- Edward Aschoff, College Football
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Now that spring practices have come and gone, we will soon usher in the mundane season that is summer workouts. Well, it's mundane for all of us because we aren't feverishly working out or participating in 7-on-7s in the summer heat.
While that brings us closer to the actual season starting, it's another reminder of just how far away that end game is. In the meantime, it's time to take one last stab at conference power rankings heading into the real offseason. We had a little bit of movement in the SEC since our last batch came out in January, but nothing too significant:
1. Auburn: The Tigers officially found their quarterback in Jeremy Johnson, and the running game figures to be incredibly fierce with Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson heading the pack. We always knew the offense would be fine, but Will Muschamp's arrival as defensive coordinator has added some edge to a defense that thinks it made headway this spring. Also, the return of rush-end Carl Lawson is a major upgrade for that side of the ball.
2. Georgia: Unlike Auburn, the Bulldogs didn't find their starting quarterback this spring, so they will will watch their three-headed battle between Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta and Jacob Park extend into fall camp. The good news is there's stability on a veteran line, and running back Nick Chubb and receiver Malcolm Mitchell both return. The defense has questions up front and the secondary saw a lot of movement this spring, but Georgia undoubtedly has the SEC's best linebacker corps.
3. Ole Miss: That historic 2013 recruiting class is hungry for more than just a division title in Oxford. While the Rebels didn't get much this spring out of Laquon Treadwell, Laremy Tunsil and Denzel Nkemdiche, as they were all recovering from leg injuries, they should all be fine come fall. The offensive line appears deeper, but it was harassed by the injury bug this spring. The defense could be even more talented, but the Rebels aren't close to finding a quarterback.
4. Alabama: Hey, another team searching for a starting quarterback! Jake Coker might finally be the favorite in Tuscaloosa, but he didn't run away with anything and the youngsters behind him kept pace. Overall, this team lost a lot of key players on both sides, but keep an eye on sophomore receivers ArDarius Stewart and Robert Foster. We still aren't totally certain what things will look like in the secondary this fall, but that front seven, especially the defensive line, is incredibly athletic.
5. Arkansas: The Hogs should be a fun team to watch this fall. We know they can run with 1,000-yard backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, but all accounts are that Brandon Allen made much-needed improvements at quarterback, which should lead to a more balanced attack. The defense, however, is full of questions, but there's potential for plenty of growth between now and the meat of the season.
6. Tennessee: If not for so many injuries this spring, the Vols might be even more attractive. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs made strides this spring, and running back Alvin Kamara could be a star along with Jalen Hurd. But with so many guys out and banged up this spring, it's tough to get a real read on what this team will look like this fall. The offensive line still needs work, but the Vols are in desperate need of a quality middle linebacker. Keep an eye on a faster, more athletic secondary, though.
7. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs lost a lot of leadership/production, but the league's top quarterback -- senior Dak Prescott -- is back and with all the rotating this team did last season, there are still plenty of reps to go around. However, with lingering questions on defense, repeating last season's run will be difficult. The linebackers were gutted and the secondary, while rebuilt, has to be better than last season. The Bulldogs might have some budding stars in receivers Fred Brown and Fred Ross.
8. LSU: OK, so quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris both showed improvements this spring, which was a must, but neither took any sort of lead leaving spring -- and we aren't sure if that's a good thing or not. What helps is that running back Leonard Fournette appears to be even more of a beast now than he was last season, and the Tigers are equipped with an incredibly athletic, young receiving corps. But will LSU actually get to opposing quarterbacks this fall? Can defensive coordinator Kevin Steele find a consistent pass rush?
9. Missouri: It was hard to put the Tigers this far down because of what they've done the last two seasons; you know, winning the SEC East. But you really can say Mizzou has a lot of rebuilding to do at important positions. There aren't two elite defensive ends waiting in the wings now that Shane Ray and Markus Golden are gone; Nate Brown's five receptions are the most by a wide receiver on this roster; the offense had a rough go this spring; and the offensive line still needs a left tackle. Maty Mauk's shoulder is better, though, so that's a plus.
10. Texas A&M: Having former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis running the defense is a major upgrade for the Aggies, but there are still myriad questions at every position on that side of the ball. We need more time to get any sort of read there. Offensively, this continues to be Kyle Allen's team, but many think we could have a real quarterback battle on our hands with the arrival of five-star recruit Kyler Murray. Yay! More intrigue!
11. South Carolina: There's a bit of a quarterback battle, but Connor Mitch is still the presumed favorite. He didn't run away with the lead this spring, but he was the most consistent passer of the bunch. The offense still doesn't seem to be as big of a worry as the defense. Jon Hoke was brought in to help Lorenzo Ward run that side, which should help, but neither can be a pass-rusher for the Gamecocks. The defensive line needs vast improvement if this defense is going to improve.
12. Florida: Well, you know Florida fans weren't too happy to see a team that went 7-5 last season have an SEC-high eight players drafted over the weekend. Really lets you know how many holes this team truly has. The offense grew some under new coach Jim McElwain this spring, but nothing significant happened, especially at quarterback. The defense will continue to be the heart and lungs of this team, but only four healthy linebackers played this spring. At the end of the day, it's up to the offense to stabilize this program, and right now it's still a giant mystery with no overwhelming leader at quarterback and a ravaged offensive line.
13. Kentucky: The quarterback position is muddy, with Patrick Towles battling Drew Barker. The Wildcats have to find consistent playmakers at receiver, the offensive line needs work, the defensive line was gutted and the secondary needs help. Coach Mark Stoops said he felt better about this team exiting spring, but there are a ton of questions still remaining for the Wildcats all over the place. Stoops is all about defense, and we'll really see what he's made of with this group.
14. Vanderbilt: Well, at least Vandy's quarterback situation dropped in numbers ... for now. The Commodores are still a ways away from being truly competitive again in the SEC, but second-year coach Derek Mason believes this team made real strides this spring. There's some young, talented depth on defense, but the offense is a mess. Running back Ralph Webb almost hit 1,000 yards last season, but he needs help -- a lot of it.
It's time to take one last stab at conference power rankings heading into the real offseason.