StatTiger: Looking at the 2012 SEC East Race

A preview of the 2012 Southeastern Conference East Division football race is featured.

A 2012 preview of teams in the Southeastern Conference East is featured in this report:

Georgia Bulldogs

2011 Record: 10-4 (7-2)

*No. 39 total offense, No. 33 scoring offense, No. 5 total defense and No. 23 scoring defense.

*15 returning starters, 47 returning lettermen, 17 seniors and 20 players with at least 20 games of experience.

*Recruiting: 47 players signed in last four classes rated as 4 stars or better.

*11 players with All-SEC potential: Aaron Murray (QB), Isaiah Crowell (RB), Tavarres King (WR), John Jenkins (DT), Jarvis Jones (LB), Bacarri Rambo (S), Abry Jones (DE), Alec Ogletree (LB), Sanders Commings (CB), Michael Gilliard (LB), Branden Smith (CB).

*Incoming recruits to watch: Josh Harvey-Clemons (LB), Jordan Jenkins (DE), Keith Marshall (RB), John Theus (OT), Jonathan Taylor (DT).

Comments: Once again the Bulldogs have a favorable schedule facing only one conference opponent that finished nationally ranked in 2011 Top 25. The conference opener against Missouri on the road could be a major challenge for a Georgia defense with multiple starters out because of imposed suspensions. Key games to win the SEC East will be Missouri, South Carolina, Florida and Auburn.

Projected Finish: 11-1 (7-1)


Florida Gators

2011 Record: 7-6 (3-5)

*No. 105 total offense, No. 71 scoring offense, No. 8 total defense and No. 20 scoring defense. <> *18 returning starters, 55 returning lettermen, 13 seniors and 32 players with at least 20 games of experience.

Recruiting: 53 players signed in last four classes rated as 4-stars or better.

*10 players with All-SEC potential: Xavior Nixon (OT), Andre Debose (WR), Jordan Reed (WR), Jon Halapio (OG), Sharrif Floyd (DT), Jelani Jenkins (LB), Jonathan Bostic (LB), Matt Elam (S), Dominique Easley (DE), Caleb Sturgis (PK), Andre Debose (KR).

*Incoming recruits to watch: Dante Fowler (DE), Jonathan Bullard (DE), Kent Taylor (TE), D.J. Humphries (OT), Brian Poole (CB), Colin Thompson (TE), Matt Jones (RB).

Florida's Andre Debose

Comments: Despite having issues on offense during 2011, the Gators fielded a Top 10 defense nationally and are returning 10 starters on defense in 2012. If Florida can solidify its quarterback position this could be a strong year for the Gators. Key games for the Gators are LSU, South Carolina and Georgia. With a few breaks, Florida could have won three additional games during 2011, which they likely will in 2012.

Projected Finish: 10-2 (7-1)


South Carolina Gamecocks

*2011 Record: 11-2 (6-2)

*No. 74 total offense, No. 42 scoring offense, No. 3 total defense, No. 11 scoring defense.

*14 returning starters, 44 returning lettermen, 23 seniors and 19 players with at least 20 games of experience.

*Recruiting: 22 players signed in last four classes rated as 4 stars or better.

Marcus Lattimore leads the South Carolina running attack.

*7 players with All-SEC potential: Marcus Lattimore (RB), T.J. Johnson (OC), Devin Taylor (DE), Jadeveon Clowney (DE), DeVonte Hollman (LB), D.J. Swearinger (S), Ace Sanders (PR).

*Incoming recruits to watch: Mike Davis (RB), Shaq Roland (WR), Kwinton Smith (WR), Jerell Adams (TE).

Comments: A large senior class could be a key for Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks in their quest to have back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in school history. If Lattimore can bounce back from his knee injury, the tailback, along with Conner Shaw, should make for a productive offensive duo. Key games in the SEC race will be Georgia, LSU, Florida and Arkansas. After playing host to Georgia, the Gamecocks go on the road for two consecutive weeks to play LSU and Florida, which could decide the SEC-East.

Projected Finish: 9-3 (5-3)


Tennessee Volunteers

*2011 Record: 5-7 (1-7)

*No. 104 total offense, No. 106 scoring offense, No. 28 total defense, No. 36 scoring defense.

*20 returning starters, 49 returning lettermen, 19 seniors and 24 players with at least 20 games of experience.

*Recruiting: 35 players signed in last four classes rated as 4 stars or better.

*6 players with All-SEC potential: Da'Rick Rogers (WR), Justin Hunter (WR), Dallas Thomas (OG), Ja'Wuan James (OT), Prentiss Wagner (CB), A.J. Johnson (LB).

