SEC spring preview: How will Bama, LSU and the rest contend with Georgia?
The SEC landscape will change after this season with Oklahoma and Texas joining the league in 2024. What will not change is that the national championship will continue to run through the SEC, which has produced the last four national champions (three different teams). ) and 13 of the last 17 national champions.
Kirby Smart and Georgia took the belt from Alabama with back-to-back national titles. The Dawgs are looking to become the second team in history to win three straight national titles with a unanimous vote. Minnesota did it in 1934, ’35 and ’36, that’s all.
Alabama will enter the 2023 season with a quarterback whose name is not Bryce Young. Tennessee and LSU, who made big moves a year ago, get a chance to show they’re here to stay, while Hugh Freese returned to the SEC as Auburn’s head coach and Zach Arnett becomes Mississippi State’s head coach after Mike Leach’s death in December last year.
Alabama won’t be the only SEC team to replace their player or face some uncertainty about the quarterback, the most important position on the field. Add to this list Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Ole Miss and Tennessee. And while all eyes are on Georgia and the mammoth power Smart has built in Athens, everyone in college football will also be watching Tuscaloosa to see how Nick Saban and Alabama react. The Crimson Tide has never gone three consecutive seasons under Saban (since 2007) without winning a national championship.
As spring training gets underway, Chris Lowe (West) and Harry Lyles Jr. (East) talk about the main storyline and the rookies to watch on every SEC team.
Top plot: Alabama’s football program has a lot going for it, starting with offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, though this will be Steele’s third job under Saban in Alabama. Rees, who joined from Notre Dame, will be looking for a new quarterback after losing Young to the NFL. And whether Ty Simpson wins or Jalen Milro wins, Rhys would like to take some pressure off his quarterback by handling the ball more consistently. One of Steele’s priorities will be to create more negative defensive play after Tide finished second to last in the SEC last season in forced turnovers (14). Alabama will also be looking for a defensive finisher, with Will Anderson Jr heading to the NFL. Enter Dallas Turner as the prime candidate for this role.
Newbie to watch: Alabama lacked a serious vertical threat in the passing game last season, and junior college transfer Malik Benson has what it takes to fill that void after demonstrating high speed, confident hands and a solid route run in practice leading up to the game into a Tide bowl. last season.
Top plot: After a tough schedule a year ago, Arkansas is looking to bounce back in 2023 with some new elements. The Sharp Spins still managed to win seven games last season after winning nine in 2021. They have two new coordinators – Dan Enos on offense and Travis Williams on defense – for a total of five new coaches. In addition, Ben Sauders has become the Hogs’ new strength and conditioning coach. Five-year-old senior KJ Jefferson is back as a quarterback, having made big strides in each of his last two seasons. It will be interesting to see what Enos’ offense looks like and how he uses Jefferson, who ran for 2,658 yards a year ago and ran for 640 yards. Williams will look to bolster a group that was ranked 124th nationally in total defense (464.8 yards per game) a year ago.
Newbie to watch: Arkansas led the SEC with 42 sacks last season, and the transfer from Missouri Trajan Jeffcoat is a solid addition as a defensive end/pass rusher after starting for the Tigers in each of the last three seasons. The Boars are moving from a three-man front to a 4-2-5 base under Williams and can use any help they can get up front to lighten the heat of a minor who struggled a year ago a little.
Top plot: Freese returned to the SEC as Auburn’s third head coach in the last four seasons. The program never recovered from the university’s investigation into Brian Harsin’s relationship with players and coaches after the 2021 season, so the Tigers are starting over. Quarterback selection will be a priority and Freese has a lot of experience in developing quality quarterbacks. Robbie Ashford, who started the last nine games a year ago, seems to fit into new offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery’s system, which includes a heavy dose of carry options. There is always a chance that another quarterback will appear on the transfer portal after spring training. Either way, the Tigers need to find a way to hit the ball better after they completed nine touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season to finish last in the SEC in passing offense.
