By now it’s beaten into your brain that the SEC will feature four new head coaches. And with new head coaches comes scheme changes on both sides of the ball.
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But let’s really dig in on five changes in particular. Let’s go:
The Hogs’ offense is going through an interesting transformation. On one hand, the player personnel was recruited for more of a spread formation under Bobby Petrino, but Bret Bielema is known for his pro-style, smash-mouth offenses. Interestingly enough, Bielema hired former Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, who loves to throw it all around the yard. So, what will the Hogs’ identity be? Arkansas can win in 2013 if they play like Florida in 2012, meaning ball-controlled, run-it-down-your-throat offense. How Chaney gels with Bielema’s tendencies and the offense will be one of the more interesting storylines to watch surrounding the Hogs.
One great thing for Gus Malzahn bringing back the spread to Auburn is the current players in the program are built for the system. He’s only been gone one year, and he recruited 90 percent of the players for his system on offense. Scot Loeffler tried to fit a square peg in a round hole last year with his version of a pro-style offense and failed miserably. Malzahn’s spread-‘em-out will score points, and it’s proven in the past to have an impact immediately. Remember, Chizik couldn’t develop his top recruiting talent. Malzahn will put that talent to good use and create the fastest turnaround in the SEC.
One of the most interesting new coordinators is Neal Brown, who Mark Stoops hired from Texas Tech. The Red Raiders’ Air Raid attack finished second in the country in passing offense, averaging more than 45 attempts per game and over 355 yards per game through the air. Does Brown have the personnel to run that and have success at Kentucky year one? What he does have is a bevy of running back depth, so it creates an interesting scenario. First, UK has to name its starting QB – either Jalen Whitlow or Max Smith – before it can decide its identity on offense. Nonetheless, I love the hire and the scheme challenge it presents to defensive coordinators.
It’s hard to put into words how awful Tennessee’s defense was in 2012. Under Sal Suneri’s irresponsible 3-4 system, the Vols’ defense was the worst in program history. They yielded more than 471 yards per game and finished second to last in rush and pass defense. John Jancek brings back the 4-3 scheme, sending an applause across Vol nation, and they will improve as a unit by just being in the right formation with a competent play caller. They are talented at all three levels, and although they lack true depth, they will improve upon last year’s forgettable showing.
Tennessee is a historically pro-style offensive-minded program. But now, with Butch Jones, the spread comes to town. Jones doesn’t like to call it the spread, but that’s essentially what it is. Will that work at Tennessee? Justin Worley is likely to get the start, even though he’s less mobile than arguably every quarterback on the roster. Other signal callers Nathan Peterman, Josh Dobbs and Riley Ferguson could be better suited, but Worley has the most experience. Despite lacking a proven quarterback and proven receivers, Tennessee does have the most experienced and arguably the most talented O-line in the conference. Marlin Lane, Rajion Neal and Alden Hill will all share carries to begin the season. Regardless of the scheme, Tennessee must lean on its talented line and up-and-coming running game to win games.
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