-Coordinator)

 

2015 Record: 10-3

 

Returning Starters

            Offense: 6

            Defense: 5

 

Key Losses

Jaylen Walton-RB, Cody Core-WR, Aaron Morris-OG, Ben Still-C, Justin Bell-OG, Fahn Cooper-OT, Laquon Treadwell-WR (NFL), Laremy Tunsil-OT (NFL), Channing Ward-DE, Woodrow Hamilton-NT, C.J. Johnson-MLB, Denzel Nkemdiche-OLB, Trae Elston-ROV, Mike Hilton-NB, Robert Nkemdiche-DT (NFL)

 

Offense: The Rebels return the top QB in the conference in Chad Kelly. Kelly threw for 4,042 yards and 31 touchdowns while taking down eventual SEC West and National Champion Alabama. That is where the good news comes to an end. J.D. Walton, Laquaon Treadwell, and Leremy Tunsil are all gone and the Rebels, despite their strong efforts in recruiting, are in rebuild mode. They are relying on Senior Akeem Judd and junior Jordan Wilkins in the backfield, and Washington transfer Damore’ea Stringfellow and Senior tight end Evan Engram in the passing game. Superstar recruit Greg Little will be tasked with replacing Tunsil and anchoring an inexperienced offensive line. The Rebels have enough talent to not fall out of contention but it will be on Chad Kelly to keep them afloat.

 

Defense: The Rebels have to replace star defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche with pass rushers Marquis Haynes, who tied the school’s single season sack record with 10 and Fadol Brown. If Brown can become more consistent, he should be able to garner some future NFL attention along the way. Senior Issac Gross’ (who missed almost the entire 2015 season after neck surgery) rushing ability could be just what this Land Shark defense needs. The Rebels run a 4-2-5 defense, which places a lot of stress on their defensive backs. Graduate transfer Rommel Mageo and junior college transfer Detric Bing should be able to lend a hand to a defense that flew around last year. Senior Tony Conner returns at nickel back. Having to replace two starting safeties will be a tough task as well. The pass rush will be key early on until things are settled on the back end.

 

Special Teams:

Junior kicker Gary Wunderlich hit 19-of-25 field goal attempts to become the SEC’s top scorer at the position. He doubled as the team’s long-distance punter as well.  The Rebels have not produced enough big plays in the return game but could improve on what is already a solid group on kick and punt coverage.

 

Biggest Concern Going into 2016 Season:

The offensive line is in shambles due to so many departures from last season. Chad Kelly will have to make quick decisions early and the running game will have to make do with what it has.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Texas A&M

Location: College Station, Texas

Stadium: Kyle Field

Capacity: 102,512

Mascot: Reveille

Conference: SEC

 

Schedule:

TAM 

Head Coach: Kevin Sumlin

Offensive Coordinator: Noel Mazzone
Defensive Coordinator:
John Chavis

 

2015 Record: 8-5

 

Returning Starters

            Offense

            Defense

 

Key Losses

Kyle Allen-QB, Kyler Murray-QB, Tra Carson-RB, Mike Matthews-C, Joseph Cheek-OG, Taylor Bertolet-K, Germain Ifedi-OT (NFL), Julien Obioha-NG, Alonzo Williams-DT, Brandon Williams-CB, De’Vante Harris-CB, Drew Kaser-P

 

Offense:  The days of Johnny Football making miraculous plays are long gone. Both former 5-Star Quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray are both gone as well. It is up to Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight and junior Jake Hubenak. Knight won the starting job in Spring and is exactly what this offense needs, a dual threat. Christian Kirk (80 receptions for 1,009 yards and 7 touchdowns as a true freshman) headlines a talented group of receivers. Senior Josh Reynolds, an All-SEC selection two years ago, has averaged 17 yards per catch and has 18 touchdown grabs in his career at A&M. Ricky Seals-Jones looks to build on a solid sophomore year in which he had 45 catches for 560 yards. The offensive line is up and down, along with a running game that has been nonexistent for the duration of Coach Kevin Sumlin’s tenure in College Station. The pass happy approach from the Big 12 still lingers in College Station. There might not be a next year to get this right. The clock is ticking