*Incoming recruits to watch: Cordarrelle Patterson (WR), Trent Taylor (DE), LaDarrell McNeil (S), Daniel McCullers (DT), Darrington Sentimore (DE), Alden Hill (RB).

Comments: The Volunteers have the most returning starters within the conference, including 10 on offense. Taylor Bray and Da'Rick Rogers should be a lethal passing combination, but the Volunteers must establish a running game in 2012 to be competitive. Tennessee has experience on its side in 2012, which should make the Vols a more competitive squad. Key matchups for the Volunteers will be Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Missouri. Good news for Tennessee fans is LSU and Arkansas are not on the 2012 schedule.

Projected Finish: 7-5 (3-5)


Missouri Tigers

2011 Record: 8-5 (Big 12)

*No. 12 total offense, No. 30 scoring offense, No. 61 total defense and No. 44 scoring defense.

*13 returning starters, 37 returning lettermen, 19 seniors and 22 players with at least 20 games of experience.

*Recruiting: 15 players signed in last 4 classes rated as 4-stars or better.

*7 players with All-SEC potential: T.J. Moe (WR), James Franklin (QB), Elvis Fisher (OT), Zaviar Gooden (LB), Sheldon Richardson (DT), E.J. Gaines (CB), Trey Barrow (P).

*Incoming recruits to watch: Dorial Green-Beckham (WR), Evan Boehm (OC), Donavin Newsom (LB), Markus Golden (LB).

Dorial Green-Beckham is expected to be an immediate contributor for the Tigers.

Comments: Missouri will bring an exciting brand of offense to the Southeastern Conference, directed by quarterback James Franklin. He passed for nearly 2,900 yards and rushed for 900-plus yards during 2011. The key for the Tigers will be how their defense holds up in the SEC. The conference opener against the Georgia Bulldogs could be a confidence builder for the 2012 team if the Tigers can manage the upset. They face critical games against Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M. Over the past decade Missouri has managed to compile the No. 25 highest winning percentage in the nation, but the Tigers 3-19 against quality opponents from BCS conferences.

Projected Finish: 7-5 (3-5)


Vanderbilt Commodores

2011 Record: 6-7 (2-6)

*No. 98 total offense, No. 61 scoring offense, No. 18 total defense and No. 29 scoring defense.

*18 returning starters, 43 Returning Letterman, 15 seniors and 34 players with at least 20 games of experience.

*Recruiting: 3 players signed in last four classes rated as 4 stars or better.

*2 players with All-SEC potential: Zac Stacy (RB) and Jordan Matthews (WR).

*Incoming recruits to watch: Harding Harper (LB), Brandon Banks (CB), Brian Kimbrow (RB).

James Franklin coaches the Commodores.

Comments: Vanderbilt has traditionally been lacking SEC caliber talent, but the Commodores will once again rely on experience to remain competitive. Five of their seven losses were by seven points or less during 2011. Look for Jordan Rodgers (QB), Zac Stacy (RB) and Jordan Matthews (WR) to be one of the better offensive triplets in 2012 with nine returning starters on offense. Vanderbilt closed out the last seven games of 2011 averaging 405 yards and 31 points per game. Except for Auburn, the Commodores do not face any of the heavy weights from the West Division. During the past 10 years Vanderbilt has won a total of 37 games and has lost 32 games by seven points or less during the same time span.

Projected Finish: 6-6 (2-6)

Kentucky Wildcats

*2011 Record: 5-7 (2-6)

*No. 118 total offense, No. 117 scoring offense, No. 58 total defense and No. 53 scoring defense.

*13 returning starters, 49 returning lettermen, 18 seniors and 21 players with at least 20 games of experience.

*Recruiting: seven players signed in last 4 classes rated as 4 stars or better.

*2 players with All-SEC potential: Larry Warford (OG) and Martavius Neloms (S).

*Incoming recruits to watch: Kory Brown (S), Dy'Shawn Mobley (RB), Kadeem Thomas (LB), Jordan Watson (OG), Shawn Blaylock (CB), Patrick Towles (QB).

Comments: Based on returning starters, returning lettermen, experience level and talent, the Wildcats are projected as the weakest team in the conference. Last season the Wildcats averaged only 12 points per game against opponents from a BCS conference and there isn't much light at the end of the tunnel. The last three conference games against Missouri, Vanderbilt and Tennessee could be the only opportunity to register a conference victory in 2012.

Projected Finish: 4-8 (1-7)


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