SEC: Vanderbilt Commodores
Miles also realizes the Tigers could play nine SEC games in the very near future.
Miles just doesn't think it's fair that LSU has to play Florida every season, while other teams in the SEC West don't.
The league is expected to vote whether to change its current 6-1-1 format, in which teams play each opponent from their respective division, along with one rotating foe and one permanent opponent from the opposite division. SEC officials could vote this week to add a ninth conference game or at least eliminate permanent crossover opponents.
The SEC adopted its current scheduling format to ensure that longstanding rivalries like Alabama-Tennessee and Georgia-Auburn would survive expansion.
By drawing the Gators as a permanent crossover opponent, Miles believes the Tigers drew the short end of the stick.
Miles won't complain about the scheduling format publicly, but he knows LSU is at a disadvantage.
And Miles is probably right.
"When they give us our schedule, I'm looking forward to having a great competition," Miles said.
Since 2000, LSU has played Florida and Georgia -- two of the SEC East's best programs -- a total of 17 times. Auburn is the only SEC West team which has faced those teams more often, playing them 19 times. Arkansas, Mississippi State and Ole Miss have faced them a total of 10 times each, while Alabama has played them only eight times.
While it's not fair that LSU has faced the Bulldogs and Gators nearly twice as often as Alabama has played them since 2000, Miles' argument might fall on deaf ears. Auburn and Georgia aren't going to surrender the longtime series -- the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry has been played 116 times since 1892. Likewise, Alabama and Tennessee have played 95 times since 1901, a game so revered it's named for its traditional place on the calendar, the Third Saturday in October.
And Ole Miss would probably rather play Vanderbilt every season instead of Florida, Georgia or South Carolina, and Mississippi State isn't going pass up a chance to play Kentucky every year.
"There's never going to be a fair way," said Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, whose Aggies drew Missouri as a permanent crossover opponent. "If you look back seven or eight years ago, you would have said the SEC East was the strongest division. You can't say what's fair, because things change in this league. You can't look at tradition. Ten years ago, you might have wanted to play South Carolina. Now you don't want anything to do with them. You don't know what Tennessee is going to do with a new coach. I know Butch Jones is going to do a great job."
Florida-LSU has become one of the league's most anticipated games every season. They've been two of the league's most dominant teams over the past decade. They've combined to appear in seven SEC championship games since 2003, and they've combined to play in nine BCS bowl games, including five BCS national championship games. In their past 10 meetings, LSU and Florida were both ranked in the top 25 of the coaches' poll nine times. Conversely, Alabama and Tennessee were both ranked only once in their past 10 meetings.
The loser of the Florida-LSU regular-season game has paid dearly over the past 10 seasons. LSU's 23-10 loss at Florida in 2006 knocked the Tigers out of the SEC championship game (the Gators defeated Arkansas 38-28 and then blasted Ohio State 41-14 to win the BCS title). Last year, LSU's 14-6 loss at Florida probably cost it a spot in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, if not another trip to a BCS bowl game.
Florida's losses to LSU in 2002, '05 and '07 kept them out of the SEC championship game and potentially BCS bowl games.
Neither do the Commodores. Don't look now, but since they were left for dead in mid-October, the 'Dores have reeled off six straight wins and have just finished the regular season at 8-4 -- their best regular season record since 1982.
The latest victim on Vanderbilt's roll through November was an overmatched Wake Forest squad hoping to reach bowl eligibility in its own right. The Commodores cruised to a 28-7 halftime lead behind a 14-of-17, 211-yard first half performance from quarterback Jordan Rodgers, who threw two touchdowns on the day. When Rodgers wasn't winging it around, senior tailback Zac Stacy put in a workmanlike 89 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. That would have been a solid outing on its own, but Stacy put an exclamation point on his career with a 90-yard fourth quarter touchdown scamper to give him 180 yards and two scores on the day.
The Demon Deacons entered the game determined to move the ball on the ground, but they found no such luck. Wake Forest rushed 44 times for a mere 128 yards
The final nail went into Wake Forest's coffin just one minute into the third quarter, when Vanderbilt blocked a punt on the first series of the half and recovered it for a Commodore touchdown. The win was a cap to what has been a stunning run through the final six weeks of the regular season. The 'Dores have blown through November in every kind of fashion -- whether it was a close stand to hold off Auburn in October, a furious comeback to stun Ole Miss two weeks ago or any number of blowouts against the likes of Massachusetts, Kentucky or Tennessee.
