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2019 OAYP SEC Preview

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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OAYP makes its final projections on the SEC predicted order of finish, position group rankings, and all-conference teams.

College football is here, folks. Florida and Miami will get us started this weekend, and then the season begins en masse the week after. So, having just about fully exhausted OAYP as an offseason resource, including the Top 100 Player Rankings, here’s everything else I could think to do with the formula before toe meets leather.

Here you’ll find the metric’s full 2019 offensive, defensive, and overall projections, starting lineup scores, conference record predictions, position group rankings, and all-conference teams:

2019 Projections

Predicted Order of Finish

EAST

1. Georgia (8-0)
2. Missouri (7-1)
3. Florida (5-3)
4. South Carolina (3-5)
5. Kentucky (3-5)
6. Vanderbilt (1-7)
7. Tennessee (0-8)

WEST

1. Alabama (8-0)
2. Mississippi State (7-1)
3. LSU (6-2)
4. Texas A&M (4-4)
5. Auburn (2-6)
6. Ole Miss (2-6)
7. Arkansas (0-8)

Conference Champion

Alabama over Georgia (favored by 10.68 on a neutral site, per OAYP)

Inside the Depth Chart

Below you’ll find the team’s projected starting lineup, plus some key contributors, with each qualifying returnee’s marginal OAYP score and SEC position ranking. The players with OAYP scores and rankings listed are full qualifiers. Players with OAYP scores but not rankings listed were second tier qualifiers, but did not meet the full qualifying threshold. Players with neither listed did not meet any qualifying threshold.

However, whereas the prior marginal OAYP rankings reflected each player’s number only relative to the SEC, these scores are relative to Southern Pigskin’s entire coverage area -- so the ACC and Sun Belt, as well. This should more accurately reflect a given player’s efficiency and value since the sample size now includes over 600 players, so especially strong or weak groups in any particular league won’t skew the rankings anymore.

Alabama

2019 Offense Projection (Rank): 2.08 (1)

QB Rank: 1

RB Rank: 14

WR/TE Rank: 1

OL Rank: 2

Featured Player -- QB Tua Tagovailoa:

Sorry Trevor Lawrence, but until proven otherwise over the course of a full season, Tua Tagovailoa is the best returning quarterback in the country, fresh off of one of the most impressive individual campaigns ever, regardless of how it ended. Since the turn of the century, 20 other quarterbacks had as many passing yards and touchdowns as Tagovailoa, but none did it in as few attempts, and only two with as many or fewer interceptions. He posted the highest passer rating of all time, and even though he had a relatively hard time against Georgia and Clemson down the stretch, those were two of the five best pass defenses in the sport, at worst.

2019 Defense Projection (Rank): 1.1 (2)

EDGE Rank: 5

DL Rank: 3

LB Rank: 4

CB Rank: 3

S Rank: 3

Featured Player -- S Xavier McKinney:

It wasn’t necessarily a surprise to see Xavier McKinney ranked where he is, but I was taken aback by just far ahead of the next tier that he ended up. Alabama was very inexperienced in the secondary last season after losing its top six tacklers from the 2017 defensive backfield. Opposite McKinney, Deionte Thompson dominated out of the gates and continued to do so for the rest of the regular season. McKinney had a slower start, relatively speaking, but seemed to get better every week. Then, as Thompson floundered in the College Football Playoff and gave up some uncharacteristic big plays, McKinney was arguably the Tide’s second most consistent defender in the postseason, behind Quinnen Williams. Like Grant Delpit, McKinney is supremely versatile, and was especially strong in coverage last year, allowing a mere 46.5 passer rating on throws into his coverage with no touchdowns and two interceptions, which is the best among returning SEC safeties, just ahead of the aforementioned LSU standout.

Projected Conference Record: 8-0

Best Case Scenario: 8-0

Worst Case Scenario: 7-1

With every conference game projected to at least be a two-score win, and most by a lot more than that, it should be smooth sailing back to the SEC Championship. Assuming Georgia is waiting there for them, that will pose their greatest challenge of the season to that point, but even that line sits at about 10.5, per the formula. Anything less than a playoff spot would be genuinely stunning for the Tide.

