In some ways, this is the best time of the year for college football teams.
The preview magazines are loaded with optimism. Everyone's undefeated. Every team has a chance to fulfill its dreams.
Yet, for all the returning seniors, starters and honors candidates, the reality is that no team is stronger than its weakest links.
Every team has questions to answer,
and the teams that do the best job addressing and answering those questions will
most likely earn the most success in the fall.
That said, here are the most
pressing areas of concerns for all 12 SEC teams:
experienced quarterback and a solid defense give most any team a chance to
chance to win more games than it loses. Alabama has neither. Sophomore John Parker Wilson takes over at quarterback and a defense that must replace seven starters
must also wait on the status of senior linebacker Juwan Simpson's legal
time last year, Guz Malzahn was a high school coach. Now he's Arkansas' offensive
coordinator. The Razorbacks are finally rebuilding their experience and depth,
but they'll still be young at quarterback, whether it's Casey Dick or true
freshman Mitch Mustain, and only time and experience will help the Hogs make the
adjustment to a new offensive scheme.
AUBURN: For all
the talk about who's coming back, the Tigers have some serious holes to fill at
both offensive tackle spots, wide receiver, the interior defensive line,
linebacker and in the secondary. The Tigers still have a lot to learn about new
defensive coordinator Will Muschamp's scheme. An injury to receiver Courtney Taylor could be disastrous and a schedule without any open dates gives the
Tigers few breaks.
Gators never found a capable, trustworthy tailback in 2006. The situation didn't
improve in the spring and Chris Leak remains a reluctant runner in an offense
that needs the quarterback to make plays with his feet. Add a shaky offensive
line and the offense could be in for replay of 2005's struggles. If the Gators
start slow, the fans will be clamoring for true freshman quarterback Tim Tebow.
GEORGIA: The Bulldogs didn't
find any answers to their quarterback questions in the spring. It doesn't help
that the passing game lacks a proven deep threat. The secondary must fill some
big holes and appears to lack the depth necessary to make that happen in the
early stages of the season.
uncertain status of coach Rich Brooks will hang over the program, as well as the
uncertain injury status of several key players. Both quarterbacks, Andre Woodson
and Curtis Pulley, still have a lot to prove and the Wildcats aren't exactly
loaded at receiver. If the defense can't do a better job of stopping the run,
the question becomes: who will be the next head coach?
quarterback situation might be the team's most interesting question, but it's
not the most critical. Someone(s) will get the job done at quarterback. On the
other hand, the tailback position could make life tough for the quarterbacks if
Alley Broussard and Justin Vincent struggle to return from injuries. LSU has
been tough up front in recent seasons, but now both lines have big holes to
OLE MISS: The
Rebels have plenty of questions, but none bigger than at quarterback. Juco
transfer Brent Schaeffer is the starter but he's never even practiced with the
team and has a lot of work to do to get ready for the opener. The receivers are
inexperienced and the defensive is loaded with new starters and uncertain
MISSISSIPPI STATE: How long will Bulldog fans remain
positive about coach Sylvester Croom, who is 6-16 in two years at Mississippi State. Questions abound throughout the
depth chart, especially at tailback. The offensive line could be better, but
remains young and inexperienced, and the pass rush needs a lot of
Building on last year's surprising 7-5 finish won't be easy for a team low on
seniors, juniors and necessary depth. The offensive line must depend on
inexperienced players and the secondary must replace three starters. If the
freshmen and sophomores don't come through, it could be a tough season for the
Reports from spring practice suggest quarterback Erik Ainge is back on track,
but only time will tell if he has regained his confidence and sense of direction
after a disastrous 2005. The same goes for the entire team, especially after an
offseason marked by more off-field trouble. The offensive line returns only one
starter and the same is true for the entire defensive front seven.
the Commodores possibly replace quarterback Jay Cutler, especially with so many
injury concerns at tailback? Do the Commodores have any chance to improve a
moribund defense, especially with the loss of some key defensive starters? Can
Bobby Johnson survive a fifth consecutive losing season?
Richard Scott is a Birmingham based
journalist author and a columnist for Tiger Rag magazine. Reach him at RScottfree@aol.com.