For the second straight season, Vanderbilt became bowl-eligible after coming from behind to secure a 27-26 victory over Ole Miss on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Vanderbilt (6-4, 3-3 SEC) is bowl eligible in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.
It required a comeback from a double-digit deficit, as Vanderbilt trailed Ole Miss 23-6 at the 11:46 mark of the third quarter. But Jordan Rodgers hit Jordan Matthews for a 52-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 10, then Wesley Tate capped an 11-play, 52-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to pull to within three, 23-20 at the 2:33 mark in the third.
Trailing by six in the final stages, Rodgers engineered a nine-play, 79-yard drive that resulted in a 26-yard touchdown pass to Chris Boyd down the left sideline for the game-winning score with 52 seconds.
Rodgers was 20-of-35 passing for 267 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Matthews caught nine passes for 153 yards. The Commodores were able to pull out the win despite not having their all-time leading rusher, Zac Stacy, who was injured on his second carry of the game and didn't return.
In the loss, Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace was impressive, completing 31-of-49 passes for 403 yards and a touchdown and receiver Ja-Mes Logan caught eight of those passes for 160 yards.
The Rebels (5-5, 2-4) still need another win to become bowl eligible. They have two ranked foes to face in the next two weeks and will have to beat one of them to get their sixth win -- next week they go to LSU before returning home to host Mississippi State.
SEC fans had only a pair of shutouts -- Ole Miss' 39-0 win against Tulane and Florida's 38-0 pasting of Kentucky -- to entertain them for the first three hours of the day. No. 7 South Carolina is carrying the banner for the league right now, as the Gamecocks' game against Missouri is the only mid-afternoon kickoff today. And No. 1 Alabama has an overmatched Florida Atlantic in the early evening.
Other than that, it looks like we'll be cramming our SEC action into the prime-time windows this week.
What's coming tonight:
No. 2 LSU at Auburn, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: LSU won this matchup in a 45-10 walk last year in Baton Rouge. Auburn's lopsided loss to No. 23 Mississippi State, along with its overtime escape last weekend against Louisiana-Monroe, indicate that might be the case again in 2012. Auburn has a few factors in its favor, though. The game is in Jordan-Hare Stadium, where Auburn is 5-1 in its past six meetings with LSU. It's also the first road start for untested LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
Rutgers at Arkansas, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU: Whatever hope remains for Arkansas' season hinges on the Hogs' ability to get a win tonight. The Razorbacks have back-to-back road games at Texas A&M and Auburn following this nonconference tilt, and a 1-3 start would be less than ideal for their SEC prospects. Rutgers is off to a surprising 3-0 start, highlighted by a conference road win at South Florida.
South Carolina State at Texas A&M, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN Gameplan: The Aggies get one more nonconference tuneup before the SEC slate begins anew next week. Assuming A&M makes easy work of the Bulldogs, this might be the last time the Aggie starters get a break this season. The postponement of the Louisiana Tech game by Hurricane Isaac means no bye week this season.
South Alabama at No. 23 Mississippi State, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN Gameplan: The Bulldogs fought off a serious upset bid from Sun Belt heavyweight Troy last weekend -- the result of a possible letdown after the big win against Auburn. The schedule sets up nicely for a 7-0 start, so Mississippi State fans would undoubtedly love to see the Bulldogs flex some muscles against an overmatched opponent.
Akron at Tennessee, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN Gameplan: The Volunteers could use a confidence boost after last weekend's second half collapse against Florida. They'll need it, too. When Tennessee is done with the Zips, it faces four top-25 teams in a row -- three of them on the road.
Vanderbilt at No. 5 Georgia, 7:45 ET, ESPN2: Everyone is sure to keep an eye on this one because of the altercation between Georgia defensive coordinator and Vanderbilt coach James Franklin at the end of last year's Georgia win. That might steal some headlines, but the real story is that Vandy hasn't been an easy out for the Bulldogs recently. The Commodores defeated the Bulldogs in 2006, and they've come as close as three in 2007, 10 in 2008 and five last fall. Of course, tonight's game is in Athens, Ga., and the last time the Bulldogs hosted Vanderbilt they won 43-0.
ESPN Stats & InformationSouth Carolina is 5-0 on the 1st Thursday night of the college football season under Steve Spurrier.
Thursday sees the return of college football with the ninth-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks traveling to play the Vanderbilt Commodores (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).
South Carolina has dominated the series with Vanderbilt lately, winning 10 of the past 12 meetings. The two losses came in 2007 and 2008, when unranked Vanderbilt teams topped a ranked South Carolina squad.
