There’s been a lot of turnover in the SEC since the beginning of last season. Some coaches have seen a change of scenery but remain in leading roles. Others are adjusting to a new role on top of a new team. Then, there are the coaches who are dealing with a new role, a new team and a new conference.
The coaching carousel is alive and well, to say the least.
With that said, there could be some good news on the horizon for several of the offensive-minded additions. Check out this stat from SportsSource Analytics:
In 2017, @MizzouFootball and @HailStateFB were the only two FBS teams to be in the top 10 in highest percent of rushing plays going for 4+ yards and the lowest percent of plays resulting in a tackle for loss or a sack.
— SportSourceAnalytics (@SportSourceA) May 16, 2018
The fact that Missouri and Mississippi State landed in both categories is remarkable. Each team only gave up 13 sacks all season. The Tigers averaged 5.18 yards on the ground while the Bulldogs averaged 5.16.
Now, it should be noted that Missouri’s offense finished No. 8 in the country in total offense (502.2 yards per game) while the Bulldogs only checked in at No. 46 (418.6).
There’s still reason for optimism with State’s offense, however. The Bulldogs return starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, both running backs (Aeris Williams and Kylin Hill) and four out of five starting offensive linemen. They also brought in a creative offensive mind in new coach Joe Moorhead.
As if that wasn’t enough, they also will be infusing size at the wide receiver position, something they lacked in 2017. Of the five receivers they added in the 2018 recruiting class, four of them are 6-foot-3 or above.
Missouri is a little different. It’ll be looking to replace its top rusher (Ish Witter, 1,049 yards, 6 TDs) and top receiver (J’Mon Moore, 65 receptions, 1,082 yards, 10 TDs) from last season.
The good news is Damarea Crockett was considered the starter at running back until an injury to his right shoulder forced him to miss the second half of last season. The junior has rushed for 1,543 yards and 12 TDs in 17 career games, averaging 6.6 yards in the process.
What’s even better news is the team returns all five of its offensive linemen. Speaking of Lock, he’ll also be back after leading the SEC in passing yards (3,964), touchdown passes (44) and QB rating (165.7).
Are we starting to see the trend here? Both offenses return almost every piece that led them to success in 2017.
The only other significant loss on that side of the football — for either team — is Mississippi State’s star left tackle Martinas Rankin. The 6-4, 308-pound first-team All-SEC selection was taken by the Houston Texans in the third round (No. 80 overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft after a successful two-year stint with the Bulldogs.
Beyond those two schools, there is a third SEC team that stands to benefit from the statistic mentioned in the above tweet — the Florida Gators.
After a successful nine-year run in Starkville, Dan Mullen is now in charge in Gainesville, where he won two national titles as an offensive coordinator. He brings with him that same offensive philosophy that helped Mississippi State become one of those two teams.
Mullen will have a backfield filled with talent, too.
Jordan Scarlett returns after spending the 2017 season suspended for credit card fraud. He’ll be joined by Lamical Perine, Malik Davis (if healthy) and Adarius Lemons.
Perine was actually second in the SEC last season in highest percentage of yards gained after contact, according to CFB Film Room.
Among returning SEC running backs, no one picked up a higher percentage of their yards after contact than Florida's Lamical Perine pic.twitter.com/fAeF8azGeG
— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) May 17, 2018
The Gators offensive line should be in better shape, too.
Brett Heggie is back at left guard following a left knee injury that ended his 2017 season. That development allows senior Martez Ivey to kick back to left tackle, which is considered a more natural position for him. After starting the final two games last season at left tackle, third-year player Jawaan Taylor (6-5, 334) will shift back to right tackle, where he started the first nine games.
All of these moves should improve a unit that allowed the most sacks in the SEC last season (37).
Mullen’s biggest obstacle in Year 1 will be finding a quarterback. Does he go with a veteran such as Feliepe Franks or Kyle Trask? There are concerns with both players.
How about freshman phenom Emory Jones? Doubtful considering Mullen has said he wants to bring Jones along slowly.
There’s one thing that can give Gators fans relief: Whoever starts at quarterback will be backed by an improved offensive line and a talented stable of runners. Well, that and Mullen being in charge now.
The SEC looks like it could be more competitive than it has been in the last couple of years. Situations surrounding these three offenses are a major reason why.