SEC Football Preview

The SEC conference will be loaded once again while maintaining their stranglehold atop the college football landscape.

Josh Helmuthby Josh Helmuth

SEC teams have all but cemented one automatic bid into the National Championship game several years in a row — winning six straight — while everyone battles for second place. 2012 could be no different.

Outlook

WEST

  1. LSU
  2. Alabama
  3. Arkansas
  4. Mississippi State
  5. Auburn
  6. Texas A&M
  7. Ole Miss

EAST

  1. Georgia
  2. South Carolina
  3. Florida
  4. Missouri
  5. Tennessee
  6. Vanderbilt
  7. Kentucky

Expansion was the big news in the SEC this off season.  Texas A&M and Missouri were the first new teams to join the conference since South Carolina and Arkansas joined way back in 1992.  You might think that the Aggies and Tigers are set to struggle, but expect them both to transition without many problems; especially Missouri, who’s head coach, Gary Pinkel, consistently gets the very most out of his teams. 

Georgia and LSU should battle it out for both the SEC title and possibly national title as well, while Alabama and South Carolina, both hit very hard by losses on defense to the NFL and graduation, should be nipping right at their heels.  Tennessee and Arkansas both have dynamic, explosive offenses and may have to rely on winning shootouts to stay afloat.  The Vols and Razorbacks both had very large, abrupt personnel or player losses that may affect their play this season.  For Tennessee it was star wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers and for Arkansas, head coach Bobby Petrino.  Unlike the Tyrann Mathieu situation at LSU, the Volunteers do not have the depth to lose playmakers and survive in such a difficult conference. 

Will Muschamp and the Florida Gators may pull off a shocker or two. And the same can be said for 2010/2011 National Champions Auburn, who are definitely no easy-out in SEC play.  Finally, Kentucky and Ole Miss are decent teams, but just do not possess the talent to pull off many wins in a conference of the SEC’s caliber.

 

All-SEC Offense:

QB – Tyler Wilson, Arkansas

RB – Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina

RB – Knile Davis, Arkansas

WR – Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas

WR – Justin Hunter, Tennessee

TE – Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn

OL – Alex Hurst, LSU

OL – Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

OL – Larry Warford, Kentucky

OL – Alvin Bailey, Arkansas

OL – Barrett Jones, Alabama

KR – Andre Debose, Florida

 

All-SEC Defense:

 

DL – Sam Montgomery, LSU

DL – Anthony Johnson, LSU

DL – John Jenkins, Georgia

DL – Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

LB – Jarvis Jones, Georgia

LB – CJ Mosley, Alabama

LB – Jonathan Bostic, Florida

DB – Dee Milliner, Alabama

DB – Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State

DB – Bacarri Rambo, Georgia

DB – Eric Reid, LSU

PR – Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State

 

Best Offensive Player:

Marcus Lattimore (RB, South Carolina) – How big of a decision was it when Marcus Lattimore decided to stay in his home state of South Carolina for college as a mega-recruit out of high school?  Just ask the Gamecocks now.  In just seven games last season, Lattimore produced 818 rushing yards for an average of 117 yards per game and rushed for 10 TDs.  That means that in just 20 games of work thus far in his short, but stellar career, Lattimore has totaled 2,015 rushing yards with 27 TD in addition to 594 receiving yards and 3 TD.  Is there any other question as to who the star offensive player of this conference is??

 

Best Defensive Player:

Jarvis Jones (LB, Georgia) – Sure, Tyrann Mathieu was the best defensive playmaker in the SEC and sure, Jadeveon Clowney is probably the most naturally gifted, but Georgia’s do-it-all linebacker, Jarvis Jones trumps both of them because he is quite simply the whole package.  Check out this stat line: 70 tackles, 19.5 TFL, 13.5 sacks, 2 PBU, 2 FF and 49 QB hurries.  THAT is exactly what makes Jones the most feared defensive player in such a talent-rich conference like the SEC.  Jones alone accounted for an astounding 24% of his team's total stops behind the line of scrimmage (sacks and TFL) in 2011 and was the centerpiece of a Bulldogs defense that finished 5th in the nation in total defense, allowing only 277 yards per contest.  All of this and Jones was actually quoted in the off season as saying that anything less than an improvement on his numbers from 2011 would be considered a disappointment in his eyes.  SEC….watch out.

 

Surprise Team:

Mississippi State – 4th year Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen has done a great job in Starkville in his first three years as head coach, compiling a winning record of 21-17 which you better believe is truly an accomplishment compared to where this team was just four short years ago.  The Bulldogs continue to grow and take steps in the right direction by recruiting better and better prospects each year.  They also have a very talented defensive unit which ranked 16th in the nation in scoring defense a year ago, allowing less than 20 points per contest.  No one should be surprised to see this Bulldogs team win 8 or 9 games this year, despite a tough four-week stretch of games late in the season. 

 

Disappointing Team:

Tennessee – The Volunteers seem to take one step in the right direction and then immediately take two steps backward.  Most of what seems to be coming back to bite them are simply bad recruiting moves.  A couple of years ago it was talented safety Janzen Jackson, and this time it is star wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers.  Rogers was progressing really well in the spring and looked to be well on his way to becoming a breakout offensive star of this conference before getting booted from the team for good (it seems) just this past week.  This loss (67 receptions, 1,040 receiving yards, 9 TD) will hurt the Volunteer offense big-time, believe me.  While Tennessee will still throw some decent points onto the scoreboard, they will surely lose some games that they may have otherwise won with Rogers in the mix.

 

Breakout Freshman:

TJ Yeldon (RB, Alabama) – With a recent injury to tailback Eddie Lacy you never know what will happen in the SEC.  The young and ultra-talented Yeldon was already in the mix for a good amount of touches after displaying loads of athleticism during the Crimson Tide spring game.  The Dapne, Alabama product was a star recruit out of high school, amassing a ridiculous 2,193 yards on 232 carries and racking up 31 touchdowns as a senior in 2011.  Look for 2012 to be a big year for him.  

Photo Credit: Getty

By: Ronald Martinez
Collection: Getty Images Sport