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The focus of the offensive line will be on replacing mainstay C David Andrews and RT Kolton Houston, but there’s enough talent to be fine overall to pave the way for Nick Chubb and the running game. The receiving corps loses Michael Bennett and Chris Conley, needing Reggie Davis, Kenneth Towns and others to step up. Who’s going to throw them the ball? Is Brice Ramsey ready to be the full-time guy? Can Faton Bauta or Jacob Park step up? New OC Brian Schottenheimer has a lot of work to do.
The defensive front loses end Ray Drew and tackle Mike Thornton, but there are several good prospects coming back on the front seven including linebackers Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins. However, Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson are gone. The secondary that was so young comes back loaded, losing S Damian Swann but getting everyone else back. The punting game has to be better with Collin Barber needing to get over the 40-yard mark, while PK Marshall Morgan has to be a bit stronger.
2. South Carolina
Can the Ball Coach come up with a little more magic after a wildly disappointing year? Step One will be to settle on a quarterback as soon as possible between Connor Mitch and Perry Orth – or another young option – and then the offseason will be about rebuilding the left side of the offensive line. The skill players should be there with Pharoh Cooper and most of the key receivers returning, and Brandon Wilds ready to take on a bigger role for the running game with Mike Davis leaving early for the NFL.
Six of the top seven tacklers are back to a defense that should be far more dangerous and far more aggressive. The linebacking corps has the potential to be a killer, while the anemic pass rush has to hope for the great incoming JUCO class to make an impact and to get more from Gerald Dixon and linebackers T.J. Holloman and Larenz Bryant. The young secondary loses SS Brison Williams, but three starters are back. P Tyler Hull is done after a decent year, but PK Elliott Fry is back after doing a great job.
After years and years and years of seemingly being a year away, Tennessee should be loaded coming into 2015 with Joshua Dobbs a rising superstar at quarterback and with just about everyone returning. Jalen Hurd is a terrific young running back, and all of Dobbs’ top weapons are back. There was just one senior starter – RT Jacob Gilliam – for the Iowa game. Every receiver is back, and while Marlin Lane is gone, the running game should be stellar.
The defense might have lost A.J. Johnson late in the year, but now it knows what life is like without him. Three of the top four starters are back on the line, only losing DT Jordan Williams, and the linebacking corps should be outstanding led by Jalen Reeves-Maybin as its new star. The secondary has playmakers with three starters likely to return and only corner Justin Coleman gone – Brian Randolph should be among the SEC’s top-tackling safeties. PK Aaron Medley had a nice first year and should be ultra-reliable, but Matt Darr is gone after averaging close to 43 yards per punt.
Can QB Maty Mauk take his game to a better and more consistent level? He has the experience, and now he has to make everyone around him better despite the loss of receivers Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt and Darius White. RB Marcus Murphy is also gone, but Russell Hansbrough is back along with Ish Witter. The line should be the biggest positive, losing LT Mitch Morse but getting the other four starters back.
Who are the next men up on the defensive line? Markus Golden is gone on one end, and Shane Ray is gone after taking off early for the NFL – he’ll almost certainly be a top ten pick. The ends will be there, but they’re young. The linebacking corps should make up for the inexperience up front with all three starters returning including leading tacklers Kentrell Brothers and Michael Scherer, while three starters are back in the secondary, only losing S Braylon Webb. P Christian Brinser is gone after a decent year, but Andrew Baggett is back – he just needs to be more consistent.
What is Jim McElwain taking over? All Gator fans care about is generating more of an offense, and he has to see if Treon Harris is ready to be the main man now that Jeff Driskel is off to Louisiana Tech. Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor form a tough and nasty 1-2 rushing punch working behind a line that loses C Max Garcia and OT Chaz Green, but should be okay with some tweaking. Are there any playmakers to make the passing game go? Leading receiver Demarcus Robinson returns along with Latroy Pittman, but the new coaching staff has to come up with more options.
DE Dante Fowler is ready for the NFL, but there’s enough depth and talent back up front to come up with one of the SEC’s better lines. Vernon Hargreaves might be the best defensive back in America, and there’s help around him with the entire secondary back. MLB Michael Taylor is gone, but this is still going to be killer group on the outside along with several options to play around with. PK Francisco Velez is gone, but Austin Hardin is ready. P Kyle Christy will be sorely missed.
The turnaround wasn’t complete with an inability to get to a bowl game, but the talent level has risen. Four starters are back up front on the O line, only losing LT Darrian Miller, and QB Patrick Towles is back as the type of player to build around for the next few seasons. Braylon Heard decided to leave early for the NFL, but Stanley Williams, Mikel Horton and Jojo Kemp are every bit as productive and dangerous. Leading receiver Ryan Timmons returns, and while two key targets are gone in Javess Blue and Demarco Robinson, the freshmen class of last year should be ready to rise up.
Leading tackler Josh Forrest is back in the linebacking corps, but Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith are gone from the front seven. Fortunately, almost everyone else is back, along with enough depth to play around with, and three starters are back in a secondary that only loses S Ashely Lowery. P Landon Foster is back after averaging 42.6 yards per kick, and PK Austin MacGinnis returns after hitting 21-of-27 field goals.
After a woeful year offensively, there’s hope for a quick turnaround – or at least an improvement – with nine starters returning only losing C Joe Townsend and FB Kellen Williams. Can the quarterback play be at least passable? The biggest problem was the inability to sit and groove on any one option, but Johnny McCrary got his time in. Ralph Webb and Dallas Rivers should form a nice 1-2 rushing tandem after acceptable freshmen seasons, and six of the top seven receivers are back. With four starters returning up front, there’s hope for more consistency.
The D has to generate more pressure, but all of the top pass rushers are back. Leading tacklers Nigel Bowden and Zach Cunningham return to the linebacking corps after their freshmen seasons, and in all, 13 of the top 14 tacklers return. NT Vince Taylor has to be replaced, and OLB Kyle Woestmann is gone, but there’s a ton of depth across the board and plenty of options to play around with. PK Tommy Openshaw is back after hitting 8-of-11 field goals, and P Colby Cooke returns after a strong year averaging 42.36 yards per try.
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