South Carolina is very familiar with playing on the first Thursday night of the college football season lately, and it’s become a staple of the Steve Spurrier era. The school has done it five previous times in the Spurrier era, and have come away with a victory each time.
The Gamecocks open as a top-10 team in the AP preseason poll for the first time in AP preseason poll history. They opened No. 12 in the poll last year and before that, their previous high was No. 14 in the 1959 preseason poll.
Gamecocks fans will be thrilled to welcome running back Marcus Lattimore back to the field. He missed his team’s final six games last season after tearing his ACL. He proved crucial to the South Carolina run game, as even after missing those six games last year, Lattimore still finished as the team’s leading rusher with 818 yards.
This is the second year of the James Franklin era for Vanderbilt. Last year, he became the only Vanderbilt coach in his first season to lead the team to a bowl game. The task this season could be challenging, as Vanderbilt has never made bowls in back-to-back seasons.
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Even more troubling, none of the five wins came against teams that finished the year with a winning record (1-11 FAU, 3-9 UAB, 5-7 Tennessee, 5-7 Kentucky and 6-7 Vanderbilt).
Expanding the scope and looking at the Gators against all automatic qualifiers, you can see just how much they scuffled in 2011.
Florida ranked 65th of 67 AQ schools in both third-down percentage (29.0) and total yards per game (284.0). Its offense also finished 64th in red zone touchdown percentage (41.7).
Florida’s struggles really started with the departures of Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin to the NFL.
Led by Tebow and Harvin in 2007 and 2008, the Florida offense completed 38 touchdown passes and threw eight interceptions in SEC contests.
With Tebow alone in 2009, the Gators managed only nine touchdown passes and five picks in SEC play, illustrating Harvin's importance to the team.
The last two years have been even worse for Florida -- a combined 12 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions against conference opponents.
Quarterback John Brantley never looked comfortable, while Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel went through predictable freshman growing pains. Not surprisingly, the Gators went 7-9 in the SEC over the past two seasons.
Both Brissett and Driskel struggled in particular when attempting to stretch the field in 2011.
Together, the pair combined to complete only 31 percent of their pass attempts of 10-plus yards downfield with one touchdown and five interceptions. On throws 20-plus yards, that percentage dropped to 6.7 percent (1-15) with a touchdown and four picks.
Along with their struggles through the air, the running game also let the Gators down in 2011.
Florida ranked 73rd in the FBS in rush yards per game (143.0) and scored an SEC-low nine rushing touchdowns. Of those nine touchdowns, seven came in two games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
The one bright spot for Florida was wide receiver Andre Debose. He reeled in a team-high four catches on pass attempts of 20-plus yards downfield and all four went for touchdowns.
More impressively, the four touchdown catches all gained at least 60 yards, giving Debose the most 60-plus touchdown receptions in the SEC (second in FBS).
Hired away from Boise State, new offensive coordinator Brent Pease has been asked to revive Florida’s sputtering offense.
Last season Boise State finished fifth in points (44.2) and T-ninth in yards per game (481.3) albeit against non-SEC competition.
Even still, if Florida puts up anywhere near those numbers in 2012, the Gators and their fans will be more than happy to "give Pease a chance."
Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
Cincinnati take from Big East blogger Andrea Adelson: Most everyone expected the Bearcats to be better this season, with veteran players returning at key positions on offense and defense. But just how much better was the big question. Cincinnati answered that early, jumping out to a 7-1 start to the season behind vastly improved play from its much-maligned defense. Then the season turned.
Quarterback Zach Collaros broke his ankle early against West Virginia and was lost for the regular season. All of a sudden, a team that controlled the Big East was no longer in control at all. The Bearcats lost to the Mountaineers and dropped one to Rutgers the following week, dealing them what would be a death blow to their BCS chances. What perhaps hurts most was this team had a lead on West Virginia in the fourth quarter and could not hold on for the win.
But the Bearcats can still call themselves Big East champions for the third time in four seasons, so that should help take the sting away. Running back Isaiah Pead had another terrific season, becoming the first Cincinnati back in 25 seasons to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. The defensive front played outstanding all season, stuffing the run and getting great pressure on the quarterback with 44 sacks and 106.5 tackles for loss. Defensive tackle Derek Wolfe was a load to handle inside, and linebacker JK Schaffer had 100 tackles for the third straight season.
