SEC Football: Power Ranking Each Team Post-2015 Spring Practice
Spring practice is in the books, so what better time than now to unleash post-spring SEC power rankings?
Which teams filled holes this spring? Which teams had more unexpected questions pop up? Which coaches could be on the hot seat?
Our post-spring power rankings based on roster, coaching and remaining questions are in this slideshow.
14. Vanderbilt Commodores
Even when things go good for Vanderbilt, they go bad.
Patton Robinette appeared to have won the starting quarterback job in Nashville exiting spring practice, but concerns over concussions and an increased focus on his own medical career forced him to retire, which has sent head coach Derek Mason and new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig back to square one.
Will it be Johnny McCrary, who essentially won the job down the stretch, or will somebody else step up to the plate? Quarterback instability has been the hallmark of the Mason regime, but that has to change.
Defensively, the linebacking corps is solid, and Caleb Azubike is a good defensive end, but Vandy is still operating at a talent gap against the rest of the SEC East, which will make the 2015 season an uphill battle.
13. Kentucky Wildcats
Incumbent starter Patrick Towles is attempting to fend off hotshot Drew Barker to keep the quarterback job, which is actually good news for Kentucky. Towles was rather solid last season when he threw for 2,718 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions, and he is a good trigger man for new offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson.
The air raid only works when there's a threat on the ground, and the duo of Stanley "Boom" Williams and Jojo Kemp is a solid one-two punch for Dawson to rely on. At wide receiver, though, the staff is looking for answers.
Defensively, head coach Mark Stoops and Co. have to replace the production of former studs Alvin "Bud" Dupree and Za'Darius Smith. That could be more difficult than anticipated, though, especially for a defense that finished 11th in the SEC (406.9 YPG) with those guys. Safety A.J. Stamps is a bona fide star, but the defense as a whole has some work to do.
12. Florida Gators
New Florida head coach Jim McElwain knew he had an offensive line problem heading into spring practice, and the news only got worse this spring. Guard Trip Thurman missed spring with a shoulder injury that could linger much longer into the season, and tackle Rod Johnson had to hang up the cleats with spinal stenosis.
The Gators will have 12 scholarship offensive linemen this fall, six of whom will be true freshmen. That's going to be a major problem for the entire offense even with star offensive tackle Martez Ivey coming this summer. It's going to create an unstable offense from game-to-game and series-to-series, which will prevent the Gators from contending for the division title.
The defense will be solid with a phenomenal secondary led by Vernon Hargreaves III, the return of linebacker Antonio Morrison will help, and the defensive line will be stout. As was the case under former head coach Will Muschamp, the defense will have to keep the Gators in games, plus the offense will need some luck.
11. South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina took a nosedive last year when it posted a 7-6 record just a few months after being picked to win the SEC East at SEC media days in Hoover, Alabama, in July. There were two primary reasons: The defensive line was as soft as Charmin, and the secondary was young (and didn't get any help up front).
Things have changed a bit. Marquavius Lewis transferred from junior college and was essentially handed a starting spot at defensive end, and the secondary will benefit not only from his presence but that of new co-defensive coordinator and noted defensive backs coach Jon Hoke.
On offense, though, there are a ton of questions. All three quarterbacks looked good in the spring game with sophomore Connor Mitch likely leading the battle, but the eventual winner still needs to replace the production of Dylan Thompson. Mike Davis is gone from the backfield, as are key offensive line pieces.
Can Brandon Wilds, David Williams or both step in for Davis? Maybe, but it's not a certainty yet.
10. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen is charged with maintaining the program's position near the top of the SEC West in 2015, but he must do so with some significant roster attrition, which will be challenging to overcome.
Three starters are gone off an offensive line that was vital to last season's success, as is bowling ball/running back Josh Robinson and five of seven starters on a defensive front that was one of the best in the SEC in 2015.
Sure, wide receiver De'Runnya Wilson, quarterback Dak Prescott, a solid stable of running back options and defensive tackle Chris Jones will help, but the margin for error in the SEC West is so thin that Mississippi State is bound to take a step back in 2015.
9. LSU Tigers
LSU's quarterbacks looked good from a statistical standpoint in the spring game, but most of that damage came against a second-team defense that struggled in pass coverage and couldn't get pressure. Against the first team, Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings combined for just 64 passing yards, were sacked five times and threw as many touchdown passes as you—yes, you who sat on the couch all day.
Can you trust the quarterbacks after that? I can't.
On top of that, depth on defense looked like a concern as well, and new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is still in the midst of installing his hybrid 4-3/3-4 system.
LSU sputtered to an 8-5 record last season, and something similar could be in store for the Tigers in 2015.
If that happens, the 2016 season will get interesting for head coach Les Miles in Baton Rouge.
8. Missouri Tigers
Missouri has earned the benefit of the doubt in the SEC East based on two straight SEC East titles that included head coach Gary Pinkel filling massive roster holes, his players overcoming significant injuries on the fly and the program enduring enough pressure to fill a stadium.
Quarterback Maty Mauk is back, as is running back Russell Hansbrough, but the wide receiving corps is completely new, has just 10 total receptions and struggled to get things going this spring, according to David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune.
Defensively, Harold Brantley will lead the interior of the defensive line, and the secondary should be solid. Can it be consistent, though? If Mauk can't progress and become more consistent over the first three quarters of games, there's going to be a ton of pressure on a defense that is missing several stars.
7. Arkansas Razorbacks
Arkansas is the SEC West equivalent of the new kid in school. Everybody heard about the Razorbacks based on last year's late-season success, but it came out of nowhere, and nobody knows what to make of them quite yet.
Head coach Bret Bielema is out to change that.
