SEC East Preview 2014

East Division Breakdown

The most sacred time of year has returned, yes it is college football, and more importantly the SEC. I will take a look at the SEC East division and give some superlatives as we did for the Western Division of the SEC.

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1. Georgia Bulldogs 11-1 (7-1)

The Bulldogs are hungry to avenge last season’s debacle of disappointment and injuries. They are led by 5th year senior Hutson Mason and arguably the best back in the country in Todd Gurley. We believe they will lose week 2 to South Carolina in Colombia and run the table from there. Most analysts will say that whoever wins that matchup is going to win the East, but I would point to the last 3 seasons where UGA won last season and did not represent the East in Atlanta, but the previous two seasons they lost to the Gamecocks and were in the Georgia Dome for the early-December showdowns. This team will go as far as Gurley takes them, and we believe that is at least to the Dome.

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2. South Carolina Gamecocks 10-2 (6-2)

We believe that this is one of the most talented teams in the SEC. The games that we have circled for the Gamecocks are the matchup late in the season at Auburn and when Tennessee comes to town as a possible trap game. They have a solid group of leaders and Mike Davis is a bruiser in the backfield so they should have another successful season. They can manage the schedule but they have some flaws on defense and at receiver, but the offensive line and a backfield with the experience that Davis and Thompson possess, they will be in every game with a shot to win.

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3. Missouri Tigers 9-3 (5-3)

The Tigers have a solid team returning and should have success, the main concern this season would be the defensive line. Losing two very productive defensive linemen and having to face several offenses that control the clock, it will be difficult to make it out unscathed. Dorial Green-Beckham was electrifying and he was the key to another SEC east title run, the only problem is that he didn’t have what it takes to stay on the team and has since been kicked off and transferred. The Tigers quarterback Maty Mauk is a game-changer and will compete for a championship before his time in Colombia is over, this just isn’t the year.

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4. Tennessee Volunteers 6-6 (4-4)

This is my surprise team in the east, but they will not quite have enough to run the table. They should be better in year 2 under Butch Jones, as they welcome in some great freshman and return the likes of Marquez North at wide receiver and All-SEC linebacker AJ Johnson in the middle of the defense. I did not account for this in my record prediction, but watch out for Tennessee upsetting Alabama in Knoxville for Lane Kiffin’s return as the OC for Bama, this could be the year.

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5. Florida Gators 6-6 (3-5) 

There are too many people hopping on the Florida bandwagon saying that because Jeff Driskell is back that they will return to form that we saw in 2012, but they fail to realize that the team won those games because of the defense and not Driskell. He has never shown consistency at the most vital position on the field. He will make some plays but ultimately be the reason that they are inconsistent on the offensive side of the ball by stalling drives.

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6. Vanderbilt Commodores 5-7 (1-7)

James Franklin is gone and I hate to say it but I just do not think that they have enough to win many games in the SEC this season, but Derek Mason will grow with the program eventually.

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7. Kentucky Wildcats 4-8 (0-8)

It is tough sledding for Mark Stoops and the Wildcats, they are simply a better team in a league in which they can not move up. The team will be stronger and they can beat Louisville, but they will be winless in the conference.

 

SEC accolades:

MVP: Georgia RB Todd Gurley

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This is the best player in the country as well as the SEC, he always seems to make the difference in his team winning or losing. He is healthy this season and in the best condition since arriving in Athens, thus looking for a huge year. I believe he has the edge to win the Heisman trophy as well.

Offensive Player of the Year: South Carolina RB Mike Davis

Possibly the second best player in all of the nation, he just happens to be second at his position in his own division as well due to the aforementioned Todd Gurley.

Defensive Player of the Year: Florida DE Dante Fowler Jr

This stud will be playing on Sundays soon and what is so impressive about him is his versatility in his ability to stop the run and rush the passer. He has stepped out as his defenses leader, and he brings that traditional Florida intensity that we are accustomed to seeing in Gainsville.

Newcomer of the Year: Tennessee WR Josh Malone

This is my favorite person tho watch this season, I believe that he will be the next Sammy Watkins. He is big and explosive, and he will be second focus for defenses as they watch Marquez North on the opposite side of the field, so he should shine as a compliment receiver.

Coach of the Year: Tennessee HC Butch Jones

NCAA Football: Tennessee-Spring Game

With Tennessee being my surprise team, I believe in Jones and his ability to beat at least two teams that are favored over the Vols this season.

SEC Championship Game: Georgia vs. Alabama

We have a rematch from 2012. This game we believe ends a little differently with the Bulldogs exacting revenge and winning the SEC.

SEC Champion: Georgia

I believe that Georgia has the tools available, especially with Todd Gurley in the backfield, to win the SEC. I think they will then get their shot in the College Football Playoff and defend the SEC’s name for the 2014 season.

 

So there it is, our SC East Preview. Check out the West Preview to see how that side may shake out, and thank you for reading!

A.J. Green VS Julio Jones

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These two studs are forever linked and will always be subject to comparison.

It all started in high school as these two highlight-reel receivers were being recruited by every SEC, ACC, and any other conference school who saw anything about them. A.J. Green committed to UGA and Julio Jones committed to Alabama. These two both arrived on campus as the focal points of their respective schools and their passing games.

Both of these young men exceeded expectations upon arrival, both sporting the same number in college, eight. These were both two very different offenses at the time. The Georgia Bulldogs had Junior gunslinger Matthew Stafford at quarterback and had a very complex passing system, whereas the Crimson Tide had more of a rushing attack as John Parker Wilson was more of a game manager and the offense was only balanced because of Jones’ deep threat ability.

