Published August 2, 2012 - 3:30pm
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When you really get past the dawn of the excitement of the new season and really scrape beneath the surface level of anticipation for your favorite team, only three teams in the SEC West stand out to win the division: Alabama, Arkansas and LSU.
But even though the ‘big three’ are the favorites, they still have questions that need to be answered.
Alabama: Defensive Secondary
Yeah, I know Trent Richardson is gone, but the biggest question mark for the Tide entering 2012 lies in the defensive secondary. In fact, Alabama lost three starters, with Dre Kirkpatrick and Mark Barron being first-round picks in the NFL Draft. Lone safety returner Robert Lester becomes the face of the secondary. He’ll welcome Dee Milliner at corner, a rising star, and likely JUCO Deion Belue playing opposite Milliner. At the other safety position, Vinnie Sunseri and HaHa Clinton-Dix will battle it out. Sunseri is known as the Executioner, while HCD has all the makings of the next great Nick Saban-coached safety. The good news for Bama fans is the secondary is Saban’s specialty. But replacing three of four starters is cause for some concern.
Arkansas: Run Defense
There are many questions we want answered about the Hogs entering camp. Aside from the off-season turmoil and questions regarding the health of Knile Davis, the bottom line is that the defense has not cut it in the past few years. This has to be the biggest priority and biggest question mark. Assuming the offense will be healthy and score at will, will the defense finally step up and win some tough games this year? New defensive coordinator Paul Haynes has been tasked with just that. Particularly in run defense, the Hogs were 74th nationally last year. That won’t cut it in the SEC. And they are replacing two defensive ends – Jake Bequette graduated and Tenarius Wright moved to linebacker – and replacing top tackler Jerry Franklin. One of the strengths of the defense lies along the interior of the line, and this will help develop the less experienced defensive ends. It’s time the defense complements the offense.
While there are questions about Zach Mettenberger at quarterback, there is enough talent around him to help compensate for his inexperience – so the biggest question mark on this nearly complete roster is at linebacker. And LSU lost two starters off last year’s team. Kevin Minter returns to anchor this group, and he will welcome two new starters, one being Tahj Jones and the other position up for grabs. However, departing from last year’s squad, LSU loses its fourth leading tackler in Ryan Baker, who was the quarterback of the defense. There are inexperience questions here that need answers, as it is the biggest question mark on defense and for defensive coordinator John Chavis.