College football preseason magazines will begin showing up on newsstands this month, and it won't be hard to guess the regional covers in the Southeast.
You should see plenty of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford and Tennessee running back Arian Foster.
But don't judge the SEC by the magazine covers. You need to look inside.
Although the conference has a Heisman Trophy winner in Tebow and several other high-profile stars returning, the strength of the league will be in its offensive lines. In fact, you could select an All-American offensive line from the SEC alone.
You would start with Arkansas' Jonathan Luigs, who won the Rimington Award last season as a junior. The award goes to the top center in the country.
Michael Oher of Ole Miss and Andre Smith of Alabama already are projected as two of the top offensive tackle candidates for the 2009 NFL draft. Both made first-team All-SEC last season (Oher as a junior and Smith as a sophomore).
UT's Anthony Parker and LSU's Herman Johnson already have established themselves as two of the best offensive guards in the country.
Parker made second-team All-American and first-team All-SEC last season as a junior. Johnson made first-team All-SEC last season as a junior.
Luigs, Oher, Smith, Parker and Johnson would comprise a formidable All-American offensive line. But those are just the biggest-name offensive linemen.
The SEC will return six other offensive linemen who made first- or second-team all-conference, as picked by either The Associated Press or the league coaches.
That doesn't include Florida offensive tackle Phillip Trautwein, who made the SEC's 2007 preseason all-conference team. Trautwein, who sat out last season with a stress fracture, will be a senior in 2008.
The league will have depth as well as stars in the offensive line.
In some years, this UT offensive line might be touted as the best in the league in preseason. In addition to Parker, Josh McNeil and Ramon Foster also are regarded as all-conference candidates. Moreover, all five players return from the line that started the Outback Bowl.
But this season, UT will be just one of a handful of SEC teams with experienced, talented offensive lines.
Alabama's offensive line also returns intact. LSU and Auburn will return nine of their top 10 offensive linemen. Georgia and Florida will return eight of their top 10.
Those offensive lines obviously will factor into the preseason national rankings. Florida and Georgia will be consensus top-five teams going into the season. LSU and Auburn should make some top 10s, and UT likely will be in the top 15. Those offensive lines also should help bring out the best in playmakers like Tebow and Percy Harvin of Florida, Stafford and Knowshon Moreno of Georgia, and Foster of UT.
The lines will serve another purpose at UT, Auburn and LSU. All three teams will start new quarterbacks.
As tough as it is breaking in a new quarterback in the SEC, it's much easier when your offensive line is as well fortified as these.
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org