StatTiger: Looking At The 2012 SEC West Race
Les Miles
Les Miles
Inside The Auburn Tigers
Posted Jun 19, 2012

A preview of the 2012 SEC Western Division conference race is featured.

A 2012 preview of teams in the Southeastern Conference West is featured in this report:

LSU Tigers

2011 Record: 13-1 (9-0)

*No. 86 total offense, No. 17 scoring offense, No. 2 total defense and No. 2 scoring defense.

*14 returning starters, 43 Returning Letterman, 13 seniors and 29 players with at least 20 games of experience.

*Recruiting: 49 players signed in last 4 classes rated as 4 stars or better.

*16 players with All-SEC Potential: Alex Hurst (OT), Chris Faulk (OT), Josh Williford (OG), Spencer Ware (RB), Kenny Hilliard (RB), Odell Beckham (WR), Sam Montgomery (DE), Tyrann Mathieu (CB, PR), Eric Reid (S), Anthony Johnson (DT), Barkevious Mingo (DE), Kevin Minter (LB), Bennie Logan (DT), Tharold Simon (CB), Brad Wing (P), Drew Alleman (PK).

*Incoming recruits to watch for: Fehoko Fanaika (OG), Ronnie Feist (LB), Lamar Louis (LB), Kwon Alexander (LB), John Thomas (TE), Jeremy Hill (RB).

Zach Mettenberger will be the key for LSU

Comments: LSU will be loaded with talent but must replace 10 starters on offense and defense from last season’s SEC Championship squad. Eyes will be focused on their quarterback position and Zach Mettenberger after the position was weak link in the chain during the BCS championship game. LSU has the talent to run the table but the task might be difficult until the quarterback situation gets settled and the Tigers figure out a way to replace six starters from the No. 2 defense in the nation. LSU will be tested by Auburn, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama and Arkansas to win the SEC West. Four of those five games come during a brutal stretch between September 22nd and November 3rd.

Projected Finish: 10-2 (6-2)

Alabama Crimson Tide

2011 Record: 12-1 (7-1)

*No. 31 total offense, No. 20 scoring offense, No. 1 total defense and No. 1 scoring defense.

*13 returning starters, 41 Returning Letterman, 16 seniors and 23 players with at least 20 games of experience.

*Recruiting: 65 players signed in last 4 classes rated as 4 stars or better.

*11 players with All-SEC Potential: Barrett Jones (OC), Chance Warmack (OG), D.J. Fluker (OT), A.J. McCarron (QB), Eddie Lacy (RB), Michael Williams (TE), Jesse Williams (DT), C.J. Mosley (LB), Nico Johnson (LB), Dee Milliner (CB), Robert Lester (S).

*Incoming recruits to watch for: Landon Collins (S), Cyrus Jones (WR), Travell Dixon (CB), Deion Belue (CB), T.J. Yeldon (RB), Dillon Lee (LB), Adam Griffith (PK), Reggie Ragland (LB).

Eddie Lacy

Comments: You would have to go back to the 1980’s to find a defense that put up similar numbers to the 2011 Alabama defense. Nick Saban must replace seven starters from the No. 1 defense in the country but the talent is there to rebuild. Expect some drop off on defense but this unit will likely remain top-10 quality. Look for AJ McCarron’s role in the offense to expand with more experience and for Alabama to remain a strong running team. The Tide opens the season against Michigan and will be tested by Arkansas, LSU and Auburn along the way. The Alabama-LSU game likely decides the West again, but the Razorbacks could shake things up with an early win over the Crimson Tide. Alabama lost three games the year after their last national championship and it could happen again in 2012.

Projected Finish: 10-2 (6-2)

Arkansas Razorbacks

2011 Record: 11-2 (6-2)

*No. 29 total offense, No. 15 scoring offense, No. 47 total defense, No. 33 scoring defense.

*15 returning starters, 49 Returning Letterman, 24 seniors and 24 players with at least 20 games of experience.

*Recruiting: 18 players signed in last 4 classes rated as 4 stars or better.

*12 players with All-SEC Potential: Tyler Wilson (QB), Knile Davis (RB), Cobi Hamilton (WR), Chris Gragg (TE), Alvin Bailey (OG), Travis Swanson (OC), Alonzo Highsmith (LB), Bryan Jones (DT), Eric Bennett (S), Dennis Johnson (KR), Zach Hocker (PK), Dylan Breeding (P).

*Incoming recruits to watch for: Demetrius Wilson (WR), Austin Flynn (DE), Jonathan Williams (RB), Deatrich Wise (DE), Keon Hatcher (WR).

Tyler Wilson

Tyler Wilson is a legit Heisman candidate in 2012

Comments: Over the last three seasons no team in the conference has done more with their talent than Arkansas. The loss of Bobby Petrino might take some of the luster off a 2012 squad that was expected to make some noise in the SEC West. The Razorbacks have a strong senior class and the offensive talent to win the West in 2012. The key will be the return of Knile Davis to balance out their offensive attack and whether or not the defense can continue to improve. The Razorbacks host Alabama and LSU but their road games against Texas A&M, Auburn and South Carolina could be the deciding factor in just how far this Arkansas team can go. The Razorbacks are 29-10 over the past three years and are hoping to finally arrive in 2012.

Projected Finish: 9-3 (5-3)

Auburn Tigers

2011 Record: 8-5 (4-4)

*No. 100 total offense, No. 70 scoring offense, No. 81 total defense, No. 78 scoring defense.

*18 returning starters, 48 Returning Letterman, 12 seniors and 24 players with at least 20 games of experience.

*Recruiting: 48 players signed in last 4 classes rated as 4 stars or better.

