New Tennessee defensive coordinator John Jancek might think this fall that he made a wrong turn from Cincinnati and ended up in the Big 12.
The SEC has a long-standing, well earned reputation for defense. That hasn't changed.
But the offenses have. They're catching up.
And 2013 could be their biggest year yet, which isn't good news for a new coordinator trying to bring some semblance of competence to UT's troubled defense.
Only two of the SEC's top-15 rushers are seniors. Just three of its top-15 pass-efficiency leaders are seniors. And five of the top-15 receivers (yards per game) are seniors.
The most heralded returning player is Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman. Other SEC freshmen also showed plenty of promise this past season.
Georgia freshman running back Todd Gurley was second in the conference in rushing, behind Manziel. Alabama freshman running back T.J. Yeldon was ninth in rushing, and LSU freshman Jeremy Hill was 13th, even though he began the season as no higher than fourth on the depth chart. Any one of them could surpass Manziel as the SEC rushing leader next season.
A couple of wide receivers, Amari Cooper of Alabama and Mike Evans, emerged as freshman stars. But it's not just the stars that could make for a more offensive league next season.
Even if Georgia's Aaron Murray goes pro early, 11 of the SEC's starting quarterbacks will return. And most of them will be surrounded by experienced players.
All but two SEC teams — Arkansas and Mississippi State — started four or fewer seniors. A few juniors also are likely to turn pro, most notably Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel. Alabama also will probably lose junior running back Eddie Lacy and junior offensive tackle D.J. Fluker to the NFL after this season.
But as you might have noticed, the Tide doesn't have any problem replacing running backs.
Here's an offensive synopsis of UT's eight SEC opponents for next fall:
Florida: The Gators will lose leading rusher Mike Gillislee, but quarterback Jeff Driskel will head up a unit that returns seven starters, including fullback Trey Burton and tight end Jordan Reed.
Georgia: The offensive line will return intact. So will the running back tandem of Gurley and Keith Marshall, as well as Malcolm Mitchell, the team's most talented wide receiver. If Murray comes back, the Bulldogs could rival Texas A&M's offense.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks will return four of five starters in the offensive line, their top four wide receivers and quarterbacks Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson, who both have started this season. Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds, who was redshirted this season, likely will carry the running load.
Alabama: The Tide likely will have to replace three outstanding offensive linemen, including Fluker. But quarterback A.J. McCarron, who leads the nation in pass efficiency, can hand the ball to Yeldon and throw it to Cooper. Also, the Tide will regain three injured players, two running backs and a wide receiver.
Missouri: The Tigers will lose their leading rusher and receiver, but just one offensive linemen. Quarterback James Franklin will return, and so could injured running back Henry Josey, who starred in 2011.
Auburn: The Tigers will return seven starters, including Jonathan Wallace who became the No. 1 quarterback in the last third of his freshman season. But the biggest addition to the offense likely will be newly hired head coach Gus Malzahn, who helped Tigers win a national championship two years ago as an offensive coordinator.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores will have to replace leading rusher Zac Stacy and quarterback Jordan Rodgers, but four starters will return in the offensive line and so will the top three receivers.
Kentucky: The Wildcats will lose only two offensive linemen and wide receiver La'Rod King from a dreadful offense. Three of the four quarterbacks who played will return.
Maxwell Smith, who was injured in the fourth game, had the best numbers of the bunch.