SEC Pre-Spring Power Rankings: Part Two

Alex HancockContributor IMarch 28, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 02:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on before taking on the Utah Utes during the 75th Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 2, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

I know you guys have been waiting a while for this and here it is. You have to remember that I am 17 and I have a very busy schedule. I took a look at UF on Wednesday.

Great school, definitely my top choice to go to college. I also watched the first day of spring practice and I plan on writing a little update of what I saw. 

In the meantime, the West Division looks to be very strong this year, with Alabama looking to maintain their success, Ole Miss looking to finally break out, and LSU looking to rebound from a disappointing season. Enjoy!


1. Alabama

I really struggled with this one. I put some serious thought into putting Ole Miss into this spot but in the end I think Alabama's overall talent will prove to be the difference. Love or hate the man, Nick Saban has done a tremendous job at upgrading the talent at Alabama.

Two mythical recruiting national championships and a 12 win season has fans in Tuscaloosa as happy as they have in almost 20 years. However, if this success is to be maintained, the talented roster must fill all of the holes quickly and well.

John Parker Wilson graduates after three years of starting and either Greg McElroy or Star Jackson will take his role. McElroy has game experience and is polished while Jackson has the superior physical ability. Saban will give the starting nod to whoever makes the least mistakes and is the best at managing the game.

However, I think that Jackson's physical skills will get him the starting nod in the end. At running back, Mark Ingram returns and highly regarded freshman Trent Richardson will figure to get some carries as well.

Julio Jones is perhaps the best receiver in the nation and will certainly make the job of the new quarterback a lot easier, but the Tide is still looking for that No.2 man to emerge.

The defense, which was one of the best in the SEC in 2008, returns nine starters led by big man Terrance Cody. Look for highly regarded freshman Dre Kirkpatrick to take over the safety spot vacated by Rashad Johnson and earn Freshman All-American honors. 

The schedule isn't too rough, and knowing that Saban will keep the Tide in check and motivated, I see them going 10-2 or even better, depending on the quarterback play.


2. Ole Miss

The surprise of the SEC goes into 2009 with as high of expectations as there ever has been in Oxford. Years of great recruiting by Ed Orgeron allowed for Houston Nutt to walk in and use his coaching skills that Orgeron never had to achieve immediate success. 

In order for the Rebels to keep their success going, they need to play like they did against Florida and not like they did against Wake Forest. The Rebels return Jevan Snead, the Texas transfer who played just as good as anybody in the SEC last year.

Outside of Tebow, Snead is easily the best quarterback in the SEC. For him to keep up his success is integral to the Rebels' success. Also integral to the Rebels is the progression of the defense, namely the pass defense.

The team was not good against the pass, so bad that they finished dead last in the SEC against it. The major loss for this team is left tackle Michael Oher who will be a top 10 pick in next April's NFL draft. The schedule is manageable, and I can see the Rebels doing as well as 10-2 next year.


3. LSU

The disappointment of the SEC goes into 2009 with high expectations and the need for Coach Les Miles to get rid of the bad taste of the 2008 season and get back into the upper echelons of the SEC.

The defending national champions were plagued by poor quarterback play, which Jordan Jefferson looks to change. After a MVP performance in the Chick fil a Bowl, Jefferson looks to have the starting nod as of now, but watch out for mega recruit Russell Shepard.

Shepard has electrifying skills and if he doesn't win the quarterback job, look for him to play a Percy Harvin-like role for the Tigers. The defensive line is going to be an area of major focus with the losses of Tyson Jackson, Kirston Pittman, Rick Jean-Francois, and Marlon Favorite.

Al Woods and Drake Nevis will bolster the line next season. In the secondary, look for former five-star recruits Chad Jones and Patrick Peterson to have amazing seasons. Although the Tigers look to improve, I think this team is still young and its best days are ahead of them. I'm calling a 9-3 record.


4. Arkansas

Bobby Petrino and all of his baggage returns for year two at Arkansas and hopes to make some improvement on a disappointing 5-7 year. The Razorbacks went from Houston Nutt's old style offense to Petrino's high-flying system, and the rough transition showed.

Petrino's offense relies heavily on good quarterback play, something the Razorbacks lacked last year. This year should be different with cannon-armed Michigan transfer Ryan Mallett getting the starting nod.

Although Mallett is plenty talented, he must keep his head straight and not get arrested for wandering around the Fayettville streets drunk as a skunk.

The running-back situation is pretty wide open with the shifty Michael Smith, who is recovering from a hamstring injury. Look for USC transfer Broderick Green will get some carries and you can expect to see key recruit Ronnie Wingo get some carries as well. The defense should progress well with the experience they gained last season.

If Mallett plays to his potential and keeps his head straight, look for Arkansas to go somewhere in the ballpark of 8-4.


5. Mississippi State

Former Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen takes over the reigns in Starkville and looks to put some life into the forever anemic Bulldog offense. He won't have the talent that he had at Florida but I think he can help this team improve on 115th in scoring and 113th in total offense. 

Although it may take a while for him to get his players to fit the spread, Mullen will try to adapt to his current players and not try to force anything too crazy. The quarterback Tyson Lee is a small yet physically tough playmaker who can adapt to Mullen's offense, but will need serious help from an offensive line that was horrid last season. 

The transition will not be helped by a brutal schedule so I see the Bulldogs going anywhere from 4-8 to 6-6 depending on the progression of the offense.


6. Auburn

I predict that Auburn will take a step back for a while since I am not a believer in Gene Chizik's coaching ability. Unlike Lane Kiffin, the other controversial hire in the SEC, Chizik says all the right things and is good with the media; however, he has not accomplished squat as a head coach.

His 5-19 record at Iowa State is evident of this. Look for Chizik to be on a very short leash and if there is no progression this year, look for Aurburn's crazy boosters to not hesitate a bit in removing him.

Kodi Burns looks to get the starting nod. While Burns has showed that he can run well, he has had a horrible time passing the ball last season with two touchdowns and seven interceptions. The receiving corps was a joke last year as was the offensive line.

This was going to be a rebuilding year regardless but you don't fire a guy like Tommy Tuberville if you don't have winning on your mind. The Tigers will be plain awful next year and look for them to finish as bad as 3-9.


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