Power Ranking the Most Dangerous Offenses in SEC Football
The rise of innovative and diverse offenses has transformed the landscape of the SEC to a point where defense doesn't win championships anymore; "just enough" defense does.
Dynamic offenses are the biggest reason why.
There are plenty of questions facing SEC coaches this spring thanks to a relatively inexperienced quarterback crop, but that doesn't mean they won't be successful.
Which offenses are the most dangerous? Our picks based on talent, scheme and flexibility are in this slideshow.
As Dangerous as a Pillow Fight
While there are some great offenses in the SEC, there are still many that have major issues. The following schools missed the cut and can't be considered dangerous at this point.
Vanderbilt: Is there really an offense in Nashville?
Florida: Quarterback uncertainty and offensive line depth are major challenges for first-year head coach Jim McElwain.
South Carolina: At least wide receiver Pharoh Cooper is still there.
LSU: Running back Leonard Fournette is awesome. But quarterback concerns linger, and there's nothing to suggest offensive coordinator Cam Cameron can succeed with a dual-threat quarterback.
10. Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky didn't exactly set the world on fire last year when it finished 10th in the SEC at 384.3 yards per game, but the Air Raid attack employed by former offensive coordinator Neal Brown and new play-caller Shannon Dawson is something different that can give opposing defensive coordinators fits.
Quarterback Patrick Towles is a perfect fit for what the Air Raid offense needs. He's able to stretch the field, has a grasp of the concepts of the scheme and is able to hit his targets over the middle consistently on timing routes. If he loses his job to Drew Barker, that would be a huge compliment to Barker's development and give the Wildcats even more hope.
There are some wide receiver questions in Lexington, but "Boom" Williams and Jojo Kemp provide a pretty potent pair at running back, which will help Towles and Dawson keep opposing defensive coordinators honest in 2015.
9. Missouri Tigers
Yes, Missouri finished next-to-last in the SEC in total offense last year (367.0 YPG). Yes, quarterback Maty Mauk was more of a liability than an asset. Yes, you—the guy who has zero career college receptions—have 10 fewer receptions than the entire Missouri wide receiving corps heading into the 2015 season.
The Tigers are still dangerous, though.
Mauk was lights-out in the fourth quarters of games, throwing nine touchdowns and no picks in the final frame in 2014 as he led the Tigers to their second straight SEC East title. The ability to perform under pressure at an elite level is huge for Mauk and the Tigers, as they break in new receivers for the second straight season.
Russell Hansbrough is one of the more underrated running backs in the SEC, and the Tigers have proved time and time again that they can successfully tweak their offense to the personnel.
8. Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia is in a good news/bad news situation this spring. Running back Nick Chubb is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender who leads a talented running back group that includes veteran Keith Marshall and sophomore Sony Michel—who shone at times early in 2014 before the injury bug bit him.
What's more, the offensive line should be solid behind veteran tackles John Theus and Kolton Houston, and there's plenty of depth to rely on as the grind of the season progresses.
The bad news, though, is that the Bulldogs have to replace their top two receivers in Michael Bennett and Chris Conley and the three-headed quarterback battle taking place with Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta and Jacob Park is littered with uncertainty.
New offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer produced just one top 20 offense in the NFL since 2009. No, he hasn't exactly had the quarterback talent to be successful at stints with the New York Jets (2006-2011) and St. Louis Rams (2012-2014), but it's not like there's an enormous amount of certainty with his quarterbacks in Athens this year.
Georgia has the potential to be explosive offensively, but there are too many question marks aside from Chubb to etch it in stone this spring.
7. Arkansas Razorbacks
By now, you know what to expect from Arkansas' offense.
Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins provide the best one-two punch at running back in the SEC, and the offensive line returns four starters off of last year's unit that was bigger than some NFL lines.
Expect more, though.
Quarterback Brandon Allen threw 20 touchdowns and only five picks last year, gets leading receiver Keon Hatcher and dangerous tight end Hunter Henry back and will benefit from the presence of first-year offensive coordinator Dan Enos—who produced 3,000-yard passers in four of the last five seasons as Central Michigan's head coach.
If Enos can help Allen take the next step from a game manager and at least provide the threat of the senior starting quarterback becoming a difference-maker, this Arkansas offense is going to be scary.
6. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State finished last season with the most prolific offense in the SEC at 513.8 yards per game and will benefit from the return of star quarterback and Heisman Trophy contender Dak Prescott.
He's going to need some help, though, and that's why Mississippi State could take a step back in 2015.
The absence of running back/bowling ball Josh Robinson will hurt, along with a rebuilt offensive line that has to replace three starters off of last year's squad, including underrated center Dillon Day.
Prescott will have De'Runnya Wilson available outside. At 6'5", 225 pounds with sneaky speed, he's a dangerous weapon downfield and over the middle. But can Fred Ross, Fred Brown, Donald Gray and the rest of the wide receiving corps take the pressure off of Wilson and keep defenses honest?
