Team capsules from Day 1


Published: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 7:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 7:53 p.m.

A breakdown of the four teams from Day One at SEC Media Days.

Arkansas

Coach: Bobby Petrino, fourth season (67-34 overall, 23-15 at Arkansas).

Last year's record: 10-3 overall, 6-2 in the SEC (T-2nd in the West). Lost to Ohio State 31-26 in the Sugar Bowl.

Starters returning: Fifteen (6 offense, 7 defense, 2 specialists).

Toughest non-conference game: vs. Texas A&M (at Arlington, Texas), Oct. 1.

Toughest conference game: at Alabama, Sept. 24.

Contender or pretender: Even though the Razorbacks have lost their star quarterback (Ryan Mallett), this team has a chance to be better than last year's team, which won 10 games, including its final six in the regular season. Tyler Wilson seems to have the “It” factor at QB, and the Hogs have a big-time back in Knile Davis. The defense figures to be much improved. The biggest potential problem is the Hogs have to travel to Alabama and LSU.

Bowl possibilities: Sugar, Capital One, Cotton, Outback.

Petrino says: “I really feel like we're a fast football team. The speed we have at our skill positions — particularly on offense, at wide receiver and running back — give us an opportunity to be a special offense. Defensively, our speed on the edges at defensive end and linebacker and in the secondary is where it needs to be.”

Florida

Coach: Will Muschamp, first season.

Last year's record: 8-5 overall, 4-4 in the SEC (2nd in the East). Defeated Penn State 37-24 in the Outback Bowl.

Starters returning: Twelve (7 offense, 4 defense, 1 specialist).

Toughest non-conference game: Florida State in Gainesville, Nov. 26.

Toughest conference game: at LSU, Oct. 8.

Contender or pretender: Urban Meyer left Muschamp some excellent talent, but maybe not enough of it, especially on both lines of scrimmage, where the Gators have serious depth issues. If UF can stay relatively healthy (especially on the lines), John Brantley comes into his own at quarterback under Charlie Weis and the defense turns into a typical stingy Muschamp unit, the Gators have a chance to be a legitimate contender in the East. The month of October (Alabama, at LSU, at Auburn and Georgia) will determine what kind of season the Gators have.

Bowl possibilities: Capital One, Outback, Chick-fil-A.

Muschamp says: “I worry about the things we can control and where we are with what we're doing. I'm excited about the work ethic of our team. Our guys have really bought in to each other. We've got a real close-knit unit. I'm really pleased with the progress, from what I'm hearing.”

South Carolina

Coach: Steve Spurrier, seventh season (233-114-2 overall, 44-33 at South Carolina).

Last year's record: 9-5 overall, 5-3 in the SEC (1st in the East). Lost to Florida State 26-17 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Starters returning: Thirteen (7 offense, 6 defense)

Toughest non-conference game: Clemson, in Columbia, Nov. 26

Toughest conference game: at Georgia, Sept. 10.

Contender or pretender: After winning the Eastern Division for the first time last season, the talented Gamecocks are considered the favorites to win the division again and make a strong run at the school's first SEC title. Spurrier has lots of talent, especially where he likes it the most — in the offensive skill positions. He, arguably, has the best back (Marcus Lattimore) and the best wide receiver (Alshon Jeffery) in the SEC. If Spurrier can keep inconsistent quarterback Stephen Garcia focused, the Gamecocks will be hard to stop. The defense, led by end Devin Taylor, should be tough again.

Bowl possibilities: Sugar, Capital One, Outback.

Spurrier says: “We made some progress last year. We did some things for the first time ever — beat a No. 1 team, won our first game ever in The Swamp, won the Eastern Division for the first time. We've accomplished a few firsts, but there's plenty more for us to go after.”

Mississippi State

Coach: Dan Mullen, third season (14-11, all at Mississippi State).

Last year's record: 9-4 overall, 4-4 in the SEC (5th in the West). Defeated Michigan 52-14 in the Gator Bowl.

Starters returning: Fifteen (8 offense, 7 defense)

Toughest non-conference game: at UAB, Oct. 8.

Toughest conference game: LSU, in Starkville, Sept. 15.

Contender or pretender: Expectations are at a new high in Starkville coming off a nine-win season and a huge victory over Michigan in the Gator Bowl. Former UF offensive coordinator Dan Mullen has done a remarkable job at a program where it's hard to win on a consistent basis. With most of his offensive stars returning, including quarterback Chris Relf, Mullen's version of the spread offense should really take off this season. Throw in a tough, physical defense, and the Bulldogs could be a major factor in the division race (especially with Alabama and LSU both having to come to Starkville).

Bowl possibilities: Capital One, Cotton, Outback, Chick-fil-A.

Mullen says: “You know, I really don't have a timetable (for winning the West). That's our goal going into each year. If we can win all our home games, find a way to win a couple tough road games, you're going to find yourself in Atlanta.”

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