Most improved article:
Position groups’ improvement from year to year is fun and very entertaining to watch in college football. Team success hinges 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 West’s most improved position groups for 2013:
Alabama Crimson Tide: Wide receivers
One word to describe the Tide’s wide receiving corps in 2013 would be explosive. There’s a bevy of talent at wide receiver, and Bama returns a two-time national champion quarterback AJ McCarron. Receiver Amari Cooper headlines the receiving corps, while others in Kevin Norwood, Chris Black, DeAndrew White, Kenny Bell and Christion Jones will all fight for playing time. Alabama’s running game should be dominant again, but the passing attack will be equally as nasty, giving the Tide’s offense a perfect balance.
Arkansas Razorbacks: Defensive secondary
The Hogs’ defensive secondary was atrocious last season. They finished last in the SEC in pass defense, allowing over 285 yards per game through the air. They couldn’t cover, and they couldn’t tackle. But the secondary returns seven of the top nine tacklers, including four starters in corners Will Hines and Tevin Mitchel and safeties Rohan Gaines and Eric Bennett. Bret Bielema’s biggest immediate impact will come on defense, and the secondary should make the biggest jump of any of the position groups. Look out for newcomer Carroll Washington.
Auburn Tigers: Linebackers
Auburn’s linebackers were non-existent last season. They couldn’t tackle and couldn’t cover in space, and with the exception of Darren Bates, they were completely forgettable. And new DC Ellis Johnson loves heavier 230-pound linebackers, but that’s something the Tigers have very few of on the current roster. Jake Holland returns as the team’s middle linebacker and weathered veteran, while rising star and hybrid Justin Garrett is ready for a breakout-caliber season. I think the overall defense takes a step forward, but leading the way will be a new and improved linebacking corps.
LSU Tigers: Quarterbacks
New OC Cam Cameron is known for developing quarterbacks and getting them comfortable earlier in games. That’s great news for Zach Mettenberger, who at times looked nothing more than an average signal caller. Cameron will get Mett hitting shorter routes to receivers and tight ends, and swing passes and screen passes to running backs should improve tremendously and help with the running game. Mett has all the talent around him in 2013, and he should be the most improved player on offense.
Mississippi State Bulldogs: Defensive line
MSU will have six legit defensive linemen come fall. Defensive ends Preston Smith and Denico Autry welcome stud freshman Chris Jones. Tackles Nick James, Kaleb Eulls and Quay Evans are all due for breakout seasons. Eulls was moved from end to tackle this year, and Nick James could be a future star. MSU loses three in the secondary, and a better pass rush and run defense should help an inexperienced secondary. I like the makeup of the Bulldogs’ defensive line.
Ole Miss Rebels: Defensive line
The Rebels return starting ends CJ Johnson and Cameron Whigham, along with undersized and underrated tackle Isaac Gross. The Rebels do lose Gilbert Pena, but they get a shot in the arm of rich talent with top freshman Robert Nkemdiche and JUCO transfer Lavon Hooks. Nkemdiche and Hooks both have a big opportunity to start week one. The Rebels finished 6th in the SEC in run defense, and this group stands to take their output to the next level.
Texas A&M Aggies: Running backs
Texas A&M’s running back corps is stacked to the brim. Ben Malena returns for his senior season after rushing for 808 yards and eight touchdowns last year. Rising sophomore Trey Williams looks so explosive, but the Aggies welcome two transfers who are finally eligible. OU transfer Brandon Williams could become the every-down back, while Oregon transfer Tra Carson is so explosive. With Johnny Manziel taking carries away from the running backs, playing time will look more like a shark tank, with all four fighting over carries. That’s a great problem to have.
Photo Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports