John Adams: SEC offenses should make more gains next season

John Adams

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.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 14

wigmeister writes:

We will have to be ready game 1 of the SEC season! Hope we get some good JUCO transfers, recruits, and better play out of our veterans. Can't be any worse than it was. We are on our way UP!

Weed_Picking_Grunt writes:

Sometimes I hate the SEC.

movol53 writes:

Over the years I have always found out that Yes it can (and usually does)get worse. We will be very luckily to have a 6 - 6 season next year.With a new QB and receivers and a schedule from H E double hockey sticks. I've followed the Vols from over 50 years and I hope the new staff is "the one" to get us back to the top but it will take time; as in 3 -4 years to truly see consistent improvement.

SeaBassHauling writes:

A offense starts in the trenches and that will be where our offense will group around...this is the strongest position on our team...! Going back to the 4/3 on defense will also be our strongest point with a heavy laden senior core on the front line...! We will be a very competive team as long as they buy into the new program.... I for one can't wait to see our lines matchup against our SEC foes....GBO....!

Govols1995 writes:

We will be lucky to win 5 games! We have without a doubt the toughest schedule next year! The defense will be dreadful to watch again! Tough times ahead for Vol nation!

CoverOrange writes:

How is 8 starters from a dreadful offense a good thing for Kentucky? If I was Kentucky, I would want a whole new team.

This is an example of the shallowness of JA.

DeltaCharlie3 writes:

Florida is back, not that they were ever really gone. A win over Louisville means 12-1 and #2 in the country.

They'll be in the thick of the national title hunt again next year too.

chattbud writes:

You want offensive I give you Adam’s! We had a TOP Three (2012) offense comming BACK for 2013! Just like 2008 Ground Hog Day returns to UT!!! Thanks Adams. I think back to 2008 you lead the masses to fire Fulmer. You lead the masses to Fire Dooley this year! You said, “Gruden’s on the way!” LOL LOL Where’s Gruden?,..Foolish John? 2008 logic would have said, give Clawson’s spread offense two years to install. Fulmer had Clemson’s T. Boyd committed to play QB & to run it. You fired Fulmer in 08 lost his top ten classes in 08! We get Kiffenfied! You lead the masses to Fire Dooley beginning in October this year, we dump on Dooley & his recruiting class? Where’s Gruden Adam’s? You are a fool & the kids that follow you in KNS are too. Logic would have given Dooley & Sal one more year to install Sal’s & Alabama’s 3-4 defense. Saved UT the NINE MILLION dollars (built a building with it) instead You Fired Dooley along with his solid recruiting class,.. Plus the Three NFL players we had coming back on offense. We had the # 3 offense in the SEC!!! You are a fool Adam’s. I’ve lost two good coaches & we still have U. & KNS is paying you for an opinion! lol I think you both are working for the gators/bama/dogs to keep UT in Kass. I want an KNS scientific opinion poll,.. not to Fire another UT coach?,…But to Fire John Adams? I want the shoe on the other foot for a change. KNS ran scientific poll after scientific poll to fire another UT coach.

6972 writes:

Big job ahead with losing CP, MR, ZR, JH and probably TB also. Combine that with a gruesome schedule, don't expect miracles....just improvement in performance in all areas of the game. Status quo isn't acceptable.

rtrchatt writes:

in response to DeltaCharlie3:

Florida is back, not that they were ever really gone. A win over Louisville means 12-1 and #2 in the country.

They'll be in the thick of the national title hunt again next year too.

How many times have the might Gators won at least 10 games in a yr? Bama leads the NATION with 34 seasons.... UT please post your number as well.

Bama returns all their skill position players along with RS Chris Black and incoming 5 star RB, TE, and WR Robert Foster. Probabaly your preseason AP #1 again. Eddie Lacy go and make your money in the NFL.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

How many times have the might Gators won at least 10 games in a yr? Bama leads the NATION with 34 seasons.... UT please post your number as well.

Bama returns all their skill position players along with RS Chris Black and incoming 5 star RB, TE, and WR Robert Foster. Probabaly your preseason AP #1 again. Eddie Lacy go and make your money in the NFL.

Alabama also leads the country with the most toothless trailerbillies..

LovinMyVols writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Alabama also leads the country with the most toothless trailerbillies..

How do you know that the toothbrush was invented in Alabama?

It would be called a Teethbrush if it was invented anywhere else!

