There’s a clear top two or even a top three in the SEC, if you believe Texas A&M has separated itself from the pack to join Alabama and Georgia atop the conference.
There’s even an obvious last-place team in Vanderbilt, maintaining one of the SEC’s oldest traditions. It’s between the Aggies and the Commodores that things get interesting, as new coaches, new quarterbacks and a series of unknowns have combined to make the league’s middle class nearly impossible to predict.
That joins the defining question of the offseason: Which SEC team is the preseason favorite to win the national championship? Is Alabama ready to reclaim supremacy? Will Georgia repeat?
These two national powers lead the way for the nation’s best conference.
Springtime SEC power rankings:
1. Alabama (2021 record: 13-2)
Building an offensive front better equipped to protect quarterback Bryce Young is Alabama’s highest offseason priority after giving up a whopping 41 sacks in 2021, the third-most in the Power Five. The Tide have a new position coach, former South Carolina and Kentucky assistant Eric Wolford, and will welcome in a well-regarded transfer in Vanderbilt tackle Tyler Steen, who has started on both ends of the line and will at worst provide quality depth.
2. Georgia (14-1)
Stetson Bennett will have a ridiculously talented crop of tight ends at his disposal. Sophomore Brock Bowers (15 touchdowns in 2021) is a lock for preseason All-America status. Junior backup Darnell Washington has logged extensive snaps in his first two seasons. The Bulldogs have added another pair of options in LSU transfer Arik Gilbert, who may rival Bowers for pure talent and athleticism, and freshman Oscar Delp, who had seven catches in the spring game.
3. Texas A&M (8-4)
The starter heading into last season before suffering a year-ending injury in September, third-year quarterback Haynes King finds himself in a struggle to reclaim the starting job with two other contenders. One, LSU transfer Max Johnson, has a high level of SEC experience and may represent the safest pick for coach Jimbo Fisher. But five-star freshman Conner Weigman has played up to expectations so far and has the deepest set of physical gifts.
4. Ole Miss (10-3)
The loss of quarterback Matt Corral and the team’s coaching upheaval have the potential to derail the Rebels’ growth under Lane Kiffin. Replacing Corral will come down to the competition between Southern California transfer Jaxson Dart and former backup Luke Altmyer. Things are changing on the sideline: Kiffin hired Charlie Weis Jr. from South Florida and promoted tight ends coach John David Baker as co-offensive coordinators, and then hired former Western Kentucky assistant Maurice Crum to team with safeties coach Chris Partridge as co-defensive coordinators.
5. Arkansas (9-4)
The Razorbacks need wide receivers after losing star Treylon Burks to the NFL. Senior Warren Thompson (304 receiving yards in 2021) and sophomore Ketron Jackson Jr. took first-team snaps during the spring, as did backup quarterback Malik Hornby. Arkansas is expecting big things from Oklahoma transfer Jadon Haselwood, who led the Sooners in receptions last season.
6. Tennessee (7-6)
Thirteen early enrollees and four transfers participated in spring drills as the Volunteers look to build on last year’s bowl bid in Josh Heupel’s debut. Among the traditional recruits, junior-college transfer Desmond Williams is expected to contribute immediately at cornerback and freshman defensive tackle Tire West has the frame and burst to play in the SEC trenches as a rookie.
7. Kentucky (10-3)
Losing junior Vito Tisdale to a season-ending knee injury will cost Kentucky a projected starter and force Mark Stoops and defensive coordinator Brad White to dig deeper into the depth chart to find answers at cornerback. Like many SEC schools, the Wildcats will dip into the portal to find at least one extra body. For now, look for UK to promote sophomore Andru Phillips into the starting spot opposite junior Carrington Valentine.
8. LSU (6-7)
Look for a flurry of roster moves once the Tigers exit spring drills. There are a number of position groups in need of a talent and experience influx heading into coach Brian Kelly’s debut, most notably the offensive line and cornerback. In the secondary, the Tigers lost Derek Stingley Jr. to the NFL draft and a number of potential contributors to the portal, though Kelly and his staff rebounded to ink a pair of experienced Arkansas transfers in Greg Brooks Jr. and Joe Foucha.
9. Florida (6-7)
Three players followed new coach Billy Napier from Louisiana-Lafayette and could factor into the Gators’ plans in 2022. The biggest name is running back Montrell Johnson, who ran for 838 yards and a team-leading 12 touchdowns last season. Another big addition, offensive lineman O’Cyrus Torrence, grabbed a starting spot by the end of the spring. The third transfer, redshirt freshman lineman Kamryn Waites, has the frame to develop into an SEC contributor.
10. Mississippi State (7-6)
Poor placekicking cost MSU at least two games last season. After making just 56% of field goals in 2021, the third-worst percentage in the Power Five, the Bulldogs have been trying out two transfers, Massimo Biscardi (Coastal Carolina) and Ben Raybon (Northern Colorado). Biscardi made seven of his eight attempts last season, including three of four from 40 or more yards, and went 16-of-21 from 40-plus in his four years with the Chanticleers. Raybon has a strong leg and could be an asset on kickoffs.
11. Missouri (6-7)
If the spring was any indication, freshman wide receiver Luther Burden is headed for a major role in the Tigers’ passing game. Just the third five-star signee in program history, Burden was one of the stars of the spring game and may end up becoming the centerpiece of the entire offense at some point in his rookie season. The receiver room is crowded, however, and could have another breakout star in sophomore Dominic Lovett.
12. Auburn (6-7)
It’s hard to be enthused about Auburn’s quarterback situation, which promises to extend into fall camp. (It’s also difficult to feel good about the program as a whole after another memorably disruptive offseason.) Four players are in the mix: TJ Finley, who threw six touchdowns last season; Oregon transfer Robby Ashford, a two-sport freshman who didn’t take a snap for the Ducks; Texas A&M transfer Zach Calzada, who is battling a shoulder injury; and freshman Holden Geriner.
13. South Carolina (7-6)
After ranking 13th in the conference in yards per play in 2021, South Carolina has gone deep into the portal to overhaul a sputtering offense. The biggest pull is the Oklahoma transfer Spencer Rattler, who represents a major upgrade at the position. The Gamecocks also added a pair of impressive young receiver talents in Antwane Wells (James Madison) and Corey Rucker (Arkansas State), and will be helping in the running game by Wake Forest transfer Christian Beal-Smith (604 yards in 2021).
14. Vanderbilt (2-10)
The Commodores are still in the early stages of a rebuilding project under second-year coach Clark Lea. A solid recruiting class sparked some offseason optimism and indicated that Lea may eventually cobble together a roster with the talent and depth to factor into the bowl mix. But there are some major question marks around the state of the offensive line, which badly needs help via the portal; as it currently stands, this group would keep Vanderbilt’s offense at the bottom of the SEC.
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