 

Defense: This is not your father’s ‘Wrecking Crew” defense. Headlined All-America junior Myles Garrett and senior Daeshon Hall who combined for 19.5 Sacks. There isn’t a ton of experience at the second and third levels of the defense. Otaro Alaka returns after missing almost all of the 2015 season with shoulder and elbow injuries. Safeties Armani Watts and Justin Evans are as good as any tandem in the SEC. Donovan Wilson, who led the team with five interceptions, excels in his role at nickel. Stopping the run has been the issue for the Aggies since they joined the SEC and that won’t change again.

 

Special Teams

The Aggies will have to replace both kicker and punter spots. Braden Mann is a true freshman and Daniel LaCamera has yet to attempt a collegiate field goal. Shane Tripuka punted twice last year. Christian Kirk and Speedy Noil are entrenched as return men with ALL-SEC honors attached to their names. No worries there.

 

Biggest Concern Going into 2016 Season

Kevin Sumlin has set an unrealistic bar of excellence since taking over in college station. The Johnny Manziel Era was one of the best in college football history. Welcome back to reality in Aggie Land. Sumlin is starting to feel the heat and its only going to get hotter with expectations through the roof. The inability to sustain drives with a running game as well and the inability to stop the run will ultimately be the demise of this team, if these issues aren’t addressed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arkansas

Location: Fayetteville, Arkansas

Stadium: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium

Capacity: 72,000 (expandable to 80,000)

Mascot: Tusk III

Conference: SEC

 

Schedule:

AR

 

 

 

Head Coach: Bret Bielema

Offensive Coordinator Dan Enos

Defensive Coordinator Rob Smith

 

2015 Record: 8-5

 

Returning Starters

            Offense: 5

            Defense: 9

 

Key Losses: Brandon Allen-QB, Sebastian Tretola-OG, Mitch Smothers-C, Jonathan Williams-RB, Hunter Henry-TE (NFL), Denver Kirkland-OT (NFL), Alex Collins-RB (NFL), DeMarcus Hodge-DT, Rohan Gaines-SS

 

Offense: Junior Austin Allen, the younger brother of three-year starter Brandon Allen takes over at quarterback. The Razorbacks have to replace two very talent running backs and the first tight end drafted in 2016 NFL Draft. With the insertion of the younger Allen, expect another heavy dose of the running game with caries split among Kody Walker, who suffered a broken foot midway through spring drills, Rawleigh Williams, who is coming off neck surgery, Damon Mitchell, and possibly blue-chip signee Devwah Whaley.


 

Keon Hatcher is back, along with fellow seniors Drew Morgan, Dominique Reed and Cody Hollister. Morgan, who blossomed with 10 TD catches, is coming off shoulder surgery. Reed’s speed and agility add an extra dimension. Jared Cornelius is a quality slot receiver. Jeremy Sprinkle takes over at tight end.

 

The bread and butter of this offense is the offensive line. While having to patch things up with converted defensive tackle Hjalte Froholdt playing left guard, while Brian Wallace and Colton Jackson could be the other two starters.

 

Defense:

In 2015 the hogs defense ranked 58th overall, struggling to slow spread offenses and giving up a bevy of big pass plays. This time around Jeremiah Ledbetter moved from end to tackle to provide an agile, explosive interior presence, and Taiwan Johnson is back at nose. The secondary is where the most improvement is needed. DB coach Paul Rhoads does get back Several veterans including cornerbacks Jared Collins, D.J. Dean, and Henre’ Toliver, safety Josh Liddell and versatile Kevin Richardson. Santos Ramirez and De’Andre Coley are big hitters at strong safety.

 

Special Teams:

This group struggled mightily with multiple kicks blocked, costing them game after game. Punter Toby Baker is primed for a big season after averaging 41.2 yards per punt in his first year as a starter. Cole Hedlund has to get better lift on his kicks after 9-of-15 on field goals.