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They both continued their careers in college and left as two of the most prolific receivers in SEC history. As their Junior seasons came to an end they both decided to forgo their Senior season to declare for the NFL Draft, together. As the draft approached, it quickly became evident that they were the top two and the best the draft had to offer since Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, formerly of Georgia Tech. The Cincinnati Bengals selected Green with the 4th overall pick and the Atlanta Falcons traded their 2011 first round, 2011 second round and their 2012 first round picks to move up to the 6th overall pick and selected Julio Jones.

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They, of course, lead both of their teams to a better offensive outcome, as Jones went to Atlanta and joined an offense that included Roddy White, Matt Ryan, and future Hall-of-Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. Green joined an offense that was rebuilding and his quarterback, Andy Dalton, would actually be drafted the round behind him and both of them would go on to surprise everyone and be in contention for rookie of the year. Julio Jones has had two great years in his first two seasons in the NFL having 54 and 79 catches, respectively, 959 and 1,198 yards and 8 and 10 TDs for those years. Green has been even better his first two seasons with 65 and 97 catches, respectively, 1,057 and 1,350 yards and 7 and 11 TDs for his two seasons. So the question is simple, who would you rather have on the other end of your passing game? The answer is more complex, as both excel in different ways as receivers.

Who would you take? A.J. Green or Julio Jones? The choice is yours, well if you’re a fantasy football owner, because these guys are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Marcus Lattimore: Draft Prospect Preview

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South Carolina’s own Mr. Football in 2009, Marcus Lattimore, would then decide to play his college career for the South Carolina Gamecocks and when he was on the field, he was that feature back that you feared if you were an opposing team or even just an opposing fan.  Lattimore quickly burst onto the scene his freshman year against the rival Georgia Bulldogs, rushing for 182 yards on 37 carries and for 2 touchdowns.  He proved early on as an 18 year old, that Spurrier and any future coach for that matter could hook their wagon to him and ride him to victories.  Even though a concussion ended his Chick-Fil-A bowl game appearance early, he would still finish the season rushing for 1197 yards on 249 carries and 17 touchdowns.  Lattimore would be named the NCAA Freshman of the Year and an obvious selection to the All-Freshman Team.

From there, Lattimore would be bitten by the injury bug over his next two seasons, ending them prematurely.  In his sophomore year, against Mississippi State, he would tear a knee ligament and leave the game, being done for the year.  His junior year would finish all the same, he started out having another great season after recovering from the knee injury before, to only have his year ended by another freak injury.  He would dislocate his knee, tearing knee ligaments, against the Tennessee Volunteers in a very gruesome injury.  His career would come to an end after announcing this year he would enter the NFL Draft.  He would finish with 2677 yards rushing on 555 carries and 38 touchdowns and 74 catches, 767 yards and 3 touchdowns in only 29 games.

These injuries in his career have garnered the main attention from the NFL Scouts and made them put his career in the back of their minds.  Although unfair it seems, you do have to question the durability issues, but look at guys like Adrian Peterson and Willis McGahee, these guys came back from bad knee injuries the next season to be very good/great backs.  That’s what Lattimore is very much focused on at this point, doing the best he can to rehab and get on the field for the next NFL season and I don’t see why he can’t do it.  If it’s one thing you can evaluate him on right now, it’s his work ethic and his character.  Whether you are a Gamecock or not, you have to pull for this guy and can’t help but want him to succeed in the NFL.

Lattimore has all the tools that you could ask for in any running back.  He stands at 6’0 and weighs 218 pounds, and is very much a power back, but do not under estimate his speed.  He does have to ability to break it once in the open field.  He has very good vision and ability to use his blockers to create more running lanes and bigger lanes for him to run through.  He is a very smart runner in between the tackles and naturally very tough to bring down in between the tackles and in the open field.  Although he is more of an upright runner, he knows how to lower his shoulder and run through potential tacklers.  His best quality though, is his dedication to be great and prove he can once again be an every down back.  A perfect teammate and a great locker room guy, no worries about him being a disruption, a very underrated quality in a player but nonetheless a very important one.  His one big red flag though, is his durability and brings his NFL potential into question.

Even with those injury concerns, he is a projected 3rd-4th round pick and could even be a 2nd round pick if the right team just can’t pass him up.  Lattimore would be a steal for any team that needs some running help.  If not for the injury concerns, he would be a top 5 or top 10 pick for sure.  If he can put these injury problems in the past, he has the potential to be one of the best in the game.

Spring Practice-UGA

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Aaron Murray is coming back to UGA.

This season for the Bulldogs was one they haven’t experienced in a while. They were relevant on the national stage all the way to the 5 yard line of the Georgia Dome in the SEC championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide. This spring the Bulldogs will be sporting a new-look defense as they had 9 players from the defense recently in the NFL combine, as they move to the next level. This defense will have leaders returning at every level of the depth chart, but most of the new contributors will be inexperienced although very talented. This brings me to this spring and the all important spring practice which is concluded by the annual G-day spring game. The players helping to usher along this transition will be Senior DE Garrison Smith, Juniors ILB Amarlo Herrera and CB Damian Swann, and Sophomore OLB Jordan Jenkins, all of whom played significant roles on the 2012 defense and look to make a bigger impact in 2013 and the future. These players will be joined by several early enrolees as UGA signed 33 on signing day and 13 of them are in Athens for spring. Perhaps the most important offseason news, Fifth-year Senior QB Aaron Murray decided to forgo the NFL draft and return for his senior season. He brings a level of competency to the quarterback position that UGA has not seen before Murray, there are things that OC Mike Bobo has given him to do that former 1st overall pick Matthew Stafford never got to see, much less execute. This is big for incoming Freshman QB Brice Ramsey to be able to learn from an all-SEC caliber QB and watch him compete and prepare. It is an exciting time in Athens and to be a Georgia Bulldog; this season will be decided within the first month of the regular season as Clemson, South Carolina, and LSU are all on the slate.