How They'll Finish
This is an article from the Aug. 17, 2009 issue
Players to Watch
Top performers from unranked teams in the conference
DE, Sr., Auburn
An All-SEC choice in '08, when he had six sacks, Coleman led the Tigers in that department in each of the past two seasons, with a total of 14½.
CB, Sr., Kentucky
A corner on the Nagurski Award watch list, Lindley intercepted four passes and broke up 11 more as a junior. He has made 39 consecutive starts.
C, Sr., Tennessee
The 6'4" 280-pounder has started 35 straight games and will provide stability in the transition to new coach Lane Kiffin's pro-style offense.
LB, Sr., South Carolina
An All-SEC selection at defensive end in 2007 and at linebacker in '08, he is the Gamecocks' career leader in tackles for loss with 43.
RB, Sr., Arkansas
The diminutive Smith (5'7", 176) averaged an SEC-best 141.4 all-purpose yards and scored 10 touchdowns in 10 games last season.
Arkansas has replaced the grass at Reynolds Razorback Stadium with a synthetic surface that coach BOBBY PETRINO expects will give his skill-position players an edge. "With what we ask our players to do with the timing and the passing and precision and speed of the running game, I think it will be an advantage for us," says Petrino.... Auburn began preseason practice with a quarterback quandary for the second consecutive season. Junior KODI BURNS and senior CHRIS TODD, who split the job last year, are back, and junior NEIL CAUDLE, who attempted five passes in '08, is in the mix. What's more, three true freshmen will crowd the QB meeting room, including Sulphur Springs, Texas, product TYRIK ROLLISON, who was ranked the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2009 by Rivals.com.... How long did Mississippi State athletic director GREG BYRNE need to realize that DAN MULLEN (left) was the right man to coach the Bulldogs? "Twenty or 30 minutes," Byrne says of the former Florida offensive coordinator, who impressed the AD with his preparation and master plan early in an eight-hour meeting at an Atlanta hotel. A day later Mullen got the job.
Top offensive player
QB, Sr., Florida
Without Percy Harvin, Tebow could again put up the type of stats that won him the Heisman in 2007, when he passed for 32 TDs and ran for 23 more.
Top defensive player
SS, Jr., Tennessee
The versatile Berry (left) needs 15 interception-return yards to break former Florida State corner Terrell Buckley's I-A record of 501.
True freshman to watch
The electrifying Texan could spell starter Jordan Jefferson and also might be lined up as a receiver and used to run back kicks and punts.
Coach on the rise
Working mostly under the radar in the loaded SEC, the second-year man will attract attention once the Razorbacks upset a conference power.
Coach on the hot seat
His 5--19 record at Iowa State made him an unpopular choice, but he has recruited well in the new job. Will Auburn fans give him time to turn things around?