 

Biggest Concern Going into 2016 Season

The Hogs have to learn to finish or they will continue to be middle of the pack or bottom feeders. It’s as plain and simple as that.

 

Auburn

Location: Auburn, Alabama

Stadium: Jordan-Hare Stadium

Capacity: 87,451

Mascot: Aubie

Conference: SEC

 

Schedule:

AU 

Head Coach: Gus Malzahn

Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee
Defensive Coordinator:
Kevin Steele

 

2015 Record: 7-6

 

Returning Starters

            Offense: 6

            Defense: 6

 

Key Losses

Ricardo Louis-WR, Melvin Ray-WR, Shon Coleman-OT (NFL), Peyton Barber-RB (NFL), Avery Young-OT (NFL), DaVonte Lambert-DE, Cassanova McKinzy-BUCK, Kris Frost-LB, Justin Garrett-LB, Jonathan Jones-CB, Blake Countess-S

 

Offense: Jeremy Johnson had the most disappointing season any quarterback could have had in a long time. With Auburn pre-ordained as the sleeper national champion and expected to set records for offensive production, that all came to a halt after a couple weeks in 2015. Johnson looked lost and his back up Sean White didn’t look any better. JUCO transfer John Franklin III could prove to be the answer to its issues thanks to his speed in the zone-read attack. Peyton Barber took off for the NFL and Roc Thomas decided to transfer. It will be up to former five star running back Kerryon Johnson to carry the load after Jovon Robinson was recently dismissed. Johnson has big-time play ability and should be featured in the offense.  The offensive line was simply okay while the receivers do lose two solid players in Ricardo Louis and Melvin Ray but should be fine if the quarterback position can improve, and it should, or the Tigers are doomed.

Defense

Kevin Steele has a monster on his hands. With Carl Lawson, Montravious Adams, Carlton Davis, and a host of others returning, the defense will be able to carry this team. The pass rush gets an early season test as they face DeShaun Watson & Co. Tre’ Williams and Illinois graduate transfer T.J. Neal lead a thin linebacker corp that loses 601 career tackles. If the pass rushers can harass quarterbacks early, this defense could be scary.

 

Special Teams

Daniel Carlson has a big leg and showed it off last year with a 50-yard bomb. Returning for another year should keep points on the board. Kevin Phillips emerged a weapon last year with a whopping 41.0-yard average, 17 inside the 20-yard line. Being able to flip the field and give opposing offenses long drives could be paramount to a dominant defense that will need to carry a struggling offense.

 

Biggest Concern Going into 2016 Season

It seems to be a recurring theme but the quarterback position has to be addressed or it won’t matter how good this defense is, the Tigers will crash and burn again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mississippi State

Location: Starkville, Mississippi

Stadium: Davis Wade Stadium

Capacity: 61,337

Mascot: Bully

Conference: SEC

 

Schedule

 MS

Head Coach: Dan Mullen

Offensive Coordinator: Billy Gonzales, John Hevesy
Defensive Coordinator: Peter Sirmon

 

2015 Record: 9-4

 

Returning Starters

            Offense: 7

            Defense: 6

 

Key Losses

Dak Prescott-QB, Darrion Hutcherson-TE, Rufus Warren-OT, Justin Malone-OG, De’Runnya Wilson-WR (NFL), Ryan Brown-DE, Zach Jackson-LB, Will Redmond-CB, Taveze Calhoun-CB, Kendrick Market-SS, Beniquez Brown-LB (NFL), Chris Jones-DT (NFL)

 

Offense:

The Bulldogs have to replace a school legend in Dak Prescott who set record after record after record. Whether it is Redshirt sophomore Nick Fitzgerald, Brandon Holloway, Aeris Williams, or Ashton Shumpert, don’t be surprised if it’s another season in which the Bulldogs’ leading rusher is their quarterback. Fred Ross had 88 catches for 1,007 yards as a junior, leading a group that includes deep threat Donald Gray and slot options Gabe Myles and Malik Dear.

The offensive line gave up 32 sacks (including 9 vs Alabama) in 2015; three starters return from that porous unit that will need to protect a first year starter.

