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Previews 2015: Vanderbilt Commodores

Previews 2015: Vanderbilt Commodores

Many people saw the collapse coming early last year for Vanderbilt, as the Commodores tried to change too many things simultaneously under first-year coach Derek Mason. Mason ditched the ‘Dores’ spread offense for a pro-style I-formation, then dumped the 4-3 defense in favor of a 3-4. Neither move worked particularly well, and Mason’s strange quarterback roulette killed any momentum former coach James Franklin had left him. In 2015, the future doesn’t look much brighter, although Mason at least appears to be a respectable recruiter, meaning happier days may lie ahead.

Previews 2015: Tennessee Volunteers

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Previews 2015: Tennessee Volunteers

Between a heavy concentration of returning starters, improved recruiting and some of the best offensive skill talent in the conference, Tennessee is hoping it can finally lift itself out of the doldrums it’s been in for at least the last eight seasons. Roughly from the time Nick Saban arrived at Alabama, Tennessee has been irrelevant in the SEC. The 2015 Volunteer team is still not perfect; the offensive line, while experienced, wasn’t good in 2014, the defense has some holes up the middle and the book is still out on Butch Jones as both an x’s-and-o’s coach and a program leader. But things are looking up.

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Previews 2015: South Carolina Gamecocks

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Previews 2015: South Carolina Gamecocks

Mediocre, thy name is South Carolina. The Gamecocks enter the 2015 season being average almost across the board, as graduation and a handful of recruiting misevaluations have limited the Cocks’ ceiling for the coming year. This season will inform a lot of the discussion going forward about Steve Spurrier’s tenure and ultimate retirement from the game. It’s unlikely he wants to helm a South Carolina team stuck in mediocrity, but that’s where the Gamecocks are headed if the defense doesn’t get markedly better this year.

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Previews 2015: Missouri Tigers

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Previews 2015: Missouri Tigers

Missouri has earned the respect no one wanted to give it when it first joined the SEC. For each of the last two years, the Tigers have played the upstart role in the SEC East, taking out heavily-favored Georgia and, at least briefly, getting itself into the national championship discussion in 2013. In 2015, though, the personnel losses of the previous year may be too much to overcome. Missouri is rebuilding its skill talent on offense and its front on defense. Sketchy special teams will add to the drama, but history would demand the Tigers not be counted out just yet.

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Previews 2015: Kentucky Wildcats

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Previews 2015: Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky is on pace to possibly be one of the most improved teams in the SEC – but its record may not reflect that. The Wildcats are still relatively far behind many of its SEC East peers in terms of overall talent. And there are still questions as to the direction Mark Stoops has the Wildcats traveling: Can Kentucky compete in the SEC running an Air Raid offense and lacking in defensive athleticism? History would say no, but Stoops is certainly trying to find out.

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Previews 2015: Georgia Bulldogs

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Previews 2015: Georgia Bulldogs

One of these years, Georgia is finally going to find a way to put it all together. It just might have to require a change in head coaches, though. The Bulldogs have underachieved consistently under Mark Richt, and being out front in the preseason is a dangerous place to be for Georgia. That’s where the Bulldogs again find themselves, picked by some – including this service – to run the table in the SEC. The schedule sets up nicely for Georgia, with back-to-back games against Alabama and Tennessee being the real challenge. On the field, Georgia must find a quarterback and solidify its defensive line.

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Previews 2015: Florida Gators

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Previews 2015: Florida Gators

While most people believe it’s just a matter of time before Florida reascends to the top of the SEC East – with a recruiting advantage like the one UF possesses, it’s not an unreasonable expectation – the Gators are currently in a big hole of their own making. The Will Muschamp hire turned out to be a grave mistake for Jeremy Foley, and now he has turned from one former Nick Saban assistant to another: former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who arrives from Colorado State with the reputation of an offensive whiz and motivational mastermind. But he isn’t a top-flight recruiter, and the lack of player development under Muschamp will cause Florida some headaches in 2015.

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SECCG wrap-up: Tigers can’t play spoiler to Bama’s storybook run

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SECCG wrap-up: Tigers can’t play spoiler to Bama’s storybook run

This may not be the most dominating Alabama team in the school’s long, multi-championship history. But it is one of the most likable.

Every time Nick Saban talks about the 2014 edition of the Crimson Tide, his genuine affection for the team comes flooding out. Unlike the 2013 team, which suffered from leadership-related short circuits on both sides of the ball, the 2014 Alabama team is a strange combination of lunchpail mentality with the quick-strike ability of a coiled rattlesnake. The offense is led by the country’s unlikeliest elite quarterback, who is built like a sawed-off fireplug, runs like a whippet and has an uncanny knack for rising to the occasion.

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2014 Previews: Vanderbilt Commodores

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2014 Previews: Vanderbilt Commodores

In addition to losing head coach James Franklin to Penn State, the Commodores lose more production from its 2013 team than does any team in the conference. Only nine starters return, the team is changing both offensive and defensive schemes, and head coach Derek Mason has never run a program before. Vanderbilt still has a good nucleus, thanks to Franklin’s inspired recruiting, but it would surprise no one if the Commodores missed the postseason.

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2014 Previews: Tennessee Volunteers

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2014 Previews: Tennessee Volunteers

If win-loss records were determined by bravado and bull hockey, Tennessee’s Butch Jones would have a team in the national title game every year. Jones has done a good job selling the illusion of improvement, but the Vols had better hope he can continue to recruit well – because success in the present day isn’t coming. Tennessee might have the league’s worst offensive and defensive lines simultaneously, certainly a first for this program and maybe the first for any SEC program not named Vanderbilt. Aside from a few bright spots at receiver and an above-average linebacker corps, Tennessee doesn’t have much. Hitting .500 this season would be a major accomplishment.

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