ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS (7-6, 2-6 SEC last season)
2014 postseason: Defeated Texas in AdvoCare Texas Bowl
Final AP rank: NR
Returning starters: 9 offense, 6 defense, 1 specialist (via Phil Steele)
2015 ESPN FPI rank: 10th
Spring game: April 25
• Arkansas’ dominant running back duo returns
Since coming to Arkansas in 2013, coach Bret Bielema has emphasized a running game like the one he displayed at Wisconsin. Last season, the Razorbacks ranked fourth in the SEC in expected points added in the rushing game.
Arkansas was the only FBS team with two 1,000-yard rushers: Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. Both return for 2015, and big things will be expected from a duo that accounted for 81 percent of the Razorbacks’ rushing yards in 2014.
• Will the Razorbacks’ late-season success carry over to 2015?
Arkansas won three of its last four games in 2014, including back-to-back shutouts of LSU and Mississippi. The Razorbacks became the first unranked team since 1942 with multiple shutouts of AP-ranked opponents in one season. With 15 starters returning on offense and defense combined, the Razorbacks will probably be ranked in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll for the first time since 2012.
• Can the Razorbacks’ defense be as good as it finished last season?
From the start of Week 9 last season, Arkansas’ defense was about as good as it got in the SEC. Florida ranked first in defensive expected points added from Week 9 to the end of the season (contributing 16.8 points per game to the Gators’ scoring margin), but the Razorbacks (16.5 EPA) weren’t far behind. Arkansas’ defense allowed 10.3 points per game in its final six games, more than six points better than any other SEC defense.
TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (7-6, 3-5 SEC last season)
2014 postseason: Defeated Iowa in Taxslayer Bowl
Final AP rank: NR
Returning starters: 10 offense, 8 defense, 1 specialist (via Phil Steele)
2015 ESPN FPI rank: 14th
Spring game: April 25
• Will recruiting rankings turn into wins?
Recruiting has blossomed under coach Butch Jones: The Volunteers have signed top-5 recruiting classes each of the last two years. Tennessee welcomes 10 early enrollees this spring, including three defensive linemen each ranked in the top 115 of the ESPN 300. The gem of the class might be junior college transfer running back Alvin Kamar, who scored 18 touchdowns in nine games last year for Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College, averaging more than 130 yards a game.
• Dobbs is the guy
Quarterback Josh Dobbs entered spring practice as the full-time starter for the first time in his three years on Rocky Top. Dobbs led the Volunteers to a 4-1 record as a starter in the final five games last season. Tennessee's offense was 13 points better in games Dobbs started last season.
Dobbs’ 72.9 Total QBR in 2014 ranked seventh out of 14 SEC quarterbacks with at least 250 action plays. If his per-game passing and rushing yards were extrapolated to a 13-game season, he would surpass 2,500 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing, something only Heisman Trophy winners Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel have done in the SEC.
• Making moves along the lines
Tennessee returns an SEC-high 10 starters on offense, but the Volunteers need to make improvements up front. Tennessee allowed 43 sacks last season, tied for sixth-most in the country and seven more than any other team in the SEC. Tennessee allowed 85 quarterback knockdowns, also the most in the conference. At times last season, the Volunteers started two true freshmen on the offensive line, and freshman could get playing time in 2015. Tennessee signed Drew Richmond, the No. 5 offensive tackle in the ESPN 300 recruiting rankings, but he is not on campus this spring.
On the other side of the ball, Curt Maggitt and Derek Barnett combined for 21 sacks last season. They are the fourth set of SEC teammates to each record 10 sacks in one season over the last 25 years. Maggitt will miss spring practice after undergoing shoulder surgery.
Stats & Info SEC spring practice series: