The whole “Alabama doesn’t rebuild; it reloads” thing is going to be put to the test in 2018. Specifically, its going to be put to the test with the Tide’s defense, which returns just … well, hold on a minute and we’ll tell you.
We took a look at the number of returning full-time starters for each SEC team for the 2018 season. We define a “full-time starter” as someone who started at least seven games in 2017 (i.e., at least half the games). That means we did not include guys who began the seasons as starters but got hurt in the first half of the season and didn’t play again. We also did not count players who started five or six games in 2017 and are seen as for-sure starters in 2017. Again, we counted only guys who started at least seven games as returning full-time starters.
Here’s a look at each SEC team, listed from fewest returning starters to most. And, yes, that is Alabama leading off.
Breakdown: 9 starters return – 7 on offense, 2 on defense
The skinny: That “Alabama doesn’t rebuild; it reloads” thing will be put to the test on defense. The offense – even if (when?) there is a quarterback change – has a big number of returning starters and is going to be talented, but there is an air of mystery about the defense. The secondary, especially, is a concern: The top six defensive backs are gone.
Breakdown: 10 starters return – 5 on offense, 5 on defense
The skinny: While the Tigers do have five starters returning on offense, they will be looking for a new quarterback, a new feature back and a new go-to receiver. Defensively, both starting safeties are back.
Breakdown: 11 starters return – 4 on offense, 7 on defense
The skinny: The offense will undergo an overhaul for new coach Jeremy Pruitt. There are some interesting parts on defense, including three defensive ends who started at least seven games each and two returning starters at safety.
Breakdown: 11 starters return – 7 on offense, 4 on defense
The skinny: All five starting offensive linemen are back, which – presumably – means QB Kyle Shurmur will be well-protected. Vandy needs a new feature back, but maybe the line will be a better run-blocking unit in 2018 than it was in 2017.
Breakdown: 12 starters return – 6 on offense, 6 on defense
The skinny: The Tigers return three starting wide receivers for QB Jarrett Stidham, and there also are three starting defensive linemen returning. But one area was hit especially hard: Auburn lost four starting offensive linemen.
Breakdown: 12 starters return – 8 on offense, 4 on defense
The skinny: Ole Miss has been offense-heavy the past two seasons, and that looks as if it will continue. Four starting linemen return, as well as three starting wide receivers. And maybe starting over will be good for the defense.
Breakdown: 12 starters return – 7 on offense, 5 on defense
The skinny: The Gamecocks return three starting wide receivers – and that doesn’t include Deebo Samuel, the team’s best receiver who missed all but three games with injuries and is back for his senior season. QB Jake Bentley certainly will have some weapons on the outside.
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