Thursday, January 19, 2012
Offseason to-do list: Eastern Division
By Edward Aschoff
You've already seen Chris Low's to-do lists for the Western Division teams, so now it's time to check out what the East teams need to take care of before next fall:
- Two major areas new offensive coordinator Brent Pease needs to hit during his first offseason with the Gators is running back and wide receiver. Florida must find a downhill running back for Pease's offense, and a reliable go-to wide receiver -- two things Florida lacked in 2011.
- With quarterback John Brantley graduating, Pease must find a new starting quarterback. That means developing rising sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel, who struggled in relief of Brantley at times last season, and Tyler Murphy, who has yet to take a snap.
- Toughen up mentally and physically. The Gators ranked 89th nationally in penalties, and were called out by coach Will Muschamp as being too soft in his first season. Soft can't win in the SEC.
- The Bulldogs' coaching staff needs to toughen running back Isaiah Crowell up. As the season went on he visited Georgia's training table more than the end zone in games. He was even booed by Georgia fans when he limped off the Georgia Dome field in the SEC title game. The Bulldogs were inconsistent running the ball because their lead back was always nicked up.
- Getting the offensive line ready will be key to 2012. The Bulldogs will have to replace three seniors on that line, including All-SEC performers Cordy Glenn and Ben Jones.
- Georgia also can't let the success of 2011 go to the Bulldogs' heads. We've seen what can happen to this team when expectations are high and the Dawgs are a favorite.
- With how poorly Kentucky's offense performed in 2011, coach Joker Phillips' top priority should be finding offensive playmakers. There is hope that running backs CoShik Williams and Josh Clemons can help in that department, but finding a reliable receiver to complement La'Rod King will help, as no other receiver returns with more than 10 catches from last season.
- Kentucky has to get its quarterback position settled before next season. Morgan Newton was supposed to be the guy last season, but major struggles and an ankle injury paved the way for Maxwell Smith. But neither threw a pass in Kentucky's 10-7 win against Tennessee to end the season.
- Replacing linebacker Danny Trevathan's skill on the field won't be easy, but neither will be replacing his leadership skills. Trevathan was the heart of Kentucky's defense and the team's best leader. It's time for someone else to step up and lead the Wildcats.
- As the new Tigers on the block, Missouri needs to get used to its new surroundings. That means making any and all offensive and defensive adjustments to match their new SEC foes. That also means getting used to recruiting more in the southeast, especially Florida and Georgia.
- Missouri returns a lot of talent in 2012, but the Tigers need to find a big-play threat at wide receiver. T.J. Moe and Marcus Lucas are back, but one has to emerge as more than just a top target -- he needs to be someone who can consistently make plays on SEC defenses.
- The Tigers' defensive line was supposed to be better than it was in 2011. The SEC is won in the trenches, and if Missouri's line can't hold up against SEC offensive big men, the Tigers will be sunk.
- Marcus Lattimore is one of the best running backs in the country when he's healthy, so making sure his rehab for his knee goes smoothly might be South Carolina's top priority during the offseason. He expects to come back better and stronger, so proper rehab will go a long way.
- Now that Alshon Jeffery is gone, it's time for the Gamecocks to find a replacement. The Gamecocks didn't have any real receiving threats outside of Jeffery in 2011, and only Jeffery and Ace Sanders had more than 20 catches. South Carolina is a little undersized at the position, but developing a proper go-to is a must.
- Tennessee must find the pieces to create a legitimate running game. The Vols ranked 116th nationally in rushing, and were the only team in the SEC not to average more than 100 rushing yards a game. Marlin Lane heads the rushing operation, but there are other bodies to help. Developing them is the next step.
- Sal Sunseri takes over a defense equipped with a chunk of young, but talented players. Development in their games is the next step for these players, and that will rest on Sunseri.
- The attitude of this team was questioned in 2011, so for Tennessee to get back to being truly competitive in the East, players need to totally buy in to what Derek Dooley is preaching.
- Jordan Rodgers' emergence as Vanderbilt's starting quarterback during the second half of the season was a big plus for the Commodores' offense, but his confidence had to be shaken when he was basically benched for Larry Smith in the Liberty Bowl loss to Cincinnati. Rodgers had his ups and downs last season, but he needs to find the confidence that helped him make Vandy's offense explosive with him in charge.
- James Franklin kept saying that this was a new Vanderbilt team, but the little mistakes that hurt Vandy throughout the years returned. Those mistakes cost them a chance at possibly winning nine games. Franklin must hammer home ball security and make sure this team is a little more mentally tough next season.