Well, the joy from ending the SEC National Title reign? Yeah, that ended last year when Alabama claimed another championship to get back on top of the college football landscape. The Crimson Tide dominated their season last year and look to re-tool and get back to the playoff this year. Jake Coker finally got his shot after Blake Sims left Alabama and finished the job. Coker, a FSU transfer, improved as the season went on and became more than just a game manager. The Crimson Tide also had another running back win the Heisman Trophy in Derrick Henry. Just how good was Henry? Check out these numbers:
Alabama had a good defense, however, they were still vulnerable in the secondary at times and ended up in a shootout against Clemson in the National Championship game. The 2016 squad will look to use those top notch recruits to keep the train going. One of the stars of the title game, O.J. Howard, returns at tight end to help the new quarterback move the offense. The wide receiver group is very deep with two 1,000 yard receivers in Calvin Ridley and Gehrig Dieter. The quarterback battle is between Junior Cooper Bateman, Sophomore David Cornwell, redshirt freshman Blake Barnett, and true freshman Jalen Hurts. Nobody truly separated themselves during the spring game but Barnett and Hurts had more efficient outings throwing the ball. The Crimson Tide may be worried about depth at running back with only two sophomores and two true freshman. To make matters worse, sophomore running Ronnie Clark injured his achilles tendon during the spring. The defense will have to start off fast until the quarterback and running game get going. Alabama has an incredibly talented group of linebackers ready to carry on the tradition. Reuben Foster has the potential to be like a C.J. Mosley among other Alabama greats. Rashaan Evans will also be a big contributor in the middle of this defensive unit. Marlon Humphrey will lead the secondary and will try to help Ronnie Harrison, Eddie Jackson, and Maurice Smith create havoc for opposing teams.
Other contenders in the SEC include LSU, Tennessee, and Ole Miss. LSU always comes with a lot of talent but once again needs more out of the quarterback position. Brandon Harris returns as the undisputed starter and will hopefully improve enough to help Leonard Fournette out. Fournette was on his way to the Heisman Trophy until the Alabama game and will look to continue his dominant career at LSU. The secondary at LSU will be great once again thanks to Tre’Davious White. White had 7 pass-breakups in 2015 to go along with 4 interceptions from Jamal Adams. Not to mention, the secondary also returns second team All-SEC Rickey Jefferson.
Tennessee has been hyped for a few years now and the hype train is at full volume for 2016. The Volunteers have held leads against the top teams for a few years now but have not been able to finish. Tennessee was competitive against OU on the road a few years ago before being downed and everyone said they were a year away. Last year, the Vols held a lead against OU at home but allowed a late heartbreaking comeback. Butch Jones has recruited top 10 classes to Knoxville and the excuses are just about done for Vols fans. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs returns along with Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara at running back. Dobbs has been an explosive runner for years now but will need to complete his profile as a passer to become a complete quarterback for his team. The wideouts are led by Josh Smith and Josh Malone. Tennessee has 4 offensive lineman returning and are led by Jashon Robertson. Defensively, the Vols have starters returning across the board and have one of the nation’s best pass rushers in Derek Barnett. Finally, Jalen Reeves-Maybin along with Darrin Kirkand Jr. form a dynamic duo at the linebacking position.
Down at the Grove, Ole Miss is looking to redeem themselves in 2016. The Rebels started off hotter than anyone could have imagined. The 2015 Rebels beat Alabama on the road for the first time since 1988. Ole Miss has now won against Alabama two years in a row and will look to make it three in a row in 2016 when they play them at home. The team returns Chad Kelly, who took the offense to all new levels in 2015 with the help of Hugh Freeze. Kelly threw for 4,042 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2015. Akeem Judd and Jordan Wilkins will be the running backs for this team as they look to pick up where they left off. The Rebels have recruited so well on defense that the team should still be very good this year. Marquis Haynes returns on the defensive line to help create pressure off the edge. Haynes tied a school record with 10 sacks last season. Another playmaker who will be recognized in 2016 will be Fadol Brown. Tony Conner will come back to play nickel after his injury. Conner could have been a first-round pick before his injury.
My pick for the 2016 SEC title will be the LSU Tigers. I believe LSU will put it all together for the first time 2011. Fournette will be undisputed in the SEC without Derrick Henry and will put together another historic season in Baton Rouge. I think Harris will improve enough and he really will not need to do a whole lot with that defense that they have. The secondary at LSU will get back to their old habits and will suffocate SEC offenses.