Stuart McNair

Ambitious assessment has Alabama with best overall talent in SEC

Alabama looks to have top players by assessing SEC teams by position groups

Give credit where credit is due. It is very difficult to cover one Southeastern Conference football team. A reporter for gridironnow.com, Mike Huguenin, took on the extraordinary task of ranking each SEC team by various position groups – offensive backfield, receiver, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, secondary, and special teams.

 

Even though Alabama lost a lot of outstanding players, including quarterback and Heisman Trophy winning tailback, from last year’s national championship team, the gridironnow assessment is that Coach Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide is still loaded.

 

Bama was judged to have the best defensive line (with two starters from last year having departed), the best linebacker corps (with three of four starters from last year gone), second best receiving corps, second best offensive line, second best secondary, sixth best offensive backfield, and fifth best special teams.

 

LSU and Tennessee were also determined to be best at two spots – the Tigers in the offensive line and secondary, the Vols for their offensive backfield and special teams. Texas A&M was ranked number one in receivers.

 

Giving one point for a first place selection, two for second, etc., the overall ranking of teams based on these position groupings would be:

 

1, Alabama (19 points), 2. LSU (25), 3. Tennessee (27), 4. Georgia (46), 5. Texas A&M (47), 6. Ole Miss (48), 7. Florida (52), 8. Arkansas (54), 9. (tie) Auburn and Mississippi State (59 each), 11. Missouri (67), 12. Vanderbilt (69), 13. Kentucky (70), 14. South Carolina (83).

By SEC Divisions it would be:

West – 1. Alabama, 2. LSU, 3. Texas A&M, 4. Ole Miss, 5. Arkansas, 6. (tie) Auburn and Mississippi State.

East – 1. Tennessee, 2. Georgia, 3. Florida, 4. Missouri, 5. Vanderbilt, 6. Kentucky, 7. South Carolina.

 

And, yes, this method worked out about like most assessments of SEC preseason rankings.

 

Here by position groups are the rankings of SEC teams as determined by gridironnow.com:

OFFENSIVE BACKFIELDS:

1. Tennessee, 2. LSU, 3. Georgia, 4. Ole Miss, 5. Texas A&M, 6. Alabama, 7. Vanderbilt, 8. Kentucky, 9. Auburn, 10. Florida, 11. Arkansas, 12. Mississippi State, 13. Missouri, 14. South Carolina

WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT BAMA:

There is no proven quarterback nor tailback. Fret not, Tide fans: There is talent aplenty; the key is making sure it all fits together. And OC Lane Kiffin deserves the benefit of the doubt, considering what he has done with his quarterbacks the past two seasons.

RECEIVING CORPS:

1. Texas A&M, 2. Alabama, 3. Ole Miss, 4. Arkansas, 5. LSU, 6. Mississippi State, 7. Tennessee, 8. Florida, 9. Kentucky, 10. Georgia, 11. Auburn, 12. Vanderbilt, 13. Missouri, 14. South Carolina

WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT BAMA:

What’s this – a Nick Saban-coached team is better off at receiver than running back? It’s true. Sophomore Calvin Ridley is the best wide receiver in the league and there is ample depth with the likes of ArDarius Stewart, Robert Foster, Cam Sims and Gehrig Dieter. Dieter is a touted grad transfer from Bowling Green who had 94 receptions, 1,033 yards and 10 TDs last season. Oh, yeah: There’s also TE O.J. Howard, who was the hero of the national-title win over Clemson.

OFFENSIVE LINES:

1. LSU, 2. Alabama, 3. Tennessee, 4. Georgia, 5. Auburn, 6. Arkansas, 7. Ole Miss, 8. Texas A&M, 9. Florida, 10. Kentucky, 11. Mississippi State, 12. Vanderbilt, 13. South Carolina, 14. Missouri

WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT BAMA:

LT Cam Robinson will be one of the nation’s best linemen and is a given to start at that spot. The rest of the line is in flux somewhat. Ross Pierschbacher started at guard as a redshirt freshman last season, but should be the center this season. Alphonse Taylor started all 15 games at the other guard spot last season, but he is both overweight and in the doghouse. True freshman Jonah Williams seems likely to be the right tackle. This is by no means a settled position, but – surprise, surprise – there is talent.

DEFENSIVE LINES:

1. Alabama, 2. Missouri, 3. Arkansas, 4. LSU, 5. Texas A&M, 6. Tennessee, 7. Florida, 8. Ole Miss, 9. Auburn, 10. Mississippi State, 11. Georgia, 12. Vanderbilt,  13. South Carolina, 14. Kentucky

WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT BAMA:

Another year, another top-notch defensive line. E Jonathan Allen is one of the nation’s best, and while he is the only returning starter, he is going to be joined by a bunch of experienced – and large – men up front. Look for junior DaShawn Hand – a former five-star prospect – to emerge as a standout this season. Depth might not be quite as good as it was last season, but the Tide’s two-deep along the defensive line still is the best in the nation.

LINEBACKER CORPS:

1. Alabama, 2. LSU, 3. Tennessee, 4. Vanderbilt, 5. Georgia, 6. Mississippi State, 7. Missouri, 8. Florida, 9. Arkansas, 10. Ole Miss, 11. Auburn, 12. Texas A&M, 13. South Carolina, 14. Kentucky

WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT BAMA:

There is a huge gap between Nos. 1 and 2 on our list. Huge. Once again, the Tide is loaded at this position. OLBs Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams are seniors who never have started a college game, yet both are prime NFL prospects; Williams, in particular, has the look of a first-rounder. ILB Reuben Foster can run and is a ferocious hitter; he should also be one of the team’s emotional leaders. Shaun Dion Hamilton should start next to Foster on the inside, and he should do fine. Rashaan Evans, who had two sacks in the national title game, can play both inside and outside, and is a rising talent. And there are a handful of other ‘backers who will see spot time but still make plays. What has to truly irk Auburn and LSU fans: Evans and Foster attended Auburn (Ala.) High, and Williams went to high school at Baton Rouge University Lab school, which is affiliated with LSU’s education department.

SECONDARIES:

1. LSU, 2. Alabama, 3. Florida, 4. Georgia, 5. Texas A&M, 6. Tennessee, 7. Missouri, 8. Vanderbilt, 9. Ole Miss, 10. Mississippi State, 11. Auburn, 12. Kentucky, 13. Arkansas, 14. South Carolina

WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT BAMA:

The Tide had some secondary breakdowns at times last season, but this is a strong unit with the best pair of corners (sophomores Minkah Fitzpatrick and Marlon Humphrey) in the league. S Eddie Jackson will contend for All-America honors. Sophomore Ronnie Harrison should be the other starting safety. Depth is a bit iffy; there is talent, but it is relatively inexperienced. The pending transfer of Maurice Smith hurts.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

  1. Tennessee, 2. South Carolina,  3. Auburn, 4. Mississippi State, 5. Alabama, 6. Florida, 7. Ole Miss, 8. Arkansas, 9. Georgia, 10. LSU, 11. Texas A&M, 12. Missouri, 13. Kentucky, 14. Vanderbilt

WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT BAMA:

Alabama’s punt-coverage unit was shaky, allowing two TDs and 10.3 yards per return. The kickoff coverage was quite good, though. K Adam Griffith was inconsistent, but he does have a strong leg and hit 23 field goals; in addition, 55 of his 100 kickoffs were touchbacks. P J.K. Scott led the league’s punters in net average, but the Tide was just eighth in the league in net punting. Alabama needs a new punt returner; the Tide will miss CB Cyrus Jones, who had four punt-return TDs last season. A new kick returner also is needed.


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