With the start of preseason practice just around the corner, one big 2021 question for each SEC football team:
Alabama: Is Bryce Young worth his $800,000 in NIL money? Reports say the sophomore quarterback, who has yet to start a game, has a $600,000 Name, Image and Likeness deal with Cash App, and there’s more where that came from. Duplicating Mac Jones’ numbers from a year ago will be no small feat.
Arkansas: Can KJ Jefferson revitalize the Razorbacks? Offensive coordinator Kendal Briles is no doubt scheming up ways to take advantage of Jefferson’s talents. In his only start last year, the Mississippi native threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in a 50-48 loss to Missouri.
Auburn: Will Bryan Harsin be a success on the Plains? After shoving Gus Malzahn out the door, the Tigers went west to hire the 44-year-old Harsin. The former Boise State quarterback was 69-19 in seven seasons as the head coach at his alma mater before accepting the challenge of coaching in the same state as Nick Saban.
Florida: How will Emory Jones do at quarterback? The highly recruited junior out of LaGrange, Ga., saw situational duty behind starter Kyle Trask. It’s the Jones Show now, with the former Ohio State commit more of a dual threat for Dan Mullens’ offense.
Georgia: Can the Bulldogs finally meet expectations? After reaching the 2017 national championship game, Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs have managed to lay an egg in a one game each season — LSU in 2018; South Carolina in 2019; Florida last season. Georgia needs a surprise-free 2021.
Kentucky: Is Liam Coen up to the SEC challenge? The 35-year-old Coen is making the jump from assistant quarterbacks coach with the Los Angeles Rams to play-caller in the nation’s toughest conference. He takes over an offense that ranked 122nd out of 127 Division I teams in passing yardage in 2020.
LSU: Will Ed Orgeron’s reboot work? After falling from national champs to 5-5 last season, Coach O cleaned house, hiring a pair of NFL assistants, Jake Peetz (offense) and Daronte Jones (defense) as coordinators. Peetz is 38. Jones is 42.
Mississippi State: Does Mike Leach’s Air Raid need fine-tuning? His first-year results were not promising as the Bulldogs ended up 12th in total offense while going 4-7. Will Rogers returns at quarterback, but Leach might be too stubborn to make the adjustments MSU needs.
Missouri: Will Steve Wilks’ scheme translate to the SEC? Mizzou’s first-year defensive coordinator hasn’t coached in college since 2005. He was the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach for a season in 2018, and he was out of football altogether last year.
Ole Miss: Can Lane Kiffin find a defense? As expected, the Rebels were explosive on offense under Kiffin last season, but dreadful on defense. Ole Miss was 14th in the SEC in scoring defense, total defense and rushing defense. It was 13th in pass defense. Kiffin needs more stops to go with his scores.
South Carolina: Is Shane Beamer ready? The 44-year-old son of legendary Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has never been an offensive coordinator. He was assistant head coach under Lincoln Riley the last three years at Oklahoma and is considered an outstanding recruiter. He’ll need to be to turn the Gamecocks around.
Tennessee: How much talent do the Vols have left? Over 20 players transferred out of Knoxville after Jeremy Pruitt was given the axe and UCF coach Josh Heupel took over the Vols. Tennessee’s new athletics director, Danny White, also from UCF, is a plus, but it will take time to refill the roster.
Texas A&M: Can the Aggies beat Alabama? Jimbo Fisher made his, “We’re going to beat his a--,” comment over the summer about his good friend Nick Saban. Jimbo must have been talking about golf, Saban said. If Fisher finds a suitable replacement for quarterback Kellen Mond, the Aggies have a shot.
Vanderbilt: Is Clark Lea really something different? The former Commodore returned to Nashville after three seasons as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator. He has made some innovative moves, but he takes over a team that was 3-18 over the last two seasons.