#SEC

Our early – real early – look at the 2018 preseason top 25

2018 preseason top 25 coaches
PHOTOS BY USA TODAY SPORTS

9. Oklahoma

He will be missed the most: QB Baker Mayfield
The skinny: Mayfield’s replacement seems likely to be Texas A&M transfer Kyler Murray, and there will be a drop-off. How much is the question. TE Mark Andrews will be missed, as will OT Orlando Brown, but if all the other underclassmen who could turn pro instead stay, the offense will be potent again. The defense needs improvement across the board, and a playmaker in the secondary must emerge.

10. Miami

He will be missed the most: DT R.J. McIntosh
The skinny: UM was surprisingly good this season, advancing to the ACC championship game for the first time, and expectations already are high for 2018. The defensive line must be rebuilt, but the back seven should be excellent. There are some minor concerns about the offensive line, but overall, the offense should be extremely potent.

11. West Virginia

He will be missed the most: S Kyzir White
The skinny: QB Will Grier will return, and that gives WVU a chance to win the Big 12. He will be the preseason All-Big 12 quarterback and should garner preseason All-America acclaim. Four starters will return on the offensive line and there is ample skill-position talent. The defense has a long way to go, though, especially against the run. If the defense makes the needed improvement – a big “if” – WVU easily could win the Big 12.

12. USC

He will be missed the most: QB Sam Darnold
The skinny: USC will be without Darnold, star RB Ronald Jones III and leading receiver Deontay Burnett. But there’s still talent, and the o-line could be markedly better. The defense has the talent to be better than it was this season, especially against the run.

13. Michigan

He will be missed the most: DT Maurice Hurst
The skinny: A lot depends on Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson at quarterback; that position has caused a lot of angst in Ann Arbor. A consistent, playmaking quarterback would ease most of the concerns about the offense. The defense again will be title-worthy.

14. Auburn

He will be missed the most: RB Kerryon Johnson
The skinny: The offensive line, which failed at some key moments in 2017, loses four starters. And Johnson, who was the SEC’s offensive player of the year in 2017, is gone, too. Kamryn Pettway, who led the SEC in rushing in 2016 but missed most of 2017, is leaving, as well. The defensive line should be fine even without edge rusher Jeff Holland, who is turning pro, but the secondary could be an issue with the loss of three starters.

RELATED: The SEC underclassmen tracker for the 2018 NFL draft

15. Virginia Tech

He will be missed the most: LB Tremaine Edmunds
The skinny: QB Josh Jackson had an OK season as a first-time starter; he should be much improved in 2018 under the tutelage of coach Justin Fuente. The offensive line will have to be rebuilt. Defensively, there should be no worries along the line or in the secondary, but with Edmunds going pro, there will be three new starting linebackers.

16. Stanford

He will be missed the most: RB Bryce Love*
The skinny: QB K.J. Costello has the skill level to be a productive player, and he will be playing behind an experienced line and with some good receivers. The running game will take a hit without Love, though. Stanford struggled defensively this season and must tighten up against the run; seven starters should be back on that side of the ball, but there is a lack of star power with the departure of three key underclassmen.

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