SEC Football 2011: Some Schools Will Find It Hard to Replace an Offensive Star

Gary BrownCorrespondent IIApril 11, 2011

Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson
Arkansas QB Tyler WilsonMike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Which SEC offense is going to need a spark coming into 2011 and which ones are set to explode in the new season? A quick look at the individual total offense leaders from last season will provide SEC fans something to be talking about as we enter the long period where the Masters comes to an end and the wait for fall practices begins.

Total offense can be manipulated like any other stat to try and make a point, but analyzing the numbers and looking at the teams can give some indications of what to expect. We will start by first looking at the total offensive leaders that will not be back next year. We will then turn our attention to the guys who are coming back.

No Longer Available

Auburn: What will make Cam Newton particularly hard to replace is he was the first option when it came to passing and rushing for the Tigers.

Tiger fans look at RB Michael Dyer and believe they have a replacement. While he did break Bo Jackson’s freshman rushing record last year and had some outstanding moments, it will be a different game in 2011 as teams will be keying on him more often. Last year teams came into the Auburn game trying to figure out how to stop Newton…not Dyer.

Key for Auburn: OC Gus Malzahn will have to spread the ball around quite a bit more in 2011 for the Tiger offense to come close to last year’s power.

Arkansas: Ryan Mallett is gone, but that does not mean the Razorback offense will slow down.

Tyler Wilson should be able to step into the starting QB role without much noticeable difference, and he may even be able to make a greater variety of passes than Mallett. Wilson can feel confident under center because of the number of returning playmakers Arkansas has returning. There is no team in the nation with as much depth at wide receiver. Another big plus is the emergence of Knile Davis at running back last season. By the end of last season the argument could be made that he was the best RB in the SEC. Last year Arkansas came into the season unsure who would be the primary ball carrier.

Key for Arkansas: Make sure the offensive line is ready to give Wilson protection.

Kentucky: It is not losing the total offensive leader that will always have the most impact on a team. Kentucky’s Mike Hartline is an example of this. He was the total offensive leader, but he was not “The Man” for the Wildcats.

The greater impact on Kentucky’s offense will be the loss of dynamic receiver Randall Cobb and RB Derrick Locke. These are the two players that gave Kentucky’s offense the firepower it had at times. The bad news for football fans in Lexington? The talent is just not available to replace these two guys.

Key for Kentucky: Patience this season. The Wildcats will have to develop a new offensive identity while figuring out who can make plays.

Alabama: What the Tide will miss most about Greg McElroy is his leadership, lack of mistakes and brains.

Alabama will not become a poor offensive team as a result of losing McElroy. There will not even be much drop off even with the additional losses of RB Mark Ingram and WR Julio Jones. Trent Richardson will lead another stable of talented RB’s into the season. Nick Saban will have the most depth at receiver since he arrived in Tuscaloosa. At quarterback A.J. McCarron has the advantage over redshirt freshman Phillip Sims, but so far this spring both have looked solid.

Key for Alabama: Establish who the QB will be when the season starts. Whoever steps under center has to be confident he is the guy.

Ole Miss: Can we now say the Jeremiah Masoli experiment did not work out all that well? While the former Oregon QB had his moments, he also managed to underwhelm at times too.

Ole Miss will be a better football team if Houston Nutt goes back to doing what he likes best: Running the football. Brandon Bolden is a punishing back and Enrique Davis has great upside, but needs more carries. The offensive line returns three starters and five players who were on the field for plenty of snaps last season.

Key for Ole Miss: Run the football and don’t make mistakes at quarterback.

Back Again

Georgia: Guess what Aaron Murray struggled early. That should not be a concern for Mark Richt as he enters a pivotal year. Murray was a freshman QB and was missing his best weapon with A.J. Green sitting out as a result of his NCAA suspension.

Murray had over 250 passing yards in six of Georgia’s eight SEC games and his decision making improved over the season. He also tossed three time more TD’s than picks last year. Losing Green will be big, but there were games when teams blanketed the star receiver and Murray made the adjustments to find the open players. Georgia should also have an improved running game with the addition of highly touted recruit Isaiah Crowell in the backfield.

Key for Georgia: Develop depth at the receiver slots.

Mississippi State: Chris Relf is back at quarterback. Maybe. Tyler Russell is a pretty decent QB too and he produced almost mirror image stats in the Maroon-White game this past weekend.

Last season Relf was not spectacular against Florida when the Bulldogs pulled off the upset, but he was calm and in charge on the field. His leadership was one of the keys to the win that day. Russell actually had the better QB rating of the two from last year, but he threw six interceptions last year and only five touchdowns. Relf tossed 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. The problem is these two guys have similar games, except Relf is also a capable runner. Their skills are not different enough that a two QB system can be justified.

Key for Mississippi State: Decide if Relf is the man or not. If he is, give him the keys to the offense.

Florida: Gator fans want to love John Brantley. They want him to achieve everything that was imagined when he came to Gainesville.

First we have to give Brantley a pass for last year’s play. Urban Meyer’s “everybody play QB” system did not give him the opportunity to get into any kind of rhythm at all. This year Charlie Weis will be running the Gator offense and it should provide Brantley plenty of chances to toss the ball down the field, which he did well at times last year. The fear Gator fans have right now is they just saw their leading man play a pretty poor spring game.

Key for Florida: Let Brantley do what he does best: Throw the ball down the field. Help him out by developing a running game to keep defenses honest.

LSU: You see the athletic ability and at times you see the passing skills that Jordan Jefferson has. Then you look at the stats and scratch your head. He should be better than seven TD’s and 10 interceptions, but that is what he produced last year.

In 2011 Jefferson will have a new offensive coordinator in Steve Krapthorpe. He is promising to develop his quarterbacks and establish a vertical passing game. The bad news for Tiger fans is that by all accounts Jefferson is the best QB on the LSU campus right now and he went 4-14 in the Purple-White game Saturday. He also threw one interception.

Key for LSU: Jefferson is a senior and the best option available. To keep winning games LSU must keep managing games around his ability to run the football.

Unsure Right Now

South Carolina: Stephen Garcia is not part of the South Carolina football team right now. That is all we can say for sure about his status for next year. What we believe is that Steve Spurrier would be rid of him for good if he had a better option at QB.

Garcia is inconsistent. He had a career day against Alabama, but had those second half fumbles against Auburn. He threw 20 touchdowns, but also 14 picks. What the Gamecock offense does have going for it is two very talented playmakers. RB Marcus Lattimore had 1197 rushing yards as a freshman and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is a nightmare for opposing defensive backs.

Key for South Carolina: Make a decision regarding Garcia and then move forward. The tools are there for the other quarterbacks to work with if Spurrier can have confidence in them.

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