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bama4256 07-26-2002 12:20 AM

Who will Rule the SEC in 2002/2003
So many head coaches and players in the SEC are glad that Steve Sprurrier is gone from Florida and a coach in the NFL. Now it seems every team in the SEC can breathe easlier, but who will rule the SEC now that the playing field is more even?

The playing field should be more even. Why? Steve Sprurrier was the greatest coach in the SEC in my opinion. At least the greatest offensive coach you could say. He lived by the pass and died by it. Sure he had some incredible talent, but he got the most out of his players. He was very demanding. He'd was the get-in-your-face type coach. If his quarterback struggled any, Sprurrier would pull him right away, and put in someone else that would move his team up and down the field. But Sprurrier is now history.

So who will rule the SEC now? Well, don't rule Florida out right away. Ron Zook is the new Head Coach. He comes from the NFL. He's a totally different person that Steve Sprurrier, but he's just as intense.

During the spring practices he had the practice field bleachers removed. Now all must stand.

Ed Zaunbrecher is the first Florida offensive coordinator since 1989. Like I stated earlier, Spurrier ran the offense. He probably didn't even know any of his defensive players by name. Zaunbrecher comes from Marshall that averaged 37 points per game and that was ranked third in the nation in total offense. That's one reason QB Rex Grossman decided to stay.

Yes Grossman is back. Grossman passed for 3,896 yards last season and threw 34 touchdowns. More than any other QB in the SEC. His quarterback rating was 170.8. The closes QB to that rating was Tennessee's Casey Clausen. He had a 150.0 rating. Catch my drift?

Yes he lost his two best receivers in Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney. The burden will fall on Taylor Jacobs. He caught 38 passes for a team best 18.7 yard average. Carlos Perez will get his chance too. Reggie Vickers looked good in the spring and could be the number two receiver.

Florida even has a running game. Earnest Graham returns. He gained 650 yards on 125 carries and scored nine touchdowns. He will probably receive more carries in 2002. He's capable of gaining 100 yards every game.

Zook hired John Thompson to run the defense. He comes from the University of Arkansas. He is a risk taker. All-SEC free safety Todd Johnson heads up the defense. Guss Scott another safety was second on the team in tackles with 75. Ian Scott is an outstanding tackle.

So if Florida doesn't win it all in the SEC who will?

I think it would be safe to say it will be either LSU or Georgia.

QB Matt Mauck(6-2-216) of LSU will lead the offense. He's a great runner and very physical. He needs to be more consistant as a passer. Freshman Rick Clausen is his back-up. Clausen is the younger brother of Tennessee's Casey Clausen.

LaBrandon Toefield will get the ground game going. He scored 19 touchdowns in 2001, more than any other SEC running back. Ran for 992 yards. He had offseason knee surgery. He must be 100 per cent to help his team win their division. Now Domanick Davis is available if needed. He rushed for 122 yards and four touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl against Illinois. He has proven he can come up big when needed.

Wide receiver Josh Reed is going to be difficult to replace. Senior WR Jerel Myers will try. He had 64 catches as a freshman, then Reed took over.

Will Muschamp is the new defensive coordinator, but head coach Nick Saban usually runs the defense. All-SEC linebacker Bradie James should be full speed after brusing his kidney during the spring. Senior Damien James is the big playmaker in the secoindary.

LSU ranked seventh in the SEC with 20 sacks. LB Jeremy Lawrence didn't have a sack last season so he must get his game together. He has great speed.

Running back Shyrone Carey they say will make an immediate impact as kick returner.

Head coach Nick Saban was rumored to be moving on to the NFL last winter, but apparently he wasn't interested. LSU gave him a raise. A $1.6 million annual package. He deserved it after bringing a SEC championship to LSU. First one since 1986, and the bowl game which was on New Year's Day was LSU's first New Year's Day win since 1968 when they beat Wyoming. Saban and his staff have recruited well so watch out.

Head coach Mark Richt says don't count his Georgia Bulldogs out. Sophomore QB David Greene(6-3-222) has developed rapidly. He threw for 2,789 yards as a freshman.The Bulldogs averaged 432.8 yards per game on offense. 21st in the nation. If Greene doesn't succeed a freshman by the name of D.J. Shockley will be more than happy to take over the reins. He's the fans favorite to win the starting job. He's very mobile.

Georgia has some of the best receivers in the SEC. Terrence Edwards need just 38 catches to be the all-time receiver at Georgia. Fred Gibson had five 100-yard receiving games as a freshman. There is also two other receivers worth noting. Those are Damien Gray and Reggie Brown.

The Bulldogs have five starters returning on defense from a unit that ranked 17th in the nation in scoring defense. Tony Gilbert(6-1-242) is your middle linebacker. He's a big playmaker. Boss Bailey is another good linebacker.

Georgia has a very good punter in Jonathan Kilgo. He averaged 43.7 yards per kick last season. Billy Bennett rannks among the finest as a field goal kicker. He was 7-10 from 40 plus yards last season.

Richt is no doubt one year wiser after his first season. The team finished 8-4 in 2001. But he lost to Boston College in the Music City Bowl. But he did beat Tennessee and Georgia Tech.