Defense:

New Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmon from USC has brought in a new 3-4 defense and looks to take advantage of Defensive end A.J. Jefferson, who led the way last season, recording 13.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks as a junior. Linebacker Richie Brown turned down the NFL in order to stay for his senior year. A top-five tackler in the SEC, Brown will stop the run and rack up a ton of tackles. Will Coleman is a former defensive end, but he’s been moved to a hybrid role in the 3-4 look — as the Viper, Coleman will often stand up at the line of scrimmage and could rush the passer or drop back into coverage. But Brandon Bryant is the star in this defense. With three interceptions and 63 tackles as a redshirt freshman, he is a prototypical ball-hawking safety that can also play the run. Look for a lot of plays to be made this season.

 

 

Special Teams

Both Punter Logan Cooke and kicker Westin Graves are solid. Fred Ross is sure-handed on punts and can get a few yards when given the opportunity.

 

Biggest Concern Going into 2016 Season

Finding a quarterback is going to be tough. Dan Mullen will need to decide quickly. Replacing a legend is never easy but it’s time to move on in a hurry.

 

Tennessee

Location: Knoxville, Tennessee

Stadium: Neyland Stadium

Capacity: 102,455

Mascot: Smokey

Conference: SEC

 

Schedule:

TN

 

 

 

Head Coach: Butch Jones

Offensive Coordinator: Mike DeBord

Defensive Coordinator: Bob Shoop

2015 Record: 9-4

 

Returning Starters

Offense: 10

Defense: 8

 

Key Losses

Von Pearson-WR, Kyler Kerbyson-OT, Mack Crowder-OG, Marquez North-WR (NFL), Owen Williams-DT, Curt Maggitt-DE, LaDarrell McNeil-SS, Brian Randolph-FS

 

Offense:  The Vols offense keeps knocking on the door year in and year out, of being a threat to dethrone the Gators and Bulldogs as consistent winners in the east. Starting isn’t the problem. The Vols have to finish when it matters. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs and standout running backs Alvin Kamara and Jalen Hurd are the stars of the best rushing attack in the SEC. Dobbs will need to develop more as a passer to take the Vols from being a contender to a championship caliber team. Hurd is only 892 yards away from being the all-time leading rusher in school history, while Kamara, the former Alabama transfer is proving he is an SEC-Caliber back, carving out his own role on an explosive roster filled with playmakers. Veteran wide receivers  Josh Smith and Josh Malone look to be more consistent while gaining chemistry with Dobbs in the passing attack that needs a lot of work.

The offensive line returns four starters, with Guard Jashon Robertson anchoring the Vols up front, if he’s healthy.

 

Defense: New defensive coordinator Bob Shoop inherits a talented defense on all three levels. Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin is described by head coach Butch Jones as the “Heart and Soul” of the Vols defense. Reeves-Maybin is joined by Darrin Kirkland Jr., forming one of the top linebacker tandems in the league.

 

The defensive line is where depth will become an issue. While Derek Barnett has emerged as one of the best pass rushers in the conference, the interior is light despite the mammoth that is 6’3″, 344-pound tackle Kahlil McKenzie. The Vols face run heavy teams in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina in the East to get where they want to eventually end up.

 

The secondary features Cameron Sutton, who came back for a crack at an SEC Title. Safety will need to be addressed.

 

Special Teams: Evan Berry is a threat to take every kickoff to the house and finished a fraction of a yard away from breaking the NCAA’s all-time single-season record for return average. Cam Sutton was just as dangerous on punt returns. Trevor Daniel was a pleasant surprise at punter. He can flip the field and be a coach’s best friend, with a defense as talented as this.

 

Biggest Concern Going into 2016 Season: The Vols have not been able to finish in the Butch Jones era. Is this the year or will they succumb to the same fate?

