SEC: Charles Siddoway

Every year, players come and go in college football. With the turnover, teams can either grow or take steps back.

It's time to check out Mississippi State's strongest position and weakest position heading into the 2013 season:

Strongest position: Offensive line

The Bulldogs have the luxury of bringing back a very talented offensive line that is led by first-team All-SEC guard Gabe Jackson. Jackson could have tested the NFL waters after last season but decided to stay for his senior year. That's great news for the Bulldogs, who return three other starters. Both tackles -- Blaine Clausell and Charles Siddoway -- return, but they have to be better in pass protection. Quarterback Tyler Russell took far too many hits last year, and offensive line coach John Hevesy made it a point to make his line much tougher this spring. Expect to see the tackles play at a much higher level this fall. Dillon Day is also back at center, giving the Bulldogs four upperclassmen returning up front. Filling the right guard spot is the next step for Mississippi State; sophomore Justin Malone left the spring as the starter. The coaching staff has some pretty good depth to work with all along the line. Pass protection should get better and the Bulldogs should once again be fine running the ball with this line coming back.

Weakest position: Wide receiver

The Bulldogs are basically starting over at wide receiver, as four seniors, including three starters, are gone. Those seniors accounted for 148 receptions, 2,096 yards and 15 touchdowns last year. The Bulldogs' top three receivers from last year were all seniors, including Chad Bumphis, who caught a team-high 58 passes for 922 yards and 12 touchdowns. Replacing this group won't be easy, and there isn't a lot of experience there to help. Juniors Robert Johnson and Jameon Lewis are the leading returning receivers -- having combined for 27 catches for 272 yards and two touchdowns, both by Johnson. The good news is that both had good springs, but they'll need help this fall. Sophomore Joe Morrow has all the potential to be a deep threat for Mississippi State, but he has to become more consistent on the field and in practice. He dealt with a bad knee last year, but will have much more responsibility this fall. Junior-college transfer Jeremey Chappelle enrolled this spring and has a chance to start. He could provide another deep threat for the Bulldogs, too. Getting junior Michael Carr back helps, too.

Welcome to Starkville

September, 8, 2012
9/08/12
11:35
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STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Greetings from Davis Wade Stadium!

There might be a lot of attention on the matchups with the two SEC newbies, but make no mistake about it: Mississippi State-Auburn is huge.

It really set the tone for both schools last year, and that should be the same story this year as well. Auburn is coming off of a tough loss to Clemson last week, while Mississippi State is riding high off of a 56-9 route of Jackson State. But this game is completely different than the ones we saw last week. This one has league pride and momentum on the line.

Dan Mullen and Gene Chizik have both talked about the importance of this game, as it pertains to heading into the rest of the season. Getting behind in the SEC race is never a good thing.

For Auburn, there are a lot of questions on both sides of the ball. Poor tackling killed the Tigers against Clemson, while a lack of offensive efficiency in Clemson territory really put a dent in Auburn's scoring efforts. That has to change today. History is certainly on Auburn's side, as the Tigers have won four straight against the Bulldogs and 10 of the past 11 in this series. Auburn is also 18-1 in its past 19 SEC openers.

Like all SEC games, play up front will be key. Both teams bring in offensive lines with questions at both tackle spots. Auburn has either freshmen or redshirt freshmen at both right and left tackle in the two-deep, while Mississippi State is working with a junior college transfer (Charles Siddoway) and three sophomores in the two-deep at both tackle spots.

If Auburn defensive ends Corey Lemonier and Dee Ford bring enough heat on the outside, it could be a long day for Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell. But the Bulldogs have a pretty talented defensive line as well. Josh Boyd should be able to generate some pressure through the middle, while Denico Autry has a chance to have a solid day at one of the end spots.

This is a big one in Starkville, as Mullen looks to grab his first SEC West win against a team not named Ole Miss. Should be fun.
Barrett JonesNed Dishman/Getty ImagesA move to center shouldn't slow Alabama's Barrett Jones, last season's Outland Trophy winner.
Our preseason SEC position rankings continue with the big uglies. The real muscle down in the trenches. Offensive lines are crucial in every level of football, but teams seriously do live and die by the play of their offensive lines in the SEC.

Past rankings:
On to the SEC's offensive line groups:

1. Alabama: Four starters return (with 95 combined starts), there's size, there's athleticism and this line just screams first-round NFL talent, starting with mammoth tackle D.J. Fluker and guard Chance Warmack. Reigning Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones is moving to center, but with his versatility he should excel there. Add former top recruit Cyrus Kouandjio at left tackle and this is arguably the country's top offensive line.

2. LSU: Like Alabama, this line is full of experience, as four starters return and so does Josh Dworaczyk, who was granted a sixth-year after a knee injury caused him to miss all of 2011. Some think he was LSU's best lineman before last season began. Tackles Chris Faulk and Alex Hurst are two of the best in the league and center P.J. Lonergan is tough to beat. Former highly-touted recruit La'El Collins should also contend for time this fall, too.

3. Texas A&M: This could be the strength of the team. Left tackle Luke Joeckel is a future first-rounder, while right tackle Jake Mathews has All-SEC potential. Senior center Patrick Lewis provides a very sturdy anchor in the middle. Guards Jarvis Harrison and Cedric Ogbuehi are young, but both got good experience last year, as Harrison started five games and Ogbuehi started six. Depth could be an issue, as most reserves are younger.

