The Vols and Commodores will see a lot of familiar faces when the teams meet again Nov. 28.
According to Phil Steele, both teams lead the SEC and are tied for sixth nationally in number of starters returning. Here’s an SEC-wide look:
- Mississippi State returns the fewest number of starters on both sides of the ball, and that’s including quarterback Dak Prescott and receiver De’Runnya Wilson. The Bulldogs return just one starter at all three levels on defense.
- Tennessee returns a conference-best 10 starters on offense, losing only senior offensive tackle Jacob Gilliam, who played on a torn ACL on a sub-par offensive line. Along with what could be the SEC’s best pass rush, that’s why many project the Vols as a Top 25 team in 2015.
- Breaking down the SEC’s percentage of returning starters at each position, the league will have a ton of experienced placekickers and defensive backs. Two teams (Texas A&M and Mississippi State) bring back fewer than three starting defensive backs.
- Here are the percentages of returning starters by position in the SEC: Kickers (85.7%), Defensive Backs (71.4%), Running Backs (71.4%), Defensive Line (67.3%), Offensive Line (65.7%), Quarterbacks (64.3%), Punters (64.3%), Receivers/Tight Ends (53.6%), Linebackers (53.3%).
- Auburn’s offense returns just one skill player (WR Duke Williams) who started in 2014. New defensive coordinator Will Muschamp inherits eight returning starters, but it’s time for Gus Malzahn to prove his system will work even with talented but inexperienced personnel.
- Eight SEC teams are returning the punter and the kicker. Arkansas is the only SEC team returning neither.
- South Carolina is the only SEC team that must replace its starting quarterback (Dylan Thompson) and running back (Mike Davis).
- Florida, Alabama and Mississippi State are the only three teams returning fewer than three starting offensive linemen.
- Ole Miss returns all five starting offensive linemen and all four starting defensive linemen.
- The national rankings, according to Phil Steele, based on number of returning starters: Tennessee (T6), Vanderbilt (T6), Ole Miss (11), LSU (18), Arkansas (30), Kentucky (41), Texas A&M (T60), South Carolina (T60), Florida (T60), Missouri (T60), Auburn (T80), Alabama (T80), Georgia (102), Mississippi State (126).
- Most returning starters for each of the other power conferences: Michigan/Purdue (Big Ten — 16), UCLA/Cal (Pac-12 — 18), North Carolina (ACC — 17), Baylor (Big 12 — 17).