 

 

 

 

Florida

Location: Gainesville, Florida

Stadium: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

Capacity: 88,548

Mascot: Albert E. Gator

Conference: SEC

 

Schedule

FL 

 

Head Coach: Jim McElwain

Offensive Coordinator: Doug Nussmeier

Defensive Coordinator: Geoff Collins

2015 Record: 10-4

 

Returning Starters

Offense: 6

Defense: 7

 

Key Losses Jake McGee-TE, Trip Thurman-OG, Mason Halter-OT, Will Grier-QB, Demarcus Robinson-WR (NFL), Kelvin Taylor-RB (NFL), Jon Bullard-DE, Antonio Morrison-MLB, Brian Poole-CB, Vernon Hargreaves-CB (NFL), Alex McCalister-DE (NFL), Keanu Neal-S (NFL)

 

Offense: Florida Gators had five different starting quarterbacks, three offensive coordinators, and some of the nation’s least-productive attacks in the Will Muschamp era. Jim McElwain was brought in to infuse some life into a once high-powered Gators offense. For the first few weeks of the season, under then quarterback Will Grier, The Gators seemed to be back to their old ways, even dropping a staggering 38 points on then SEC West leader Ole Miss. Grier was subsequently suspended by the NCAA for using PED’s and the Gators offense fell apart under Treon Harris. McElwain will be breaking in their now 9th quarterback since Tim Tebow’s final season, in 2009, Luke Del Rio, son of Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio.

 

Jim McElwain based his success in previous stops at Alabama and Colorado St. on a tough, physical rushing attack. Jordan Scarlett should emerge as the leader in the backfield. Keep an eye on JUCO transfer Mark Thompson who is a thumper that can make even the most physical linebacker quiver.

Explosive Receiver Antonio Callaway is a playmaker. Averaging 17.6 yards per catch, reaching the end zone six times in 2015, was a good start but he has to stay out of trouble off the field and continue to improve on the field.

Defense:  The Gators ranked fourth in the SEC in both total defense and scoring defense in 2015. Carrying an abysmal Gators offense took a toll late in the season as they gave up 503 yards to Michigan during a 41–7 Citrus Bowl drubbing.

 

The Gators boast one of the top secondaries in the nation, featuring All-SEC cornerback Jalen Tabor, Junior cornerback Quincy Wilson, and senior safety Marcus Maye.

 

Defensive tackle Caleb Brantley, Defensive end Cece Jefferson, and Senior end Bryan Cox Jr. should be able to put pressure on quarterbacks while being equally effective against the run. With young talented ends Keivonnis Davis and Jabari Zuniga, the depth is there for a deep rotation.

 

Special Teams: Eddy Pineiro, best known for kicking a 77-yard field goal on YouTube replaces the poor play of Austin Hardin. Punter Johnny Townsend is among the nation’s best and averaged 45.4 yards per kick in 2015.

 

Biggest Concern Going into 2016 Season: When the Gators solidify their quarterback position everything will fall into place. Luke Del Rio is the starter for now but if he falters expect to see Purdue transfer Austin Appleby.

 

Georgia

 

Location: Athens, Georgia

Stadium: Sanford Stadium

Capacity: 92,746

Mascot: Uga & Hairy Dawg

Conference: SEC

 

Schedule:

 GA

Head Coach: Kirby Smart

Offensive Coordinator: Jim Chaney

Defensive Coordinator: Mel Tucker

 

2015 Record: 10–3

 

Returning Starters

Offense: 8

Defense: 6

 

 

Key Losses: Greyson Lambert-QB, Quayvon Hicks-FB, Malcolm Mitchell-WR, John Theus-OT, Kolton Houston-OT, Marshall Morgan-K, Keith Marshall-RB (NFL), Sterling Bailey-DE, James DeLoach-DE, Chris Mayes-NT, Jordan Jenkins-JACK, Jake Ganus-MLB, Collin Barber-P, Leonard Floyd-SLB (NFL)

 

Offense: Mark Richt had fifteen successful years in Athens but competing for or winning SEC Championships was not enough for the Bulldog faithful and a change was made. Georgia welcomes home Kirby Smart, a former player to take the reins. The Dawgs offense was riddled with injuries in 2015. The passing game ranked 83rd in the nation and after running back Nick Chubb went down with a gruesome knee injury the offense just seemed to sputter. QB guru Jim Chaney was brought in to develop five-star freshman Jacob Eason, who is expected to battle for the starting slot. Don’t rule out junior Brice Ramsey and his strong arm though. Offensive line coach Sam Pittman was pried away from Arkansas, even if it was at a steep price of a three-year contract at $650,000 per season.