This was also a team that made a complete turnaround when it came to turnover margin. Last year, the Bearcats were last in the Big East at minus-15 in this category. This year, they led the Big East at plus-11. The good news for Cincinnati is that Collaros is expected back for the bowl game, but he might remind everyone what could have been for the Bearcats this season.
Vanderbilt take from SEC blogger Chris Low: James Franklin vowed when he took the Vanderbilt job that he was unconcerned about what had or hadn’t happened in the past there.
Never mind that the Commodores had been the rest of the SEC’s punching bag. Franklin saw to it that they punched back, and they’re headed to a bowl game for only the fifth time in school history.
Vanderbilt earned that trip by going to Winston-Salem, N.C., on the final weekend of the regular season and routing Wake Forest 41-7 for its sixth win of the season.
The Commodores were agonizingly close to being an eight- or even a nine-win football team. They lost in overtime at Tennessee and lost three more close games to Arkansas, Florida and Georgia by a combined 13 points.
Vanderbilt leaned on its veteran defense early in the season. The Commodores intercepted 17 passes, which is tied for second in the SEC.
But where they made the most improvement was on offense, especially after Jordan Rodgers took over at quarterback in Week 7. He had plenty of help, too. Junior running back Zac Stacy set a school record with 1,136 rushing yards. The offensive line made major strides, and sophomore receiver Jordan Matthews became one of the SEC’s premier big-play threats in the passing game.
- Alabama is looking at some neutral site scheduling options, though a game with Georgia Tech has been postponed. Nick Saban chats with the Birmingham News during the Crimson Caravan.
- Auburn, like many of us, is seeking long-term success.
- Is anyone going to bust up -- to steal a phrase from Chris Low -- the Florida-Alabama duopoly?
- Former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger might return to Athens -- only in another uniform to stand on the opposite sideline. This is an odd -- and perhaps ill-timed -- mixture of politics and college football.
- Undrafted Kentucky players are picking their NFL teams.
- LSU has suspended center T-Bob Hebert after his arrest for drunken driving early Saturday morning. Redshirt freshman defensive end Sam Montgomery is already winning awards.
- Life is good for this former Ole Miss Rebel.
- South Carolina hands out raises for assistant coaches.
- My old buddy Ron Higgins writes that Tennessee coach Derek Dooley has some concerns, a lack of playmakers and a lack of experience being chief among them. Maybe this commitment will help.
- A media hero! Photographer saves a former Vanderbilt coach (this is two-days old, but it's hard to pass up anything positive about the media).
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
We'll wrap up our preview of the SEC with a few preseason awards and predictions:
1. Offensive Player of the Year: Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. If you had one pick of any current player in the SEC, Tebow would be the guy. He's a force throwing the ball. He's a force running the ball and he's the quintessential leader.
2. Defensive Player of the Year: Tennessee safety Eric Berry. The Vols are promoting Berry for the Heisman Trophy, and why not? He's intercepted 12 passes his first two seasons and hits like a linebacker. Just ask Knowshon Moreno.
3. Newcomer of the Year: Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett. He has one of the strongest arms in college football, talented playmakers around him and a firm grasp of Bobby Petrino's system. It all adds up to a big debut season at Arkansas.
4. Freshman of the Year: South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Steve Spurrier has already said Gilmore is one of the best freshmen he's ever signed. He's going to start at cornerback for the Gamecocks and will also get a few snaps at quarterback in the Wildcat formation.
5. Comeback Player of the Year: Mississippi State linebacker Jamar Chaney. A second-team All-SEC selection two years ago, Chaney broke his left fibula and tore ligaments in his ankle in the season opener last year. He's back in the middle this season, though, and in the best shape of his career. Look for him to anchor what should be a terrific Mississippi State linebacker corps.
6. Breakout Player of the Year: Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower. His transformation from one of the best freshmen in the league to one of the best players in the league will be on full display this season. The Crimson Tide will use him in different roles, and he's much more in tune with the complexities of the defense. His best is yet to come.
7. Most exciting player: Ole Miss running back/receiver Dexter McCluster. Percy Harvin wasn't the only member of the 600/600 club last season. A threat in the running game, passing game and maybe even the return game, the speedy McCluster rushed for 655 yards and also had 625 yards receiving in 2008. He's one of those guys you expect to score every time he gets in the open field.
8. Coach of the Year: Arkansas' Bobby Petrino. With road games at Alabama, Florida, LSU and Ole Miss, if Petrino can figure out a way to win seven or eight games this season, then he can go ahead and clear out a spot on his mantle for the trophy. The Hogs will be much improved in Petrino's second season.
