Tennessee head coach Butch Jones
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With quarterback Tyler Bray and wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson gone off of that explosive offense as well as a defense that was simply miserable a year ago, it certainly won't be easy in Butch Jones' first year on Rocky Top.
To put it simply, the cupboard is bare. At least more so than at other places within the SEC East.
Plus, the schedule doesn't do the Vols any favors in 2013. In addition to tough road games at Florida and Alabama, the Vols have to go to Oregon in Week 3 and play traditional SEC East powers South Carolina and Georgia in Knoxville.
Not exactly a cakewalk.
The biggest thing Jones needs is patience from Vol Nation. It isn't going to be a quick turnaround, and a 6-6 or 7-5 season in 2013 is certainly realistic—and where I expect the Vols to be.
@barrettsallee with UF signing 5 WRs, Driskel getting all the reps, the existing WRs gaining reps can we assume the passing game improves?— Josh.O (@Josh_Point_Ooh) January 24, 2013
If Florida wants to take the next step, it better.
The Gators weren't just embarrassed by Louisville in the Sugar Bowl; they were exposed. When the defense let the team down, quarterback Jeff Driskel simply couldn't bring the Gators back into the game.
But in Driskel's defense, he didn't win the job until after the 2012 season started, so the only sustained work he has received in a camp atmosphere as the No. 1 quarterback was during bowl practice. An offseason of work as the unquestioned starter will certainly help his development.
Running back Matt Jones is the likely replacement for departed running back Mike Gillislee, and Jones was impressive down the stretch.
Can he replicate the output Gillislee provided in 2012? That may be too much to ask, so it will be on Driskel, offensive coordinator Brent Pease and the passing game to pick up the slack.
The Gators will improve through the air because, let's be honest, there's really nowhere to go but up. They finished last in the SEC in passing offense with 146.3 yards per game. Just how much they improve remains to be seen.
If Driskel can get over the 2,000-yard mark and be smart with the football, the Gators will be right back in the hunt for the SEC title.
@barrettsallee do you see realignment In the works with schools changing divisions in the SEC?— John Starnes (@AUgrad00) January 24, 2013
No, I think the SEC is going to stick with the current division lineup, with Missouri in the East despite being farther west than most schools in the SEC West, until the conference expands again—if that ever happens.
The SEC added Missouri and Texas A&M to get the nation's No. 5 (Dallas/Fort Worth), No. 10 (Houston), No. 21 (St. Louis) and No. 31 (Kansas City) television markets, according to the most recent Nielsen DMA rankings. It will be much easier to get the SEC Network, which will likely hit the air in August of 2014, on carriers in those states now that the Tigers and Aggies are in the conference.
But the SEC is currently in the process of renegotiating its media rights deal with CBS and ESPN as a result of that expansion, and realigning divisions now could impact, or at least stall, those negotiations—potentially delaying the debut of the SEC Network.
The only way I see realigning the divisions is if it coincides with further expansion. The only way I see that happening in the SEC is if the ACC starts to crumble and the SEC grabs N.C. State and Virginia Tech—and their important television markets.