With 2013 in the books, teams and coaches have already turned their attention to 2014 and building a new team to attack next season. Every team has holes to fill, some more than others.
Related: SEC East offseason checklist
Here is the SEC West offseason checklist for every team:
Alabama Crimson Tide
- Item No. 1 on Nick Saban’s agenda revolves around replacing QB AJ McCarron. FSU QB transfer Jacob Coker won’t be on campus until after he graduates this spring and enrolls this summer, and others get the first chance this spring. Blake Sims, Cooper Bateman, Alec Morris and Parker McLeod all have the first chance to make the best impression. Sims was McCarron’s backup, but I’m not sure he can be that player for Alabama. Also, according to a source, Bateman isn’t as good as advertised.
- The Tide also have to replace LT Cyrus Kouandjio and RG Anthony Steen along the offensive line.
- The main defensive concern is the corners and secondary. With Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri both leaving for the NFL, Landon Collins returns as the Tide’s only trustworthy defensive back. Between Bradley Sylve, Jarrick Williams, Eddie Jackson and a slew of others, Saban has to find corners with strong ball skills. Early enrollee Tony Brown is on campus and will compete this spring, too. Saban has some work to do with the defensive secondary.
- Bret Bielema will have a QB competition on his hands. Returner Brandon Allen will battle with AJ Derby, Austin Allen and early enrollee Rafe Peavey for the starting job.
- Arkansas loses one of its best players in center Travis Swanson, and his veteran leadership will be tough to replace, along with him being one of the top centers in the country.
- The two biggest areas Bielema needs to address on defense are the linebackers and secondary. However, he has to replace All-SEC DE Chris Smith and DTs Bryan Jones and Robert Thomas. DT Darius Philon will be special.
- New DC Robb Smith has to work on creating turnovers on defense. In two years, the Hogs have forced a total of 26; that would be good for just fourth best in 2013.
- Gus Malzahn would love to see the passing evolve this spring under Nick Marshall. The play calling worked to the strengths of the Tigers’ offense last season, but Malzahn would feel more comfortable about a more balanced attack. Marshall will work with Sammie Coates and JUCO transfer D’haquille Williams this spring.
- Auburn upgraded their secondary during this recruiting cycle, and JUCO safety transfer Derrick Moncrief should fit right in this spring. With corner Chris Davis and Ryan Smith having graduated, Auburn recruited longer players in the secondary.
- This spring will be important for revamping the defensive line. Rising sophomores Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel are the future, and they are all set up for big sophomore seasons. Increased development and better technique by all three could take the defense to another level.
- Item No. 1 on Les Miles’ agenda is replacing production of the big four offensive players: QB Zach Mettenberger, RB Jeremy Hill and WRs Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham. Hill will be the easiest to replace with Kenny Hilliard, Terrance Magee and freshman Leonard Fournette, but QB Anthony Jennings is the key to it all. Jennings’ playing time in 2013 after Mett was injured will prove to be crucial. I also expect WR Travin Dural to emerge as a star, along with freshman Malachi Dupre.
- The defense also loses key pieces in DTs Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson, LB Lamin Barrow and safety Craig Loston. All four are replaceable, but it’s not just that simple. DEs Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter have to emerge as bigger impact players, and this offseason will be crucial for development.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
- A full offseason with a clear and definitive starting QB could do wonders for an offense. After Dak Prescott took over as the full-time starter, the offense hit another level. Prescott has a nice nucleus of weapons around him in WRs Jameon Lewis, Robert Johnson and Joe Morrow, along with TE Malcolm Johnson, to create a better rapport and timing.
- The immediate concern is replacing OG Gabe Jackson and RT Charles Siddoway.
- Geoff Collins and Dan Mullen have to feel good with the talent returning on defense. Another offseason for Chris Jones could take his game to another level, along with LB Benardrick McKinney. Another offseason for corners Taveze Calhoun and Jamerson Love will be huge, too. The defense was strong in 2013, and it’s time to become one of the very best in the conference. I really like the makeup of the Bulldogs’ defense, along with an ace coordinator.
Ole Miss Rebels
- QB Bo Wallace was recovering from surgery last spring, and he did not benefit from spring practice. The Rebels return a talented and explosive offense, but in order for the team to take that next step, Wallace has to take that next step. He has all the tools to be a great QB, but his game must evolve. This spring will be huge.
- Finding RT Pierce Burton and center Evan Swindall’s replacements will be key this spring.
- Hugh Freeze has to feel great about his defense heading into this offseason, as they return as much or more talent than anybody in the conference. The front seven should be nasty, but they do have to replace MLB Mike Marry. Another spring of added continuity will be huge for an emerging contender.
Texas A&M Aggies
- One of the most popular QB battles this spring will feature rising sophomore Kenny Hill and freshman early enrollee and top QB prospect Kyle Allen. Hill gives the offense an added dimension in the running game and experience, but Allen is the future. Finding Johnny Manziel’s replacement will make headlines this offseason.
- The Aggies are set to return an experienced offensive line (again), but they lose LT Jake Matthews. It’s logical that the Aggies move Cedric Ogbuehi from RT to LT, and let JUCO transfers Jermaine Eluemunor and Avery Gennesy battle it out at RT. Let’s see what unfolds.
- I’d say Kevin Sumlin and Mark Snyder have the defense circled, would you? After all, this was the SEC’s worst statistical defense, and they were an average defense away from making a championship run. The front seven is the main concern. Five-star DE Myles Garrett doesn’t hit campus until this summer, but there is plenty of work to be done with players already on campus. Defensive linemen Jay Arnold, Isaiah Golden, Ivan Robinson, Julien Obioha and Daeshon Hall, among others, are in the crosshairs. A seven- or eight-win 2014 season could hinge on their development.
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