Head coach Dan Mullen is a bright offensive mind, and he has a solid foundation to work with. But he has to fill a few holes this offseason in order to come close to the success the Bulldogs had last year.
5. Tennessee Volunteers
Wait, what? Tennessee—the team that finished 11th in the SEC in total offense in 2014—is the fifth most dangerous offense heading into 2015?
Yep, and that might be an insult to head coach Butch Jones.
With veteran quarterback Joshua Dobbs taking consistent first-team snaps in the offseason for the first time ever during his Tennessee career, Alvin Kamara joining Jalen Hurd in the backfield, a wide receiving corps that returns a medium-sized village of stars including Marquez North and Josh Malone and an offensive line that returns four starters, the Vols are as dangerous as Maverick in Top Gun.
Is offensive coordinator Mike DeBord a great hire? Not really, but unlike at other schools—specifically Georgia—it's the head coach's show on Rocky Top, and Jones should should have this offense humming at an elite level in 2015.
4. Ole Miss Rebels
There's a lot to like about Ole Miss' offense in 2015, and yes, that includes the quarterback.
Chad Kelly joined the battle this offseason to win the top spot on the depth chart that includes De'Vante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan. Kelly, formerly of Clemson, recently passed for 3,906 yards and 47 touchdowns with eight interceptions and rushed for 446 yards and four touchdowns, leading East Mississippi Community College to an undefeated season and a national championship.
That's the same school that produced former Rebel Bo Wallace and runs a similar system to Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, which should help Kelly not only win the job, but thrive in Oxford.
Laquon Treadwell leads a talented and deep wide receiving corps, and the offensive line, once healthy, should evolve into a strength.
The only question is whether the Rebels can develop a running game between the tackles to complement speedster Jaylen Walton off the edge. Jordan Wilkins looked good in limited action last year, Akeem Judd finally will get to show his stuff after redshirting in his first year at Ole Miss after transferring from junior college and Eugene Brazley is a true all-purpose back who could be dangerous.
If the Rebels can find a running game, look out, SEC.
3. Alabama Crimson Tide
Are you a believer in Lane Kiffin yet?
If not, you should be.
The polarizing offensive coordinator of the Alabama Crimson Tide enters 2015 with nine starters to replace off of last year's offense that set a program record in total offense (484.5 YPG) with a true freshman left tackle and a quarterback—Blake Sims—who had moved to running back at one point during his Crimson Tide career.
He has a medium-sized village of 4- and 5-star prospects to work with, a monster at running back in Derrick Henry (who actually led the team in rushing last year with 990 yards) and five different options at quarterback—all of whom bring something different to the table.
Throw in the versatility of running back Kenyan Drake and the threat tight end O.J. Howard poses up the seam, and this offense is incredibly dangerous, even though several of the names have changed off of last year's squad.
2. Auburn Tigers
No Nick Marshall? No Cameron Artis-Payne? No Sammie Coates?
No problem for Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn.
First, let's start with running back. Malzahn has produced 12 1,000-yard rushers in nine seasons as a college head or assistant coach. He has plenty of options to work with this year, including junior college transfer Jovon Robinson, sophomores "Roc" Thomas and Peyton Barber and incoming freshman Kerryon Johnson—whom one coach described to me as "the next Darren McFadden."
At wide receiver, D'haquille "Duke" Williams is a terror over the middle, Ricardo Louis has speed to burn and Melvin Ray and Marcus Davis have seen plenty of action over the last two seasons.
Is Jeremy Johnson's pro-style approach a change from the read-option offense under Marshall? Sure. But Malzahn was the first offensive coordinator in FBS history to produce a 5,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and three 1,000-yard receivers in the same season, when he did it at Tulsa in 2007.
Malzahn is flexible, and he has plenty of options with this year's roster.
1. Texas A&M Aggies
Kenny Hill's 511 passing yards in the season opener against South Carolina, while awesome at the time, might have been the worst thing to happen to Texas A&M during the 2014 season. After that, head coach Kevin Sumlin and the staff went into full-on Air Raid mode, which wasn't the best approach considering Hill's inexperience and the fact that his eventual replacement, Kyle Allen, was a true freshman.
Now, though, it might work.
Allen looked fantastic in the upset at Auburn and against West Virginia in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, which (not coincidentally) was after he received first-team snaps in a camp-like setting for the first time in his Aggie career. The Aggies return six of their top seven receivers, including Josh Reynolds, Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones, and a running game that looks stout led by Tra Carson.
The offensive line is in plug-and-play mode at left tackle, where right tackle Germain Ifedi, Avery Gennesy and Koda Martin are all vying for the spot vacated by Cedric Ogbuehi.
The Aggies have the personnel and creativity to go in a variety of directions this year, which makes this the most dangerous offense in the SEC.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.
Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.