In & around SEC football East Division preview

By Cole FrederickBy Cole Frederick

Florida Gators

Coach: Will Muschamp (18-8, 3rd season)
2012 Record: 11-2

Season Outlook

The Gators’ 2012 campaign ended with an 11-2 record but Muschamp’s team was dominated by Louisville in the Sugar Bowl. Florida narrowly missed an opportunity to play for the SEC title last season, but a loss to Georgia gave the Bulldogs the tiebreaker. The 2013 version of the Gators will look much differently on defense, as only four starters return. Dominique Easley will lead Florida on defense and will look to improve on his four sacks from a season ago. On offense, quarterback Jeff Driskel returns after a promising season last year. Last season, Driskel showed the ability to make plays with both his arm and feet, as he rushed for over 400 yards. Florida is capable of competing for the division title again this year, but their inexperienced players must quickly adapt to the SEC’s style of play.

Georgia Bulldogs
Coach: Mark Richt (118-40, 13th season)
2012 Record: 12-2

Season Outlook

The Bulldogs were seconds away from winning the SEC title and having a chance to win the national championship last season. This might be Richt’s best offensive team he’s had in Athens, as Georgia returns eight players on offense. Quarterback Aaron Murray is back for his senior year and will be joined by sophomore running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Defensively, the ‘Dawgs lost several keys players to the NFL draft. However, there is still plenty of young talent on that side of the ball. Georgia is not favorable to start the season, but if they can avoid a slow start, the Bulldogs might be looking at a third straight trip to Atlanta.

Kentucky Wildcats
Coach: Mark Stoops (1st season)
2012 Record: 2-10

Season Outlook

After an embarrassing 2-10 campaign in 2012, the Kentucky Wildcats are looking for a fresh start in 2013. Joker Phillips was fired towards the end of the season last year, and Mark Stoops was hired as his replacement. Stoops already has made an impact with recruits, and after an impressive turnout for the spring game, fans and players are quickly buying into his system. However, the rebuilding phase will not be a fast one for the Wildcats. The talent deficiency is substantial compared to other SEC teams and the Wildcats’ schedule is brutal. Kentucky might not be a pushover in 2013, but they are still at least a year away from being a threat in the SEC East.

Missouri Tigers
Coach: Gary Pinkel (90-61, 12th season)
2012 Record: 5-7

Season Outlook

Missouri’s debut season in the SEC did not go as planned, but 2013 promises better results potentially. The Tigers had a difficult time adjusting to the tempo of SEC football, and often were worn down late in many conference games. James Franklin returns at quarterback for the Tigers. When he played last season, he was very effective. However, the problem with Franklin was his health. If he can stay injury-free, Gary Pinkel’s squad could find themselves back in a bowl game this year.

South Carolina Gamecocks
Coach: Steve Spurrier (66-37, 8th season)
2012 Record: 11-2

Season Outlook

The Gamecocks are coming off the best season in school history, and Spurrier’s 2013 team promises to be even better this year. Heisman candidate Jadeveon Clowney returns on defense, and quarterback Connor Shaw is back to lead the Gamecocks’ offense. An early season showdown with Georgia might be the biggest game of the season. South Carolina also have a late-season battle with Florida, which likely will decide what team represents the SEC East in Atlanta for the title game.

Tennessee Volunteers
Coach: Butch Jones (1st season)
2012 Record: 5-7

Season Outlook

After back-to-back 5-7 seasons under Derek Dooley, the Butch Jones Era began in Knoxville earlier this year. Jones had success at Cincinnati, although the level of play is substantially higher in the SEC than it is in the Big East. Jones already has had tremendous success in recruiting, but 2013 might be another difficult season for Tennessee. Road trips to Oregon, Florida, and Alabama loom on the schedule, as well as home games versus Georgia and South Carolina. The late-season schedule is much more favorable, and it would be a tremendous success for Jones’s first season if the Vols manage to sneak into a bowl game.

Vanderbilt Commodores
Coach: James Franklin (15-11, 3rd season)
2012 Record: 9-4

Season Outlook

The Commodores are coming off one of the most successful seasons in school history under Franklin. Vandy won nine games for the first time in decades, and the ‘Dores also had a great recruiting class. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews is back on offense, and much of the passing game will revolve around him this season. Vandy opens the season at home versus Ole Miss on a Thursday night, and a win could lead to another highly successful season for the Nashville squad.

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