Arkansas

2019 Offense Projection (Rank): -0.74 (14)

QB Rank: 9

RB Rank: 7

WR/TE Rank: 12

OL Rank: 13

Featured Player -- TE Cheyenne O’Grady:

He didn’t play in either of Arkansas’ first two games in 2018, and didn’t register a reception until their fifth game of the season against Texas A&M. Once he got going, though, he really got going. Pinkney is the only returning SEC tight end with more touchdowns last year than O’Grady’s six, and that was with three more appearances and 20 more receptions. Moreover, four of those six scores came against Alabama and LSU, with two apiece against those two dominant defenses.

2019 Defense Projection (Rank):-0.34 (13)

EDGE Rank: 14

DL Rank: 5

LB Rank: 8

CB Rank: 12

S Rank: 12

Featured Player -- LB De’Jon Harris:

Harris has been a personal favorite player of mine for a couple of years now. In just three seasons, and 33 games, he’s amassed 270 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks. One of just ten SEC players to hit all of those marks since the turn of the century, his 33 games to do it are the fewest of the group -- a group that features names like C.J. Mosley, Rolando McClain, Brandon Spikes, and Devin White.

Projected Conference Record: 0-8

Best Case Scenario: 3-5

Worst Case Scenario: 0-8

It was tough sledding for Chad Morris and company in year one, and OAYP doesn’t see things getting better in the immediate future. The influx of freshman talent in the receiving corps should help spice things up, but I, nor OAYP, likes Ben Hicks nearly as much as Nick Starkel, even though it seems like Hicks is a lock for the job. When Morris’ offense is operating properly, it’s like a basketball team that lives and dies by three pointers. When they’re hot and the explosive plays are coming off, they can beat any team on any given Saturday. When they aren’t though, they can just as easily lose to a team that they should otherwise outclass.

Auburn

2019 Offense Projection (Rank): 0.04 (11)

QB Rank: 11

RB Rank: 11

WR/TE Rank: 9

OL Rank: 5

Featured Player -- OT Prince Tega-Wanogho:

There wasn’t a lot to like about Auburn’s offense in 2018, and the offensive line was a big reason why. One bright spot, though, was Prince Tega-Wanogho, who allowed just two combined sacks and hits in pass protection. With Tega-Wanogho leading the way, and all five starters coming back, Bo Nix ought to be in a far more fortuitous situation than Jarrett Stidham was.

2019 Defense Projection (Rank): 0.74 (4)

EDGE Rank: 2

DL Rank: 1

LB Rank: 14

CB Rank: 6

S Rank: 4

Featured Player -- DL Derrick Brown:

In some ways it was surprising to see Derrick Brown come back for his senior year. I actually think it was a good decision, though. This was among the most talented defensive line classes ever, and while he could have been a first rounder, it was not a sure thing. Barring an unfathomable regression, he’ll go in the top half of the first round in 2020. An ideal blend of power and explosiveness, he combines a good first step with a devastating bull rush that only a few SEC offensive linemen have been able to handle over the past couple of seasons. With Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson back alongside, his encore performance could be his best.

Projected Conference Record: 2-6

Best Case Scenario: 7-1

Worst Case Scenario: 1-7

This is one of the record predictions that I disagree with the most. No matter how much everyone wants to spread it out and get guys in space, football is still a game won in the trenches. Returning five offensive line starters and arguably the best defensive line in the country sounds like a recipe for success to me. The secondary should also be really solid, and the offensive skill positions are dripping with talent. Outside of some questions in the linebacking corps and the obvious unknown behind center, there aren’t many weaknesses to pinpoint.

Florida

2019 Offense Projection (Rank): 0.3 (5)

QB Rank: 3 5 8 6

RB Rank: 5

WR/TE Rank: 8

OL Rank: 6

Featured Player -- QB Feleipe Franks:

Franks' quarterback rating of 143.34, for point of reference, split right between Vanderbilt's Kyle Shurmur and Jake Browning of Washington on the national charts. That figure is the highest full-season mark at Florida since Tim Tebow, as were the 2,457 yards Franks threw for and the 24 touchdown passes he tossed. Since the end of College Football Hall of Famer Danny Wuerffel's era, Tebow is the only quarterback for the Gators with a better one-year touchdown-to-interception ratio than the recent 24-to-9 rate put up by Franks. Add in Franks' rushing production and his redshirt sophomore year puts him in some rare statistical company. Here is a complete list, with heavy Mullen influence, of SEC quarterbacks with at least 24 passing touchdowns and seven rushing scores in a single season the last 20 years: Kellen Mond, Joshua Dobbs, Chad Kelly, Dak Prescott (2x), Blake Sims, Johnny Manziel (2x), Aaron Murray, Cam Newton, Tebow (2x) and Franks. Always open, the "24-7 Club" is an exclusive group. Notably, the only players to do it as underclassmen are Mond, Manziel, Tebow and Franks.

