Georgia’s national championship win over TCU is less than a week old, but the news and the offseason never stop in college football — and that’s especially true in the SEC. The Bulldogs are heavily favored to win the SEC next season, which means 13 other teams have already begun aspiring to coach Kirby Smart’s program and toppling the two-time champion. With spring training still over a month away and plenty of squad movement in the hands of transfers and newcomers with the second National Signing Day still to come, it’s never too early to start thinking about 2023.
What key questions are worth watching as the SEC officially enters the offseason? These 10 questions (and more) will shape some of the off-season discussions surrounding the league’s 14 teams:
SEC Football: 10 offseason questions that will shape the conference for 2023
1. The impending personnel decisions
With the NFL draft date approaching (January 16), the closing of the first transfer portal window (and subsequent movement after that), and the coordinator and assistant coach moves, college football’s offseason is far from over. What Big Decisions Could Affect the SEC? Alabama is looking for a new defensive coordinator, Pete Golding is moving to Ole Miss and offensive play caller Bill O’Brien could return to the NFL. More moves about the SEC are likely to come.
2. Quarterback prospects for top teams
Take a quick look at the Athlon Sports Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2023 and you’ll see four SEC teams in the top 10 – Georgia, Alabama, LSU and Tennessee. To some degree, each of these teams has quarterback insecurities to navigate this offseason. Will Joe Milton continue to advance on Rocky Top? The ‘Dawgs will have a three-man contest to replace Stetson Bennett, while Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson are scheduled to fight Bryce Young. Jayden Daniels has to hold off Garrett Nussmeier for Tigers starting job
See also: The Early College Football Top 25 for 2023
3. Jimbo Fisher turns to Bobby Petrino to speed up the offensive
After a disappointing 5-7 season and a lackluster performance on Fisher’s side of the ball, it was time for changes at College Station. Texas A&M’s offense moved at a slow pace (63 games per game), lacked explosive plays (only seven yards from 40 yards) and was largely unproductive (22.8 points per game). After a lengthy search, Fisher landed with former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino for play-calling duties. Petrino’s style isn’t a drastic departure from Fisher’s philosophy, and despite the baggage, prolific offenses usually follow throughout his career. Marriage is fleeting. But the odds point to an improved offense at College Station next fall. This spring will be Petrino’s first chance to form this group.
4. Zach Arnett takes over in the state of Mississippi
After successfully coordinating Mississippi State’s defense for the past three years, Arnett received a well-deserved promotion to head coach following the tragic death of Mike Leach in December. Mississippi State is the toughest job in SEC West, and Arnett will need to rest his job immediately to maintain last year’s (nine) overall wins. The first-year coach is already making his mark on the program with a change in offensive scheme and the signing of Appalachian State’s Kevin Barbay. With the return of quarterback Will Rogers, Arnett has a chance for a quick start in ’23. But in the brutal SEC West, managing a coaching change is never easy.
5. How much improvement can Kentucky make on offense?
The Wildcats ranked last in the SEC in scoring (20.4 points per game) and yards per game (5.2). But with the return of play-caller Liam Coen and the transfer additions of quarterback Devin Leary (replacing Will Levis) and running back Ray Davis, that offense could improve significantly. And don’t forget that the ‘Cats starring Tayvion Robinson, Barion Brown and Dane Key should all return. However, question marks remain over an offensive line that allowed 46 sacks in 1922.
See also: College football team by team transfer tracker
6. What’s next in South Carolina?
Shane Beamer exceeded expectations in his first two years at South Carolina, topped by an 8-5 record that included big wins over Clemson and Tennessee in 1922. The Gamecocks also received good news when quarterback Spencer Rattler and receiver Juice Wells decided to return for ’23. Can new play-caller Dowell Loggains help the South Carolina offense pick up where it left off in the Gator Bowl and propel Beamer’s team into a solid top-25 finish? With the loss of cornerback Cam Smith filling a few gaps up front and back, defense is high on the priority list.
7. Does Arkansas have the defense to challenge West in the SEC?
With the return of quarterback KJ Jefferson and running back Rocket Sanders, putting points on the scoreboard shouldn’t be a problem in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks need some turnover at receiver and down the line, but Jefferson holds his own as the league’s top QB of ’23. Barry Odom left the program in late 22 to become UNLV head coach, and new defensive player Travis Williams has plenty of work to do. Arkansas ranked low in the SEC in pass efficiency defense, allowing 6.5 yards per game and giving up 30.6 points per game. A few transfer additions will help, but the Razorbacks have also lost linebackers Bumper Pool and Drew Sanders and have question marks at all levels heading into the spring.
8. Will Florida make a move in Billy Napier’s sophomore year?
Florida is coming off straight losing seasons for the first time since 1978-79, and a quick look at the potential starting lineup shows why coach Billy Napier could need another year to get the program back on track. After a 6-7 mark in 22, the Gators need to replace quarterback Anthony Richardson, All-American guard O’Cyrus Torrence, and key defensemen Ventrell Miller (LB) and Gervon Dexter (DL), among others. Leading receiver Ricky Pearsall decided to pass the NFL on to Gainesville for another season, but starting supervisor Ethan White hit the portal. Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne’s one-two at running back is a good foundation to build on, but quarterback space remains an issue. Will Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz be the only signing? Uncertainty is above that Engagement of five-star prospect Jaden Rashada. There are also major concerns over a defense that allowed 28.8 points per game last year. Napier hasn’t inherited a Florida depth chart brimming with talent, and while the ’23 signing class could end up in the top 10, the roster is clearly still a work in progress.
See also: college football players in the transfer portal
9. Is Auburn ready for a major improvement on Hugh Freeze’s debut?
With Alabama and LSU likely to be the top 10 teams, along with Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Arkansas hovering around the top 25, and a likely improved Texas A&M roster, things won’t be easy for the new Auburn be to find victories in the SEC West coach Hugh Freeze. The squad isn’t entirely lacking in talent, however, as Jarquez Hunter should return as the new No.1, with USF’s Brian Battie sharing the load, and defense returning enough to improve with Ron Roberts as the new coordinator. For the Tigers to push for six (or more) wins, a handful of transfers down the line will need to mesh, and Robby Ashford needs to make a big step forward as quarterback. The Freeze staff and the work at the portal point this program in the right direction. This off-season is the first glimpse of a revamped roster.
10. Rounding off the rest of the SEC…
Jaxson Dart is set to improve in his sophomore year as a starting quarterback for Ole Fraulein, and running back Quinshon Judkins returns after a stellar first year. Though the Rebels appeared to show improvement on defense in their early 22s, that unit slumped late in the season (32 points per game allowed in November). How quickly can new coordinator Pete Golding make a difference with this group?
Can get Clark Lea Vanderbilt’s Defense on track after finishing 14th in the SEC in each of the last two years? If he can, a key might be within reach for the Commodores.
with Missouri Quarterback Brady Cook sidelined for the spring after shoulder surgery, can redshirt freshman Sam Horn make his case for the starting job? New coordinator Kirby Moore needs to help this attack improve after 22 averaging just 20.4 points in SEC play.