9. Game of the Year: Florida at LSU, Oct. 10 in Baton Rouge. This is actually one of two huge games in the league the second weekend in October. Alabama also travels to Ole Miss. But if you look down Florida's schedule, the trip to Tiger Stadium looms as the Gators' toughest challenge. And if LSU can knock off Florida, you've got to like the Tigers' chances in the West race.
10. Team that will surprise: Georgia. The pick here is based largely on the Bulldogs being an afterthought in the East race, only a year removed from being everybody's preseason No. 1. Georgia isn't good enough to unseat Florida in the East, but the Bulldogs behind a strong offensive line and a defense out to avenge last season's poor showing will be a lot better than people think.
11. Team that will disappoint: Alabama. Breaking in a new quarterback the same year you're revamping your offensive line is never a good mix. The Crimson Tide won't fall off completely. Their defense will be too good. But remember that Nick Saban has never won 10 or more games in back-to-back seasons in his head coaching career.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
We took a closer look at the SEC East race last Friday, although it's hard to find anybody who thinks it will be much of a race.
Today, we turn our attention to the West race, which is just the opposite. Throw Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss into a sack and pick out a winner. It's that close, and don't be surprised if Arkansas has some say in who wins it.
Here are five things to watch in the West:
1. Jevan Snead's blind side: For all that Ole Miss has going for it, there is the left side of the offensive line, specifically left tackle. Michael Oher was Snead's bodyguard a year ago, but is now counting his money in the NFL. Sophomore Bradley Sowell will enter the season as Oher's replacement. He's plenty athletic enough and actually played some tight end last season, but hasn't been as consistent as the coaches would like. They demoted him at one point in the spring to send a message, but he's had a better preseason camp and is coming off his best week. Freshman Bobby Massie isn't ready yet to step in at left tackle, so the Rebels really need Sowell to take this job and run with it.
2. Running to glory: The running games in the West should all be potent. Everybody has at least one big-time running back, and there's also quality depth. LSU's Charles Scott, Arkansas' Michael Smith and Mississippi State's Anthony Dixon are the top three backs in the league, but they will have company. Ben Tate figures to be the workhorse in Auburn's new offense. Ole Miss goes about four deep at tailback, and Alabama can't wait to unveil freshman Trent Richardson in a backfield that already includes Mark Ingram and Roy Upchurch. If you like to watch teams run the football, keep an eye on the West this season.
3. Julio's high-wire act: Tim Tebow is a lock to be a College Football Hall of Famer, and Eric Berry is the best defensive player in the league. But the guy I'd pay the most money to watch play is Alabama's Julio Jones. Watching him break tackles, stiff-arm defenders and go up and take the ball away from cornerbacks with his rare blend of strength, great hands and uncanny body control never gets old. I keep waiting for the first person who hits Jones to bring him down. He never quits competing and is as tough as they come. The guy played through a hernia, cracked wrist and bum shoulder and was still one of the best receivers in the league as a freshman. What's in store for his sophomore season?
4. Hail to the Chief: After 14 years at Tennessee, John Chavis is now barking orders to the LSU defense, which might have been the most underachieving unit in the league a year ago. Chavis, a.k.a. "Chief" to those who've coached with him and played under him, hopes to incorporate the same kind of attacking defense at LSU that was the backbone of some of Tennessee's best teams under Phillip Fulmer. In nine of Chavis' 14 seasons at Tennessee, the Vols ranked in the top three in the SEC in total defense. He's already said that talent won't be a problem at LSU, and the players love his style. We'll see if it all translates into the Tigers getting back to playing championship defense this season.
5. High on the Hogs: The folks in the Ozarks might want to have their calculators ready. Arkansas in Year No. 2 under Bobby Petrino has the pieces in place offensively to do some serious damage to scoreboards. Quarterback Ryan Mallett, a transfer from Michigan, is a perfect fit for this offense, and the collection of talent around him is equally impressive. The Hogs are deep enough at the running back and receiver positions that it may be somebody different every week making the big plays. The two things working against the Hogs are a defense that still has to prove it can keep every game from being a shootout and a killer schedule that you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Here's a roundup from all the scrimmages over the weekend:
- Big plays highlight Alabama's final scrimmage. Junior quarterback Greg McElroy throws for 295 yards and two touchdowns, but also throws two interceptions.
- Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino comes out of Saturday's scrimmage feeling good that this offense can be explosive.
