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SEC Football Q&A: Alabama's DBs, LSU/Wisconsin and Dark-Horse Title Contenders

Alabama head coach Nick Saban talks with defensive coordinator Kirby Smart after a targeting call against one of Alabama's defenders during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Butch Dill/Associated Press
Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJune 20, 2016

Do you hear that? Those are pads. Those pads? They're popping.

Ahh, football. 

Fall camp is here, and let's kick off the season in style with a Friday tradition—SEC football Q&A.

What will Alabama's secondary look like? Will LSU roll Wisconsin in Houston? Who's a dark horse to win the SEC Championship?

 

@BarrettSallee what your expectations of Alabama's DB'S

— Jeremy Gardner (@Jeremygardner4) July 25, 2014

I expect them to be much more consistent, because while Alabama did post the SEC's second-best pass defense (180.3 YPG) last year, it was more due to weak competition than it was its play.

Alabama DB Cyrus Jones
Alabama DB Cyrus JonesKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There are options for head coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. Cyrus Jones and Bradley Sylve played quite a bit last year, Tony Brown (early enrollee) and Marlon Humphrey (summer enrollee) signed as part of the class of 2014, and Eddie Jackson still intends to come back this season from a torn ACL suffered in the spring.

The rotating door opposite recently departed corner Deion Belue prevented any of the corners from getting into a groove last year, and I expect—no matter who the two starting corners and starting nickel are—that Saban and Smart will be a little more hesitant to rotate them this year.

Who exactly will the starters be? As you see in the video below, I expect Brown and Humphrey to get the nod, while my B/R colleague Michael Felder veers toward Brown and Jones. Whoever it is, they'll be much better than they were last year due in large part to a filthy front seven and pressure from the newcomers.

 

@BarrettSallee W/Les being 35-0 v reg season noncons, is there a shot LSU rolls the Badgers & becomes the dark horse in the SEC?

— Dan Vasta (@CI_StatsGuru) July 31, 2014

There's a shot, sure. But it's a long shot.

Wisconsin is no slouch. It'll line up LSU and make defensive coordinator John Chavis' defense beat it. While tackles Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson were slight disappointments last year, their presence impacted the game in a variety of ways.

LSU head coach Les Miles
LSU head coach Les MilesUSA TODAY Sports

Whether it's Christian LaCouture, Quentin Thomas or others, they've got to focus on stopping Melvin Gordon—which is not an easy task.

The Badgers are breaking in a brand-new linebacking corps, so there's a spot where LSU's offense can make some waves. But will offensive coordinator Cam Cameron even open things up?

With a young quarterback and minimal experience at wide receiver, I don't know if LSU will put itself in position to roll the Badgers. That's what makes that five-point line that VegasInsider.com has posted seem so legit. It's going to be a low-scoring, ugly, slugfest.

As for LSU being a dark horse in the conference? LSU shouldn't ever be considered a dark horse. Am I sold on LSU this year? No. But its down years are still nine- or 10-win seasons, which should always get it in the conversation.

Apr 5, 2014; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles during the 2014 spring game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

 

@BarrettSallee dark horse to win the SEC?

— (@bunjaminn) July 25, 2014

The popular answer will likely be one of the two Mississippi schools, Ole Miss or Mississippi State. Both will be competitive, and I like Ole Miss to make things very difficult with a few of the SEC West's big boys, but that division is the toughest neighborhood in college football.

Florida QB Jeff Driskel
Florida QB Jeff DriskelAl Messerschmidt/Getty Images

It's more likely that a dark horse emerges from the SEC East, and I'll take Florida out of that division. No, I don't think the Gators will actually win it (I picked Georgia at media days), but it wouldn't surprise me in the least bit if the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (yes, we still use its proper name) decides the division title.

Florida's defense is loaded, which allows some wiggle room for the new offense led by coordinator Kurt Roper. The Gators don't have to be great, they just have to be good, and quarterback Jeff Driskel is certainly capable of that.

It seems like Florida has been gaining some momentum this offseason, but only two SEC East programs—South Carolina and Georgia—received votes to win the entire conference at media days. It wouldn't surprise me if Florida elbows its way into that discussion by midseason.

 

Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC Lead Writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee. If your question wasn't answered this week, it has been saved and could be used in the future.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings are courtesy of 247Sports, and all stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com.


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