Perhaps you haven't kept up as obsessively with the SEC this off season as we have. That's okay. That's what this post is for. It's a quick recap of where the consensus ended up for each team in the SEC East. Whether you need a cheat sheet or you just know someone who does, this is the post you're looking for.
The Gators have lost almost everyone you have heard of from last year's team plus the great defensive coordinator, and yet here they are again in the top five nationally and expected to win the SEC East. What gives? New quarterback John Brantley's passing skills drive that to a large degree, as does general faith in Urban Meyer's coaching ability. The starters on both sides of the ball are experienced, but under the surface lies a lot of youth and inexperience. This team should be very good, but an injury plague would hurt it to a larger degree than most top teams.
Georgia's problem the past two years has largely been a porous defense. Mark Richt did something about that by clearing out nearly all of his defensive staff, and new coordinator Todd Grantham has brought in an entirely new scheme. Adjusting to the new 3-4 defense will cause some headaches, but the general expectation is that being unfamiliar with a great scheme is still better than the broken system the old staff used. On the other side of the ball, freshman QB Aaron Murray is surrounded by great offensive weapons and is protected by a great line. If Murray lives up to his four-star rating and the defense gels around mid-season, Georgia could have 10 wins by the time all is said and done.
Joker Phillips is the new head coach at UK, but given that he was the offensive coordinator and named head coach in waiting a couple years ago, that's not as big a shift as most coaching changes are. Phillips has some nice players here and there, most notably do-it-all offensive dynamo Randall Cobb. Unfortunately it's still Kentucky football and not basketball, which means the Wildcats will be outmanned in several games. Former coach Rich Brooks lead UK to four bowl games in a row, and there's enough on hand for Phillips to extend the streak to five.
Steve Spurrier might finally have all the pieces he needs to put together a great offense in Columbia. He has two quarterbacks he feels comfortable with, a fine set of starting receivers, and a freshman running back in Marcus Lattimore who might be the solution to the Gamecocks' anemic rushing game. All of it depends on the offensive line, which has not been up to par in the past couple years. The defense should be stout as always with playmakers at each level. If the offense can pick up the slack, with a little luck the Gamecocks can be in the thick of the SEC East race all season long.
Few programs ever have as tumultuous stretch as UT has had over the last couple seasons. A legendary coach was pushed out to solve the malaise that had fallen over the program, and the hot shot new guy stayed around less than 13 months. The Vols are shorthanded at almost every position, inexperience reigns throughout the roster, and they don't even have a quarterback who has attempted a single pass above the JUCO level. It will be a struggle to get Tennessee to the post season, but new head coach Derek Dooley is almost certainly getting a pass for this year. It would be a challenge for anyone to make six wins' worth of chicken salad given the state of the roster and the brutally tough schedule that UT faces.
The Commodores crashed hard after the dream bowl season in 2008, as they turned in a 2-10 record for '09 in a season where they were barely competitive in a lot of games. On top of that, head coach Bobby Johnson retired shortly before training camp, leaving the folksy Robbie Caldwell in charge. A hailstorm of injuries didn't help anything last year, and simply being healthy in 2010 might result in a better record. The defense does what it can, but the offense was nothing but dead weight last year. No one expects much from Vandy this year; even getting to four wins would be a pleasant surprise according to most pundits.