Earlier this week, my ESPN colleague KC Joyner came up with five teams that have what it takes to rebound this fall. One of those teams was Ole Miss, who might not return a ton of starters, but has some good, young talent.
I figured we couldn't just stop at Ole Miss in the SEC because there are few teams that could be in position to make the 2010 season seem like a mere bump in the road.
Here are some teams looking to rebound this fall:
Alabama: Alabama was the preseason No. 1 last season, but with a young defense, the Tide lost three games and ended the year in the Capital One Bowl. It was a bowl game that might have shown a preview of things to come in 2011, as the Tide dismantled an overwhelmed Michigan State team 49-7. Alabama's defense is more mature and possesses one of the top linebacker units in the country, while the offense shouldn't miss much of a beat with Trent Richardson taking over at running back behind a veteran offensive line. The challenge will be in the passing game, where Alabama breaks in a new quarterback and needs to find a couple more playmaking options at receiver.
Florida: No one is exactly sure when it all went wrong in Gainesville. Maybe it was when Urban Meyer first got sick after the 2009 SEC championship or when the much-ballyhooed 2011 recruiting class failed to live up to expectations and caused a rift with the veterans. Regardless of when the slide began, Florida wasn't Florida in 2010 with its 8-5 record. Now, there is a new regime in Gainesville. New coach Will Muschamp hired Charlie Weis to run his offense and help turn around the career of quarterback John Brantley. The Gators have the athletes to compete for the East, but no one is sure what to expect from the offense. Defensively, Florida will be good, but without Janoris Jenkins in the defensive backfield, the Gators will rely heavily on that athletic front seven.
Georgia: The Bulldogs always seem to have the talent to compete for an SEC title, but underachieving has become a serious problem in Athens. Georgia went 6-7 last season, including a 10-6 loss to Central Florida in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Coach Mark Richt's seat is getting hotter by the minute and he's got to deal with finding a running back and keeping a thin offensive line healthy. Still, the defense should be very fun to watch, especially at linebacker, and sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray is the best quarterback in the league. He's got a few weapons, but developing a solid running game will be key.
Vanderbilt: OK, so Vanderbilt isn't a regular contender in the East, but with a new and improved coaching staff taking over this year and a lot of returning starters, the Commodores will be a better team in 2011. We're not expecting them to compete for a title, but getting to four or five wins isn't out of the question -- and that’s a rebound after last year. This team still has a lot of issues all over the place, but it should be able to improve on last year's two-win season.