The SEC takes on a new look this year with the high-profile coaches at the helms of their respective teams. Steve Spurrier has returned to coach South Carolina. Florida is now under the direction of Coach Urban Meyer and Les Miles is the new coach at LSU. If recent history holds true, the SEC Champion will come from the West (three out of the last 4 champions) even though the East appears to the stronger division.
2005 Predicted Order of Finish
The Volunteers will be returning 16 starters from last year’s 10-3 season record. It is possible that they could be making a litigable run for the national title. Sophomore quarterback Erik Ainge (17 touchdown passes as a freshman) will be a formidable field general. He will have running back Gerald Riggs (1,107 yards rushing) returning also. Linebacker Omar Gaither and safety Jason Allen will lead the very strong defense.
New coach Urban Meyer can thank his predecessor for the talent and ability left to him. The gators are able to make a strong case for winning the SEC Conference title. Junior quarterback Chris Leak is coming off a 3,197-yard, 29-touchdown season in 2004. One of the top receivers in the conference, Andre Caldwell, is also back. Last year’s “SEC Freshman of the Year" in 2004 will be back in linebacker Brandon Siler.
Backup quarterback D. J. Shockley will finally be able to take over under center. He will be supported by tight end Leonard Pope and running backs Thomas Brown and Danny Ware. Pope caught 25 passes in 2004 and sophomore Brown and Ware have the potential to be breakout players.
4. SOUTH CAROLINA
Steve Spurrier has his work cut out for him. He will have to fend a quarterback since moving Syvelle Newton to receiver. His one bright spot is in cornerback Ko Simpson, who had six interceptions in 2004.
The defense should be better than in 2004 with all three linebackers returning. Leading the defense will be Moses Osenwegie, who had a team top number of tackles with 94 in 2004. The offensive has Jay Cutler, one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC, but nothing else. One receiver, Erik Davis may turn out to be Cutler’s favorite receiver and only support on the team.
With a record 2-9 for last season, it appears that this will be the same for 2005. Quarterback Andre Woodson had a decent 2004 in limited action and may be the savior for this season. The defense was non existent against the run in 2004. They were better against the pass and if all the other teams do is pass, then the Wildcats may have a better record that 2004. The secondary will see safety Muhammad Abdullah back and performing admirable.
The No.1 rushing team in 2004 has 10 starters returning and the defense has 8 starters returning. The offense includes standout backs Alley Broussard (6.1 average and 10 touchdowns), Joseph Addai (6.7 average), and Justin Vincent (4.2 average), as well as a very good offensive line. A stout defense will be anchored by defensive tackle Claude Wroten and safety LaRon Landry.
It will be tough for Auburn to repeat their 2004 season with no defeats in conference or bowl games. The Tigers have lost a lot of their 2004 team, but will have the momentum to compete. On offense, there will be wide receivers Anthony Mix, Devin Aromashodu, and Courtney Taylor returning as part of the offensive line. The defense has linebacker Travis Williams and a very good secondary with Will Herring and Montavis Pitts.
Linebackers Freddie Roach and DeMeco Ryans return with seven other defensive personnel from the No. 1 defense in the SEC in 2004. On offensive, quarterback Brodie Croyle and running back Kenneth Darby will have to stay healthy to put Alabama in the race for the conference title. The most lethal return man in the SEC in the body of Tyrone Prothro.
4. MISSISSIPPI STATE
After a disappointing 3-8 season in 2004, the Bulldogs should have no problem showing improvement. This will depend on second-team ALL-SEC running back Jerious Norwood (1,050 yards, and 7 touchdowns) and defensive end Willie Evans (5.5 sacks. )
Sophomore quarterback Robert Johnson will guide the offense. The running back position is still open and needs to be filled if the team is going to win. Peyton Hills may be the answer with his 2004 record of six rushing touchdowns. Nine defensive starters are back, including safety Vickiel Vaughn.
Running back Vashon Pearson has a chance to be first-team All-Conference if he can overcome playing behind an inexperience offensive line. The defense, which ranked ninth last season will have to improve and will rely heavily on defensive tackle McKinley Boykin.
Garth Belkins is the senior sports writer for 365SportsNews.com