 

The question on every Bulldog fan’s mind is how will star running back Nick Chubb look after returning from torn ACL in 2015? Backup Sony Michel (who rushed for more than 1,000 yards despite starting only six games last year) returns, but after breaking his arm in an offseason ATV accident don’t expect to see him early on. That leaves stalwart backup Brendan Douglas, who stepped in after Todd Gurley went down a few years ago. This is familiar territory for him.

 

Terry Goodwin and Isaiah McKenzie are speedsters at wide receiver, with the latter being one of the most explosive return men in the nation.

 

Defense: Former defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt did not leave the cupboard bare in Athens. The Bulldogs had the best pass defense in the nation, statistically. Those stats were a little deceiving, due to a weak schedule that included facing two triple option offenses. Alabama, a predominantly run based offense, seemed to pick them apart. Safety Dominick Sanders was first-team All-SEC and anchors a very talented group.

 

Special Teams: Isaiah McKenzie is a speedster, don’t blink or you will miss him. In just two seasons he has already tied Georgia’s school record for return touchdowns and punt return touchdowns. Marshall Long was signed to be the punter. The placekicking job will be occupied by a walk-on. Close games could yield mixed results.

 

Biggest Concern Going into 2016 Season: The running theme in the conference is quarterback play and it continues here. The battle between eventual first year starter Brice Ramsey or Freshman Jacob Eason is going to be a battle that Kirby Smart will have to choose wisely.

 

 

Kentucky
Location: Lexington, Kentucky

Stadium: Commonwealth Stadium

Capacity: 61,000

Mascot: Blue, Scratch and The Wildcat

Conference: SEC

 

Schedule:

KY

 

Head Coach: Mark Stoops,

Offensive Coordinator: Eddie Gran, Darrin Hinshaw

Defensive Coordinator: D.J. Eliot

 

2015 Record: 5–7

 

Returning Starters

Offense: 9

Defense: 4

 

Key Losses

LB Josh Forrest, DT C.J. Johnson, LT Jordan Swindle, LB Jason Hatcher, QB Patrick Towles, S A.J. Stamps

 

Offense: The Wildcats are breaking in their third Offensive Coordinator in three years. There is a renewed sense of optimism with new co-coordinators Eddie Gran and Darrin Hinshaw from Cincinnati.

 

Quarterback Patrick Towles lost the job to Drew Barker late despite a subpar performance completing 50 percent of his passes (35-of- 70) for 364 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions in 2015. He will have to improve on his production if he wants to keep the job.

 

junior All-SEC contender Boom Williams, senior Jojo Kemp and sophomore Mikel Horton give the Wildcats a three headed monster at running back which should help take the pressure of Barker early on.

 

Senior center Jon Toth anchors an offensive line that returns four of five starters but needs to improve in obvious passing situations after ranking 85th nationally in sacks allowed (30 Sacks allowed) last season.

 

Defense: Let’s start with the good. The strength of the defense is the secondary, led by SEC All-Freshman corner Chris Westry. Seniors Blake McClain, Marcus McWilson and J.D. Harmon.

The rest of the defense will be a struggle as they only return just one full-time starter in the front seven. Sophomore Outside Linebackers Denzil Ware and Josh Allen will have to pick up the slack after the offseason dismissal of senior outside linebacker Jason Hatcher. A pair of FBS transfers will have to be enough to patch the porous defense for now until the younger players catch up.

 

Special Teams: UK’s return game has added little excitement in the Stoops era, but Sihiem King showed potential on kickoffs.

 

Biggest Concern Going into 2016 Season: Late game collapses on offense have to come to an end. The offense will have to carry the team after so much turnover on defense.

