Each season upon the conclusion of spring practice, every coaching staff across America compiles some form of depth chart. Selecting the starting 22 players on offense and defense is one thing, but placing the right reserve players accordingly is just as important. With this in mind, I wanted to see how each program within the Southeastern Conference would stack up for the 2007 season.
Utilizing a recognized SEC publication, I sorted the school classification of each SEC football program to determine which team had the most returning experience from their two-deep depth chart. I assigned one point for freshmen, two points for sophomores, three points for juniors and four points for seniors. Here are the results...
|South Carolina||64||Miss State||59|
The Florida Gators are neck deep in talent, but will field 13 underclassmen on their two-deep depth chart. Kentucky, South Carolina and Auburn are three teams to watch for on offense because all three teams will field a senior quarterback to go along with 14 other junior and seniors.
|Miss State||61||Ole Miss||57|
Once again the Florida Gators were hurt by graduation, coming up with the least amount of experience amongst the conference. Seventeen of Florida's 22 players on defense will be underclassmen. This includes a conference high of nine freshmen that will more than likely be called upon for extensive action this upcoming season.
With a sophomore quarterback, Tim Tebow, and a youthful defense and a bull's-eye on their chest, the Gators could be in for a long season in 2007.
Look for the Tennessee Volunteers to improve their national rankings on defense from 2006. The Volunteers have seven seniors who are on their projected starting defense and 15 of their top 22 defenders will be upperclassmen. If the Crimson Tide can remain healthy, they also have seven starting seniors on defense.
Based on the same point system, here is how each program compares in regards to the starting 11.
Expect the South Carolina Gamecocks to improve on offense for the third year in a row. Coach Steve Spurrier enters his third season at South Carolina with senior quarterback, Blake Mitchell leading the offense. The Kentucky Wildcats just might have the top quarterback in the conference in Andre Woodson, who finished the 2006 season as the second highest rated quarterback in the conference and the 13th best in the nation.
If Auburn can protect Brandon Cox this season, Auburn fans could see the return of an explosive offense in 2007. There is nothing more valuable to a team than a senior quarterback with experience, especially in the SEC. South Carolina and Kentucky lead the conference with six seniors starting on offense. Arkansas, Auburn, LSU and Vanderbilt are close behind with five seniors.
Alabama and Tennessee have the highest number of seniors starting on defense with seven. Auburn and LSU were tied for third in the conference with five seniors on defense. South Carolina will need to take advantage of their experience on offense because the Gamecock defense will field six starting underclassmen.
Who has the highest number of upperclassmen from their two-deep depth chart?
The Florida Gators did an excellent job in 2006 of developing their freshmen talent on the field. They will be forced to do the same in 2007 with only nine off 22 upperclassmen on offense. Auburn, Kentucky and South Carolina hope to take advantage of having senior quarterbacks and plenty of experience surrounding them. The Razorbacks possess the best tandem of running backs in the nation to team up with five senior starters on offense.
Is Blake Mitchell ready to take it to the next level and frustrate opposing defensive coordinators as a senior?
Seven of the Gators' starting defensive unit will be underclassmen and only five of their best 22 defenders will be upperclassmen. John Chavis of Tennessee is one of the top defensive coordinators in the SEC and he will have an experienced defensive unit to work with in 2007. Eight of Auburn's starting 11 on defense will strive to improve on their national ranking of 19th in total defense and seventh in scoring defense.
On offense Vanderbilt (11), Arkansas (10), Auburn (10) and South Carolina (10) have the highest number of upperclassmen from their starting eleven. Vanderbilt (10), Alabama (9), LSU (9) and Tennessee (9) have the highest number of upperclassmen on defense. If Arkansas can field a solid defense to go along with the power running game, it could surprise some folks in the SEC West.
Talent, depth and experience are the key ingredients to success on the gridiron. Talent alone separates the big six from the remaining Southeastern Conference, but the gap is slowly closing for teams like South Carolina. Depth and experience will decide which two teams make it to Atlanta from the big six. Kentucky and South Carolina might be in position to field the best offensive teams in the conference, but playing sound defense will pave the way to being one of the conference's elite programs.