Newbie to watch: When Auburn was at its best, the Tigers almost always threatened defensively. That’s what makes Justin Rodgers’ transfer from Kentucky so valuable to this defense. The 6ft 3in, 330lb has gotten better every year he’s been in the SEC and should be a staple at the heart of Auburn’s defensive front.
Top plot: Expectations for Bayou for the 2023 season skyrocketed after the Tigers reached the SEC Championship in Brian Kelly’s first season at the helm. There’s a lot to like about this LSU team, starting with the return of Jayden Daniels as a quarterback. He blossomed a year ago after moving from Arizona State, and one of the things to keep an eye on this spring is the development of his young, talented offensive line. The main five are back on the front and some help is on the way through the 2023 signing class, but the Tigers need to establish some depth. They played a couple of real freshmen, Will Campbell and Emery Jones, in tackle last season, and Jones has the ability to move inside to defend if needed. On the other side of the ball, a lot of attention will be on defenseman Maason Smith and how much he can do this spring after tearing his ACL in his first season last year.
Newbie to watch: LSU quarterback’s room was decimated a year ago, making former five-star recruit and Texas A&M transfer Denver Harris a key addition. Syracuse transfer Darian Chestnut and Ohio transfer J.K. Johnson are two other supporting rookies expected to play key roles.
Top plot: Leach’s sudden death last December left a dark cloud over the entire Mississippi campus. The school quickly promoted Arnett to head coach. The good news is that he doesn’t start over. As Leach’s defense coordinator, Arnett knows players and a program that has been 4-4 in the SEC game in each of the last two seasons. It’s always nice to have an experienced quarterback, especially one like Will Rogers, who already holds school records of 10,689 passing yards and 82 touchdown passes. Under new coordinator Kevin Barbey, the Bulldogs will move away from the Air Raid attack they used under Lich and adopt a more balanced offense with different formations, movements and shifts. Rodgers probably won’t shoot as much as he has in the past three seasons, but Barbey has already built a relationship with his senior quarterback as they take a different path offensively.
Newbie to watch: There are 15 high school/college transfer students on the Mississippi campus this semester. Rodgers is clearly the quarterback guy, but the transfer of Vanderbilt Mike Wright could be a valuable asset in certain packages. Safety Isaac Smith could have been one of the first participants as a freshman. Mississippi State defeated LSU to get Smith, one of the top recruits in the state of Mississippi.
Top plot: Some schools try to find a quarterback in the spring. Ole Miss is coming into the spring trying to deal with his quarterbacks. Jackson Dart was a starter for the Rebels last season after moving from USC. He will have a lot of work to do to keep his job as Lane Kiffin brought in Spencer Sanders from Oklahoma State and Walker Howard from LSU. Sanders was a four-year starter and selected to the All-Big 12 First Team in 2021. Howard is a former five-star rookie who had only four assists in his freshman year a year ago. All three are talented and have slightly different skill sets. Sanders has been a really effective running back as a quarterback throughout his career, which would pair nicely with Ole Miss’s fast game, who averaged at least 210 yards in all three of Kiffin’s seasons. Quinshon Judkins led the SEC with 1,567 rushing yards last season as a freshman.
Newbie to watch: The Rebels acquired a couple of transfers to help with the defense, but the most important offseason acquisition was defensive coordinator Pete Golding, who oversaw Alabama’s defense for the past four seasons. Golding is looking to bolster Ole Miss’s defense, which gave up too many long games last season.
Top plot: Nobody at College Station wants to go through what Aggie did a year ago. They finished 5–7, lost at home to Appalachian State, lost six games in a row at one point, and several of their most coveted signers from the No. program. . Thus, finding solidarity and rebuilding will be a top priority for Aggie this spring. Talented quarterback Conner Weigman is back, and Texas A&M was a pleasant surprise when wide receiver Inias Smith decided to return to school. What will the offense look like in 2023 after the terrible last season? After calling his own games in the past, Jimbo Fischer hasn’t been sitting around this offseason. He brought in former Arkansas and Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino, one of the best players in the business, and hands over the responsibility to him.
Newbie to watch: Texas A&M has added something that should provide immediate assistance to the cornerback on the…