Special Contributor – Sam Husting

There are 46 days until the start of the college football season for the Missouri Tigers and below we have a quick preview of each team in the SEC East.  We take a look at the key returning players and expectations for each team.  This snapshot will provide a guide for the SEC this year.

Missouri

Last season:  4-8, 2-6 SEC

Best win:  28-24 over Arkansas

Worst loss: 51-45 vs Middle Tennessee

Returning starters:  10 (O), 5 (D) 0 (SP)

QB Drew Lock 3399 yards 23 TDs 10 INTs, RB Damarea Crockett 1062 yards 10 TDs, WR J’Mon Moore 62 catches 1012 yards 8 TDs

Opener:  September 2nd vs Missouri State

SEC Opener: September 9th vs USC

 

Missouri is looking to bounce back after a disappointing season finishing 4-8 overall and missing out on a bowl game.  Missouri Head Coach Barry Odom said that the offense has a high upside with rising junior Drew Lock back at the helm and 10 total starters returning.  He said they were very young on that side of the ball last year and with experience he hopes to see improvement.  He said that they have recruited very well on the defensive side of the ball and he trusts that the coordinators can do the rest.  After struggling in SEC play last year the Tigers hope to get off to a hot start with two conference home games to start, which Drew Lock and J’mon Moore both said was a huge advantage for them.

Kentucky

Last season:  7-6, 4-4 SEC

Best win:  41-38 at Louisville

Worst loss: 33-18 vs Georgia Tech in Taxslayer Bowl

Returning starters:  8 (O), 9 (D) 2 (SP)

QB Stephen Johnson 2037 yards 13 TDs 6 INTs, RB Benny Snell Jr. 1091 yards 13 TDs, WR Garrett Johnson 39 catches 585 yards 5 TDs

Opener:  September 2nd at Southern Miss

SEC Opener: September 16th at USC

 

Coach Mark Stoops is very excited for the upcoming season and said at the SEC Media day that making it to the Taxslayer Bowl and winning 7 of their last 10 regular season games was huge for the program in building momentum for this season.  Stoops thinks that his team needed to mature last year and that they had capacity to do more.  He says that they have vamped up their weightlifting programs and conditioning to endure the SEC schedule.  They are returning 17 starters and are looking to build on a very promising season for the Wildcats.

 

Florida

Last season:  9-4, 6-2 SEC

Best win:  16-10 at LSU

Worst loss: 54-16 to Alabama in SEC title game

Returning starters:  9 (O), 6 (D) 3 (SP)

QB Luke Del Rio 1447 yards 10 TDS 7 INTs, RB Jordan Scarlett 907 yards 6 TDS, and WR Antonio Callaway 54 catches 721 yards 3 TDs

Opener:  September 2nd vs Michigan at Arlington, TX

SEC Opener: September 16th vs Tennessee

 

The Florida Gators are looking for a third consecutive SEC East championship under third-year coach Jim McElwain heading into the 2017 season.  They have a bit of a quarterback battle after adding transfer Malik Zaire from Notre Dame. Coach Jim McElwain said that he is always looking to improve and the competition will only make the team and position better.  They won’t have to wait long to prove themselves because Florida opens the season against Michigan in the Advocare Classic at Jerry World.  They’re ranked 15 in sporting news’s early rankings.

 

Vanderbilt

Last season:  6-7, 3-5 SEC

Best win:  45-34 over Tennessee

Worst loss: 26-17 at Missouri

Returning starters:  9 (O), 7 (D) 2 (SP)

QB Kyle Shurmur 2409 yards 9 TDs 10 INTS, RB Ralph Webb 1283 yards 18 TDS, and WR CJ Duncan 44 catches 494 yards 0 TDs

Opener:  September 2nd at Middle Tennessee

SEC Opener: September 23rd vs Alabama

Vanderbilt was able to finish the season 4-2 and they made a bowl game for the first time under the tenure of Coach Derek Mason, which causes him to say Vanderbilt football is on the rise.  It’s very exciting times for Vanderbilt football as Coach Mason tries to sustain their success. Vanderbilt returns 15 starters and is looking to yield a top 25 recruiting class.  In his words they are closing the talent gap on the rest of the SEC.  There should be enough talent and experience on this roster to get Vanderbilt back to the postseason, but it would be a surprise if the Commodores emerged as a legitimate threat in the SEC East.

 

Georgia

Last season:  8-5, 4-4 SEC

Best win:  13-7 over Auburn

Worst loss: 17-16 at home to Vanderbilt

Returning starters:  8 (O), 10 (D) 3 (SP)

QB Jacob Eason 2430 yards, 16 TDS 8 INTs, RB Nick Chubb 1130 yards 8 TDS, WR Terry Godwin 38 catches, 297 yards, 0 TDs

Opener:  September 2nd vs Appalachian State

SEC Opener: September 23rd vs Mississippi State

 

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart is a defensive-minded guy and that figures to be the Bulldogs’ strength in 2017.  Coach Kirby Smart said that the players know their expectations better now that this is his second year at the helm.  Georgia has a huge non-conference game in the second week of the season as they travel to South Bend to play Notre Dame.  Smart said that the expectation at Georgia is to win Championships and that is what he plans to do.  Georgia has a terrific young quarterback returning in Jacob Eason who threw for 2430 yards.  New playmakers need to emerge to help Eason, but Smart and Bulldogs should be able to stay in the SEC East race until the very end, and don’t be surprised if they win it.

 

Tennessee

Last season:  9-4, 4-4 SEC

Best win:  38-28 over Florida

Worst loss: 45-34 at Vanderbilt

Returning starters:  7 (O), 7 (D) 3 (SP)

Returning statistical leaders: QB Quinten Dormandy 148 yards, 0 TDs, RB John Kelly 630 yards, 5 TDs, and WR Jauan Jennings 40 catches 580 yards 7 TDs

Opener:  September 4th vs Georgia Tech at Atlanta

SEC Opener: September 16th at Florida

 

The expectations of a preseason top-10 ranking ended in a 9-4 campaign for Tennessee, one that featured some highs (wins over Florida, Georgia and Virginia Tech) but also several lows (losses to Vanderbilt and South Carolina).  Coach Butch Jones said at the SEC Media Day that there is so much more to accomplish for Tennessee football even after 3 straight 9 win seasons and 3 straight Bowl wins.  Tennessee lost one of the best quarterback’s in school history in Joshua Dobbs.  Similar too many other school’s Coach Butch Jones said that the quarterback competition has elevated the whole team’s level of play.  There’s plenty of talent on the roster, but it’s unproven for the most part and the Volunteers also will breaking in a new quarterback and offensive coordinator.

 

South Carolina

Last season:  6-7, 3-5 SEC

Best win:  24-21 vs Tennessee

Worst loss: 56-7 at Clemson

Returning starters:  10 (O), 6 (D) 0 (SP)

Returning statistical leaders:  QB Jake Bentley 1420 yards 9 TDs 4 INT, RB Rico Dowdle 764 yards 6 TDs, WR Deebo Samuel 59 catches 783 yards 1 TD

Opener:  September 2nd vs NC State at Charlotte

SEC Opener: September 9th at Missouri

 

South Carolina won six games and went bowling in head coach Will Muschamp’s first season despite having an offense that was among the least productive in the nation.  Coach Will Muschamp stressed at the SEC Media Day that they are still a very young team and 70% of the team are freshman or sophomores.  Muschamp said that they were going to Redshirt Freshman quarterback Jake Bentley but the offense was struggling so they put him into the lineup.  The defense also gets a big boost with the return of linebacker Skai Moore, who missed all of 2016 because of a neck injury.  How many games the Gamecocks win and where they fall in the SEC East standings will likely depend on whether or not the offense takes a small or significant step forward?