AthlonSports.com is already looking ahead to the 2012 football season and while writer Steven Lasson calls Missouri the most intriquing team to watch next season, the Tigers don’t rank in the top 25. The website selects the Tigers at 30, just behind Auburn at 28, but it should be no surprise that there are plenty of SEC teams at the top of their list.
Five of the top 11 teams are from the SEC. Here is a quick synopsis from the website on each of those teams.
1. LSU – The Tigers have one of the top returning rosters next season, but it also features a handful of question marks. The offense will have one of the top backfields and offensive lines in the nation, but can Zach Mettenberger improve the quarterback play?
3. Alabama – Nick Saban and his coaching staff have some work. The Crimson Tide suffered some key losses on both sides of the ball, but Saban has recruited well and this team should be able to reload by midseason. Losing Trent Richardson is a huge blow to the offense, but Eddie Lacy, Dee Hart, Jalston Fowler and talented freshman T.J. Yeldon are a capable group. Seven starters are gone off the nation’s best defense.
4. Georgia – The Bulldogs have the pieces to contend for a top-five finish next year, starting with quarterback Aaron Murray and a defense that returns nearly everyone. Improving the rushing attack will be one of the priorities during preseason practices.
8. Arkansas – Quarterback Tyler Wilson turned down the NFL for another season in Fayetteville, but the receiving corps must be revamped. New defensive coordinator Paul Haynes will have his work cut out for him in 2012, as the Razorbacks will be replacing three of their top players: End Jake Bequette, linebacker Jerry Franklin and safety Tramain Thomas.
11. South Carolina – Quarterback Connor Shaw played well at the end of the season, and the offense will get a boost with running back Marcus Lattimore returning from a torn ACL. Replacing receiver Alshon Jeffery is the biggest question mark facing the offense in 2012. The Gamecocks finished third nationally in total defense, but suffered some key departures, including end Melvin Ingram and cornerback Stephon Gilmore.