SEC East: Four division contenders all have questions that need answers

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While the West will be decided between only three teams, the East is wide open by anyone’s standards. Georgia and South Carolina are the favorites, but you can’t count out Florida or Tennessee. I think we all assume Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky might not be able to get there. But that’s why you play the game. And no disrespect to any of the three teams left out, but they are just not there yet.

Looking at the four obvious contenders, here are the biggest questions for each team heading into the season:

Florida: Quarterback

Florida has two sophomore quarterbacks in Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett. Each is equally as talented but both are unproven. Driskel and Brissett were thrown into the fire during their freshmen seasons because of John Brantley’s injury against Alabama. And neither made the most of their playing time, completing only 46 to 47 percent of their passes. The No. 1 agenda heading into camp is naming a starting quarterback. New offensive coordinator Brent Pease has his work cut out for him, as combined the two quarterbacks threw for only 354 yards on 73 total passing attempts. The lack of a proven starter rattles the bones of Gator fans heading into this season.

Georgia: Offensive Line

While most talk is centered on the running backs and who will replace Isaiah Crowell, I’m looking at the problem Georgia faces replacing three starters on the offensive line. There are players who lack experience, and most are unproven. It doesn’t help that Kolton Houston is ruled ineligible, again, for testing positive for a banned substance that he unknowingly took. He won the right tackle position outright in the spring, but he has yet to be declared eligible. Georgia is heading into another season scratching their heads because of the lack of proven players on the line. It seems to be the same topic over and over. Kenarious Gates and Chris Burnette are the only two proven commodities. Georgia needs help here and questions answered.

South Carolina: Wide Receiver

We know the running game will be clicking starting in week one, and we know Steve Spurrier will cater to his team in this area. And quarterback Connor Shaw really developed as a passer throughout the season. He really had one go-to guy in Alshon Jeffery. But with Jeffery gone, there is a lack of proven playmakers at the position. Ace Sanders is the logical shoo-in to be the next go-to guy, but don’t count out DL Moore to play a crucial position with his size (6-5) and experience. SC will be counting on two unproven underclassmen in sophomore Damiere Byrd and freshman Shaq Roland to pick up the slack, too. Third and six is what I’m looking at and asking myself, ‘who is going to be the go-to for Shaw’?

Tennessee: Running Game

The most obvious position of the team that will keep Tennessee away from an SEC Championship is their running game. The Vols were the only team in the SEC to average less than 100 yards per game and ranked 116th nationally last year. Although it will be electric, the offense cannot survive on the passing game alone. With a more experienced offensive line, the cast of Marlin Lane, Rajion Neal, Devrin Young and freshman Davante Bourque should be better than last year. Lane needs to break out and Neal needs to hold onto the football. The Vols are in the discussion for an East Championship. Don’t kid yourself.

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COMMENTS

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  • All I can say is keep sleeping on MIZZOU.

    M-I-Z!

    • Obviously an 8-5 Mizzou team that was 2-3 against ranked teams last year can be dismissed even though they return almost all of their skilled players.

      On the other hand Florida and Tenn who went 7-6 and 5-7 last year and a collective 0-10 against ranked opponents are both right in the mix.

      I am not one of those Mizzou fans that expects to win the East this year but all of the people calling for them to be a doormat are in for a big surprise. Mizzou has a good offense and a defense that is going to surprise people. Mizzou’s ‘D’ was solid against the run last year and horrible against the pass which is deadly in the big xii. The pace of SEC games is much slower than in the big xii which means even if the defense is no better than last year their numbers will be much better because SEC teams will run fewer plays against them than their big xii counterparts did.

      I fully expect Mizzou to finish around .500 in conference with anything below 4-4 being a disappointment.

      • No way Mizzou is going to be a doormat for the SEC. Do I think they are title contender right now? No. Can they get there? Absolutely. Florida returns one of the best defenses in the SEC next year – 11 of 12 players. Tennessee will go toe-to-toe with Arkansas for the best offense in the SEC. The conference games are Georgia, @South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Kentucky, @Florida, @Tennessee and @TAMU. Three road games to end the year would be very tough for anyone. 4-4 is attainable though.

        But if Mizzou pulls the upset in week two against Georgia, look out.

  • Gamecocks will be fine. My money says the name Jeffery will still be called quite a bit. Alshon does have a younger brother and he was red-shirted last year.