The SEC is overflowing with top-notch talent. From bottom to top, there is little doubt that many of the best players in the nation choose to play ball in the Southeastern Conference.
As the 2010 season approaches, and depth charts begin to take shape, it's interesting to look at what the new batch of budding starters/role players could bring to the table next season.
However, it's important to note that these rankings won't weight the potential impact of incoming recruits as highly as it does the prospects who were there in 2009.
That may not sit well with some, but none of us can say for certain who will and who won't redshirt in 2010. Nor can we be 100 percent confident that the 5-star stud your particular team brought in on Feb. 3 will be just as studly once he hits the field—just keeping it real.
That being said, the following rankings are meant to state clearly—without prejudice—which teams are in the best position at QB, RB, LB, WR, D-Line, DB, O-Line,and ST's units. Nothing more. Nothing less.
It would be maddeningly easy to pick Arkansas here, but the injury to Ryan Mallett has to make you wonder just how capable Tyler Wilson is of taking over the starting job if he truly had to step up.
LSU was another candidate, but beyond Jordan Jefferson, there are too many questions about the overall ability of Jarrett Lee on a game-by-game basis—too much of a drop off in talent level. Russell Shepard would have made it a stronger grouping, but he's moved to wide receiver as of now and it looks like he'll remain there.
Georgia has talent, but none of it is proven. The same can be said of both Florida and Auburn. The former is breaking in a new signal-caller while the latter is heading into the spring with a monstrous battle on their hands.
In the end, Alabama is just more stable and more settled—despite the lingering questions about both Star Jackson and A.J. McCarron. Jackson was unseated by the freshman in the 2009 season, which speaks volumes about the type of player he looks to be. While Jackson is trying to prove he is every bit as capable.
Bama has the experience, the poise, and the talent-level to be every bit as effective as last season—that gives them a decided edge here.
It's hard to say for certain if Ryan Mallett was so good because he had such good hands at the end of his passes or if his receivers were so good because of the guy throwing them the ball. Whatever the case, the Razorbacks are very deep at the receiver spot coming into 2010.
Greg Childs, Jarius Wright, and Joe Adams all had over 2,000 yards receiving, combined, last season in coach Petrino's liberal pass system—all are underclassmen.
Look for even better production this season provided Ryan Mallett is still able to chuck it like he did last year. Even more, keep an eye on Cobi Hamilton as well. Last season, the freshman had nearly 400-yards receiving for the Hogs.
Auburn will also return a stout group of pass-catchers as Terrell Zachery, Mario Fannin, and Darvin Adams all return to make life easier for whomever the Tigers choose to start at quarterback. The talented trio posted over 1,800 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2009.
Mississippi State's final record of 5-7 may not have told you much about the veritable talent on this team, but the Bulldogs are absolutely loaded with young phenoms in their secondary.
Last season, Johnthan Banks (pictured), Corey Broomfield, and Charles Mitchell were all dangerous and all were seeing the first significant action of their careers.
The Bulldogs have brought in a new defensive coordinator to channel all that talent into something more productive and positive as the Bulldogs were less than stellar as a unit—despite talent at every defensive position.
Falling just behind the Bulldogs is the Vanderbilt Commodores, whose aggressive tandem of Casey Heyward and Sean Richardson proved to be more talented than advertised.
Alabama already has a Heisman-winning running back in Mark Ingram, but it would be tough to deny that Trent Richardson has the potential to be every bit as good.
The two are primed to be the workhorses yet again as the Alabama offensive line will likely be fielding yet another very talented group of young men—most of whom will have no problem creating holes for these two.
Richardson and Ingram combined for more than 2400 yards and 25 TDs on the ground last season and will look to do more damage in 2010 as they make a run towards a second national title for the Tide.
Coming in at a respectable second are the Georgia Bulldogs, who have both Caleb King and Washaun Ealey returning in 2010—the two combined for a little more than 1250 yards and 10 scores.
Both should see their numbers increase sharply as the Bulldogs break in a new signal-caller while at the same time seeing the most experienced offensive line in recent memory.
Despite the ugliness that was the Bulldog's run game early in the season, Georgia did a phenomenal job of protecting their quarterback last season (12 sacks allowed).
2010 promises to bring more of the same as Georgia will return all but one of their offensive linemen from 2009—Vince Vance is now gone.
Georgia is deep on the line and has plenty of talent in reserve as the 2010 season approaches. The only question appears to be: can they hold it together on a consistent basis?
Alabama is every bit as good, too, as they return a ton of talent at every spot, despite significant losses at key positions.
The Gamecocks will lost both Clifton Geathers (NFL) and Nate Peppers (Graduation) in 2009, but that doesn't mean they aren't going to be good in 2010.
The Gamecocks fielded one of the best defenses in the country last season—spearheaded by the play of both Eric Norwood (LB) and Clifton Geathers.
2010 may look like a rebuilding year for some, but the continued stellar play of Cliff Matthews (pictured) along with the return of Travian Robertson will soften the blow of Geathers departure.
Add to that, the continued presence of Ladi Ajiboye on the interior, and you have a Gamecock line that won't need to apologize to anyone as they make a legitimate push to win the East.
Georgia has a nice kicking game going. The coverage teams are not much to speak on, but All-American punter Drew Butler (pictured) and his 40+ yard net punting average isn't a bad thing to have on your side on Saturdays.
Also, Blair Walsh (K) has been lights out for the Dawgs since taking over the field goal kicking duties, and the return tandem of Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith leave hope that as far as the kicking/return game is concerned, the Bulldogs should be just fine.
Surprise, surprise, right? Well, here's the thing: Dont'a Hightower would have been a nice player alongside Rolando McClain, but he got injured early and never had the opportunity to see how brilliant they might have been in his second season.
However, if Hightower returns to the form that he is expected to, he will be every bit as good as McClain was and he will have excellent talent surrounding him as well in both Nico Johnson and Courtney Upshaw—both of whom gained a ton of experience last season.
Throw in the potential emergence of Tana Patrick and Jarrell Harris and you can see why the Tide faithful won't be losing much sleep.