HOW THEY'LL FINISH
This is an article from the Aug. 22, 2011 issue
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME DEC. 3 IN ATLANTA: ALABAMA OVER SOUTH CAROLINA
Best offensive player
ALSHON JEFFERY WR, South Carolina, Junior
No one can match up with the 6'4" 229-pounder, who led the league in receiving yards per game (108.4) and caught nine touchdown passes in 2010.
True freshman to watch
JADEVEON CLOWNEY DE, South Carolina
Few freshmen have entered college with as much hype as Clowney, a 6'6" 254-pounder who runs like a cheetah chasing lunch.
Coach on the rise
JAMES FRANKLIN Vanderbilt
The former coach-in-waiting at Maryland quickly established his bona fides by grabbing verbal commitments from players coveted by SEC powers.
Coach on the hot seat
MARK RICHT Georgia
Going 7--9 in the SEC for the past two seasons isn't good enough at a program that enjoys one of the greatest recruiting advantages in college football.
Best defensive player
COURTNEY UPSHAW LB, Alabama, Senior
Because of the Tide secondary's tight coverage, opposing QBs will get a close look at the 6'2" 265-pounder, who had 14½ tackles for loss last year.
Players to Watch (Top performers from unranked teams)
AARON MURRAY QB, Georgia, Sophomore
The Bulldogs' first losing season since 1996 obscured the development of Murray, who threw for 3,049 yards with 24 TDs and only eight picks.
DANNY TREVATHAN LB, Kentucky, Senior
He led the conference in tackles in 2010 with 144, and his sideline-to-sideline speed should allow him to rack up big numbers again in 2011.
KENTRELL LOCKETT DE, Ole Miss, Senior
Granted a sixth year of eligibility after missing most of last season with a torn left ACL, he leads all returning SEC players in career tackles for loss (23½).
MALIK JACKSON DT, Tennessee, Senior
After transferring from USC when the Trojans were hit with NCAA sanctions, the 6'5" 270-pounder led the team in tackles for loss (11) in his first season in Knoxville.
WARREN NORMAN RB-KR, Vanderbilt, Junior
Injured for most of 2010, he hopes to resemble the player who, in 2009, earned the SEC's freshman of the year award after leading the conference in all-purpose yards (1,941).
DREW BUTLER P, Georgia, Senior
The 2009 winner of the Ray Guy Award and a finalist last year, he has averaged 46.1 yards per punt in his career. He teams with kicker Blair Walsh to form one of the nation's best kicking duos.
Georgia coach Mark Richt understands the risk of opening against No. 8 Boise State but believes his team needs a big win before its SEC opener against South Carolina the following week. "They might whip your tail," Richt says of the Broncos. "But in order for us to get back where we want to be, which is highly ranked and highly thought of, we need to play this game."... Sophomore quarterback Barry Brunetti, who transferred to Ole Miss from West Virginia in January, leads a three-way race to start for the Rebels. Brunetti, who went 26--0 as a junior and senior in high school, played in four games last year for the Mountaineers but left to be closer to his ailing mom. Because of her health, the NCAA waived its requirement for transfers to sit out one season.... There is also a three-way quarterback battle at Vanderbilt, where Larry Smith, the starter the last two years, is being challenged by freshman Lafonte Thourogood and junior Jordan Rodgers, the brother of Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.... Tennessee coach Derek Dooley calls his Vols "the youngest football team I've ever seen." He has 26 freshmen and 27 sophomores on scholarship compared to just 26 upperclassmen.