On Wednesday, we debated which SEC East team is on the rise coming out of spring football. Today, we turn our attention to the SEC West and discuss which team in that division is rising coming out of spring:
Edward Aschoff: Call me crazy, but I'm going with LSU. Yes, the Tigers have a ton of drama surrounding this program because of everything that happened and then didn't happen with Les Miles and his job last year, but this team is incredibly talented on both sides of the ball. The defense should be in good hands with new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who should really make that front seven even more aggressive. Think about it: That defensive front seven already has linemen like Lewis Neal, Davon Godchaux and Arden Key who combined for 19 sacks last year.
Some even think this team is the most talented Miles has had during his time in Baton Rouge.
The offense certainly has questions with Brandon Harris back at quarterback, but you still have Leonard Fournette, who nearly hit 2,000 yards last year, and a slew of talent at receiver. That offensive line is solid, and this team felt really good about where the passing game was during the spring because of how much more comfortable Harris was throwing the ball. I think the next step is getting Harris on the move more because of his athleticism. Even with the drama and the questions surrounding Harris, LSU got better this spring and should be a tough out in the SEC Western Division this fall.
Sam Khan Jr.: I agree with you on LSU. I think the talent on that roster gives the Tigers the best chance to make a jump in the SEC West. That said, in the interest of not echoing your sentiments, I'll choose a different team that could make a jump: Texas A&M.
The Aggies have been disappointing the last two seasons in SEC play, particularly against their SEC West brethren (the Aggies are 4-8 against SEC West competition the last two seasons combined), but that has been when they've spun their wheels with freshmen and sophomore quarterbacks. For once, they'll have a veteran -- a senior -- calling the shots, graduate transfer Trevor Knight. The former Oklahoma signal caller has a wealth of experience from which to draw -- good and bad -- and a change of scenery could be good for the often inconsistent quarterback. If he can take care of the football -- a big IF -- the Aggies have the offensive weaponry around him (Christian Kirk, Josh Reynolds, Speedy Noil, Ricky Seals-Jones) to return to the high-scoring way that was their identity in 2012 and 2013.
Regardless of how good the offense is, the defense has real potential to make a significant jump this year. The Aggies have a strong defensive end tandem with Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall and an overall solid depth and talent level across the defensive line. The secondary is talented also, led by safeties Armani Watts, Donovan Wilson and Justin Evans. As defensive coordinator John Chavis enters his second year on campus, another improvement is anticipated and this unit has a chance to be by far the best defense a Kevin Sumlin team has ever had as a head coach; potentially a top-30 unit nationally. If they can perform at that level, the offense doesn't have to light up the scoreboard, but simply be above average to put the Aggies in position to win. The biggest challenge to improving the win total for Texas A&M? The schedule: They play Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn away from home and their home slate includes UCLA, Tennessee, Ole Miss and LSU.