ABCs Of The Southeastern Conference
As a parent of a toddler, the ABCs have become a part of my daily life. Every night before my son goes to bed, we read a book that goes through the alphabet, equating each letter with a word.
With that thought in mind, I figured I could translate that into the Southeastern Conference as sort of a preview of what is to come this year. So, just as I do with my son every night, let's go through our ABCs, only this time let's talk about the Southeastern Conference.
A — Amari
Amari Cooper is going to be the go-to receiver at Alabama. Last year, injuries prevented him from being as productive as he was as a freshman. Still, 1,736 receiving yards in two seasons is not anything to sneeze at.
B — Bye Bye Jadeveon
Jadeveon Clowney is no longer with South Carolina. How will this affect the Gamecocks' defense? South Carolina has a decent crop of returning starters, but everything is changed with Clowney now playing in the NFL.
C — College Football Playoff
It's a new season and the BCS is gone. With a four-team playoff now determining the national champion, the question is, would an undefeated and a one-loss SEC team take two of the spots in the four-team playoff. Last year, Alabama most certainly would have taken a spot alongside Auburn. If the same holds true this season, expect to see two SEC teams fighting it out for the national title.
D — Davis
The Gamecocks' Mike Davis is the third of three in the top tier of running backs in the SEC. Some people think he has what it takes to be a Heisman Trophy contender. With Connor Shaw now gone from South Carolina, there won't be many called runs for Dylan Thompson. That just means Davis will get the rock a little more and his statistics could benefit from it.
E — Eastern Division
It's been six years since the SEC East could claim one of its teams as the conference champion. South Carolina and Georgia will look to make strong cases this season to do just that.
F — Fournette
Everyone at LSU is dying to see what the top recruit from the class of 2014 can do. Leonard Fournette has a lot of expectations on him coming into the SEC. Will he live up to the hype?
G — Gurley
If he is healthy, Todd Gurley is not only one of the top running backs in college football, but he's also one of the top overall players in college football. Although Georgia coaches have faith in quarterback Hutson Mason, Gurley is still going to be depended on to get Georgia's running game going.
H — Hargreaves
Vernon Hargreaves III is one of the reasons why Florida's defense is so good. His shutdown abilities at cornerback make quarterbacks think twice about throwing in his direction. Oh yeah, he's also just a sophomore. Hargreaves' ability on the outside is what allows Florida's defensive line the time to get pressure. Now, only if the Gators' offense can catch up.
I — Indiana
Missouri lost a lot from last year's team that won the SEC East. However, head coach Gary Pinkle thinks the Tigers have what it takes to win the SEC. With games against South Dakota State, Toledo and Central Florida to begin the season, everyone fully expects Missouri to be 3-0 when it heads into a matchup with Indiana. Although Indiana isn't considered a very strong team, if Missouri struggles in that game, it could be a sign of things to come in 2014.
J — Jerry's World
That's the end goal. Teams in the SEC are playing for the chance to play at Cowboys Stadium in the national championship game. That's what all of the practices are being used to work towards.
K — Kiffin
What is the dynamic going to be like in Tuscaloosa between Lane Kiffin and Nick Saban? Kiffin had his struggles at USC, but that was due in part to the the Trojans' sanctions. Now, he takes over an Alabama offense that will be without A.J. McCarron. Still, a good running game, offensive line and receiving corps should help him break in a new quarterback.
L — Lewis
Like his quarterback, Jameon Lewis doesn't get much respect at Mississippi State. However, Lewis is a legitimate threat out wide after catching 64 passes for 923 yards and five touchdowns last year. Look for more balls to come his way and Lewis to easily be over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014.
M — Mitchell
Malcolm Mitchell is a huge part of the Georgia Bulldogs' offense. However, he can't seem to stay healthy long enough to make an impact on the field. Last season, he was injured after celebrating Georgia's first touchdown against Clemson on a long run by Todd Gurley. This year, he's already dealt with minor injuries in fall practice. Can he stay healthy enough to stay on the field?
N — Nkemdiche
Robert Nkemdiche is no longer a freshman. The one thing we learned about the former No. 1 recruit in the nation is that he has a motor like none other. That's a good thing considering that 2014 is the year where Ole Miss has the chance to sneak in and win the SEC West. But the Rebels won't do it without Nkemdiche being a first-team All-SEC performer.
O — Ogbuehi
Will Texas A&M have another top offensive tackle prospect for the NFL Draft this year? It will mark the third straight year that it has happened for the Aggies. Cedric Ogbuehi is a mammoth on the line and doesn't have any intentions of letting opposing defensive ends get near his quarterback.
P — Prescott
Dak Prescott doesn't get a lot of national attention at Mississippi State, but he has a legitimate shot at being the top quarterback in the SEC. Sure, Nick Marshall is going to get all of the glory since Auburn was in the national title game last year, but Prescott is a better overall quarterback.
Q — Quarterbacks
There are a lot of new quarterbacks that will be first-time starters on the college level. Among the schools with new full-time starters are Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M. In a year where the SEC is as wide open as it has ever been, the quarterback that manages his games the best could be the one that comes out on top.
R — Read-Option
Auburn had a lot of success running the read-option last season with Nick Marshall and Tre Mason. However, Mason is gone to the NFL and nobody can reasonably expect for the Tigers to have the same kind of good fortune they did last year. With another year to prepare for it, will SEC defenses know how to stop it?
S — SEC Network
That's right, the SEC Network is finally here and will be broadcasting multiple games this season. It will all start on Aug. 28 when Texas A&M takes on South Carolina, which is a great game to kick off the network's coverage.
T — Treadwell
Laquon Treadwell is easily one of the most explosive players in all of college football. When he's out in space, he can do things that only a few others can do. Last season, Treadwell finished with 72 catches for 608 yards and five touchdowns...and he was just a freshman. Imagine what he's going to do in his second season.
U — Uniforms
Unlike the rest of the college football world, the SEC doesn't do too much experimenting with snazzy uniforms. Some love that, while others hate it. Fact is, the SEC has a lot of tradition behind its uniforms and it's hard to see that changing.
V — Vanderbilt
For the first time in school history, Vanderbilt beat Florida, Georgia and Tennessee all in the same season last year. However, after James Franklin left for Penn State, the Commodores find themselves rebuilding following a few successful seasons. Their crossover games are against both Mississippi teams, which doesn't bode well for Vandy. Don't be surprised if Vandy's only win in the SEC is against Kentucky this season.
W — White
Tre'Davious White is one of the better corners in the SEC, but doesn't get a lot of recognition. He finished with nine passes defended last year for LSU and continues to show his skills in man-to-man coverage. LSU's defense is going to need him to make those same kind of plays this season if it is to have any hope of having a top defense once again.
X — Xerothermic
When North Carolina traveled to South Carolina for the opening game of the season, there was a huge problem with cramping for players. This year, it's expected to be hot again when Texas A&M travels to South Carolina to open the season. I hope they're hydrating better this time around.
Y — Yeldon
If it weren't for Todd Gurley, T.J. Yeldon would be considered the best running back in the conference. Yeldon, will be looked upon to provide experience for Alabama's offense. With an inexperienced quarterback set to take the helm, Alabama is going to depend on its running game to get things going early in the season.
Z — Zook
Okay, so Ron Zook is no longer in the SEC, but the calls for his firing after an eight-win season are still in the forefront of those in Gainesville. So, how is it that after a four-win season Will Muschamp is still at the helm of the Gators? If the Gators struggle again this year, expect Muschamp to be on his way out the door, just like Zook.