1: Who are the SEC’s new leading men?

There’s no one with the charisma of a Johnny Manziel or Tim Tebow on the horizon, but the conference does possess some of the nation’s best at their positions in LSU running back Leonard Fournette, Georgia running back Nick Chubb, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott and Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (if he’s eligible to play).

2: Will an SEC team reach the College Football Playoff?

Sounds like a foregone conclusion, but at least one Big Five conference champion will be left out. Seems strange to say this could be the SEC, but it’s easy to make the argument that every school winds up with at least two losses and misses the four-team CFP party.

3: What about the Heisman Trophy?

SEC players have won four of the past eight Heismans, but as with the CFP, it’s hard to make an SEC star the favorite. Fournette, Chubb and Prescott could be invited to New York in December, but all are currently long shots to win the big prize.

4: Is the SEC West overrated?

Long the power division of the nation’s power conference, the West went a shocking 2-5 in bowls last year, including LSU’s upset loss to Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl and Alabama’s loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl (a CFP semifinal). It’s assumed this will be a meatgrinder division again, but what if it’s filled with hamburgers, not ribeyes?

5: Who made the biggest offseason coaching acquisition?

In an unprecedented game of musical chairs, half the SEC saw coaches switch from one school to another. Topping the list were former LSU assistant coaches Will Muschamp (Florida to Auburn) and John Chavis (to Texas A&M), but LSU also made a big splash with defensive line coach/recruiting guru Ed Orgeron.



In the spotlight: 2:30-5:30 p.m. Monday

Coach (year): Jim McElwain (1st)

Players: Jonathan Bullard, Sr., DE; Brandon Powell, So., WR; Vernon Hargreaves III, Jr., DB

Hot topic: After the Gators went 11-13 the past two years, they’ve called on former Alabama offensive coordinator and Colorado State coach McElwain to restore fortunes to Urban Meyer-like heights. Depth and talent problems must be solved on the offensive line, at running back and linebacker.


In the spotlight: 2:30-5:30 p.m. Monday

Coach (year): Derek Mason (2nd)

Players: Ralph Webb, So., RB; Nigel Bowden, So., LB; Spencer Pulley, Sr., C

Hot topic: Suddenly at long downtrodden Vandy they expect results, thanks to three straight bowl appearances under James Franklin. Mason’s first year (3-9, 0-8 SEC) may seem like traditional Vandy, but it’s landed him squarely on the hot seat.

South Carolina

In the spotlight: 9 a.m.-12:20 p.m. Tuesday

Coach (year): Steve Spurrier (11th)

Players: Elliott Fry, Jr., PK; Pharoh Cooper, Jr., WR; Skai Moore, Jr., LB

Hot topic: Believe it or not, Spurrier is now 70. After flirting with retirement, he returns after a frustrating 7-6 season to an iffy quarterback situation and a defense that was 12th in the SEC in points and 13th in yards allowed last year.


In the spotlight: 1-4 p.m. Tuesday

Coach (year): Butch Jones (3rd)

Players: Joshua Dobbs, Jr., QB; Curt Maggitt, Sr., LB/DL; Cameron Sutton, Jr., DB

Hot topic: At Tennessee, 7-6 last year was seen as the launching pad to relevance among the SEC’s elite. Dealing with overeager expectations may be Job 1 for Jones.


In the spotlight: 9 a.m.-noon Wednesday

Coach (year): Mark Stoops (3rd)

Players: Melvin Lewis, Sr., NG; Jordan Swindle, Sr., OT; A.J. Stamps, Sr., S

Hot topic: The Wildcats started 5-1 last season, got crushed 41-3 at LSU and didn’t win again. Three straight strong recruiting classes need to pay off in at least a bowl appearance. Biggest task: improving a defense that allowed 407 yards per game in 2014.


In the spotlight: 1-4 p.m. Wednesday

Coach (year): Gary Pinkel (15th)

Players: Kenya Dennis, Sr., DB; Maty Mauk, Jr., QB; Evan Boehm, Sr., C

Hot topic: The surprise SEC East champions in 2013 and ’14. With loads of experience returning, winning the East again wouldn’t be considered a fluke. Mizzou has earned a serious measure of respect.


In the spotlight: 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Thursday

Coach (year): Mark Richt (15th)

Players: Malcolm Mitchell, Sr., WR; John Theus, Sr., OT; Jordan Jenkins, Sr., OLB

Hot topic: Georgia is again the default favorite in the East. The Bulldogs may underwhelm at times, but super-talented tailback Nick Chubb could lead Georgia down the short drive to the Georgia Dome.



In the spotlight: 11:30 a.m.-2:20 p.m. Monday

Coach (year): Gus Malzahn (3rd)

Players: Jeremy Johnson, Jr., QB; Jonathan Jones, Sr., DB; Kris Frost, Sr., LB

Hot topic: Auburn has a new video board, a new quarterback in Jeremy Johnson and a new defensive coordinator in Will Muschamp. It could all make Auburn the SEC West favorite.