2019 Defense Projection (Rank): 0.45 (6)

EDGE Rank: 1 10 11 4 6

DL Rank: 10

LB Rank: 11

CB Rank: 4

S Rank: 6

Featured Player -- CB CJ Henderson:

He was expected to be the Gators’ CB2 in 2018, opposite Marco Wilson, but an ACL injury to the latter thrust Henderson into the spotlight, basically from the get-go. Henderson thrived in the face of adversity allowing a 50% catch rate without surrendering a single touchdown. The modern prototype, Henderson now headlines what could be the best secondary in the game in 2019.

Projected Conference Record: 5-3

Best Case Scenario: 8-0

Worst Case Scenario: 2-6

Florida should finish second in the East, on paper, but the scheduling gods smiled much more favorably down upon Missouri. With crossovers against LSU and Auburn, two tough challengers from the West await, but even if Florida won both of those, it may not matter unless they can get off the snide against the aforementioned Mizzou Tigers.

Georgia

2019 Offense Projection (Rank): 1.4 (2)

QB Rank: 2

RB Rank: 1

WR/TE Rank: 3

OL Rank: 1

Featured Player -- RB D’Andre Swift:

There were a couple of weeks last season where I thought that, given the strides Elijah Holyfield made in the offseason, that he had supplanted Swift as the ‘Dawgs’ best running back. “Sure, Swift was playing hurt, but how much was that really holding him back?” I asked myself, stupidly. A lot. A lot is the answer. It was holding him back a lot. Over the first half of the season, which included games against Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee, and two of the SEC’s three worst rushing defenses -- South Carolina and Vanderbilt -- he averaged 5.1 yards per carry with a 5.63% touchdown rate. Over the next seven games, among which were two top 20 S&P+ run defenses -- Alabama and Auburn -- not to mention Florida, Kentucky, and Texas, he averaged 7.5 yards per carry with 6.52% touchdown rate. Somehow, the visual disparity was even more striking than the statistical one. He committed a handful of truly unspeakable atrocities against would-be tacklers in that three game stretch of Florida, Kentucky, and Auburn. For a point of reference, his marginal OAYP over that first stretch was 0.34. Over the second half of the season it was 1.48, which is the real D’Andre Swift.

2019 Defense Projection (Rank): 0.61 (5)

EDGE Rank: 13

DL Rank: 9

LB Rank: 6

CB Rank: 5

S Rank: 2

Featured Player -- S JR Reed:

In some ways, particularly from a defensive back standpoint, the OAYP formula is as much a playmaker index as anything else. Reed doesn’t necessarily fill out a box score like Xavier McKinney or Grant Delpit, but his impact is unmistakable, and certainly felt. According to Pro Football Focus, Reed graded out as the SEC’s best safety in coverage last year, and, thanks to that late season dropoff from Deionte Thompson, actually ended up as the top graded safety overall. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time and never gives up big plays, which helped allow Georgia to play as bend-don’t-break as they did, whilst still ranking second in yards per pass attempt allowed to teams that ended up with a winning record.

Projected Conference Record: 8-0

Best Case Scenario: 8-0

Worst Case Scenario: 6-2

Kirby Smart has yet to do it yet, but this should be the year that Georgia finally goes unbeaten in conference play under him. Again, though, the scariest matchup will be on the road against Auburn. The only two regular season games that UGA has lost in the past two years have been the only two they’ve played in hostile road environments. That said, even if all goes according to plan, Alabama will be waiting for them in Atlanta. Each of their last two contests were closer than OAYP would project this one to be, but each of those were losses, regardless. A 12-1 team with the lone loss to Alabama might still get in the CFP, which is nice, but it would feel a whole lot nicer in Athens to get that elephant off their back.

Kentucky

2019 Offense Projection (Rank): -0.22 (12)

QB Rank: 8

RB Rank: 6

WR/TE Rank: 14

OL Rank: 9

Featured Player -- WR Lynn Bowden:

Despite being selected to the All-SEC team in 2018, OAYP does not look kindly on the ‘Cats top playmaker. In fairness, Bowden was picked as an all-purpose/returner, but, nevertheless, his production does not match his perception. An elite punt returner to be sure, his numbers from scrimmage, both as a rusher and receiver, are pretty pedestrian. He did have some monster performances, but no-shows like he had against Mississippi State and South Carolina leave me wanting more.

