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With recruiting almost over and Spring games at a close, it’s time to take a critical look at the SEC and decide who will be winners and losers in both divisions.
Even after an 8-5 season last year, the Bulldogs will dominate the East Division. Sophomore QB Jacob Eason had 2,430 yards in his freshman season, and threw for 16 touchdowns.
With Nick Chubb and Sony Michel returning for the 2017 season, the UGA ground game will be in full force. Chubb had 1,130 rushing yards last season, while Michel had 840.
The Dawgs also had an outstanding recruiting class, nabbing 21 4-star recruits and two 5-star recruits; rated second best by Campus Insiders.
The Gators showed promise during last year’s season, finishing 9-4. The offense remains strong with a slew of returners, and a new quarterback ready to take the reins, Felipe Franks. He threw for 2,766 yards and 35 touchdowns in his senior year of high school and is rated No. 5 at his position. Franks should do well with a strong receiving and running corps.
The Volunteers come into this season after losing two key defensive players, DE Derek Barnett and CB Cameron Sutton. They also lose QB Joshua Dobbs, although they have two promising quarterbacks vying for the spot.
Four-star recruit Jarrett Guarantano will battle Quinten Dormady, a junior backup who has completed 24 of his 39 total passes. The Vols add five-star OT Trey Smith, as well as four-star RB Ty Chandler to bolster the offense.
4. South Carolina
USC returns 16 starters, including sophomore QB Jake Bentley, who impressed Gamecocks fans last season with 1,420 yards and a 65.8% completion rate.
South Carolina is picking up plenty of talent on both sides of the football, but the most important aspect of their recruiting is the offensive line.
The Gamecocks gave up 41 sacks last year, but they performed much better than in 2015, where their record was 3-9.
Muschamp was able to turn around the program to a bowl run in one year, so we’ll see how much he can turn them around after two seasons.
The most important thing for the Wildcats this season is improving their defense. They only racked up 21 sacks last season, and allowed 228.2 rushing yards a game.
However, Kentucky’s offense should be impressive, as they return both QB Stephen Johnson and RB Benny Snell, who ran for 1,091 yards last season.
The SEC is such a tough conference to compete in, and the Wildcats will struggle to hold their own against much better opponents.
The Commodores aren’t looking bad for the 2017 season. Despite losing linebacker Zach Cunningham to the NFL, Vandy returns RB Ralph Webb, who rushed for 1,283 yards last season, as well as most of the offense. If QB Kyle Shurmur performs with his considerable offensive depth, the Commodores will make it to a bowl game again.
Mizzouri isn’t looking great for the 2017 season. After a 4-8 2016 season, they lost almost all of its defensive starters, only returning three players, and this after last season when they gave up 31.5 points per game.
The offense returns 10 players headed by QB Drew Lock, who had 3,339 passing yards with 23 touchdowns last season.
Nicholai Babis is a sophomore International Studies major at Vassar College. He specializes in College Football. He is a lifelong Seminoles fan, as well as a Rays fan and a Tampa Bay Bucs fan. He grew up in Tampa, Florida. He is a co-owner of the JR report and works for Athletics at Vassar College. He is the college football contributor at the JR Report. Follow Nicholai on twitter @nibabis . Hit him up if you want to discuss CFB, NFL, golf, tennis, and more.