SEC Football 2013: Every Team's Weakest Position
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As is usually the case, no other conference in college football has been hit as hard by departures for the NFL as the SEC.
Many of the conference's top stars from 2012 are now spending their time trying to impress pro scouts while their old teams try to figure out how to replace them.
Every team in the league will go into the 2013 season with a few weaknesses created by those departures.
Here's a look at every squad's biggest position of need heading into next season.
Alabama Crimson Tide: Center
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This offseason, Alabama is going to have to replace three terrific offensive linemen: Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker.
While Warmack and Fluker will likely be the two highest NFL draft picks this April, Jones is the player the Tide will miss the most.
The four-year starter was the anchor of the offensive line. After switching from tackle to center in 2012, he proved to be a natural at the position, earning All-American honors and taking home the Rimington Trophy, presented annually to the nation's best college center.
Ryan Kelly, a 6'5'', 288-pound redshirt freshman, will be asked to replace Jones up front in 2013.
Kelly, a former 3-star recruit from Ohio, has the talent it takes to succeed. He got game experience in a few of the Tide's blowout wins this past season. However, you have to expect that he will experience a few growing pains in 2013.
As we found out in the BCS Championship Game, QB AJ McCarron doesn't mind expressing his displeasure if his center messes up. So let's hope Kelly can limit his mistakes in his first season as a full-time starter.
Arkansas Razorbacks: Linebacker
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New Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is going to have to deal with plenty of inexperience at the offensive skill positions during his first year.
Still, at least he'll have talented young players like RB Jonathan Williams and WR Mekale McKay to build around on offense.
The Razorbacks' real weak spot is on defense, where they've lost their two top linebackers, Terrell Williams and Alonzo Highsmith.
Freshmen Otha Peters and A.J. Turner will now move into starting roles. It remains to be seen how they'll handle themselves in 2013.
Turner saw significant action this past season, and he played well. But the two have their work cut out for them trying to improve an Arkansas defense that ranked 12th in the SEC in scoring defense and total defense in 2012.
Auburn Tigers: Quarterback
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Auburn started three players at quarterbacks in 2012, but none turned out to be the answer to the team's problem at the position.
Kiehl Frazier, Clint Moseley and Jonathan Wallace combined to complete just 57 percent of their passes for 1,879 yards, and they threw just eight touchdowns compared with 15 interceptions.
Frazier will likely begin the 2013 season as the starter, especially since Moseley has left the team.
The former highly-touted 5-star recruit has the skills to succeed in new head coach Gus Malzahn's offense. But so far, Frazier hasn't come anywhere close to making the most of his potential.
Malzahn has to turn the athletic sophomore signal-caller into a much more consistent passer if the Tigers want to have any chance of putting together a winning season in 2013.
Florida Gators: Tight End
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The early departure of tight end Jordan Reed has left a big hole in Florida's offense.
Reed was the Gators' most productive pass-catcher in 2012, finishing with 45 receptions for 559 yards and three touchdowns. The big, athletic tight end presented plenty of matchup problems for opposing defenses.
Now it will be up to Clay Burton, with just two catches this past season, to fill the void that Reed has left.
An athletic 6'4'', 253-pound sophomore, Burton was originally projected to be a defensive end.
Although he's still raw and unproven, Burton does have some intriguing physical ability. But he has to show that he can handle a much larger role next season.
Georgia Bulldogs: Safety
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Georgia's defense lost several key playmakers from 2012, including future high NFL draft picks such as Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree and John Jenkins.
The unit also lost Shawn Williams and Bacarri Rambo, two of the best safeties in the SEC, who will also hear their names called in the upcoming draft.
Williams and Rambo combined for 171 tackles in 2012, and they were both key contributors to the Bulldogs defense.
Sophomores Connor Norman and Corey Moore and freshman Josh Harvey-Clemons will likely be the top candidates to take over as the starting safeties in 2013.
The three combined to average one tackle per game this past season.
Kentucky Wildcats: Defensive End
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New Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has plenty of positions that need to be strengthened. One of the most glaring holes is at defensive end.
The Wildcats lost both of their starting ends, Collins Ukwu and Taylor Wyndham, who combined for five sacks and 12 tackles for loss this past season.
Kentucky doesn't have a defensive end on its roster who has a sack, certainly a cause for concern.