4. Arkansas: The Hogs have one of the better center-guard combos in the league in Travis Swanson and Alvin Bailey. Both have received preseason accolades and should be even better in 2012. Sophomore tackle Brey Cook came in with a lot of hype and if he develops in his second season, this line will be really good. Sophomore Mitch Smothers proved he can play just about anywhere and big left tackle Jason Peacock is back, but is still in the doghouse after his arrest this spring.

5. South Carolina: Replacing Rokevious Watkins at left tackle won't be easy, but the staff feels like redshirt freshman Brandon Shell might be the man for the job. He's incredibly talented and athletic and improved his blocking ability during his redshirt year. Center T.J. Johnson and guard A.J. Cann are coming off of solid seasons, but the right side has questions. Right tackle Mike Matulis started five games last year, but missed spring while recovering from shoulder surgery and right guard Ronald Patrick recorded zero starts last year.

6. Tennessee: The good news is that everyone is back. The bad news is this is the same line that was incredibly inconsistent last year in the run game, as Tennessee ranked 116th in rushing offense. However, the staff feels it has a better lineup with the emergence of sophomore Antonio Richardson at left tackle. Stud Dallas Thomas moves to left guard and Ja'Wuan James, who has started 25 games at right tackle, provides some good stability. The line has 99 combined starts and allowed just 18 sacks last year, but the proving ground with this group is establishing that it can come off the ball and be a better running team.

7. Missouri: The Tigers lost three starters from last year, but that doesn't mean Mizzou is without experience. Old man Elvis Fisher was granted a sixth year after last year's season-ending knee injury and will provide a major boost at left tackle. And three other linemen return with starting experience from last year: tackle Justin Britt, who took over Fisher's spot last year, and guards Jack Meiners and Travis Ruth. One thing to keep an eye on is the line's durability. The average weight of this group is roughly 295 pounds.

8. Auburn: Three starters return to a line that has a ton of young depth. Center Reese Dismukes is the anchor and one of the top centers in the league. Guard John Sullen and tackle Chad Slade combined for 21 starts last year. The staff really likes redshirt freshman Greg Robinson at left tackle and former top recruit Christian Westerman will compete for time after sitting out last year. Guard Eric Mack made strides this spring before he was shot near the hip during the tragic shooting that occurred near Auburn's campus in June.

9. Mississippi State: Injuries and constant reshuffling along the line caused the Bulldogs' offense to struggle for most of last season. Three starters are gone, but junior guard Gabe Jackson, who is one of the league's best, is back and so is right guard Tobias Smith. If Smith, who suffered a season-ending knee injury early last year, is healthy, this line should be very strong along the interior. Dillon Day started six games last year and returns at center, while junior college transfers Charles Siddoway and Dylan Holley are pushing for time.

10. Florida: The Gators return four starters to a line that struggled all last season. Will Muschamp said he saw vast improvement up front this spring, but tackles Xavier Nixon and Matt Patchan must show more consistency and leadership. Jonotthan Harrison is solid at center and guard Jon Halapio has improved each year. Sophomore tackle Chaz Green and impressive early enrollee D.J. Humphries will compete for time as well.

[+] EnlargeKenarious Gates
Radi Nabulsi/ESPN.com Georgia may have O-line questions, but likely none concerning junior Kenarious Gates.
11. Georgia: Yet again the Bulldogs have questions up front. Junior Kenarious Gates is very versatile and athletic and is Georgia's most reliable lineman. The staff was pleased with guards Dallas Lee and Chris Burnette coming out of spring, but a lot is riding on sophomore David Andrews making it at center. If he has to move, Burnette will have to move to center and more reshuffling will come. Inexperience is worrisome and true freshman John Theus should get plenty of chances to take one of the tackle spots.

12. Vanderbilt: Thanks to offensive line coach Herb Hand, this group was one of the most improved in the league last year. He'll have a tall task again with a lot of youth and inexperience. Left tackle Wesley Johnson is one of the most underrated linemen out there, while Ryan Seymour has been solid up front. The right side has issues and the depth is a concern. Injuries made it tough for this line to get through spring practice, and six freshmen are coming in to compete for spots during fall camp.

13. Kentucky: The Wildcats lost three starters from a line that struggled throughout 2011, but vets Larry Warford and Matt Smith are back to provide a solid center-guard combo. However, they'll be asked to help a cluster of youngsters. The left side is gone and will be replaced by youngsters Zach West (redshirt freshman) and Darrian Miller (sophomore). Right tackle Kevin Mitchell started just one game last year. Any sort of injury up front would be devastating for the Cats.

14. Ole Miss: This is arguably the Rebels' weakest position. Hugh Freeze wasn't thrilled with the line this spring, continuing to say it didn't handle the offense's tempo well. Guard Matt Hall, who had double-digit starts last year, left the team this spring. Center Evan Swindall was Ole Miss' most consistent lineman this spring, while senior A.J. Hawkins moved to guard. Comfort was an issue for everyone, and the tackle spots were filled this spring by Emmanuel McCray, who missed all of last season, and JUCO transfer Pierce Burton.

Video: Mississippi State fills holes

March, 1, 2012
3/01/12
5:01
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Edward Aschoff talks about the success Mississippi State had with signing JUCO players to positions of need.

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