Good riddance to the 2011 season.
Here's to 2012:
10. FLORIDA STATEStarters projected to return:
On paper, the Seminoles look primed to regain their spot among the national elite. But they looked good heading into the 2011 season, too, and lost four times. The defense should be one of the best in the nation, with playmakers and depth everywhere. The offense must become more consistent. The offensive line is the biggest issue. It wasn’t that good this season, and the two best linemen (Ts Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders
) were seniors. T Bobby Hart
, who was pressed into duty as a true freshman because of an injury to Datko, looks to be a big-timer, though.
9. GEORGIAStarters projected to return:
A young receiving corps made big strides this season, and the passing attack, with Aaron Murray
at the controls, should be excellent. But the offensive line, which struggled at times this season, is a gigantic question mark with the departure of three seniors; two of those, T Cordy Glenn
and C Ben Jones
, were the Bulldogs’ best linemen. Isaiah Crowell
’s long-term viability at tailback also is a concern. The front seven on defense should be nasty, though the secondary could be iffy if some juniors turn pro.
8. MICHIGANStarters projected to return:
The offense again should be potent. QB Denard Robinson has one more year, and TB Fitzgerald Toussaint became a dependable option as this season wore on. Refining the passing attack will be important during spring practice. So will rebuilding the defensive line; three starters are leaving. The back seven on defense has a ton of promise, and it will be interesting to see how coordinator Greg Mattison deploys his guys.
7. SOUTH CAROLINAStarters projected to return:
For the first time since he has been at South Carolina, coach Steve Spurrier should go into the offseason confident he has a quarterback who understands what he wants – and can get it done. Connor Shaw
’s running ability should add an extra element to Spurrier’s playbook. The back seven on defense will have some holes, but the front four will be solid; the same goes for the offensive line. TB Marcus Lattimore will be back, too, and could end up challenging for the Heisman.
6. ARKANSASStarters projected to return:
QB Tyler Wilson returns for his second season as the starter, but he will be working with a revamped receiving corps. The return of TB Knile Davis from a knee injury will be big, and the offensive line should be a strength. DE Jake Bequette and LB Jerry Franklin will be missed, but chances are the defense, which will have a new coordinator, will be at least as good as it was this season.
5. OKLAHOMAStarters projected to return:
The Sooners went into the 2011 season as the preseason No. 1, but they ended up losing three times. They won’t be as highly hyped this offseason, but this remains a top-level program. QB Landry Jones’ return is big, and the rushing attack should be fine thanks to the return of four starting linemen and a solid group of tailbacks. A go-to receiver has to emerge.Kenny Stills
was fine as the No. 2 guy, but he couldn’t make the transition to the lead guy after Ryan Broyles
was hurt. The defense should be better across the board, which should make coach Bob Stoops happy.
4. OREGONStarters projected to return:
Chip Kelly’s offense should continue to churn out the yards even without LaMichael James
, who is turning pro. In QB Darron Thomas, TB Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas
, who seemingly can play anywhere, Kelly has three playmakers. The offensive line should be at least as good as it was this season. Some receivers need to step up, though. If Kiko Alonso can stay on the straight and narrow, linebacker could be a strength. The defense as a whole should be better than it was this season.
3. ALABAMAStarters projected to return:
There undoubtedly will be some underclassmen turning pro early, but QB A.J. McCarron showed Monday night that he is a nice building block for the offense. He should be protected by a strong line. Depth at tailback must be developed, and a pecking order has to be established at receiver. The front seven on defense should be stout, but depth in the secondary could be a question, depending on who turns pro.
2. USCStarters projected to return:
A lack of depth certainly will be a factor, but as long as there aren’t a huge number of injuries, the Trojans should be fine. QB Matt Barkley’s decision to return to school makes USC a legitimate threat to win the national title. (Hmmm … a national title game involving Lane Kiffin and an SEC school? The mind boggles.) The Trojans have the best receiving duo in the nation in Marqise Lee and Robert Woods
. The offensive line returns four starters. There is a solid group of tailbacks. This offense should average at least 45 points per game. The back seven on defense will be good, but the front four has to be rebuilt. If it is rebuilt to certain specs, this team will win the national title.
1. LSUStarters projected to return:
LSU must use its embarrassing performance in the title game as a sort of offseason fuel. Line play is going to be a strength, especially on defense. Seven of the top eight defensive linemen return, and only one starter must be replaced on the offensive line. Depth at tailback is tremendous. Upgrading the passing attack has to be the No. 1 priority this spring, and Zach Mettenberger
– a JC transfer who began his career at Georgia – should be the quarterback. CB Tyrann Mathieu and FS Eric Reid seem likely to be the only returning starters in the secondary, but backup CB Tharold Simon is a big-timer. The linebackers, as a whole, should be better than they were this season.