2019 Defense Projection (Rank): 0.27 (7)

EDGE Rank: 12

DL Rank: 12

LB Rank: 7

CB Rank: 9

S Rank: 8

Featured Player -- LB Kash Daniel:

The defensive front is loaded with experience. Between tackles Quinton Bohanna and Calvin Taylor and end T.J. Carter, the Wildcats have 38 career starts. Aside from the effect now-departed edge rusher Josh Allen had against the pass, Kentucky dropping its yards allowed per carry from 4.9 in 2017 to 4.3 in 2018 may have been the biggest factor in the jump from 7-6 to 10-3. None of the returnees, however, scored as highly, per OAYP, as Daniel did. Maintaining that production against the run is a must this season with all of the new faces along the second and third levels of the defense.

Projected Conference Record: 3-5

Best Case Scenario: 6-2

Worst Case Scenario: 1-7

OAYP and I agree that Kentucky will not be able to recapture the magic of the 2018 campaign. Nonetheless, the formula is still higher on the Wildcats than I am. The point of the player grades is to ideally be able to account for losing great players, but perhaps even math can’t fully encapsulate how impactful those transcendent talents were in Benny Snell and Josh Allen. The metric sees Mark Stoops’ team taking care of business against the perceived conference bottom feeders, but lacking the juice to hang with anyone outside of that lowest tier.

LSU

2019 Offense Projection (Rank): 0.17 (8)

QB Rank: 5

RB Rank: 10

WR/TE Rank: 11

OL Rank: 7

Featured Player -- RB John Emery:

That’s right, a guy that doesn’t even have a score since he’s yet to step foot in a college game. Clyde Edwards-Helaire will probably nominally be LSU’s RB1, but I’m not sure it really matters. Both John Emery and Tyrion Davis, two of the top ten running backs in the class of 2019, will get the ball early and often, not to mention Lanard Fournette who offers some all-purpose utility. Emery, though ranked behind the Crimson Tide’s Trey Sanders in the 24/7 composite rankings, is the best freshman ball carrier in the country, for my money. If not in the immediacy, his special athletic traits -- he ran a 4.42 at The Opening with a 38-inch vert -- gives him higher long term upside, and he’ll be an upper echelon home run hitter from jump street, if nothing else.

2019 Defense Projection (Rank): 0.88 (3)

EDGE Rank: 11

DL Rank: 4

LB Rank: 2

CB Rank: 1

S Rank: 1

Featured Player -- S Grant Delpit:

Grant Delpit is not of this world. He can play center field like Andruw Jones, strap up receivers like any number of NFL cornerbacks that LSU has put in the league over the years, come up in the box like a heat seeking missile, and even rush the passer when Dave Aranda’s feeling particularly cruel. He may also be able to fly, breathe underwater, and shoot laser beams out of his eyeballs. His power is limitless. Delpit led the SEC in interceptions last year, and finished second in total passes defended. Those nine breakups were the sixth most among FBS safeties in 2018, he had even more quarterback pressures than batted balls -- 13 to be exact, which was fifth. Factor in his 9.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks, both of which led all SEC defensive backs, and there’s no debate as to who the best safety in the entire country is.

Projected Conference Record: 6-2

Best Case Scenario: 7-1

Worst Case Scenario: 3-5

OAYP has a somewhat surprising infatuation with Mississippi State, which it projects as LSU’s only loss outside of Alabama. Other than that, though, this feels about right. Elite defense, maybe the most talented in the SEC, a solid running game, talented pass catchers, and spotty quarterback play. Folks in Baton Rouge may disagree with that last point, but until proven otherwise, this is more or less the same Tiger team we’ve seen for forever, with the exception of a splash of Zach Mettenberger.

Mississippi State

2019 Offense Projection (Rank): 0.26 (6)

QB Rank: 11

RB Rank: 3

WR/TE Rank: 6

OL Rank: 4

Featured Player -- RB Kylin Hill:

Hill was pretty boom or bust last year. A more high risk-high reward proposition than a lot of SEC ball carriers, Hill does have the talent to be among the best running backs in the SEC, but I need to see him do it on a week to week basis.

