Valentine's Day in the SEC

Celebrating Valentine’s Day is all about spreading the love.

With the Day of Hearts coming up on Sunday, I thought I’d spread a little love throughout the SEC with a plume of happy thoughts.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

ALABAMA: Hey Tide fans, you got Nick Saban running the show. He delivered a national championship in three short years. Something tells me he’s not finishing stocking the Alabama trophy case, either.

ARKANSAS: He thought long and hard about jumping ship to the NFL, but quarterback Ryan Mallett is back for another season and will be even better his second time around in the SEC. He threw 30 touchdown passes last season. Is 40 out of the realm of possibility in 2010?

AUBURN: The No. 4 recruiting class in the country in Gene Chizik’s first full year to recruit serves notice that the Tigers mean business in the Western Division race the next few seasons.

FLORIDA: Judging by this latest recruiting class, Florida is where all the best high school football players want to play, and it doesn’t matter if the head coach is stepping away for good, on temporary leave or really not sure what he’s going to do.

GEORGIA: All those Georgia fans clamoring for Mark Richt to get rid of Willie Martinez the last few years got their wish. With the exception of Rodney Garner, the Bulldogs will have a whole new defensive staff in 2010. Todd Grantham and his 3-4 defense are in the house. Make that the “Dawg” house.

KENTUCKY: A new era opens in Kentucky football this fall. Rich Brooks brought class, respect and improvement to the program. Now Brooks is retired, and Joker Phillips takes his shot at keeping the Wildcats in the bowl equation every year and maybe even taking them to the next level.

LSU: All four of LSU’s losses last season went down to the final few minutes of the fourth quarter. That means it’s due to swing the other way next season. Who knows? Maybe the Tigers find that same karma that was with them the whole way during their 2007 national championship season.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: Dan Mullen, entering his second season as coach, has shaken things up in the Magnolia State. He’s delivering on his promise to make the state of Mississippi his priority in recruiting. He’s 1-0 against arch-rival Ole Miss and told the world after last season that one program in the state was headed in the right direction – the guys who wear maroon.

OLE MISS: The best offseason news for the Rebels was that they held onto Tyrone Nix, who’s one of the best (and most underrated) defensive coordinators in college football. Florida’s Urban Meyer came after him, and there were rumblings that Georgia might have been interested. Wisely, Ole Miss sweetened his deal, and Nix will be back in Oxford for a third season.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before, South Carolina fans. But I’m going on record right now. There is no more “Wait until next year.” This IS next year, and with 19 starters returning, the Gamecocks are going to make a legitimate run in the East in 2010.

TENNESSEE: Hey Vol Fans, Lane Kiffin is now three time zones away. That means no more uninformed accusations of another coach cheating. No more crashing cars in the wee hours of the morning. No more sleepless nights for Tennessee compliance director Brad Bertani. And lastly, Kiffin’s replacement, Derek Dooley, seems to get Tennessee.

VANDERBILT: Give Bobby Johnson credit for not sitting pat. The Commodores’ offense simply hasn’t cut it the last two seasons, so Johnson brought in a junior college quarterback (Jordan Rodgers), two 6-4 receivers (Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd) and shook up his offensive staff. Jimmy Kiser is now calling all the offensive plays.