SEC East Football: Question Marks heading into 2018
In the SEC, football is king. However, every team has question marks heading into the 2018 season. Some are a bit more pronounced than others, but question marks all the same. So let’s look at what may be the biggest issue facing each team in the SEC East this season.
Dan Mullen returns to Gainesville as head coach after a good run at Mississippi State. The last major success Florida had was with Mullen as offensive coordinator. Of course, if they don’t get the quarterback position figured out, none of the rest will matter. Feleipe Franks, who has been slow in his development, will compete with redshirt sophomore Kyle Trask and incoming freshman Emory Jones for the starting job. The quicker one of them grabs the reins the better off the Gators will be.
In his second season at the helm, Kirby Smart had his team one play away from a National Championship. They just signed one of the best-recruiting classes in documented history. Those players in that class are going to have to step up quickly. The Dawgs have to replace at least 15 players who will be in an NFL camp this year.
Can Mark Stoops elevate his team to the next level this year? JUCO transfer QB Terry Wilson is the presumptive favorite to be the signal caller this season. Outside of RB Benny Snell, the Wildcats are short on playmakers. It is going to take some surprising results to have a better season in 2018 than they did in 2017.
The Tigers get back sensational QB Drew Lock, but who will he throw to? The short answer is senior WR Emanuel Hall and junior WR Johnathan Johnson. They are the two leading returning receivers. Their best target, in my opinion, is RS sophomore TE Albert Okwuegbunam. The 6’5” 260-pounder caught 11 touchdowns a year ago.
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
The Gamecocks surprised many last year by winning nine games in Will Muschamp’s second season on the sidelines. While Carolina will boast one of the better skill position depth charts in the SEC, however, their offensive line has been massively re-tooled. Dennis Daley will start at left tackle and senior Blake Camper will start at right tackle. Zach Bailey, who started 13 games at guard in 2016, will play left guard again this season. Sophomore Sadarius Hutcherson will play right guard and junior Donnell Stanley moves to center. No player is playing in the same spot they did a year ago (other than spot duty). It also would not be surprising to see some of the highly touted freshman recruits get some playing time this season. This unit will get one game to gel before they host Georgia in Week 2.
New head coach Jeremy Pruitt will have his work cut out for him early. The Volunteers have no proven skill players going into this season. Jarrett Guarantano will battle Stanford grad transfer Keller Chryst for the starting quarterback position. They have to replace talented RB John Kelly. Junior WR’s Brandon Johnson and Marquez Callaway are the only pass catchers returning with over 400 yards receiving.
Is this the last ride for head coach Derek Mason? The Commodores have to replace top RB Ralph Webb and defensive leader LB Oren Burks. Senior QB Kyle Shurmur returns and he has his top target, JR WR Kalija Lipscomb to throw to. This will be the fifth season for Mason, who has a career record of 18-31, with ZERO bowl wins. If Vandy can be 3-3 at the midway point of the season, then they have a chance to make a run and save Mason’s job.
Are there other question marks for these SEC East teams? Let us know in the comments.
We will get into the SEC West tomorrow!