2019 Defense Projection (Rank): 1.12 (1)

EDGE Rank: 3

DL Rank: 11

LB Rank: 1

CB Rank: 2

S Rank: 5

Featured Player -- LB Errol Thompson:

Other than White, Thompson was probably the best coverage linebacker in the league last year. Among SEC players at the position, with at least 200 snaps in coverage, Thompson’s 56.2 allowed passer rating on throws into his coverage ranked first, and his two interceptions tied for first among the group. He also sits in the top five among returning SEC linebackers in tackles and the top ten in tackles for loss, even including edge defenders. For some historical context, according to CFB Reference, just five linebackers since 2000 had as many tackles, TFL’s, sacks, and picks in a single season as Thompson -- a shortlist that includes the likes of Deion Jones and Rolando McClain. Everyone talked about Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons last year, and with good reason, but Mississippi State didn’t have one of the best defenses in the nation last year because of just two guys. The linebacking corps, one of whom we’ll talk about shortly, led by Thompson, was nasty in its own right.

Projected Conference Record: 7-1

Best Case Scenario: 7-1

Worst Case Scenario: 4-4

Man, OAYP loves it some Mississippi State. Truthfully, I’m not as high on this team as the formula is, but I see where it’s coming from. Even without Montez Sweat or Jeffery Simmons, the defense should continue to be elite. Not only do they have arguably the best linebacking corps in the conference and an elite cornerback tandem, but the D-Line replacements project really well, themselves. With adequate quarterback play, the passing game could take a leap as both Stephen Guidry and Osirus Mitchell scored highly on secondary qualifying sample sizes, and the run game is in good hands with Hill. 7-1 in the conference feels a little hot, but with LSU going to Starkville, it’s not unfathomable.

Missouri

2019 Offense Projection (Rank): 0.43 (3)

QB Rank: 10

RB Rank: 8

WR/TE Rank: 2

OL Rank: 3

Featured Player -- TE Albert Okwuegbunam:

Albert Okwuegbunam is special. He has the ideal frame for a modern tight end with well above average straight line speed. However, there are a lot of big, athletic guys in the SEC. What separates him from the pack is his ability as a natural pass catcher. He’s a large target with an even greater catch radius, making Drew Lock look good the past couple of years thanks to an innate knack for reeling in those off target throws. Whether he lines up in the slot, in-line like a more traditional TE, or even outside, his leaping ability makes him a special sort of nightmare to defend in the red zone. His season was cut short by injury in 2018, but he nonetheless managed to earn finalist honors for the Mackey Award. There’s not a better returning tight end in college football.

2019 Defense Projection (Rank): 0.16 (8)

EDGE Rank: 8

DL Rank: 8

LB Rank: 5

CB Rank: 8

S Rank: 13

Featured Player -- LB Cale Garrett:

One of the most sure tacklers in the SEC, there aren’t really any holes to point to when talking about Cale Garrett. He doesn’t flash some of the other elite linebackers in the SEC, nor does he possess many elite traits beyond the tackling, but he’s one of the most well-rounded defenders in the conference, regardless of position.

Projected Conference Record: 7-1

Best Case Scenario: 7-1

Worst Case Scenario: 4-4

This schedule shapes up awfully nice for Mizzou to make some noise this year. The formula doesn’t think they’re better than Florida on a neutral site, but that game is in Columbia, and the Tigers have owned the Gators of late, anyways. Beyond that, the first four conference games are all projected to be decided by about one score or less, but it sees Mizzou taking them all, regardless. That’s easier said than done, but if they take care of business, it’s not impossible for them to win the East. If they beat Georgia -- and that’s a colossal if -- even a loss to Florida would be overcomable given UF’s cross-division slate.

Ole Miss

2019 Offense Projection (Rank): 0.08 (10)

QB Rank: 11

RB Rank: 4

WR/TE Rank: 5

OL Rank: 10

Featured Player -- RB Scottie Phillips:

Ke’Shawn Vaughn and D’Andre Swift are the only returning SEC backs that had as many 10+ yard plays from scrimmage as Phillips did last year, but he wasn’t just a home run hitter. One of the steadiest ball carriers in the country, the JUCO product could be poised for an even bigger year under Rich Rodriguez, who has consistently had some of the most efficient running backs in their respective leagues over the course of his career.

