Perhaps most interesting is that Alabama and Florida, the two "dominant" SEC teams from last season, are losing a LOT of important players. First, let's take a look at Florida, who we've heard frequently now will be just fine replacing Tebow with Brantley, as if that was their only loss.
Florida is losing their starters in the following positions:
WR: Nelson and Cooper
C: Maurkice Pouncey
DE: Cunningham and Dunlap
LB: Stamper, Spikes, and Doe
That's 5 offensive starters, one of which is obviously the most important. But also, Hernandez and Cooper were pretty much the only targets of Tebow in 2009. There's also 7 defensive starters (7!) including all 3 starting linebackers. Oh, and also their reliable kick/punt returner, Brandon James. Florida could still be good next year, and they clearly have some of the best recruits to fill in for their past stars, but can new players perform to the level of those who are departing? I think Georgia fans tried to argue that we'd be fine replacing Stafford and Moreno, because we had such good recruits. That didn't turn out so well.
Then we have Alabama, known primarily for their hard-hitting defense. Their offense loses little, only Peek (their TE), and 2 guys on their O-line. But their defense?
- They lose both starting defensive ends (Washington, Dederick)
- They lose their star nose tackle (Cody)
- They lose 3 of their 4 starting LB's (McClain, Reamer, Anders)
- They lose a starting CB and PR/KR (Arenas) as well as a safety (Woodall)
Not to mention they also lose their kicker (Tiffin) and punter (Fitzgerald). That's only 3 offensive starters leaving, but 8 defensive starters, as well as 2 special teams players.
But most importantly for Georgia is the losses in the SEC East.
-Tennessee loses even more than Florida and Alabama. They lose their starting QB (Crompton), RB (Hardesty), WR (Hancock), and 3 starters on the offensive line. On defense they lose 2 lineman, 1 linebacker, and their star safety (Berry).
-Kentucky, although not a traditional challenge for Georgia in the east, did surprise us this year when we fell apart in the 2nd half. Luckily, Kentucky is getting hit pretty hard by losses as well. They lose their starting fullback, tight end, 4 offensive linemen, one defensive tackle, one linebacker, one cornerback, one safety, and their kicker.
-And Vanderbilt may be fortunate to lose a LOT of players, considering their terrible season last year. They lose their starting: QB, WR, OT, OG, C, 2 DEs, DT, LB, CB, 2 safeties, and punter.
-South Carolina loses relatively less than other teams, and this is why some (crazies) are trying to argue that USC of the east could win the SEC East in 2010. They lose a starting wide receiver and center on offense, plus a defensive tackle and safety on defense, and their star linebacker Norwood. Some have pointed out, though, that maybe it's bad for South Carolina to keep so many players. After all, this will be almost the same team that got embarrassed by Connecticut in the PapaJohn's.com Bowl.
As for West teams:
-Auburn is only losing 7 starters, but they're important. They lose Chris Todd, their starting QB, and Ben Tate, their star running back. They also lose their starting TE, OT, DE, DT, and cornerback McFadden.
-LSU loses 10 starters, but once again, some are very important. Their biggest offensive loss will be running back Charles Scott (not to mention both of his backups at the position as well). They also lose two of their best receivers, LaFell and the tight end Dickson, an OT, OG, DE, DT, 2 linebackers, and a safety.
-Ole Miss should drop off the map completely, losing a shocking 14 total starters on offense, defense, and special teams. They lose their QB Snead and star receiver/runner Dexter McCluster. They're losing 8 starters on offense, 5 on defense, plus their kicker and punter.
-Miss. State loses 8 starters, including their starting quarterback, running back, and a top receiver.
-Arkansas is already getting hyped as a possible candidate for 2010 SEC West champion, largely due to the fact that they only lose 5 starters. They do lose Michael Smith, their top running back, and a starting OG, DE, DT, LB, and S.
As far as non-conference opponents for Georgia, most worrisome would be Colorado and Georgia Tech. Colorado only loses 5 starters, but hopefully that's a good thing as they weren't very impressive in 2009. Georgia Tech loses 7 starters, but they're all BIG losses. They lose star back Dwyer, star receiver Thomas, star defensive end Morgan, and star safety Burnett, not to mention a starting OG, OT, and LB.
Finally, Georgia's returning player situation looks like this:
-On offense, we lose only one starting player, Joe Cox at QB (unless you count Michael Moore as a starting wide receiver).
-Defense is where we're hit hard, losing our defensive tackles Owens and Atkins, star linebacker Curran, cornerback Miller and safeties Jones and Evans. But considering defense was our main problem in 2009, it might not be too bad to get some new players out there along with our new coaches and 3-4 scheme.
Overall, 2010 is seemingly shaping up to be a great opportunity for Georgia. Florida and Tennessee, our biggest threats to take the East, are the hardest hit by losses. Of our west opponents, Auburn loses most of their big players, which should help us, but Arkansas returns most of their squad from last year. Finally, Tech loses 4 huge players. Now if we can just fix that defense, let's see what UGA can do in 2010.