 

Vanderbilt

 

Location: Nashville, Tennessee

Stadium: Vanderbilt Stadium

Capacity: 40,550

Mascot: Mr. Commodore

Conference: SEC

 

 

Schedule:

 VA

Head Coach: Derek Mason

Offensive Coordinator: Andy Ludwig

Defensive Coordinator: Derek Mason

 

2015 Record: 4–8

 

Returning Starters

Offense: 8

Defense: 8

 

Key Losses

Steven Scheu-TE, Jake Bernstein-OG, Spencer Pulley-C, Caleb Azubike-DE, Darreon Herring-ILB, Andrew Williamson-SS, Jahmel McIntosh-FS, Stephen Weatherly-OLB (NFL)

 

Offense: Kyle Shurmur returns as the presumed 2016 starter to an offense that averaged just 327 yards and 15.2 points per game, and scoring more than 17 points just three times. The youth movement should pay off and it can’t get any worse… or can it?

 

Ralph Webb followed a 907-yard freshman season with 1,152 yards as a sophomore — the second-highest single-season total in school history. Webb will be the heavily relied on due to the lack of outside weapons.

 

The 2015 team converted just 21-of-33 of their opportunities inside the 20, with just six field goals and with five of the 15 touchdowns coming against Austin Peay. If the Commodores want to not only keep Mason off the hot seat but also move up the SEC EAST food chain, they have to do better.

 

 

Defense: Head coach Derek Mason took over the defense and results were almost instantly productive. With an offense that gave the team virtually nothing, it’s going to be important for the defense to hold teams all season long.

 

Zach Cunningham and Nigel Bowden should dominate against the run, while Nehemiah Mitchell can work on the end or at linebacker as a hybrid type player.

 

You won’t catch the front seven blowing up the run or posting massive sack numbers, but a smart veteran group of upperclassmen won’t make a whole slew of mistakes.

Torren McGaster is among the best in the SEC – and wit Oren Burks a solid safety who can pop against the run.

 

Special Teams: Improvement in the return game is key. Opponents averaged 15.1 yards per punt return to Vanderbilt’s 6.5 yards per return. Good field position can impact any game and give an anemic offense a shot in the arm.

 

Biggest Concern Going into 2016 Season

The offense has to improve as a whole and quickly. In a rough and rugged SEC with high powered physical offenses Derek Mason can’t expect his defense to hold teams to under 14 to 17 points every game.

 

 

Missouri

Location: Columbia, Missouri

Stadium: Faurot Field

Capacity: 71,168

Mascot: Truman the Tiger

Conference: SEC

 

Schedule:

MISS 

Head Coach: Barry Odom

Offensive Coordinator: Josh Heupel

Defensive Coordinator: DeMontie Cross, Ryan Walters

 

2015 Record: ‎5–7

 

Returning Starters

Offense: 5

Defense: 8

 

Key Losses

 

Offense: Missouri was the epitome of bad in 2015. Finishing second to last in in the nation averaging just 13.6 points per game and failing to score more than eight points in five of the last seven games. Combine that with issues at quarterback and injuries, and off-field distractions, the 2016 couldn’t come soon enough.

 

Former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel looks to bring his up-tempo attack that gets the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly to a plethora of weapons while stressing the defense in a short and intermediate passing game. Drew Lock is that quarterback, and he’s built for the job. But he needs the weapons around him to work.

 

The top two returning producers combining for just 56 catches for 676 yards and seven scores. This group has to step up.

 

 

 

Defense: The offensive woes of 2015 were overshadowed by a nasty defense that could get after opposing quarterbacks. Ends Charles Harris and Walter Brady, and tackles Josh Augusta, Rickey Hatley and Terry Beckner Jr., were stalwarts.

 

Cornerback Aarion Penton and safety Anthony Sherrils combined for 8.5 tackles for a loss, 14 passes defensed, and two forced fumbles last season, and look to continue the trend.

 

Barry Odom has the pieces in place to show multiple 3-4 and 4-3 fronts and with the consistency on the back end, the defense should be the least of his worries.