Texas A&M

In the spotlight: 9 a.m.-12:20 p.m. Tuesday

Coach (year): Kevin Sumlin (4th)

Players: Mike Matthews, Sr., C; Germain Ifedi, Jr., OT; Julien Obioha, Sr., DL

Hot topic: The lawsuits may still be flying, but John Chavis is coaching in Aggieland, charged with putting some backbone in the SEC’s worst defense. He’ll try to help reverse a trend under Sumlin: 11-2 in 2012, 9-4 in 2013, 8-5 in 2014.


In the spotlight: 9 a.m.-noon Wednesday

Coach (year): Nick Saban (9th)

Players: Reggie Ragland, Sr., LB; Kenyan Drake, Sr., RB; Ryan Kelly, Sr., OL

Hot topic: Saban must replace starting quarterback Blake Sims, super receiver Amari Cooper and 1,000-yard rusher Derrick Henry and improve a defense without Dutchtown safety Landon Collins that got seriously gashed at times. The Crimson Tide will still probably be the preseason SEC favorite, of course.


In the spotlight: 1-4 p.m. Wednesday

Coach (year): Bret Bielema (3rd)

Players: Jonathan Williams, Sr., RB; Brandon Allen, Sr., QB; Keon Hatcher, Sr., WR

Hot topic: The Razorbacks won three of their last four games to finish 7-6 and look to maintain that momentum. The nucleus of the offense returns in quarterback Brandon Allen and the nation’s only pair of 1,000-yard rushers: Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins.

Ole Miss

In the spotlight: 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Thursday

Coach (year): Hugh Freeze (4th)

Players: Evan Engram, Jr., TE; Mike Hilton, Sr., DB; C.J. Johnson, Sr., LB

Hot topic: Laremy Tunsil, Robert Nkemdiche, Tony Conner and Laquon Treadwell are some of the SEC’s best. But there’s an NCAA investigation into Tunsil’s eligibility and Treadwell is coming off a gruesome leg injury.

Mississippi State

In the spotlight: 1-4 p.m. Tuesday

Coach (year): Dan Mullen (7th)

Players: Dak Prescott, Sr., QB; Taveze Calhoun, Sr., DB; Ryan Brown, Sr., DE

Hot topic: The Bulldogs reached unprecedented heights in 2014, ranked No. 1 in the first CFP poll. Now the rent may come due. Prescott is back, but State must retool its offensive line and the defense.


In the spotlight: 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Thursday

Coach (year): Les Miles (11th)

Players: Leonard Fournette, So., RB; Vadal Alexander, Sr., OT; Kendell Beckwith, Jr., LB

Hot topic: One hundred fourteen. That’s where LSU’s passing offense ranked in the FBS last year. And returning starting QB Anthony Jennings is currently suspended, though it could open a door for popular understudy Brandon Harris.


Monday: Vernon Hargreaves III [Florida CB]

In 2014: 50 tackles, three interceptions, 13 pass breakups and two fumble recoveries

In Hoover: Questions abound for Florida with a number of position groups. Cornerback isn’t one of them. Hargreaves is a preseason All-American and a lock to be on the Jim Thorpe Award watch list (best defensive back) when it’s released Monday. The Gators may have issues elsewhere, but they can start building around a shutdown corner.

Tuesday: Dak Prescott [Mississippi State QB]

In 2014: Threw for 3,449 yards, 27 TDs and 11 interceptions. Also rushed for 986 yards on 210 carries with 14 TDs.

In Hoover: Prescott led the Bulldogs to unprecedented heights in 2014, including the No. 1 ranking in the first CFP poll released in late October. Now he returns to a team stripped of many of its veterans by graduation and the NFL draft. Prescott remains. How high he can fly in 2015 remains to be seen.

Wednesday: Jonathan Williams [Arkansas RB]

In 2014: Rushed for 1,190 yards on 211 carries (5.6 yards per attempt) and caught 11 passes for 65 yards and two TDs.

In Hoover: The Razorbacks enjoyed a renaissance campaign in 2014, and it was Arkansas’ running game that led the way. Williams was the lead half of what is widely considered the best running back duo in the country along with Alex Collins (1,100 yards, 12 TDs). Williams and Collins will be steamrolling their way into Tiger Stadium on Nov. 14.

Thursday: Leonard Fournette [LSU RB]

In 2014: Rushed for LSU freshman record 1,034 yards on 187 carries with 10 TDs. Returned 24 kickoffs for a 26.0-yard average with a TD.

In Hoover: Fournette’s season started slowly but built to a crescendo. In the regular-season finale at Texas A&M, he rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown. In the Music City Bowl against Notre Dame, he rushed for 143 yards and two TDs and added a 100-yard kickoff return. Fournette was sixth in the SEC in rushing and first in all-purpose yards per game. Can he do even more?