SEC West Football Preview 2011

SEC West Football Preview 2011
Ryan Mallett's 2009 National Performer of the ...

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SEC West Football Preview 2011

A Preview of all the football teams of the SEC West for the upcoming 2011 season.

Mississippi State
-2010 record: 9-4, 4-4 (T-5 SEC West)
-Bowl Result: Gator Bowl - 52-14 win over Michigan

Key Players Lost: LB KJ Wright; LB Chris White; LT Derek Sherrod; DE Pernell McPhee.
Key Players Returning: QB Chris Relf; RB Vick Ballard; DT Fletcher Cox; S Charles Mitchell; WR Chad Bumphis.
Spring Practice Start: March 4
Spring Game: April 9
Spring Practice Preview: The Bulldogs had a banner season in head coach Dan Mullen's second year in charge, spanking Michigan in the Gator Bowl to finish the season ranked in the top 25.
Expectations are high for the Bulldogs heading into the next fall, but they have work to do in this spring. MSU started practice earlier than usual and will have practices open to the public for the third straight year.
The Bulldogs must find replacements for all three starting linebackers, including all-SEC selections KJ Wright and Chris White. MSU must also find a replacement for left tackle Derek Sherrod, who was a three-year starter and an All-American.
The positive is Chris Relf is back for his senior season after making major strides as a passer; Relf passed for over 200 yards in three of the last four games.

Ole Miss
-2010 record: 4-8, 1-7 (6th SEC West)
-Bowl Result: None
Key Players Lost: DT Jerrell Powe; DE Kentrell Lockett; QB Jeremiah Masoli; WR Markeith Summers
Key Players Returning: RB Brandon Bolden; WR Melvin Harris; LB D.T. Shackelford; DB Damien Jackson
Sprint Practice Start: March 28
Spring Game: April 16
Spring Practice Preview: Ole Miss' first losing season under head coach Houston Nutt came after back-to-back wins in the Cotton Bowl.
The Rebels enter spring practice with just as many questions as they ended the season with. Ole Miss must find a replacement for quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who had over 2,500 total yards of offense last season. Former East Mississippi Community College standout Randall Mackey is the leading candidate to replace him.
Running back Brandon Bolden had 976 yards and 14 touchdowns last season and could be relied upon even more if the Rebels struggle under center.
The most pressing need, surprisingly, comes on defense where the REbels gave up 35.2 points per game (107th in the nation). They'll have to find replacements for defensive tackles Ted Laurent and Jerrell Powe.

-2010 record: 11-2, 6-2 (2nd SEC West)
-Bowl Result: 41-24 win over Texas A&M
Key Players Lost: CB Patrick Peterson; LB Kelvin Sheppard; DT Drake Nevis; WR Terrence Toliver.
Key Players Returning: QB Jordan Jefferson; ATH Russell Shepard; RB Stevan Ridley; LB Ryan Baker.
Spring Practice Start: March 11
Spring Game: April 9
Spring Practice Preview: The Tigers have been a pillar of consistency in the SEC under head coach Les Miles, who flirted with taking the job at his alma mater, Michigan, in the offseason. But Miles opted to stay in Baton Rouge, where he hasn't always received full support from the fan base.
However, Miles continues to pull in top-notch talent and gets results on the field. This spring, he'll be looking to replace a trio next level defenders in cornerback Patrick Peterson, linebacker and leading tackler Kelvin Sheppard and defensive tackle Drake Nevis. Linebacker Ryan Baker, who was second on the team with 87 tackles and seven sacks last season will be the cornerstone of a defense that gave us just 18.2 points per game last season.
Miles' biggest coup of the offseason was coordinator Steve Kragthrope, who was hired to revitalize LSU's one-dimensional offense. The Tigers leaned too much on Stevan Ridley in the running game last season, and quarterback Jordan Jefferson threw three more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (7).

-2010 record: 10-3, 7-3 (3rd SEC West)
-Bowl Result: Capital One Bowl: 41-7 win over Michigan State
Key Players Lost: QB Greg McElroy; DT Marcell Dareus; WR Julio Jones; RB Mark Ingram.
Key Players Returning: WR Marquise Maze; DB Robert Lester; LB Dont'a Hightower,;RB Trent Richardson.
Spring Practice Start: March 21
Spring Game: April 16
Spring Practice Preview: Alabama felt unfortunate not to make it back to the national championship game last season, given the quality of players they had.
A lot of those playmakers, however, are gone. Quarterback Greg McElroy, wideout Julio Jones and running back Mark Ingram are headed to the NFL.
Running back will be the easiest hole to fill this spring, as Trent Richardson steps into a more prominent role. Former backup quarterback AJ McCarron is expected to replace McElroy.
Wideouts Darius Hanks and Marquis Maze combined for 70 catches and 6 touchdowns last season, and will have to pick up the production left by Jones' departure.
Defensively, the Crimson Tide lost stud tackle Marcell Dareus but return linebacker Dont'a Hightower and leading tackler Mark Barron. The Crimson Tide led the nation in total defense last season.

-2010 record: 14-0, 8-0 (1st SEC West)
-Bowl Result: BCS National Championship: 22-19 win over Oregon
Key Players Lost: QB Cam Newton; DT Nick Fairley; DB Zac Etherdige; WR Darvin Adams; LT Lee Ziemba; C Ryan Pugh.
Key Players Returning: RB Michael Dyer; RB Onterio McCalleb;  DB Neiko Thorpe; WR Emory Blake.
Spring Practice Start: March 23
Spring Game: April 16
Spring Practice Preview: After a national championship season led by quarterback Cam Newton, the Tigers head into spring practice needing to find a replacement for the Heisman Trophy winner.
Junior-to-be Barrett Trotter is the leading candidate and will have a leg up on talented freshman Kiehl Frazier, who enrolled early and will go through spring practice. Frazier was named the USA Today National Player of the Year and has skills similar to those of Newton.
Trotter, however, has just nine career pass attempts and isn't the same running threat Newton was last season. How offensive coordinator Guz Malzahn tailors the offense without Newton remains to be seen. Auburn does have incredible talent at running back with sophomore Michael Dyer and junior speedster Oneterio McCalleb.
The Tigers must also find a suitable replacement for Outland Trophy winner Nick Fairley, who wreaked havoc all-year long and will be a top-10 pick in the NFL draft. He was the shining light on an Auburn defense that otherwise was ordinary last season.

-2010 record: 10-3, 6-2 (2nd SEC West)
-Bowl Result: Sugar Bowl: 31-26 loss to Ohio State
Key Players Lost: QB Ryan Mallett; TE DJ Williams; DeMarcus Love.
Key Players Returning: WR Greg Childs; RB Knile Davis; WR Joe Adams; WR Jarius Wright; LB Jerry Franklin.
Spring Practice Start: March 15
Spring Game: April 16
Spring Practice Preview: Head coach Bobby Petrino has a knack for developing quarterbacks, and he'll head into the spring looking to replace NFL-bond Ryan Mallett, who finished fourth in the country in passing last season.
Junior Tyler Wilson is listed as the starter on the spring depth chart, and he'll have all of Mallett's weapons — minus versatile tight end DJ Williams — at his disposal. Greg Childs, Joe Adams and Jarius Wright combined for 138 catches last season.
Plus, running back Knile Davis is back for his junior year after running for 1,362 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. Davis could be held back in practice to ensure he stays healthy, as he's battled ankle injuries since high school.

Don Escobar is a writer for You can check out his Team Bar Stools and San Francisco Giants Watch here.

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