Freshman Farrington Huguenin will likely be the team's top defensive end in 2013. But he's coming off a season in which he had just 11 tackles.
LSU Tigers: Defensive End
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In Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, LSU had arguably the most talented defensive end duo in college football this past season.
Like many of the Tigers' top underclassmen prospects, Mingo and Montgomery declared for the 2013 NFL draft, leaving big holes to fill on the edges of the defensive line.
It also doesn't help that the Tigers lost dependable backup Lavar Edwards, which leaves them with no defensive ends on the roster with a sack in 2012.
Sophomore Jermauria Rasco and freshman Danielle Hunter are long, athletic pass-rushers with enormous potential. But it won't be easy to replicate what Montgomery and Mingo brought to the table.
Mississippi State Bulldogs: Cornerback
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Mississippi State will have to replace two cornerbacks who will be playing on Sundays in the fall, Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay.
They combined for 104 tackles, picked off nine passes and broke up another 13 throws in 2012. The Bulldogs are certainly going to miss the them.
Taveze Calhoun and Jamerson Love, who have just one interception between them, get the tough task of trying to fill in for Slay and Banks in 2013.
Missouri Tigers: Defensive Tackle
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Missouri brings back some key contributors on defense such as LB Andrew Wilson, CB E.J. Gaines and DE Kony Ealy. However, the Tigers are going to miss their 2012 defensive MVP, DT Sheldon Richardson, who will likely be a top-20 pick in this year's NFL draft.
Richardson was one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the country, racking up 75 tackles, including 39 solo stops, 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
His departure leaves a big hole in the middle of the Missouri defense.
Ole Miss Rebels: Tight End
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Ole Miss is returning pretty much every important starter from 2012, so the Rebels don't have too many holes to fill. However, the team did lose its two top tight ends, Jamal Mosley and Ferbia Allen, leaving it without a tight end who had a catch this past season.
Fortunately, the Rebels are loaded at wide receiver with Donte Moncrief, Ja-Mes Logan and Vince Sanders all returning.
South Carolina Gamecocks: Linebacker
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South Carolina's defense will feature the best player in college football, DE Jadeveon Clowney. But it will also have one of the most inexperienced linebacker corps in the country.
The team's top five linebackers—Shaq Wilson, DeVonte Holloman, Reginald Bowens, Quin Smith and Damario Jeffery—are gone, and replacing them will be no easy task.
Freshman Mason Harris, who had just three tackles in 2012, is the team's most productive returning linebacker, which tells you all you need to know about how unproven the unit will be next season.
Tennessee Volunteers: Wide Receiver
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Not only did the Volunteers lose star quarterback Tyler Bray early to the NFL draft, they also lost their two best wide receivers, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson.
Both Patterson and Hunter will be high picks in this year's draft, and both leave huge holes to fill in Knoxville.
It also doesn't help that Tennessee lost its third-most productive receiver in Zach Rogers.
Hunter, Patterson and Rogers combined to catch 151 passes this past season.
The team's leading returning receiver, Vincent Dallas, only had nine catches and one touchdown in 2012.
Texas A&M Aggies: Linebacker
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Texas A&M will have to replace one of the best pass-rushers of the 2012 season, DE Damontre Moore, who is destined to be a top-10 pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
What's just as concerning is that the Aggies will need to replace their three best linebackers as well. The departures of Jonathan Stewart, Sean Porter and Steven Jenkins have clearly weakened the defense.
They combined for 225 tackles in 2012.
Sophomores Donnie Baggs and Justin Bass will now take over as the leaders of the linebacker unit. Both players are loaded with potential, but they are unproven commodities.
Vanderbilt Commodores: Offensive Guard
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Vanderbilt lost its starting quarterback, Jordan Rodgers, and its best running back, Zac Stacy. But luckily, the Commodores have two quality replacements in QB Austyn Carta-Samuels and RB Brian Kimbrow.
It will be interesting to see if the Commodores can find two quality replacements for their two starting guards, Josh Jelesky and Ryan Seymour, as well. They were two key cogs up front, and they'll be tough to replace.
Freshmen Jake Bernstein and Adam Butler are expected to replace them.
Bernstein started late in the season, but he still has to prove himself over a full year.