Strengths and Weaknesses for Every SEC Football Team Entering 2013 Season

Randy ChambersAnalyst IJuly 20, 2013

Strengths and Weaknesses for Every SEC Football Team Entering 2013 Season

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    SEC media days are out of the way, which means fall camp is ready to begin and the regular season will soon be here to smack you in the face.

    While coaching staffs are going over the final preparations, it remains obvious that each team has a certain strength and weakness heading into the season.

    Some teams are playing musical chairs with the offensive line, while others are desperately hoping that a young secondary pans out. There are a few teams that don't have an answer at quarterback, while a handful of others are sitting pretty with a potential Heisman candidate.

    It's important each team takes advantage of its strength and tries its best to mask that key weakness.


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    Strength: Almost Everything

    Alabama doesn't have one position that stands out because nearly every position is elite status. There's a reason it has won two consecutive national titles and is widely considered the favorite to win a third. The defense is loaded with potential, and the offense has more weapons than ever before. Every team would love to be in the same position Alabama is in.

    Weakness: Backup Quarterback

    AJ McCarron is arguably the most efficient quarterback in the country. However, there is no backup plan if things turn sour. All it would take is a stomach flu or turned ankle for the Tide to be stuck searching for answers.

    Blake Sims is the likely candidate to play during an emergency, but he only threw 10 passes last season. Behind him are players who have never even seen the field. Alabama is hoping this weakness won't need to be addressed.


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    Strength: Defensive Line

    First-year head coach Bret Bielema has a solid defensive line to build around, beginning with senior defensive end Chris Smith. He led the Razorbacks with 9.5 sacks last season. Trey Flowers finished second on the team with six sacks and will help create a solid one-two punch. The middle of the line includes seniors Byran Jones and Robert Thomas, both of whom played well last season.

    Weakness: Linebacker

    There is a lot of inexperience at linebacker for Arkansas. The projected starters, Braylon Mitchell, Daunte Carr and Jarrett Lake, all have seen very little playing time in their careers. Replacing one or two linebackers from last season usually isn't a big deal, but Arkansas will rely on all new players at the second level of the defense. There are sure to be growing pains with this group. 


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    Strength: Defensive Line

    Losing one of the top defensive ends in Corey Lemonier does hurt, but Auburn has plenty of depth on the defensive line. Sack leader Dee Ford returns for another year after having his best season with six sacks. Ken Carter has a lot of potential and can play either inside or outside. Gabe Wright and Jeffrey Whitaker also provide valuable depth and showed flashes last season. This unit will be much better this season.

    Weakness: Quarterback

    Auburn can go with an experienced quarterback in Kiehl Frazier or Jonathan Wallace, or decide to take a walk on the wild side and gamble with Nick Marshall or Jeremy Johnson. None of them have done much in spring ball to separate themselves from the pack, and it's the reason head coach Gus Malzahn seemed a little worried during SEC media days, per Stu McCann of ABC 33/40.

    Auburn has an offensive juggernaut as a head coach, so figuring out the quarterback is a top priority.


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    Strength: Defensive Line

    Florida may have lost a ton of talent defensively to the NFL draft, but the defensive line will remain in great hands. Dominique Easley is due for a breakout season at defensive tackle and will continue to make NFL draft scouts drool. Jonathan Bullard is the man at defensive end and will make his coaching staff very happy. Florida also has Dante Fowler Jr., who played extremely well last season as a freshman.

    Weakness: Wide Receiver

    It's amazing how a school such as Florida is struggling to find offensive playmakers, but for whatever reason, it is a reality. In fact, things appear to be so bad that, per B/R's own Barrett Sallee, cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy will spend some time at the position in the hope of giving the offense a boost. Whether it's Andre Debose, Quinton Dunbar or Demarcus Robinson, somebody needs to step up in a big way at wide receiver.


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    Strength: Running Back

    Is there any question as to why running back is considered Georgia's strength?

    Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall may be the best RB duo in college football. Gurley is arguably the best running back in the country after rushing for 1,385 yards as a true freshman, while Marshall averaged 6.5 yards a touch and scored eight touchdowns. Georgia is absolutely set in the offensive backfield.

    Weakness: Secondary

    Georgia's defense was shaky last season, and it will be tested more than ever this year. Damian Swann is the only returning starter in the secondary, which isn't a good thing with quarterbacks Tajh Boyd, Zach Mettenberger and James Franklin on the schedule. Players such as Tray Matthews, Sheldon Dawson and Josh Harvey-Clemons all have potential to be solid players, but they lack experience.

    The secondary must learn on the fly and quickly become a respectable unit.


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    Strength: Linebacker

    Kentucky can make strides on defense this season with six returning starters. The most impressive unit on that side of the ball is at linebacker. Last year's top three returning tacklers, Avery Williamson, Alvin Dupree and Miles Simpson, are returning. Dupree led the team with 6.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. This group is experienced and will continue to make plays in hopes of keeping Kentucky in games.

    Weakness: Quarterback

    Kentucky finished 12th in the SEC and 106th in the country last season in passing yards. Those numbers could be misleading due to Maxwell Smith missing most of the season with an injury, but Jalen Whitlow didn't do much to help matters when he took over in the final 10 games. Smith and Whitlow will battle it out this fall for the starting job, and the winner must add a spark to an offense that ranked 119th in the country in scoring.


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    Strength: Offensive Line

    It isn't very often that LSU doesn't have a great offensive line. The running game is usually one of the best in college football, and those players can thank the big men up front because of it. LSU returns four linemen who started at least six games last season, which will help iron out some of the inconsistencies from last year. Guard Josh Williford is returning from injury, and La'el Collins has a ton of potential at left tackle.

