Published January 21, 2014 - 3:00pmNEW: Follow on facebook -
It’s never too early to look ahead to the 2014 season and make early projections, right?
Let’s gaze into the crystal ball and see what the way too early projections for the SEC West say:
Related: Early SEC East Predictions 2014
1. Auburn Tigers
Key returnees: QB Nick Marshall, RB Corey Grant, RB Cameron Artis-Payne, C Reese Dismukes, WR Sammie Coates, DE Carl Lawson, DT Ben Bradley, DT Gabe Wright, DT Montravius Adams, LB Roninson Therezie, LB Cassanova McKinzy, LB Chris Frost, CB Jonathon Mincy, DB Jermaine Whitehead
Key losses: RB Tre Mason, OT Greg Robinson, DE Dee Ford, MLB Jake Holland, CB Chris Davis, DB Ryan Smith
Buzz: Auburn loses Tre Mason, but they return a whole slew of talent, including QB Nick Marshall. The passing game has to evolve and progress, but the running game should be strong again. But the biggest reason I like Auburn in 2014 is because of the defense. The biggest impact defender will be gone in Dee Ford, but freshmen Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel are going to be nasty. Couple that with returning the biggest impact linebacker in Cassanova McKinzy, hybrid Robinson Therezie and two secondary players in Jonathon Mincy and Jermaine Whitehead, and the Tigers’ defense should be an asset in 2014.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide
Key returnees: RB TJ Yeldon, RB Derrick Henry, WR Amari Cooper, WR DeAndrew White, TE OJ Howard, OL Arie Kouandjio, OL Austin Shepherd, DT A’Shawn Robinson, LB Trey DePriest, DB Landon Collins
Key losses: QB AJ McCarron, WR Kevin Norwood, OT Cyrus Kouandjio, OG Anthony Steen, DE Jeoffrey Pagan, DE Ed Stinson, LB CJ Mosley, OLB Adrian Hubbard, DB HaHa Clinton-Dix, DB Vinnie Sunseri
Buzz: Alabama loses arguably the greatest QB in school history in AJ McCarron and one of the greatest linebackers in CJ Mosley. Replacing McCarron is paramount to offensive success, but the Tide must fix other deficiencies as well. And fixing the cornerback play is just as crucial as replacing McCarron. The Tide will be stacked with talent again, and Nick Saban will try to mirror 2014’s team to the 2011 national championship team. But at this time, Alabama has a little catching up do to.
3. Ole Miss Rebels
Key returnees: QB Bo Wallace, RB I’Tavius Mathers, WR Laquon Treadwell, OT Laremy Tunsil, DE CJ Johnson, DT Robert Nkemdiche, DL Isaac Gross, DL Lavon Hooks, LB Denzel Nkemdiche, LB Serderius Bryant, DB Tony Conner, CB Senquez Golson, DB Trae Elston, DB Cody Prewitt
Key losses: RB Jeff Scott, WR Donte Moncrief, OT Pierce Burton, WR Ja-Mes Logan, LB Mike Marry
Buzz: If there’s a year Ole Miss is going to contend with the SEC West, it may be next season. Much like 2013, the Rebels return several starters, including their quarterback, and Wallace has players around him in place to score points. With an added spring for development, Wallace needs to take his game to another level if the Rebels will contend. The defense, however, looks strong next season, with several returning impact players. This will be the second year for Hugh Freeze’s all-star recruiting class, and it needs to take a major step forward in development. Ole Miss could be a darkhorse contender next season, IF the quarterback play improves.
4. LSU Tigers
Key returnees: QB Anthony Jennings, OL La’El Collins, OL Vadal Alexander, WR Travin Dural, DE Jermauria Rasco, DE Danielle Hunter, LB Kwon Alexander, CB TreDavious White, CB Jalen Collins, CB Jalen Mills, DB Ronald Martin
Key losses: QB Zach Mettenberger, RB Jeremy Hill, RB Alfred Blue, WR Jarvis Landry, WR Odell Beckham, OL Trai Turner, DT Anthony Jennings, DT Ego Ferguson, LB Lamin Barrow, DB Craig Loston
Buzz: Much like 2013, the NFL Draft is hammering LSU. The Tigers’ offense will be without Zach Mettenberger, Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry in 2014, and the offense will take on a different identity with Anthony Jennings. The two best impact defensive linemen in Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson are also gone, along with top linebacker Lamin Barrow and safety Craig Loston. LSU could take a small step back next year; no team that loses that much talent and experience simply reloads. There are still great players within the program, but the Tigers could win eight or nine games next season, in what looks to be a rebuilding year. LSU will be interesting in 2014.
5. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Key returnees: QB Dak Prescott, RB Josh Robinson, WR Jameon Lewis, TE Malcolm Johnson, WR Robert Johnson, DL Chris Jones, DE Preston Brown, DL Kaleb Eulls, LB Benardrick McKinney, LB Matthew Wells, CB Jamerson Love, CB Justin Cox
Key losses: QB Tyler Russell, RB LaDarius Perkins, OG Gabe Jackson, DE Denico Autry, LB Deonte Skinner, Nickoe Whitley
Buzz: This could be the year Mississippi State can win eight or nine games during the regular season. There’s a nice core nucleus of players returning on both sides of the ball that should make for a strong outlook in 2014, and this team wasn’t far off in 2013 to finishing much better. I really like the look and makeup of this team, and it’s going to come down to winning a few key games against teams like Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss and Texas A&M to see just how high this team can rise.
6. Texas A&M Aggies
Key returnees: OT Cedric Ogbuehi, C Mike Matthews, OG Jarvis Harrison, WR Malcome Kennedy, RB Trey Williams, RB Tra Carson, DE Julien Obioha, DL Gavin Stansbury, LB Darian Claiborne, DB Howard Matthews, DB Deshazor Everett, DB De’Vante Harris, DB Floyd Raven
Key losses: QB Johnny Manziel, RB Ben Malena, WR Mike Evans, WR Derel Walker, OT Jake Matthews, LB Steven Jenkins, DB Toney Hurd
Buzz: 2014 will be an interesting transition year for the Aggies. The much-maligned defense should get much better, while the offense loses QB Johnny Manziel and WR Mike Evans, which was a massive amount of production. The running game will be fine, and it will have to be better to help carry the load. I love the direction of the program, but for the short run, the Aggies could hit some minor bumps in the road. But, hey, nobody saw 2012’s incredible season coming either.
7. Arkansas Razorbacks
Key returnees: QB Brandon Allen, RB Alex Collins, RB Jonathan Williams, TE Hunter Henry, OL Brey Cook, OL Denver Kirkland, DE Trey Flowers, DT Darius Philon, LB Braylon Mitchell, S Alan Turner, CB Telvin Mitchell, S Rohan Gaines
Key losses: C Travis Swanson, WR Javontee Herndon, WR Julian Horton, FB Kiero Small, DE Chris Smith, DT Robert Thomas, DT Bryan Jones, DB Eric Bennett
Buzz: The reality of how tough it will be for Bret Bielema to build Arkansas back into a 10-game winner set in this past season. The Hogs won just three games and lost nine straight, including an eight-game SEC losing streak. The Hogs were SEC-worthy in the running game and along the defensive line. The good news is the running game returns, but the passing game has to get going. The defensive line should be strong, but Arkansas has to get bigger and better athletes at linebacker and in the secondary. The Hogs aren’t that far off, but bumpy roads could be ahead once again in 2014.
Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports