Today was the day for football players to report back to the University of Georgia, in many ways the true beginning of college football season. And, at least in my mind, it's a good time to release the second part in a series of things which I'm looking forward to this season in the SEC. The first part, in case you missed it, may be found here.
Among other things, I'm looking forward to seeing:
20. The Tennessee defense. The Vols’ problem last year was not defense. They had the third ranked defense in the country and were tops in the S.E.C. in total defense. I’m betting that a lack of depth on the front seven will catch up to them by the final third of the season. If things don’t go well on that side, well, then John Chavis will get a good belly laugh and mustache twirl out of the whole thing while he works on his second bowl of etouffe.
19. Alabama’s depth. Nick Saban has stockpiled back to back top recruiting classes, and while that won’t necessarily help at every position this season (quarterback for example), this year will tell us a lot about how good some of Saban’s million dollar babies really are, especially along the lines of scrimmage. Alabama is on a significant list of SEC teams which may improve significantly as the year goes on either by virtue of increased experience (Georgia and LSU) or increased familiarity with a new system (Auburn and Tennessee). If enough of those young guys grow into their roles, it could signal that 'Bama is indeed back.
18.Cornelius Washington. Washington came out of high school as a phenomenal athlete. The question coming into 2009 is whether he will ultimately grow into a phenomenal football player. While the redshirt freshman year is way too early to write off any player, there is about to be a lot of pressure to produce at defensive end.
17. Montario Hardesty. Somebody’s gotta move the ball for Tennessee. Might as well be Hardesty. I’m fairly certain that Tennessee will not be relying on Jonathan Crompton to make the offense go, especially not early in the season. The guy has absolutely not demonstrated his readiness to be a reliable SEC quarterback, and that’s before we consider the fact that he’s quickly running out of reliable receivers. Given the choice between a gamebreaking tailback and a quarterback who sometimes looked like an epileptic orangutan in 2008, I’ll take the tailback every time. If Hardesty cannot produce, or continues to be dogged by injuries, it will be interesting to see if uber-recruit Bryce Brown or fellow freshman David Oku is called on to fill the gap.
16. Brandon LaFell. With injuries and inexperience at wide receiver and question marks at quarterback, LSU is in need of steady playmakers in 2009. LaFell has the potential to be that guy. Again. The senior from Houston has led the Bayou Bengals in receiving each of the past two seasons,and caught passes in each of his last 28 games, an impressive streak. And with another campaign like his 929 yard 2008 effort, LaFell could move into the top 3 all-time in school history in receiving yards.
Until later . . .