Published July 2, 2013 - 4:00pmNEW: Follow on facebook -
Position groups’ improvement from year to year is fun and very entertaining to watch in college football. And success of teams hinge on the improvement of certain position corps, and it’s not like the NFL where teams can just pick up a free agent to immediately make their team better. Position coaches have to develop the prospects they recruit and sign.
Here’s an outlook of the SEC East’s most improved position groups for 2013:
Florida Gators: O-line
Florida lost two starters from last year’s up and down offensive line. That’s actually great news. Florida returns starting center Jonotthan Harrison, guard Jon Halapio and tackle Chaz Green. Rising sophomore and former five-star prospect DJ Humphries looks ready to blossom and grow into a top tackle in the SEC. But Florida’s two biggest additions come in the form of transfers Max Garcia and Tyler Moore. Garcia started all 12 games at Maryland as a sophomore at left tackle and should slide into the starting right guard. Moore is the Nebraska transfer, and he started more games as a true freshman than anyone in the history of the program. Florida’s O-line could transform from the biggest liability to the biggest strength in 2013.
Georgia Bulldogs: O-line
Georgia’s offensive line is in a much different scenario than Florida’s. The Bulldogs return all five starters, who are fighting like Piranhas for playing time. UGA finished 8th in the SEC in sacks allowed with 27 in 2012, and I look for that number to improve in 2013. Three seniors Chris Burnett, Dallas Lee and Kenarious Gates anchor this group, while tackle John Theus is a budding superstar. Collectively, this position group has two of the best running backs in the country and one of the best quarterbacks to ever come through the SEC behind it.
Kentucky Wildcats: Quarterback
Kentucky’s passing offense under Neal Brown stands to show marked improvement. The Cats finished 12th in the SEC in 2012, averaging just 176.3 yards per game. Enter Brown’s aerial attack. Brown’s Texas Tech passing attack finished tops in the Big 12, averaging over 355 yards per game and 45.69 attempts per game. No, I’m not saying Kentucky’s passing game or quarterback play goes from worst to first, but whoever wins the job – Jalen Whitlow, Max Smith or Patrick Towles – stands to throw it around the yard, even if the Cats are low on receiver numbers.
Missouri Tigers: O-line
Missouri’s offensive line suffered way too many injuries to compete in 2012. Thankfully, this group returns four starters in tackles Justin Britt and Mitch Morse, as well as center Evan Boehm and guard Max Copeland. Boehm is one of the best young prospects in the country. He can play tackle or guard, but Josh Henson moved Boehm to the centerpiece of the offensive line. An improved and healthy offensive line could be what Missouri needs to jumpstart a sluggish offense.
South Carolina Gamecocks: O-line
At times, USC’s offensive line was the worst unit on offense. The Gamecocks finished second to last in the SEC and 110th in the country, allowing 38 total sacks. But this group will improve in ’13. Corey Robinson and Brandon Shell are massive tackles, while guard AJ Cann is one of the best interior linemen in the SEC. Shell also figures to have a big year. This group replaces center TJ Johnson with freshman Cody Waldrop.
Tennessee Volunteers: Defense
Let’s be honest – Tennessee’s defense couldn’t tackle air last year. They were in the wrong scheme for the personnel, and Sal Sunseri looked lost at times calling defensive plays. Now, John Jancek enters onto the scene and is tasked with transforming the worst defense in Tennessee history into a winner. He also brings back the 4-3 scheme. Just by Tennessee being in the right scheme and by calling better plays, this group will get tremendous help. I think Tennessee’s defense takes a big step forward.
Vanderbilt Commodores: Defensive secondary
Vanderbilt’s secondary was good last season. They finished third in the SEC in pass defense, only trailing Alabama and Georgia. However, three starters return, including two safeties Javon Marshall and Kenny Ladler. But corner Andre Hal could be the best cover corner in the SEC. The secondary is the strength of the defense, and if this group can collectively notch 20-plus interceptions, look for the Dores to finish top five in the SEC in total defense. I love the look and make up of the Vanderbilt secondary.
Photo Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports