December is the time for giving, but many SEC football teams would like to receive some gifts this winter, too.
Considering the SEC had a down year in 2016, every fan base has a wish list. Some are tangible, like a player or coach. Others need leadership or good health. And there’s no better way to fix these issues than writing to Santa.
Here is what every SEC team should be asking Santa Claus for this Christmas season.
Alabama: Lots of Vitamin C
The Crimson Tide are on top of the college football world. Not only have they won back-to-back championships, but Alabama is the class of college football heading forward. The only thing Santa Claus could possibly do to make that better is have Nick Saban live forever. Would anyone be surprised?
Arkansas: The 2015 offensive line
It wasn’t long ago that Bret Bielema was known for coaching the best offensive lines in the nation. However, this was a tumultuous year with inconsistent play across the board. Quarterback Austin Allen was probably the best in the conference, and running back Rawleigh Williams showed potential to be a star. However, the line must be better for both to reach their potential.
Auburn: Jarrett Stidham – Merry Christmas
Christmas came early this year for the Tigers. Even though the season ended with a thud, Gus Malzahn convinced Baylor quarterback transfer Jarrett Stidham to sign with the team on JUCO signing day. Stidham is one of the best quarterback prospects in the nation and should instantly transform an offense that threw for 200 yards in only six games this year.
Florida: A quarterback
Jim McElwain came to Florida with the reputation of being an offensive mastermind. He previously was the offensive coordinator at Alabama under Nick Saban before moving to Colorado State and eventually to Florida. Unfortunately, the offense has been woeful at times, and quarterback play was a major reason. McElwain had to choose between a Purdue transfer and a former walk-on. That’s obviously not ideal.
This was a brutal season for Bulldogs fans, as Georgia went 7-5 with home losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech. However, there’s reason for optimism. Kirby Smart is a master recruiter, and the Bulldogs still have blue-chip quarterback Jacob Eason. Next year might not be much better, but Dawg Nation is growing.
Kentucky: A strong defensive coordinator
By the end of the season, Kentucky looked like an excellent team. The Wildcats upset Louisville on the road and had one of the most unstoppable running games in the conference behind running backs Boom Williams and Benny Snell. The defense was also better once Mark Stoops took over the unit. However, the Wildcats need someone dynamic to take the position full-time so Stoops can focus on being head coach. Kentucky ranked No. 87 in defensive S&P+ – that has to change.
LSU: An elite quarterback
LSU is so, so close to being an elite program. However, quarterback play has continuously failed the Tigers in key situations for nearly a decade. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada should do an excellent job rehabilitating the offense, but an elite quarterback would do wonders for the program. The talent level at LSU is high enough that quality quarterback play could be enough to compete with Alabama.
Mississippi State: Defensive consistency
Dan Mullen has had to find a new defensive coordinator five different times. However, his ability to find talent is almost unparalleled. He gave chances to Manny Diaz, who left for Miami, and Geoff Collins, who just took the head coaching job at Temple. Fortunately, it appears that defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon will stay on into next season. That will be necessary for a defense that struggled with consistency all year.
Missouri: A fast-forward button
It wasn’t long ago that Mizzou was on top of the SEC East. Now, Barry Odom is fully in the midst of a total rebuild in Columbia. Things will probably be bad for the next two or three seasons as Odom tries to stockpile talent and figure out how to coach at the highest level. It won’t be exceptionally fun or watchable.
Ole Miss: A clean slate
The coaching staff has done an outstanding job turning around the program and competing at the highest level. However, the program lives with the silent background of potential NCAA issues and investigation. It was a disappointing season for Ole Miss, but putting some of the off-the-field worries behind them would be much more significant.
South Carolina: Offensive leadership
The Gamecocks have quietly developed a couple of critical underclassmen on offense, especially Deebo Samuel, Bryan Edwards, Jake Bentley and Rico Dowdle. However, the only senior in the starting lineup is left tackle Mason Zandi. Bentley will continue to develop as a leader, but South Carolina could use some player guidance on that side of the ball.
Tennessee: More Josh Dobbs
Dobbs became a controversial figure in the SEC over the years. Even though he never quite became an elite passer, Dobbs was the kind of playmaker who could make up for mistakes across the rest of the field. Some of his best games came down the stretch, when Tennessee’s defense was falling apart. Coach Butch Jones has a tough job trying to find a replacement next year.
Texas A&M: Continuity
At this point, the Aggies have everything they need. Texas A&M’s talent level is up there with every team except Alabama. The coaching talent is also elite, with Noel Mazzone and John Chavis on each side of the ball. However, the results have failed to follow. The Aggies are hoping this can be a normal offseason for the first time in a long while.
Vanderbilt: Another year of Zach Cunningham
Cunningham was the SEC’s leading tackler in 2016, and it wasn’t all that close. Even though he has a year of eligibility remaining, Cunningham is expected to leave and become a top pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Vandy is in a good spot, even with Cunningham leaving. However, the program could potentially challenge for eight wins if he were to come back. There would be no better Christmas present.