2019 Defense Projection (Rank): -0.1 (12)

EDGE Rank: 7

DL Rank: 7

LB Rank: 10

CB Rank: 13

S Rank: 9

Featured Player -- DL Josiah Coatney:

Josiah Coatney and Benito Jones are both seniors who arrived to a program seemingly on the cusp of greatness after winning the Sugar Bowl, but instead have yet to play in a bowl game in their three years in Oxford. They’ve held the rope through a tumultuous three years, but now hope to close their careers with an elusive bowl appearance. Getting there will require improving a last-in-the-SEC run defense from 2018, but Coatney and Jones will do their part.

Projected Conference Record: 2-6

Best Case Scenario: 5-3

Worst Case Scenario: 1-7

OAYP doesn’t project Ole Miss winning many games, but it does think they’re scary. With home stands against Texas A&M and LSU, don’t be surprised if the Rebels put either of those teams on upset alert. It will be interesting to see what kind of learning curve there is under the two new coordinators, but if they pick everything up quickly, there’s enough talent on the roster to threaten almost anyone in the SEC.

South Carolina

2019 Offense Projection (Rank): 0.22 (7)

QB Rank: 4

RB Rank: 13

WR/TE Rank: 4

OL Rank: 8

Featured Player -- WR Bryan Edwards:

Bryan Edwards is not the athlete that Deebo Samuel is, but as the latter provided enough excitement for the both of them, Edwards was a bastion of consistency and even proved to be a viable WR1 when Samuel was injured in 2017. He has 12 receiving scores and over 1,600 yards the last two years, and proved more able to stretch defenses downfield a season ago. Big, long, and strong, Edwards is a jump ball warrior and should have his best season yet in 2019, especially if Jake Bentley is a little steadier behind center.

2019 Defense Projection (Rank): 0.02 (9)

EDGE Rank: 4

DL Rank: 6

LB Rank: 3

CB Rank: 10

S Rank: 10

Featured Player -- EDGE DJ Wonnum:

Assuming he’s healthy, few edge defenders in the conference can wreak havoc like Wonnum. However, he needs to be more consistent. He had just two sacks in five games against teams that ranked in the top half of the country in adjusted sack rate that season, and five of his thirteen tackles for loss came against NC State and Tennessee, who ranked 110th and 125th in stuff rate, respectively. In fairness, he did have sacks against both Missouri and NC State, top six teams in sack rate, plus tackles for loss against Georgia, Florida, and Kentucky, all top four teams in stuff rate, so it’s not like he’s just showing up and stockpiling numbers against the hapless. The next step is simply being more impactful on a week to week basis.

Projected Conference Record: 3-5

Best Case Scenario: 6-2

Worst Case Scenario: 1-7

South Carolina is a better team than their record will show in 2019. Aside from their regular games against Georgia, Florida, Missouri, and Texas A&M in the crossover, they also drew Alabama, not to mention the annual non-conference matchup with Clemson. This is the most difficult schedule in the country. Mizzou, Florida, and A&M are all winnable games, but even two of those are on the road. It’s unfortunate, but, every now and then, this is what life in the SEC looks like.

Tennessee

2019 Offense Projection (Rank): -0.45 (13)

QB Rank: 7

RB Rank: 9

WR/TE Rank: 7

OL Rank: 14

Featured Player -- RB Ty Chandler:

Tim Jordan ended up third to last among the 27 qualified returning SEC running backs. Chandler was in the top ten. New Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney obviously favored a committee at Georgia, but that’s what the personnel called for. Based on the information at hand, the Vols’ personnel should result in a much higher carry share for Chandler.

2019 Defense Projection (Rank): -0.1 (11)

EDGE Rank: 6

DL Rank: 14

LB Rank: 9

CB Rank: 7

S Rank: 7

Featured Player -- EDGE Darrell Taylor:

Taylor was one of the lone bright spots on Tennessee’s defense last year. He posted more sacks than any other SEC returnee a season ago and should be poised for a major encore performance as his surrounding talent continues to improve under Jeremy Pruitt.

Projected Conference Record: 0-8

Best Case Scenario: 4-4

Worst Case Scenario: 0-8

It won’t really be this bad. The individual player scores are indicative of a team in a much better place than it was a year ago. Now, I’m not saying this is a contender, by any means, and I do think a lot of the expectations around the Vols going into 2019 are unreasonable, but OAYP does take last season into account a fair degree, which is what’s killing Tennessee’s numbers. 2-3 conference wins feels more reasonable to me, but I can almost guarantee they won’t actually go winless in the SEC.