*11 players with All-SEC Potential: Emory Blake (WR), Philip Lutzenkirchen (TE), Reese Dismukes (OC), John Sullen (OG), Corey Lemonier (DE), Dee Ford (DE), Daren Bates (LB), Chris Davis (CB), Tre Mason (KR), Steven Clark (P), Cody Parkey (PK).

*Incoming recruits to watch for: Patrick Miller (OT), Jordan Diamond (OT), Avery Young (OT), Ricardo Louis (WR), Jaquay Williams (WR), Jovon Robinson (RB), Josh Holsey (CB), Cassanova McKinzy (LB).

Corey Lemonier

Corey Lemonier and the defense holds the key for the Tigers

Comments: Auburn was extremely youthful on the line of scrimmage during 2011, lacking the experience and conditioning to match up with the better teams in the conference. The Tigers are talented and more experienced in 2012 but must establish a starting quarterback to make a run this season. Look for the defense to improve significantly and for the offense to be more consistent in 2012. The last two times Auburn went 8-5, they followed up with undefeated seasons in 2004 and 2010. The Tigers will bounce back in 2012 but they appear to be one year away from making a serious run to win a championship. Auburn hosts LSU, Arkansas and Georgia but finish the regular season on the road against Alabama. The season opener against Clemson could set the tone for the season and an early upset against LSU could turn 2012 into a special season for the Tigers.

Projected Finish: 9-3 (5-3)

Texas A&M Aggies

2011 Record: 7-6 (Big XII)

*No. 7 total offense, No. 11 scoring offense, No. 59 total defense and No. 70 scoring defense.

*16 returning starters, 53 Returning Letterman, 18 seniors and 24 players with at least 20 games of experience.

*Recruiting: 22 players signed in last 4 classes rated as 4 stars or better.

*8 players with All-SEC Potential: Ryan Swope (WR), Christine Michael (RB), Luke Joeckel (OT), Jake Matthews (OT), Patrick Lewis (OC), Sean Porter (LB), Damontre Moore (DE), Dustin Harris (PR).

*Incoming recruits to watch for: Thomas Johnson (WR), De’Vante Harris (CB), Derel Walker (WR), Otis Jacobs (CB), Germain Ifedi (OG), Kenneth Marshall (S), Matt Davis (QB), Trey Williams (RB).

Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope catches a pass against the Baylor Bears in the first quarter at Kyle Field. (Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE)

Ryan Swope is one of the top receivers in the SEC

Comments: The Aggies must face the challenging West Division to go along with Florida out of the East. Coach Kevin Sumlin will bring his wide-open offense to Texas A&M but the Aggies must find a quarterback to pull the trigger with Ryan Tannehill now in the NFL. There are nine returning starters on offense, but the key will be replacing five starters on a defense that was No. 70 in scoring defense. Look for the Aggies to start off strong in 2012, but to slowly fade as the season progresses into the vicious portion of their schedule. This includes hosting LSU before they go on the road against Auburn, Mississippi State and Alabama.

Projected Finish: 7-5 (3-5)

Mississippi State Bulldogs

2011 Record: 7-6 (2-6)

*No. 84 total offense, No. 73 scoring offense, No. 35 total defense and No. 16 scoring defense.

*13 returning starters, 54 Returning Letterman, 21 seniors and 23 players with at least 20 games of experience.

*Recruiting: 18 players signed in last 4 classes rated as 4 stars or better.

*4 players with All-SEC Potential: Gabe Jackson (OG), Johnthan Banks (CB, PR), Josh Boyd (DT), Cameron Lawrence (LB).

*Incoming recruits to watch for: Richie Brown (LB), Beniquez Brown (LB), Denico Autry (DE), Charles Siddoway (OT), Quay Evans (DT), Dylan Holley (OG), Nick James (DT), Will Redmond (CB), Devon Bell (P).

Johnthan Banks

Johnthan Banks is MSU's best player

Comments: The Bulldogs could be 5-2 or even 6-1 through the first half of the season, but their remaining schedule is a gauntlet except for Ole Miss to conclude the regular season. They close out the season against Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU and Arkansas before the Egg Bowl. Mississippi State had 12 freshmen that appeared in at least 12 games and they will be expected to add additional depth to a team that lost nine starters on offense and defense combined. The Bulldogs have the third highest number of returning lettermen in the conference but lack the overall talent to compete against a tough schedule. They should be able to do enough damage to become bowl eligible.

Projected Finish: 6-6 (2-6)

Ole Miss Rebels

2011 Record: 2-10 (0-8)

*No. 114 total offense, No. 116 scoring offense, No. 90 total defense and No. 96 scoring defense.

*17 returning starters, 60 Returning Letterman, 25 seniors and 19 players with at least 20 games of experience.

*Recruiting: 18 players signed in last 4 classes rated as 4 stars or better.

*4 players with All-SEC Potential: Donte Moncrief (WR), Charles Sawyer (S), Mike Marry (LB), Tobias Singleton (KR).

*Incoming recruits to watch for: Bo Wallace (QB), Channing Ward (DE), Pierce Burton (OT), Dehendret Collins (CB), Darone Bailey (OG), Kenno Loyal (RB), I'tavius Mathers (RB).

Hugh Freeze has his work cut out for him in his first season in Oxford

Comments: The Rebels offense was one of the worst in the country in 2011 but Freeze will install his wide-open pass offense to jump start things in 2012. Ole Miss has the most difficult schedule amongst its SEC peers, playing Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and LSU on the road, while hosting Texas, Texas A&M and Auburn. The Rebels will likely be favored in 3 of their 12 regular season games, making a five-win season highly unlikely. Compounding the rebuilding process for Freeze is the fact the defense was nearly as bad as the offense was during 2011.

Projected Finish: 3-9 (0-8)

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2012 Inside the Auburn Tigers Football Guide
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