Five early questions for the SEC

May, 19, 2009
5/19/09
10:55
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

A few questions were answered this spring in SEC camps, but there were probably more that went unanswered.

Here are five important questions facing the SEC heading into 2009:

1. Where's the stability at quarterback? Outside of Florida's Tim Tebow and Ole Miss' Jevan Snead, there aren't a surplus of rock-solid quarterback situations in the league. It's wide open at Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, while Alabama's Greg McElroy will be starting in his first college game and LSU's Jordan Jefferson and Georgia's Joe Cox will be entering their first season as full-time starters. Stephen Garcia's the man at South Carolina, but there's nobody behind him if he stumbles or gets hurt.

2. Can anybody catch Florida? It makes sense that the Gators could have some growing pains early next season on offense while they try to find somebody to fill Percy Harvin's role. The toughest game on their schedule would appear to be at LSU on Oct. 10, but they get a week off to prepare for that game. Urban Meyer ain't shabby when he's got more than a week to prepare for somebody. Even if the offense gets off to a slow start similar to last season, the Gators have what should be one of the deepest, most talented defenses in the country to fall back on. There is no such thing as a sure thing in the SEC, but Florida's about as close as it gets next fall.

3. Is Ole Miss ready for prime time? There's a theory making the rounds in the SEC that Houston Nutt is better when his team isn't expected to do much, when he can play the underdog card and motivate his team accordingly. The Rebels aren't going to sneak up on anybody in 2009, not after the way they closed last season. One of Nutt's toughest jobs will be making sure there's the right kind of leadership on this team and that the Rebels don't feel some sense of fulfillment just because everybody's talking about how good they're supposed to be. "Supposed" doesn't win championships in this league.

4. How will Alabama's revamped offensive line look? It's never a good combination when you're overhauling your offensive line and breaking in a new starting quarterback. That's Alabama's challenge next season. McElroy looked more than capable behind center in the spring. What hasn't been established is who will be the five guys in front of him. The most educated guess is James Carpenter at left tackle, Mike Johnson at left guard, William Vlachos at center, Brian Motley at right guard and Drew Davis at right tackle. Chance Warmack, John Michael Boswell and Barrett Jones may all have something to say about the right guard and/or center spot come August, and the left tackle job isn't written in stone, either. Carpenter will have to hold off incoming freshman D.J. Fluker.

5. Which of the new head coaches will make the biggest impact? All three have already made their marks in their own way. Tennessee's Lane Kiffin has done it with what he's said. Auburn's Gene Chizik has done it with what he hasn't said, and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen has done it with a vision that's starting to take hold in Starkville. Kiffin and Mullen would seem to have the most work to do, and Chizik is in a similar boat in that he, too, is trying to figure out who his quarterback is going to be. Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn will be the difference, though, and the Tigers' defense will fill in the gaps to get them to a bowl game in 2009.

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