He has a tremendous offense coming back, including dynamic running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, four starters on a massive offensive line, a senior quarterback, versatile tight end Hunter Henry and leading receiver Keon Hatcher. What's more, new offensive coordinator Dan Enos has produced 3,000-yard passers in four of the last five seasons as head coach of Central Michigan.
The defense is the question. Losing linebacker Martrell Spaight, defensive end Trey Flowers and defensive tackle Darius Philon will be tough, even though talented players like defensive end JaMichael Winston and tackles Taiwan Johnson and Bijhon Jackson are still around.
If the offense improves slightly, it will allow a little more wiggle room for the defense and vault Arkansas into the SEC West title race.
6. Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen came on strong late in the 2014 season, throwing four touchdowns and running for another in the Liberty Bowl win over West Virginia. At that time, he was still adjusting to college life on the fly.
Now Allen, a true sophomore, is getting first-team snaps in a camp-like setting for the first time in his career, which will help the Aggies offense be more consistent. He has a medium-sized village of talented wide receivers to work with, a three-headed monster at running back and a brilliant offensive mind in fourth-year Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin.
The question is on defense, but Sumlin lured defensive coordinator John Chavis away from LSU during the offseason. His goal now is simply to be average, which shouldn't be too hard with defensive end Myles Garrett, linebackers Otaro Alaka and A.J. Hilliard and safety Armani Watts.
The Aggies will be decent defensively, which should be all that's required to keep them in the SEC West title race in early November.
5. Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia has plenty going for it this year, specifically the nation's best running back corps led by star sophomore Nick Chubb, as well as the best outside linebackers in the country.
There are plenty of questions, too. The entire defensive line must be rebuilt, new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer must replace Georgia's top two receivers, and the secondary, while talented, will still be without Damian Swann—who was solid last year after a disappointing 2013 campaign.
At quarterback, the Bulldogs will be fine. Brice Ramsey is the likely front-runner because of his ability to consistently stretch the field, but Faton Bauta and Jacob Park both looked solid in the spring game as well.
The question isn't the quarterbacks, it's the play-calling. Can Schottenheimer replace Mike Bobo, who was one of the best play-callers in the SEC? That's still an unknown, and it's the biggest thing standing in the way between Georgia and an SEC East title.
4. Tennessee Volunteers
What's the argument for not picking Tennessee to win the SEC East? Because it's Tennessee, which hasn't won anything of importance for the better part of a decade.
Sorry, but that's not good enough for me.
Tennessee is talented, deep and experienced across the board, with the only major concern being an offensive line that, while inconsistent at times last year, still returns four starters.
Alvin Kamara will take a ton of pressure off Jalen Hurd at running back, head coach Butch Jones has wide receivers for days, and junior quarterback Joshua Dobbs—who was solid down the stretch—will benefit from a full offseason of first-team snaps for the first time in his career.
The defense returns seven of eight on the two-deep up front, added Shy Tuttle, Kahlil McKenzie and Andrew Butcher during the recruiting cycle, is loaded at linebacker and has an experienced secondary led by cornerback Cam Sutton.
Why Tennessee? Why not?
3. Ole Miss Rebels
Injuries took their toll down the stretch for Ole Miss last year, but as long as everybody stays relatively healthy, this year's Rebels should be better and deeper than last year's squad that danced around the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings in early November.
The defensive line, led by tackle Robert Nkemdiche, is so loaded that last season's starting defensive end, C.J. Johnson, stepped back to middle linebacker this spring. The Rebels have a talented secondary led by "Huskie" Tony Conner and budding star safety C.J. Hampton, and they have two solid corners in Tee Shepard and Tony Bridges.
The offensive line was banged up this spring, but that should help build depth this fall when stars return, including left tackle Laremy Tunsil. Add in Damore'ea Stringfellow to a receiving corps that will include a healthy Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core and others, and Ole Miss is dangerous.
Head coach Hugh Freeze's system works, and whoever wins the quarterback job will be fine—especially if Akeem Judd, Eugene Brazley and Jordan Wilkins can provide a stable running game between the tackles.
2. Auburn Tigers
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn hired former Florida head coach and accomplished defensive mind Will Muschamp to lead the Tigers defense and answered some questions this spring. The Tigers managed six sacks and got plenty of pressure in the spring game even without star defensive end Carl Lawson, and safety Tray Matthews looked like a star after sitting out last season due to transferring from Georgia.
If Muschamp can generate pressure (which didn't happen often last year), it should vault the Tigers into the middle of the SEC pack in yards per play, which is all they need to do to be successful.
Because offensively, Malzahn's crew is loaded. Jeremy Johnson is a bona fide Heisman candidate, Roc Thomas looked like a more complete back who's willing to hit the hole in the spring game, and wide receiver D'haquille "Duke" Williams is one of the most complete wide receivers in college football.
"I really like where we're at at the end of the spring," Malzahn said after the spring game in quotes released by Auburn. "I think we're in a good spot. Now, we've got all kinds of things we need to improve on, but at least, as coaches, we know what they are."
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
At this point, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has earned the benefit of the doubt. Sure, he has nine new starters on his side of the ball, and neither Jake Coker nor David Cornwell looked comfortable at quarterback in the spring game, but they both looked better than Blake Sims did last April, and all he did was lead Alabama to the SEC title.
Besides, what did you expect? When you have five quarterbacks sharing reps, and a second-team offensive line that's going up against an All-Star front seven, the offense is going to be behind.
Kiffin will make it work no matter who wins the quarterback job. Derrick Henry looked like a monster, the return of Kenyan Drake is huge, and wide receivers ArDarius Stewart and Robert Foster both looked tremendous.
Defensively, there isn't a better front seven in the country, and the secondary—which has long been a sore spot—has progressed thanks to Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey.
Alabama will be right in the thick of it again in 2015 and is set up for another run at the College Football Playoff.
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.
Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.