- Auburn closes in on finalizing its depth chart in its final scrimmage.
- Junior college newcomer DeQuin Evans shows up all over the place at defensive end in Kentucky's scrimmage.
- LSU freshman Russell Shepard is impressive at several different positions. It looks like the Tigers may throw it to him some and hand it to him some this season.
- Mississippi State uses scrimmage as a dress rehearsal. Even the cheerleaders show up at Scott Field.
- Quarterback Jevan Snead is extremely sharp in Ole Miss' scrimmage. Tight end Gerald Harris pulls his hamstring.
- The defense gets the best of the offense in Saturday's scrimmage, according to South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. Freshman receiver Alshon Jeffery catches two touchdown passes.
- Tennessee's running game gets into rhythm in Saturday's scrimmage, and Jonathan Crompton takes a big step toward locking down the starting quarterback job.
- Vanderbilt backs off some in Saturday's scrimmage, but coach Bobby Johnson still likes what the Commodores were able to get done.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
We'll take a look at the SEC receivers today. Included in this group are the tight ends:
1. Ole Miss: It was a tough call between Ole Miss and Arkansas, but the Rebels get the nod based on the one-two punch of Dexter McCluster and Shay Hodge. McCluster will line up all over the field, but Hodge is one of the more underrated players in the league. He had eight touchdown catches last season. Ole Miss fans (not to mention quarterback Jevan Snead) are going to love freshman Pat Patterson. He can really go get the football.
2. Arkansas: The Hogs are so complete at all the pass-catching positions. Junior D.J. Williams is one of the best playmaking tight ends in the country. He caught 61 passes last season. The sophomore threesome of Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs is outstanding. The one downer is Lucas Miller breaking his collarbone this week in practice and being out for the next four to six weeks.
3. Florida: One of the few question marks surrounding the Gators is who will step forward in the spots vacated by Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy. No worries. There's still plenty of talent to go around. Deonte Thompson, Riley Cooper, David Nelson and freshman Andre Debose will be just fine. And what a dimension junior tight end Aaron Hernandez provides with his versatility.
4. LSU: Brandon LaFell is one of most complete receivers in the league. He's got speed, good size and has been extremely productive, but the Tigers have several other pieces around him. Richard Dickson is one of the better tight ends in the league, while true freshmen Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard are both special talents.
5. Alabama: Julio Jones is so good that he vaults the Crimson Tide into the SEC's Top 5 simply by himself. He's healthier after fighting off several issues last season and has a better grasp of the offense. Alabama will also move him around more this season. Keep an eye on tight end Colin Peek. He's a transfer from Georgia Tech who will be a big part of the passing game.
6. Georgia: Just like Julio Jones, A.J. Green is so dynamic that he makes everybody else around him better. Green led the SEC with 963 receiving yards last season as a freshman and tied for the league lead with eight touchdown catches. Redshirt freshman Tavarres King, and true freshman Marlon Brown are two guys to watch.
7. Tennessee: Lane Kiffin did a nice job in this first recruiting class of going out and adding some weapons at receiver. Freshmen Marsalis Teague and Nu'Keese Richardson will both play key roles this season. Gerald Jones should flourish in this offense, and it looks like the Vols will get Denarius Moore back earlier than expected from a foot injury.
8. Auburn: The Tigers are thin in a lot of spots, and receiver is one of them. Tim Hawthorne broke his foot and is expected to miss the first four game. Montez Billings has the most experience, but freshmen DeAngelo Benton and Emory Blake will probably both have to play. Mario Fannin in the slot should make a big difference.
9. South Carolina: The Gamecocks are lacking a go-to guy and didn't have one last season. Senior Moe Brown is steady, but isn't a home-run threat. They really need sophomore Jason Barnes to put it all together this season, and the guy that's really coming is heralded freshman Alshon Jeffery.
10. Kentucky: Like a lot of other teams in the league, the Wildcats have one dynamic receiver in Randall Cobb and not much else in the way of proven players. Junior college newcomer Chris Matthews looks like he's the real deal.
11. Mississippi State: There's talent on the roster at receiver for the Bulldogs. It's just young talent. They may end up playing as many as four first-year players at receiver this season, led by freshman Chad Bumphis.
12. Vanderbilt: When Connecticut transfer Terence Jeffers-Harris didn't get eligible, that was a big blow for the Commodores. Remember, they'd already lost Justin Wheeler in the spring to a knee injury. There just aren't any proven playmakers right now at receiver, although both of the tight ends are good players.