A Way-Early Preview of the SEC East
During these strange and troubling times of a virus going around and no sports coming soon enough, it’s time to overreact about football without any spring football.
We all can come to the conclusion that Vanderbilt and Missouri are going to have down years. With Vanderbilt’s best two players RB Keyshawn Vaughn and TE Jared Pinkey going to the NFL draft, it is safe to say it's another ”rebuild” season. Missouri, on the other hand, was supposed to have a break-out season last year with Kelly Bryant being behind center and a superior heavy upperclassmen squad, but the team ultimately deteriorated midseason after getting a bowl ban. Finally, during the post-season, Missouri hired former App State HC Eliah Drinkwitz to replace Barry Odom. An unprecedented and unpredictable move. This leaves many unknowns surrounding the Tiger program. Most folks will say it's a rebuilding season in Missouri.
Primarily, the SEC East is set up in tiers. The bottom tiers being Vanderbilt and Missouri, middle tiers being South Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky, and your top tier is made up of Flordia and Georgia. The major question is, who's going to take the stride and step up to the top tier this year?
South Carolina - Last season the Gamecocks had one of the most up-and-down seasons of any team in college football. South Carolina defeated Georgia in Athens last year (which saved Will Muschamp's job). With the amazing 2020 recruiting class and the majority of the team returning, the question is, can the Gamecocks make the jump to the top-tier? 2nd-year starting QB Ryan Hilinski comes back with a new OC Mike Bobo and 5 star DT Jordan Burch coming in to assist the defense. The first test the Gamecocks will have is in Lexington against another middle-tier team: the Kentucky Wildcats.
Kentucky - Talk about a team with a true roller-coaster season in 2019 was the Kentucky Wildcats! From losing QB Terry Wilson the second game of the season to having WR Lynn Bowden taking over the QB position and leading the Wildcats to another bowl winning season. As always, most people are doubting HC Mark Stoops and company after the wildcats return with everyone at the same position minus Lynn Bowden, Logan Steinburg and Kash Daniels. Just two years removed from a 10 win season, some would say this is the year Kentucky really breaks out. We’ll see early though, considering they have a date with the Flordia Gators in Week 2. Kentucky also hands-down had their best recruiting season ever in 2020 so we’ll see if they can capitalize.
Tennessee - Let's just get it out of the way—Tennessee lost to Georgia State. Now that that’s out of the way, Jeremy Pruitt and company finished last season on a high note with 8 wins and a bowl victory. The Volunteers lose some senior leadership with Juan Jennings, Marquez Calloway, and Daniel Butili all heading to the NFL draft. Many expectations are riding on the Vols this season after a hot finish and a lot of key players coming back, including senior QB Jarrett Quarantano who MUST perform this season. The Vols will face a tough task in Week 2 as they travel to Norman to take on Oklahoma. Will the Vols take a step back or a step forward in Year 3 of the Jeremy Pruitt era?
Now, your top tier is the same as always with Flordia and Georgia. Honestly, Georgia is still ahead of everyone considering they had another top 3 recruiting class coming in and grad transfer Jamie Newman coming in. So the question is, can someone dethrone the Gators from the second-best team in the East? Kyle Trask will probably be your Week 1 starter, but can Dan Mullen keep the gators strong in Year 3 after a disappointing recruiting cycle in 2020?
Way-too-early rank predictions
5. South Carolina