Texas A&M

2019 Offense Projection (Rank): 0.31 (4)

QB Rank: 6

RB Rank: 12

WR/TE Rank: 13

OL Rank: 11

Featured Player -- QB Kellen Mond:

I love Kellen Mond. I was stunned when he earned the starting job over Nick Starkel, but clearly Jimbo Fisher knew a little better than I did. Not only did Mond display marked improvement, pretty much across the board, but he was also one of the most exciting improvisers in the country from the quarterback position. On throws from outside the pocket, Mond’s 4:0 touchdown to interception ratio was tied for the best in the FBS. I do anticipate further progression from Mond in 2019, but the schedule is a nightmare. I’m not sure the numbers do him justice, but the formula is what the formula is. Whatever, I still like him.

2019 Defense Projection (Rank): -0.04 (10)

EDGE Rank: 9

DL Rank: 2

LB Rank: 12

CB Rank: 14

S Rank: 14

Featured Player -- DL Justin Madubuike:

Whereas, for example, Pro Football Focus’ grades measure consistency, OAYP values the sort of snaps that show up on highlight reels. Madubuike’s three forced fumbles in 2018 are tied with Agim for the most among returning SEC players. He’s also tied for first with Brown and Lawrence among returning interior defenders in tackles for loss alone atop that list in sacks. It will be interesting to see if he can be as statistically impactful in 2019 after Texas A&M’s losses of Otaro Alaka, Tyrel Dodson, Kingsley Keke, Landis Durham, and Daylon Mack in the front seven. With those losses in mind, while I;m not saying he’s the best, he is absolutely the most valuable defensive lineman in the league.

Projected Conference Record: 4-4

Best Case Scenario: 6-2

Worst Case Scenario: 2-6

Not dissimilar from South Carolina, the scheduling gods just don’t want Texas A&M to have a successful season. This too will be a team that’s way better than its record. I like the returning offensive talent a lot more than OAYP does, too. The front seven, outside of Madubuike, is concerning, but Mike Elko did a killer job last year, which should give A&M fans optimism. As weird as it is to say about a team that’s probably one of the 25 best in college football, 4-4, maybe 5-3 in the SEC feels about right, with a probable non-con loss at Clemson. In any case, that’ll be the best 7-5 team in the nation, in College Station.

Vanderbilt

2019 Offense Projection (Rank): 0.1 (9)

QB Rank: 14

RB Rank: 2

WR/TE Rank: 10

OL Rank: 12

Featured Player -- RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn:

Whether you realize it or not, Ke’Shawn Vaughn absolutely is a superstar. Of players with at least 100 carries in a single season, his 7.92 yards per attempt ranks fourth in the conference all-time, behind just first round NFL Draft picks Felix Jones and Brent Fullwood and College Football Hall of Famer Hank Lauricella. Since the start of the new millennium, the only Power Five running backs with 1,200 rushing yards. 7.9 yards per carry and multiple touchdown receptions in a single season are: Reggie Bush, Travis Etienne and Vaughn. This Nashville native has quietly been historically good for the ‘Dores.

2019 Defense Projection (Rank): -0.43 (14)

EDGE Rank: 10

DL Rank: 13

LB Rank: 13

CB Rank: 11

S Rank: 11

Featured Player --

Honestly, no one. I could put someone here, patronizingly, but Vandy is the only team in the league without a positively graded defender, per OAYP. The defensive line has some guys that could get there in Drew Birchmeier and Dayo Odeyingbo. Linebacker Dmitri Moore could, too. The best bet, though, is cornerback Allan George, who has big shoes to fill replacing Joejuan Williams as their CB1. Still, until someone steps up and actually does it, I’m not going to name someone just to name someone.

Projected Conference Record: 1-7

Best Case Scenario: 3-5

Worst Case Scenario: 0-8

It might not happen until late, but this Vanderbilt team is going to win some conference games. There are a few midseason opportunities at Ole Miss and South Carolina, or maybe even at home against Missouri. The best bets, however, are Kentucky or at Tennessee in the conference finale. This offense could be super fun with the big three of Vaughn, Jared Pinkney, and Kalijah Lipscomb, especially if the quarterback play is adequate, but this defense just has no proven commodities. They also have no time to grow, with Georgia in the season opener.

Position Group Rankings

- Alabama last in the RB rankings is weird, stupid, and also wrong.

