SEC Pre-Spring Power Rankings: Part I

Alex HancockContributor IMarch 23, 2009

MIAMI - JANUARY 08:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Florida Gators passes the ball against the Oklahoma Sooners during the FedEx BCS National Championship Game at Dolphin Stadium on January 8, 2009 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

How's it going SEC fans? I know the pain of the  off-season. Nothing to do but work and obsessively follow recruiting. Also, you don't have the excuse of watching the game to not go to chick flicks or other stuff of that feminine nature with your girlfriend.

Plus with all of the SEC teams out of the Men's Basketball tournament, I figure I would help you guys out by giving a pre-spring practice rankings of all the teams in the SEC.

Although the Gators were the third consecutive national champion from the SEC, the conference suffered somewhat of a down year thanks to the colossal collapses of Auburn and Tennessee, and the disappointing year that Georgia had. Anyway, 2009 looks to be one of the best years this conference has had overall in a while.


1. Florida- This is a no brainer. Urban Meyer and company have the chance to win their third national championship in four years and win the SEC once again. Outside of the bizarre departure of National Championship hero Torrey Davis, the Gators return basically everybody on the defense-starters and back-ups.

The defense will be led by senior Brandon Spikes who decided to put off the NFL for another year. Also, safety Major Wright, cornerback Joe Haden, and National Championship Game MVP defensive end Carlos Dunlap figure to be the other impact players on defense.

A concern may be at defensive tackle but look for former five star recruit Omar Hunter to have a breakout year. On offense the Gators return Tim Tebow, enough said. Tebow will try to win his second Heisman Trophy without his trusted wingmate Percy Harvin.

Although Harvin will be missed, look for sophomore Deonte Thompson and true freshman Andre Debose to take his role. Both have blazing speed and have similar skill sets that Harvin brought to the Gators.

At running back, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps return, giving the Gators additional weapons with blazing speed. Emmanuel Moody is still there and look for him to get some more carries. The Gators schedule looks more than manageable, with a road trip to LSU looking like the hardest game.

Look for the Gators to repeat for the national championship as well as capture the SEC crown and try to have their first ever undefeated season.

2. Georgia- The Bulldogs entered 2008 with national title dreams but had to settle for a Capital One Bowl victory. Needless to say, 2008 was quite a disappointment for the Bulldogs, and if they want to avoid this happening again in 2009, it is integral for them to get healthy.

Replacing Matt Stafford will be tough, but fifth year senior Joe Cox looks to fill that role and to play well and not make too many mistakes. If Cox falters, look for highly regarded freshman Aaron Murray to take over the reigns.

Regardless of who is playing at quarterback, they will have the luxury of throwing to AJ Green, who looks to be one of the country's best receivers.

The running game should be good, with Caleb King and Richard Samuel likely splitting the carries. The offensive line though, will be the key to Georgia's success. This unit need to stay healthy, and to play well enough for the newcomers to get adjusted into their roles.

If Georgia stays healthy and if Joe Cox gets into a rhythm early, there is no denying that Georgia could be as good as they were last season or even better.

3. Kentucky- The SEC East looks to be a little top heavy in 2009 with Florida and Georgia being the clear leaders, but Kentucky is continuing their progress. Although they do not have a bona fide superstar, Kentucky is full of great core players who could end up surprising.

Mike Hartline will be the starting quarterback, but if he falters, the staff will not hesitate to give the job to Randal Cobb, a duel threat. On defense, Trevard Lindley is one of the best corners in the nation and a future first round pick.

The Wildcats have a tough schedule right out of the gate, but the rest of the schedule is manageable and the Wildcats could end up at No. 2 in the east.

4. South Carolina- Since returning to the SEC to coach the forever underachieving Gamecocks, needless to say things have not gone to plan for Steve Spurrier. If the holes are not filled by next fall, the Gamecocks will likely have another disappointing 6-6 year.

Stephen Garcia returns as quarterback, and with Chris Smelley leaving the program, pretty much the only quarterback. Garcia has the physical skills, but he has never been able to put it together, not to mention his rapsheet that he has attained since his arrival.

The offense will go as far as Garcia goes this year and he must limit his mistakes for the offense to go very far. The offensive line is full of questions as well, but look for true freshman Jarvis Giles to emerge. The Gamecocks could do as well as 9-4 if Garcia plays well, but a 5-7 or 6-6 record sounds more reasonable.

5. Tennessee- Ah yes, the good ol' Vols. Things have not been all good on Rocky Top the past couple of years as 2008 was about as bad of a year as there has been in Tennessee's history (Wyoming? seriously?).

New coach Lane Kiffin has not done himself too many favors since being named head coach. From attacking fellow SEC coaches to criticizing a small town Florida recruiting hotbed, Kiffin will have to win early if he wants to keep his job. Unfortunately for Kiffin, 2009 does not look too good.

The offense does not look to be much better, even with the addition of mega recruit Bryce Brown. The Vols will not start winning until they can get a quarterback. Jonathan Crompton will get the starting nod but if he plays as poorly as he did last season, look for change to occur.

The defense will be better, especially with the arrival of NFL Defense guru Monte Kiffin. Look for Eric Berry to be the lone bright spot on this team as he will contend for All American honors. Despite all the noise Kiffin has made, I don't see them improving all that much.

A safe bet is 6-6 but depending on the offensive progression, they could end up worse. Kiffin better pray the Vols improve in 2010 or his time at Tennessee could be over.

6.Vanderbilt- Last year was the best year that this lowly academic powerhouse has had in recent memory. The commodores finished with a winning record, a win in the Music City Bowl, and they warranted a visit from the College Gameday crew.

Hell, they were even first place in the SEC East for a while.

However, the late season collapse against a weakened SEC leaves to wonder if Vandy will take a step back this year. For Vandy to have success, the offense needs to start producing.

The defense was strong last year and they oftentimes carried the offense. Vanderbilt looks to have somewhere around five wins this year but it will be nearly impossible to become bowl eligable in the deep SEC.