 

Special Teams: Punter Corey Fatony averaged 42.9 yards per kick last year, but the Tigers must replace longtime placekicker Andrew Baggett. The return game was one of the worst in the nation. Improvement has to come at some point.

 

Biggest Concern Heading into 2016: Weapons for QB Drew Lock have to emerge or it will be another long year for an already struggling offense.

 

South Carolina
Location: Columbia, South Carolina

Stadium: Williams-Brice Stadium

Capacity: 80,250

Mascot: Cocky

Conference: SEC

 

Schedule:

SCar 

Head Coach: Will Muschamp

Offensive Coordinator: Bryan Mcclendon, Kurt Roper

Defensive Coordinator: Travaris Robinson

2015 Record: 3–9

 

Returning Starters

Offense: 5

Defense: 8

 

Key Losses

WR-Pharoh Cooper (NFL), QB Connor Mitch (Transfer)

 

Offense: Pharoh Cooper left for the NFL and took the Gamecocks offense with him. Quarterback Connor Mitch has transferred as well, leaving Will Muschamp scrambling to not only find a signal caller but also dynamic perimeter weapons. At the start of spring, the Gamecocks listed five scholarship quarterbacks. Perry Orth (collarbone) and sophomore Lorenzo Nunez (knee) were unable to complete spring practice due to injuries, Freshman Brandon McIlwain emerged ahead of Michael Scarnecchia.

 

Junior tailback David Williams finally has emerged as the team’s starter while Sophomore Deebo Samuel, who is explosive, is the only proven playmaker at wide receiver. Tight ends Hayden Hurst and Kevin Crosby should be able to pick up the slack for the lack of playmakers on the outside. This offense is in the worst way right now. Recruiting over the next few seasons will be the only solution.

 

Defense: Linebacker Skai Moore was the most dynamic player for the Gamecocks defense. Moore was ruled out for the 2016 season due to offseason neck surgery. Ranking 99th in the nation in sacks with 20 and 102nd in tackles for a loss with 64 last year, this defense can’t go anywhere else but up.

 

Muschamp employs a “Buck” position that is a hybrid Defensive End/Linebacker, that sophomore Boosie Whitlow should fit well. Pressure on the quarterback is key in this defense. Muschamp doesn’t like to bring more rushers than he has to.

 

 

Special Teams: Senior Elliott Fry, a former walk-on, will handle field goals and extra points for the fourth consecutive year. Senior Sean Kelly will be the punter, and senior Drew Williams will be the long-snapper. The return game is where the issues arise. Deebo Samuels may have to be a multifaceted talent this year just to spark a nonexistent offense.

 

Biggest Concern Going into 2016 Season: Expectations are going to be through the roof following the Spurrier era. Fans will have to temper their expectations. A 4-8 or 7-6 season is very realistic based on the talent level or lack thereof on this team. Patience folks…. Patience.

 

Fred Perdue for War Room Sports

Follow and Interact with Fred on social media @FPerdueSports

 

 

 

The Weatherman, SAT Scores, and High School Athlete Recruit Ratings

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

(Image via HookemReport.com)

(Image via HookemReport.com)

What does the weatherman, SAT scores, and high school athlete recruit ratings have in common?  As a society we place way too much emphasis on them all as reliable predictors of the future.

The best recent example of this for high school athletes would be the University of Texas.  It was in the [college football] National Title game after the 2009 season, falling to Alabama.  Its 2010 and 2011 recruitment classes were rated top five by the various rating agencies.  Scout.com rated its 2012 class as number 1.  And yet, in spite of having one of the two largest athletic budgets in the nation (Ohio State being the other), over the past five years since their title game appearance their record is 36-28.  To top that, all those 5 star recruits were so good, in the 2014 NFL draft, not one of them was picked.

These agencies are not alone in their failure.  Standard and Poors embellished stocks infected with toxic mortgages, which help contribute to the financial collapse.  Used car salesmen dump lemons from time to time.  The difference is this.  S&P is paying a $1.5 billion dollar fine for being wrong.  Used car salesmen get fired if they are found to have misrepresented a vehicle’s worth or history.

What the hell happens to these cockroaches?

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports