With four different teams (Auburn, Alabama, LSU and Florida twice) winning national titles in the past five years plus three Heisman Trophy winners (Tim Tebow, Mark Ingram and Cam Newton), winning the SEC championship has become the single most important factor in determining leading candidates for college football's top team and individual honors.
The Scout.com SEC publishers have tabbed Alabama as the overall favorite to
win the league championship and make its way to another BCS title game. LSU drew
strong support both as the second choice in the SEC West and for the overall title with
South Carolina getting the nod over Georgia for the SEC East championship. All 12
teams will be previewed in their predicted order of finish over the next couple of weeks.
No one could have imagined that 12 months after completing a two-year run
that included back-to-back 13-1 seasons and a national championship that
Florida's football program, which opened the 2010 season ranked No. 3 in the
Coaches' Poll and No. 4 in the AP poll, would limp home with an 8-5 record and
end the Urban Meyer coaching era in Gainesville.
Meyer's resignation last December not only produced shockwaves throughout
the collegiate football world, but sent athletic director Jeremy Foley on a
coaching search that ended only three days after Meyer's resignation with the
hiring of 39-year old Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.
Muschamp, who spent his early youth in Gainesville before playing football at
the University of Georgia, has a coaching background which includes stops at
Auburn and LSU prior to his stint at Texas. His highly energetic coaching style
figures to be a welcome change for the Gators after being constantly reminded
of Meyer's ongoing health problems since his first "resignation" as the UF head
coach back in December 2009.
And Muschamp will need all the energy he can summon up to revive a Gator
program which appears to have its lowest level of overall talent, depth and
experience since before Meyer's arrival at Florida in 2005.
In a brilliant move to bring instant credibility to his new coaching staff,
Muschamp hired Kansas City Chief offensive coordinator Charlie Weis to handle
the same duties for the Gators. Weis, the former head coach at Notre Dame and
four-time Super Bowl champion as the offensive coordinator for the New England
Patriots, quickly ditched Meyer's spread offense for a pro-style attack that is
expected to play to the strengths of returning senior quarterback John Brantley,
who had a mediocre junior season, averaging just 158 yards passing per game
while throwing nine touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.
Brantley's spring game performance (4-of-14 in a controlled scrimmage setting)
didn't do anything to solidify his position as a top-caliber SEC quarterback,
although both Muschamp and Weis insist that Brantley played well throughout
spring practice (which was closed to the media and the public).
Redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy and early enrollee Jeff Driskel are both
expected to push Brantley for playing time in the fall, but Brantley's experience
will certainly earn him the first crack at directing Weis' offensive show come
There are a bunch of playmakers on hand to help Brantley be successful. Chris
Rainey (366 yards, 7.2 average) and Jeff Demps (551 yards, 6.0 average) are
the fastest running back tandem in the SEC and should benefit from lining up in a
pro-set which will allow them to use their blazing speed to pick out holes in front
Senior Deonte Thompson (38 catches, 570 yards) and juniors Omarius Hines
(20 catches, 281 yards), and Frankie Hammond (22 catches, 276 yards) figure
to stretch defenses vertically. The emergence in the spring of quarterback-
turned-tight end Jordan Reed into a major offensive threat plus the versatile Trey
Burton (349 yards rushing, 32 catches for 210 yards last season) are expected to
provide more weapons from multiple locations in the offense.
The biggest concern on offense will be the offensive line, which has to be
totally rebuilt after losing four starters from last year. Injuries throughout the
spring limited the time to bring any cohesiveness to the line and the makeshift
unit put together for the spring game was the major reason the first two offensive
units managing only one touchdown in the contest.
While it will be Weis' job to revive an offense which was held under 15 points
four times last year, Muschamp will be relying on his proven skills as a top-flight
defensive coordinator to turn a defense, which gave up 21 points per game last
year, back into the type of rugged unit that was a key element in Florida's 2006
and 2008 national title seasons.
Seattle Seahawks defensive line coach Dan Quinn, who worked with
Muschamp with the Miami Dolphins in 2005, was brought in as the new
defensive coordinator, but it's clear that Muschamp's stamp will be all over the
Muschamp noted in his first UF press conference last December that the
SEC's dominance nationally is built around its ability to produce great defensive
line play, and the Gators are hoping to build their 2011 defense around a trio of
sophomore linemen (Ronald Powell, Sharrif Floyd and Dominick Easley) who
were the cornerstone of Florida's No. 1-ranked recruiting class last year.
Solid linebacking from Jelani Jenkins, Jon Bostic and Gerald Christian gives
Florida a chance to be very good at keeping pressure on opposing quarterbacks,
something that will be a necessity with an unsettled situation in the defensive
The dismissal of All-SEC cornerback Janoris Jenkins from the squad after his
second arrest for possession of marijuana, left a gaping hole at that position.
Sophomore strong safety Matt Elam is a playmaker and junior Josh Evans, who
started three games last season, will need to step up in a big way to ease the
loss of All-SEC safety Ahmad Black.
Ray Guy award winner Chas Henry leaves Florida as the school's top alltime
punter with freshman Kyle Christy getting the first crack at replacing him. Junior
Caleb Sturgis, who was sidelined early last season with a back injury, returns as
the primary placekicker after going 22-of-30 on field goals in 2009.
South Carolina (1)
SEC PREVIEWS: Changes abound in Gainesville
Gamecock Anthem Top Stories
Scout On the Road: SeptemberScout takes a look at some of the top prospects we saw in person during the month of September...
Scout FootballYesterday at 2:00 PM
Longhorns Preview Oklahoma StateTexas offensive players discuss the Longhorns' upcoming game at Oklahoma State to kickoff Big 12 Conference play.
Horns DigestMonday at 6:21 PM
Updated Scout 300 Trend Meter For 2017The updated Scout 300 Trend Meter for the 2017 class takes a look at which schools are trending for each uncommitted member in the Scout 300.
Scout FootballMonday at 11:15 AM
10 Schools Down But Recruiting WellA look at 10 programs recruiting well despite be down as a program.