Olddogsrule writes:

in response to chattbud:

You want offensive I give you Adam’s! We had a TOP Three (2012) offense comming BACK for 2013! Just like 2008 Ground Hog Day returns to UT!!! Thanks Adams. I think back to 2008 you lead the masses to fire Fulmer. You lead the masses to Fire Dooley this year! You said, “Gruden’s on the way!” LOL LOL Where’s Gruden?,..Foolish John? 2008 logic would have said, give Clawson’s spread offense two years to install. Fulmer had Clemson’s T. Boyd committed to play QB & to run it. You fired Fulmer in 08 lost his top ten classes in 08! We get Kiffenfied! You lead the masses to Fire Dooley beginning in October this year, we dump on Dooley & his recruiting class? Where’s Gruden Adam’s? You are a fool & the kids that follow you in KNS are too. Logic would have given Dooley & Sal one more year to install Sal’s & Alabama’s 3-4 defense. Saved UT the NINE MILLION dollars (built a building with it) instead You Fired Dooley along with his solid recruiting class,.. Plus the Three NFL players we had coming back on offense. We had the # 3 offense in the SEC!!! You are a fool Adam’s. I’ve lost two good coaches & we still have U. & KNS is paying you for an opinion! lol I think you both are working for the gators/bama/dogs to keep UT in Kass. I want an KNS scientific opinion poll,.. not to Fire another UT coach?,…But to Fire John Adams? I want the shoe on the other foot for a change. KNS ran scientific poll after scientific poll to fire another UT coach.

Stolen joke ... but appropro ...

How does little johnny adams screw in a lightbulb?

He holds the bulb and expects the world to spin around him.

Good comment and observations Chattbud. Though I would have given Dooley (who is, as we all know, has his background with the offense) a fourth year. I would have expected him to replace Sunserri and most of the D assistants. The results they got with so many returning from an acceptable rebuilding D from the previous year, and adding McCullers et. al. was not a performance worthy of retaining the DC and his staff.

jmaples54 writes:

in response to chattbud:

You want offensive I give you Adam’s! We had a TOP Three (2012) offense comming BACK for 2013! Just like 2008 Ground Hog Day returns to UT!!! Thanks Adams. I think back to 2008 you lead the masses to fire Fulmer. You lead the masses to Fire Dooley this year! You said, “Gruden’s on the way!” LOL LOL Where’s Gruden?,..Foolish John? 2008 logic would have said, give Clawson’s spread offense two years to install. Fulmer had Clemson’s T. Boyd committed to play QB & to run it. You fired Fulmer in 08 lost his top ten classes in 08! We get Kiffenfied! You lead the masses to Fire Dooley beginning in October this year, we dump on Dooley & his recruiting class? Where’s Gruden Adam’s? You are a fool & the kids that follow you in KNS are too. Logic would have given Dooley & Sal one more year to install Sal’s & Alabama’s 3-4 defense. Saved UT the NINE MILLION dollars (built a building with it) instead You Fired Dooley along with his solid recruiting class,.. Plus the Three NFL players we had coming back on offense. We had the # 3 offense in the SEC!!! You are a fool Adam’s. I’ve lost two good coaches & we still have U. & KNS is paying you for an opinion! lol I think you both are working for the gators/bama/dogs to keep UT in Kass. I want an KNS scientific opinion poll,.. not to Fire another UT coach?,…But to Fire John Adams? I want the shoe on the other foot for a change. KNS ran scientific poll after scientific poll to fire another UT coach.

adam's? who is adam's? good grief, you show your ignorance when you can't spell a 5-letter word.
1) adams never said gruden was coming. you make this stuff up in your crazy little mind. no sensible fan (or writer) thought gruden was coming. just your kind.
2) adams fired fulmer? what planet are u from?
3) adams had nothing to do with the firing of dooley. the fans i talked to were almost unanimous. i would have given him another year until the vandy meltdown. you think dooley had control of that team?
4) sal had the worst defense in UT history. and u wanted another year of it?
5) you think patterson, hunter and bray were coming back? patterson didn't even go to class and would have been ineligible. you're the fool.
6) "i've lost two good coaches..." surely you aren't including dooley or kiffin in that list. and to use the first person indicates illusions of grandeur that prove your cluelessness.
7) i don't know what "Kass." is, but everyone knows what a doofus you are.

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