- Georgia’s pass catching concerns have been way overblown, but even if they weren’t, with the RB group and O-Line, there’s no need to ever throw the ball anyways.

- Florida’s interior defense, from the DL to LB’s will be their downfall if they have one.

- If K’Lavon Chaisson finally lives up to the hype and helps out their edge rushing numbers, LSU’s defense could be the best in the country.

- Should the QB and DL play overachieve, maybe OAYP isn’t overrating Mississippi State after all.

- OAYP hates Texas A&M as much as it loves Mississippi State and I just don’t get it. The pass catchers in particular are way better than OAYP is giving them credit for.

- Ke’Shawn Vaughn should get 1,000 carries per game.

All-Conference Teams

As determined purely by OAYP, with no personal opinion, and only players meeting the full qualifying threshold were eligible.

QB

1- Tua Tagovailoa, Florida 3.72

2- Jake Fromm, Georgia 1.52

3- Feleipe Franks, Florida 0.42

RB

1- Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt 1.85
1- D'Andre Swift, Georgia 0.82

2- Scottie Phillips, Ole Miss 0.71
2- Lamical Perine, Florida 0.6

3- Kylin Hill, Mississippi State 0.59
3- Najee Harris, Alabama 0.2

WR

1- Jerry Jeudy, Alabama 2.02
1- Jaylen Waddle, Alabama 1.63
1- Henry Ruggs, Alabama 1.36

2- Devonta Smith, Alabama 0.96
2- Demetris Robertson, Georgia 0.64
2- Bryan Edwards, South Carolina 0.58

3- Van Jefferson, Florida 0.55
3- Justin Jefferson, LSU 0.42
3- Marquez Callaway, Tennessee 0.36

TE

1- Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri 2.02

2- Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt 0.96

3- Cheyenne O'Grady, Arkansas 0.68

OT

1- Andrew Thomas, Georgia 3.18
1- Alex Leatherwood, Alabama 1.13

2- Prince Tega-Wanogho, Auburn 1.09
2- Jedrick Wills, Alabama 0.96

3- Isaiah Wilson, Georgia 0.68
3- Yasir Durant, Missouri 0.67

OG

1- Solomon Kindley, Georgia 1.47
1- Tre'Vour Wallace-Simms, Missouri 1.46

2- Darryl Williams, Mississippi State 0.53
2- Damien Lewis, LSU 0.35

3- Logan Stenberg, Kentucky 0.15
3- Marquel Harrell, Auburn 0.15

C

1- Donell Stanley, South Carolina 0.28

2- Trystan Colon-Castillo, Missouri 0.18

3- Nick Buchanan, Florida 0.07

EDGE

1- Jon Greenard, Florida 1.4
1- DJ Wonnum, South Carolina 1.16

2- Nick Coe, Auburn 1.01
2- Anfernee Jennings, Alabama 0.94

3- Jabari Zuniga, Florida 0.76
3- Darrell Taylor, Tennessee 0.65

DL

1- Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M 2.09
1- Derrick Brown, Auburn 1.54

2- McTelvin Agim, Arkansas 1.52
2- Rashard Lawrence, LSU 1.37

3- Raekwon Davis, Alabama 1.31
3- Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina 0.85

LB

1- Erroll Thompson, Mississippi State 1.77
1- Dylan Moses, Alabama 1.37
1- De'Jon Harris, Arkansas 1.21

2- TJ Brunson, South Carolina 1.09
2- Cale Garrett, Missouri 1.03
2- Willie Gay, Mississippi State 1.01

3- Michael Divinity, LSU 0.78
3- Mohamed Sanogo, Ole Miss 0.64
3- Jacob Phillips, LSU 0.61

CB

1- Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State 1.6
1- Shyheim Carter, Alabama 1.44
1- CJ Henderson, Florida 1.34

2- Kristian Fulton, LSU 1.07
2- Maurice Smitherman, Mississippi State 1
2- Kary Vincent, LSU 0.9

3- Patrick Surtain, Alabama 0.9
3- Noah Igbinogehne, Auburn 0.73
3- Bryce Thompson, Tennessee 0.67

S

1- Grant Delpit, LSU 2.98
1- Xavier McKinney, Alabama 1.99

2- JR Reed, Georgia 1.54
2- Richard LeCounte, Georgia 1.03 & JaCoby Stevens, LSU 1.03 (tie)

3- Daniel Thomas, Auburn 0.79
3- Jeremiah Dinson, Auburn 0.73

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP