2011 NCAA Football: A Preview of the SEC (Part 2 of 2)

If you missed last week's SEC rankings (teams 1-5) it can be seen here.

This week, we will focus on the teams that I believe will be in the back half of the conference (6-12). 

As mentioned last week, the SEC could be one of the more wide-open conferences this coming season. The teams are very well-rounded (with exception to a few). However, that is usually the case in the SEC but typically somebody will emerge and run away with things just like Auburn did last year.

The teams will be ranked based on personnel and coaching. All factors will be considered. I had a disclaimer in last week's piece stating that if you have a difference of opinion, it's okay. Just be tasteful with how you disagree. Also, if I happen to leave anyone off the list, please just provide you thoughts in the comment section on those players. In covering 100+ D-I football teams, with several players on each of them, it can be easy to leave out certain players.

With that, lets take a look below...

6. FLORIDA GATORS

The Gators can be contenders in just about any given season. However, once Tim Tebow was gone, the shoes were a bit too big to fill for any rostered quarterback for Florida. I think it will get better for them this season but it's difficult to replace a player of Tebow's caliber at the college level.

It will be an interesting year for first year head coach Will Muschamp; particularly since he will be working with a very, very young depth chart behind the starters.

The Gators have their work cut out this season, but may wind up a bit higher ranked than this when the final gun for the 2011 season sounds.

Key players for the Gators this year: John Brantley (Quarterback), Chris Rainey (Running Back), Mike Gillislee (Running Back), Sam Robey (Center), Xavier Nixon (Off. Tackle), Will Green (Defensive End), Sharriff Floyd (Defensive Tackle), Jelani Jenkins (Linebacker), Moses Jenkins (Cornerback).

 

7. GEORGIA BULLDOGS

I am not 100% convinced that the Bulldogs will finish here. This is a preseason ranking and I reserve the right to change my opinion on this team at any point. But right now, I think they, as a team, have a lot to prove still.

A lot will be riding on the shoulders of Aaron Murray who may emerge as one of the top college quarterback prospects this year. However, losing a target like A.J. Green could make things a bit more challenging.

Mark Richt heads in to his 10th season with an impressive 96-34 record. I am positive that the Bulldogs will have another winning season under his leadership. What I am not sure of, is to what level this season.

Georgia scored an average of 32.1 points-a-game last year and held opposing offenses to just 22.1 points-a-game. I imagine that it will be relatively close to the same at the end of this season. But in losing some key guys on both sides of the ball, it will take certain players to step up and fill those enormous proverbial shoes.

Key players for the Bulldogs this year: Aaron Murray (Quarterback), Carlton Thomas (Running Back), Ken Malcome (Running Back), Marlon Brown (Receiver), Tevarres King (Receiver), Ben Jones (Center), Cordy Glenn (Guard), Kwame Geathers (Nose Tackle), Abry  Jones (Defensive End), Jarvis Jones (Linebacker), Brandon Boykin (Cornerback), Baccari Rambo (Safety).

 

8. TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS

This team as a ton of work to put themselves in to contention for the conference, or even their division. They finished last year ranked 58th in the nation in points scored and 56th in points allowed. The Vols do have some talent but the voids that they have are major voids at some starting positions.

Second year head coach, Derek Dooley did a pretty good job considering the mess left behind by Lane Kiffin. 

A lot will be riding on running backs Tauren Poole and Raijon Neal to carry the offense through the season. But it is quite possible that Tyler Bray could elevate the passing game from years previous to this.

Key players for the Vols this year: Tyler Bray (Quarterback), Tauren Poole (Running Back), Da'Rick Rogers (Receiver), JaWuan James (Off. Tackle), Daniel Hood (Defensive Tackle), Marsalis Teague (Cornerback).

 

9. MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS

Dan Mullen will be heading in to his third season. He has a record of 14-11 which is not bad, or really great. It will take quite a bit with a spotty roster for the Bulldogs to make any progress from a just above .500 team.

They have some very good players on the roster returning from last year; specifically on defense. 

However, they will need to do more than just run the ball; which I may add that they did very well with finishing 16th in the nation in that category. Running back LaDarius Perkins will carry a majority of the load on offense running behind a stout offensive line.

Key players for the Bulldogs this year: LaDarius Elliot (Running Back), Gabe Jackson (Guard), Fletcher Cox (Defensive End), Johnthan Banks (Cornerback).

 

10. KENTUCKY WILDCATS

The Cats seem to always be stuck in neutral. It's been a very long time since they have done well in the SEC. 

Joker Phillips finished a game under .500 last season in his first year as the head coach. He really built a great ground game to complement the above average pass game and this season it should only get better for the team. 

The problems for the Widcats, and where they may have the most trouble this season is the defense where they finished 72nd in the nation allowing 28.4 point-a-game. They have some returning players but could face similar issues this year.

Key players for the Wildcats this year: Raymond Sanders (Running Back), La'Rod King (Receiver), Tyler Robinson (Tight End), DeQuin Evans (Defensive End), Ronnie Sneed (Linebacker), Winston Guy (Safety).

 

11. OLE MISS REBELS

Head coach, Houston Nutt has had a roller-coaster career so far while at Ole Miss. He's been there for 3 years now and had his fair share of bumps and bruises. With all things considered, his teams have managed a 22-16 record. Last year was not a true reflection of the true program.

In recent years, the program has churned out players like Eli Manning, Patrick Willis, and Michael Oher. The program has gained some attraction for recruiting purposes because of players like that doing so well. 

This year will most likely be better than last year for the Rebels. Their troubles were primarily on defense where they finished 107th in the nation in points allowed. I can only see that ranking getting better as the squad on D has matured a bit. Nutt will have his guys ready for the season opener against BYU but will have their work cut out still.

I don't think it can get worse for Ole Miss as they went 1-7 in the conference and 4-8 overall.

Key players for the Rebels this year: Brandon Bolden (Running Back), Bradley Sowell (Off. tackle), Bobbie Massie (Off. Tackle), Kentrell Lockett (Defensive End), Marcus Temple (Cornerback).

 

12. VANDERBILT COMMODORES

I expect Vandy to be the worst team in the conference this year. Not because they're bad but because they will be really bad. They have a tough schedule. It's hard to see them winning more than 2 or 3 games this season. Too much work in a strong division and conference.

First year head coach, James Franklin certainly has an uphill battle to fight. He will have time to turn the program around but it is doubtful that with the current roster, that it will happen immediately.

Key players for the Commodores this year: Larry Smith (Quarterback), Warren Norman (Running Back), Chris Boyd (Receiver), Ryan Seymour (Off. Tackle), Rob Lohr (Defensive Line), Casey Hayward (Cornerback), Trey Wilson (Cornerback).

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