Now you can't count out Phillip Fulmer Tennessee Volunteers. Casey Clausen returns at QB and he is only a junior. He threw for 2,969 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2001. He's very good at reading coverages.

The Vol's lost a lot when running back Travis Stephens went pro and so did wide receiver Donte Stallworth. Two big losses. Kelly Washington(6-4-225) will be his new target. He caught 64 passes as a freshman last season. After Washington there is a receivers that caught more than six passes.

As for running backs Jabari Davis(6-0-232) and Cedric Houston are capable of gaining over a 1,000 yards or more. They will need to if Tennessee is to challenge Florida for the SEC title.

Clausen doesn't have really many proven wide receivers to throw to, so he may throw more to his backs.

John Chavis is the defensive coordinator and he is very aggressive. Loves to blitz. He operates out of a basic 4-3 front. But this year they may use a three man front more so.

Junior Jabari Greer is said to be one of the best corners in the SEC. Outside linebacker Eddie Moore led the team in tackles. He may be All-SEC.

The Vols really lost two great starters on defense. That being John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth.

Senior Alex Walls is a very reliable field goal kicker. He is 41-51 in three years.

With Steve Sprurrier gone coach Philip Fulmer is king of the SEC. If anyone can make Tennessee a big winner it will be Fulmer. We will know fairly soon if Tennessee has it or not. They play Florida in Knoxville Sept. 21st. Then they play Georgia Oct. 12th. in Georgia. We should know by then if Tennessee is worthy to rule the SEC.

There are a few other teams in the SEC, but the one's I mentioned in this article seem to have the best chance of winning it all. Of course, you can never count out Auburn, Alabama or Lou Holtz's South Carolina Gamecocks. See you at the game.

I OWN THIS 07-26-2002 10:15 AM

I agree with you in saying that everyone will breathe much easier now that Spurrier is gone, and the SEC should be a more even playing field now. But I think Tennessee will be dominate this season.

Speaking of how Spurrier lived and died by the pass... he did but look at how many productive running backs he had who went on to play pro football.....Eric Rhett, Fred Taylor, Terry Jackson, and soon to be Ernest Graham...and I may be leaving out a few there.

And getting John Thompson was a great pick up for the Florida D. Thompson has succeeded at every University he has went to, he even had Memphis ranked in the top 5 in defense one season. Gus Scott is a great safety and hopefully Thompson will upgrade the intensity of the Gators D who have been lack luster for the last few seasons to say the least....Especially against the Run!!!!

Carlos Perez is going to suprise tons of people this season. He will break out with Reche Caldwell type numbers this upcoming year. Jacobs is the man though!

Graham also has some depth behind him at the tailback spot with Willie Green, and 2 freshmen come in that were top 15 running backs out of high school.

So you ask if not Florida then who....I say Tennessee even with the the loss of both of their interior Defensive linemen. Tennessee has so many talented players to fill all the spots necessary to win a Title every season in my opinion. Coach Fulmer just needs to stay away from his Coordinators and let them do their job and they will be just fine this upcoming season.

Ok, Toefield needs to stay healthy all season for LSU to contend for the SEC crown again, and he hasn't played a full season yet! Davis will be needed this year more than likely. Mauck is a one demensional QB that is not going to work week in and week out in the SEC. Don't forget Micheal Clayton.... in his 2nd year with this team he will be the best wide receiver they have if not best offensive scoring threat. Brady James is very good, but they did lose faulk at linebacker and last season the LSU secondary was terrible....that needs to improve. So, no I dont think LSU wins the SEC this season.

Georgia needs a productive running game to execute that passing game they have, and in doing this Musa Smith needs to stay healthy all season for them to contend for an SEC Title.
Georgia is solid all the way around, but they will not go for a 3 peat and beat the Tennesse Vols 3 years straight this season, plus Georgia has tons of problems with Florida every year in Jacksonville.....So i say no to Georgia winning the SEC this season too.

Don't forget that Tennessee is also implementing the Tight end for the first time in ages with Whitten catching a good amount of balls last season. Whitten will play a major role into what Tennessee does on offense.

This conference is very good....but still in my estimation Tennessee and Florida's to lose this season. I have no idea how the West will be won because their is not much difference between the 1st place West team and the 6th place West team. If you ever watch SEC West football then you know what I am talking about. But for right now I am picking Tennesse to win the East and my upset special pick is Arkansas to win the West.

Me being a Gator Fan, I can't believe how good I have talked of the Vols. I sure hope the Gators take their game up to Knoxville and take the heart out of those Vols....but that will be a tougher task this season!

Go Gators!!!


Marc 07-26-2002 12:19 PM

I haven't followed things since the season ended, so bear with me. Didn't Florida lose some recruits who were disappointed Spurrier left?

I OWN THIS 07-26-2002 12:49 PM

Yes a few, but Zook was still able to get out there and recruit some good players before the signing date in February. Zook is known for his recruiting...when he was with the team in the early to mid 90's as a defensive coordinator he was a intrical part of the recruiting team. They lost very few and were able to land 2 of the top 15 running backs in the country.


Shock1011 08-09-2002 12:25 AM

Georgia I would like to see win the SEC championship...I am kind of sick of the Gators, but I have always kind of liked the Bulldogs..Best of luck..

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