Friday, June 21, 2013
Future SEC Power Rankings
By Edward Aschoff
In keeping with the theme of peering into our crystal balls to see what's in store for the future of college football, it's time to look at how all 14 SEC teams will do over the next few years.
To come up with our future rankings, we looked at coaching, current players, depth, recruiting and the current state of each program.
It was a very tough process, but someone had to do it. This shouldn't cause much of a stir at all:
1. Alabama: So Alabama is equipped with the sport's best coach, has some of the best facilities in the country and is still recruiting better than anyone else? Yeah, I think Alabama will be just fine over the next few years and will continue to look down at the rest of the SEC. It'll be interesting to see what happens when AJ McCarron leaves, but Nick Saban might have his quarterback of the future in David Cornwell and appears to have plenty to work with on both sides of the ball for years to come.
2. LSU: The Tigers will always be able to recruit with the best of them. Les Miles has a strong group of younger players, and many will get some valuable time this fall, especially on defense. With John Chavis around, LSU's defense will be fine. It's the offense that people wonder about. But the addition of Cam Cameron as offensive coordinator should definitely help. The plan is to become more explosive in the passing game, and a good start in 2013 would go a long way toward securing more passing deep threats.
3. Florida: Will Muschamp has seen both the good and bad during his two years with the Gators, but he's building his program the right way. Florida could miss out on another trip to the SEC championship game this year, but the Gators are built for the long run with the recruiting job Muschamp has done. He has a handful of young offensive players already on campus to build around and appears to have his quarterback of the future -- 2014 recruit Will Grier. Florida's future on defense looks extremely bright as well with the foundation being built up front.
4. Texas A&M: Johnny Manziel will soon be gone, but Kevin Sumlin has done a great job of recruiting since his arrival in College Station. As long he's around, the Aggies should be fine. Last year, he brought in highly touted pass-catchers Ricky Seals-Jones and Sebastian LaRue. Both could see good time this year and will eventually help Manziel's replacement, who could be 2014 commit Kyle Allen. There are some holes to fill this year, but the good news is that a lot of younger players will get valuable experience, which will only make this team stronger in the years to come.
5. Georgia: Like the top SEC teams, Georgia won't have any trouble recruiting over the next few years. It's all about development and breaking through in the big games. Mark Richt doesn't always get the credit he deserves, but he's made back-to-back SEC championships. The Bulldogs are young on defense, but that won't matter over the next couple of years, as those players get all those game reps. The future of the offense looks bright with the players signed this year and how the 2014 class is shaping up.
6. South Carolina: As long as Steve Spurrier is around, the Gamecocks will compete for an SEC East title. South Carolina has held its own in the recruiting world since Spurrier arrived, and while it's going to get tougher with schools like Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt recruiting at a much higher level these days, don't expect Spurrier to miss much of a beat. It helps that the Gamecocks have a good base of young players to work with now.
7. Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze has totally changed the perception of this program, and he's recruiting like no other Rebels coach in recent history has. Ole Miss has depth issues, but that historic 2013 recruiting class will be the foundation of Freeze's first few years in Oxford. If it lives up to the hype, watch out. Ole Miss surprised many with its play last year, and expect that to improve as the talent continues to roll in thanks to Freeze's recruiting efforts.
8. Auburn: Gus Malzahn hopes to have the right recipe for turning Auburn around. He was around when the Tigers won the national championship in 2010, and the hope is that his spread offense rejuvenates a team that took too many steps backward last year. He has his type of players on his roster now, and after closing strong on the recruiting front with his first class, Malzahn isn't missing a beat this year. He'll make sure the Tigers are more competitive in the SEC West.
9. Vanderbilt: James Franklin has done a tremendous job transforming pretty much everything at Vandy, and he doesn't look like he's going to stop any time soon. The Commodores are recruiting at a very high level, and this team is looking for more than just bowl victories. The Commodores want an SEC title, and Franklin believes he can get his team there. If that attitude remains and the recruiting momentum keeps chugging along, the Commodores will stay around the eight- or nine-win mark.
10. Tennessee: There's no question that Butch Jones has brought much more excitement to Knoxville since his arrival -- and he hasn't even coached a game yet. The Vols aren't built to win the SEC East right now, but if Jones can keep his current 2014 class intact, Tennessee will have a great foundation to work with. But we've seen that before with the Vols. This new staff has to make sure it's developing all that talent the right way as well.
11. Arkansas: The success that Bret Bielema had at Wisconsin has Arkansas' fan base extremely excited about the future. Right now, he just doesn't have the players he needs to compete at the high level that he wants to. Bielema did a good job of closing his first class with the types of players he wants in order to have the big, physical team he wants. It'll be tough enough competing in the West, which will only get stronger, so Bielema has to make sure that his recruiting efforts improve and that he builds more evenly on both sides of the ball.
12. Mississippi State: There's no question that Dan Mullen has done a great job during his time at Mississippi State, but the emergence of Ole Miss could hold the Bulldogs back when it comes to recruiting. The best players in and around Mississippi are now more interested in the Rebels, which certainly doesn't help. The Bulldogs also have to play much better in big games. Last year, Mississippi State waltzed through a very soft nonconference slate before ending the season with a 1-5 record, including four losses to ranked teams.
13. Kentucky: Mark Stoops has one of the country's best recruiting classes, which bodes well for the future of this program. But can this staff develop this talent once it arrives? That's yet to be seen, as Stoops hasn't even coached a game at his new school. The good news is that the Wildcats will be built on a more defensive foundation. We know how important that is, but Kentucky is behind most of its conference counterparts when it comes to immediate talent as a whole.
14. Missouri: We learned last year that the Tigers just weren't properly built to immediately compete in the SEC. Sure, injuries really hurt this team, but Mizzou has to get tougher all around and bigger up front if it wants to really compete in the SEC. It also has to start recruiting at a much higher level. With Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt currently outpacing Mizzou on the recruiting trail, the Tigers have a lot of ground to make up. And they have to start getting more SEC-ready players or they'll dig themselves into a deeper hole.