- Tennessee Volunteers– There is very high expectations surrounding this football team and they will enter as the favorites to win the East. A total of 18 starters return from last season’s nine win club including quarterback Joshua Dobbs and standout running backs Alvin Kamara. The running attack has always been the engine to this offense but if the Tennessee Volunteers want to take that next step, they will need more consistency out of the passing game. The key will be if Dobbs can develop into more of a pocket passer. The offensive line returns four starters which means they will stay intact up front. On defense, they hired Bob Shoop to be the defensive coordinator but nothing will really change as they bring back everyone across the board but will need to replace two safeties. It could be a special year in Knoxville.
- Georgia Bulldogs– It’s the start of a new era for the Georgia Bulldogs football program. Mark Richt’s tenure came to an end and former Alabama assistant Georgia alum, Kirby Smart was hired to take over as the new head coach. He inherits a team with some questions on both sides of the football. There’s uncertainty at the starting quarterback as Greyson Lambert and Jacob Eason are both competing for the job and a guy I’ve been high on, running back Nick Chubb is returning from a serious knee injury. The big question is will he be the same guy after the injury? This is a pretty good group that Smart, a defensive minded guy is inheriting. The strength of the defense will be its secondary that is returning everybody. The talent is there to compete and for them to win games, solid quarterback play and blocking up front on the offensive line has to be better.
- Florida Gators– They were by far one of the biggest surprises in 2015 last season. They fired Will Muschamp and hired offensive minded guru Jim McElwain. Luke Del Rio, the son of Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio will now be under center as the starting quarterback for the Gators as they look to repeat as champions of this division. McElwain loves a solid running game and Jordan Scarlett looks to step up and fill in for Kelvin Taylor. The defense will be without Vernon Hargreaves and safety Keanu Neal who was their tone-setter. I’m not ready to count these guys out of the division race just yet. They will be a much different looking team in certain areas, but they can still win football games and compete for the division title once again.
- Kentucky Wildcats– In 2015, they got off to a hot start under Mark Stoops then ended up finishing the season with a mark of 5-7. Now it’s time to put that behind you and look ahead to the upcoming season where the Wildcats will look to turn things around. The offense returns nine starters; the most of anybody in the SEC. Drew Barker will be the man under center at quarterback. The offense will have to carry the weight of them as the defense will be somewhat inexperienced as they lose many starters on that side of the football. They were close to getting to a bowl game last season and that will be the goal this year. Kentucky’s offense will have to score a lot of points to have success in 2016.
- Vanderbilt Commodores– There’s been some progress made within the last year and with 12 starters returning, Vandy can build off the success and potentially make a bowl game. Running back Ralph Webb will lead the offense and have the unit built around him. Kyle Shurmur has earned the job to start as quarterback after showing enough promise in his freshman year to win the job. Head coach Derek Mason is also the defensive coordinator and made some changes to improve his unit. With Zach Cunningham back who was a pleasant surprise last season, he will anchor one of the best defenses in the SEC. To win more than three games, Vanderbilt will need to be more consistent on offense.
- Missouri Tigers– Anything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Missouri Tigers. The run was no help, the receivers were mostly sophomores and Drew Lock had a struggling season. All that can change in 2016 as the receivers will have more experience and Lock will enter his second year looking to make improvements to his game. The defense will remain the same and their efforts went unnoticed in 2015 because the offense played so poorly. It will be a different year for Missouri Football. Gary Pinkel resigned after discovering he has lymphoma and Barry Odom will take the reins now as head coach.
- South Carolina Gamecocks– After Steve Spurrier announced his retirement; the school hired Will Muschamp to be their new head coach. It’s no surprise he’s coaching in the same division as the school he was fired from in Florida. The offense lost its best player, wide receiver Pharoh Cooper and will look to bolster its receiving core with skilled players on the perimeter. They also have a pretty interesting competition at quarterback with Perry Orth as of now leading the way to be named the starter. The defense took a huge hit when Skai Moore was lost for the 2016 season after injuring his neck. Muschamp has reminded us that he’s taking over a 3-9 football team and the rebuilding process will begin soon.
2016 Prediction: My pick is the Tennessee Volunteers to win the SEC East. If the running game stays consistent and we see an immense improvement from Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee will be on top of this division and will be heading to Atlanta in December for the SEC championship game.