    LSU will remain a physical team offensively.

    Weakness: Special Teams

    Ah, the most underrated unit in football. Although most continue to overlook special teams play, LSU is a program that usually prides itself in this area. However, the Tigers lost an elite punter in Brad Wing, and they must replace veteran kicker Drew Alleman. Jamie Keehn is expected to start at punter, but he has very little experience, while the starting kicker could be a handful of guys, including James Hairston and Colby Delahoussaye.

    Don't underestimate the value of special teams.


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    Strength: Wide Receiver

    The Tigers have one of the top wide receiver corps in the SEC. The two leading receivers, Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington, return for their senior season. They combined for 71 receptions last year and five touchdowns. Dorial Green-Beckham is also in the mix after finding his groove late in the year. He has a ridiculous skill set and is poised to have a breakout sophomore season.

    Weakness: Offensive Line

    Missouri was in for a surprise last season in the trenches. The offensive line allowed 29 sacks, and it showed that size and athleticism on the line are extremely important to SEC success. Of course, it didn't help that there were many injuries that took place. Offensive line troubles could continue for the Tigers with only two starters returning.

    Mitch Morse and Justin Britt have the potential to form a solid tandem at tackle, but other players must step up to the plate.

Mississippi State

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    Strength: Offensive Line

    Mississippi State finished third in the SEC last year with only 19 sacks allowed. Good news for Bulldogs fans is that they are returning four of five starters from that unit. In fact, an argument could be made that five starters are returning due to Justin Malone starting at right guard. He saw considerable playing time filling in for an injured Tobias Smith. Mississippi State will be a strong group up front.

    Weakness: Secondary

    Mississippi State lost its top two defensive players in Darius Slay and Johnthan Banks to graduation. That duo finished last season with nine interceptions and made passing difficult for opponents. Cornerback Justin Cox is a playmaker who will help out in a variety of ways, while Jamerson Love did intercept a pass and finish the year with 25 tackles in limited playing time. There's promise with this group, but there is also a lot of inexperience. 

Ole Miss

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    Strength: Defensive Line

    Ole Miss managed to produce 38 sacks last season, including five against Georgia, four against Texas A&M and seven in the final two games. This is a young, feisty and athletic group that plays like its hair is on fire. C.J. Johnson returns after leading the team with 6.5 sacks. Issac Gross was a tackling machine as a freshman, and that doesn't even include a loaded 2013 recruiting class that has Robert Nkemdiche.

    This pass rush will be great.

    Weakness: Offensive Line

    The good news is that Ole Miss returns four starters from the offensive line. Usually, experience will lead to better results the following season. However, there are a lot of improvements that need to be made with the group. The Rebels allowed 34 sacks last year, which was a little more than 2.5 per game. If they hope to take that next step and begin competing for a division title, it all starts with the offensive line.

South Carolina

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    Strength: Defensive Line

    Jadeveon Clowney.

    Is there anything else that needs to be stated? Clowney is a one-man wrecking crew and will continue to terrorize offensive linemen.

    As if the Gamecocks needed any more help on the defensive line, Kelcy Quarles and Chaz Sutton combined for 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss last season. This defensive line will make a case for one of the best in college football.

    Weakness: Linebacker

    That defensive line may find life difficult if the linebackers can't quickly figure things out. The Gamecocks don't return any starting linebackers and will have three new starters in Cedrick Cooper, Kaiwan Lewis and Sharrod Golightly. None of those players have enough comfortable experience, and the growing pains will show early on in the season. A great defensive line is one thing, but it must be supported by solid linebackers.


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    Strength: Offensive Line

    Good luck breaking through this offensive line. Left tackle Tiny Richardson is a potential first-round pick in next year's NFL draft, while James Stone, Zach Fulton and Ja'Wuan James are all experienced starters who are more than capable of holding their own. This group may shape the best offensive line in college football.

    Weakness: Quarterback

    It's a good thing the offensive line is elite, because there are questions at quarterback. Regardless of who wins the starting job, Tennessee will be throwing in an inexperienced player who will need to be treated with care. Whether it's Justin Worley or Nathan Peterman, neither has logged much playing time. They will both need to learn the ropes quickly.

Texas A&M

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    Strength: Quarterback

    Texas A&M is led by some guy named Johnny Manziel. Last season, he became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy and broke all kinds of NCAA, SEC and school records. No defense has figured him out yet, and he's easily one of the biggest playmakers in the country.

    Manziel is the engine to the Aggies' success, and he gives them a fighting chance to win every game.

    Weakness: Defensive Line

    The main reason some are hesitant to consider Texas A&M national championship contenders is because of the defense that finished ninth in the SEC. The defensive line is one of the biggest concerns with the unit. Will Kirby Ennis be fully recovered from offseason surgery? Is Kimo Tipoti really the answer at nose guard? How many of the freshmen can step up and help ease the pain of losing Damontre Moore?

    As you can see, there are a lot of questions that need answers.


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    Strength: Secondary

    Maybe the most surprising statistic in the SEC last season was Vanderbilt finishing with the third-best pass defense. Only allowing 191.8 passing yards a game, Vanderbilt finished above Florida, South Carolina and LSU. Three starters in the secondary are returning, including last year's leading tackler, Kenny Ladler, at free safety.

    Vanderbilt will once again make it tough to throw the ball.

    Weakness: Quarterback

    The only real area of concern for Vanderbilt is at quarterback. It has come down to a battle between Austyn Carta-Samuels and Patton Robinette. Both are highly inexperienced, but they do have potential. Carta-Samuels is a dual-threat player with solid accuracy, while Robinette has decent athleticism and makes good decisions.

    However, replacing Jordan Rodgers won't be easy.