Biggest questions for every SEC football team for 2024

We’re not far from spring football in the SEC. There are plenty of questions for several teams in the league.

The retirement of Alabama head coach Nick Saban leaves plenty up for grabs in the league. New head coach Kalen DeBoer, who just coached Washington to a national title appearance, will look to keep Alabama’s place atop the SEC opposite Georgia.

Others within the league have different ideas in mind. The team’s primary rivals in Tennessee, LSU and Auburn are looking to capitalize on change in Tuscaloosa with a rare victory over the Crimson Tide this season.

Conference newcomers Texas and Oklahoma have seen a welcomed uptick in recruiting since announcing their departure from the Big 12. On the whole both programs have recruited well historically, but now appear to be landing more impact players and five-star talents than they used to sign.

With multiple teams vying for top spots within the league here are a few questions each team will have to answer in 2024.

How much does Kalen DeBoer change?

Alabama introduces new football coach Kalen DeBoer with a press conference at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Alabama introduces new football coach Kalen DeBoer with a press conference at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Alabama as currently constructed is a machine, but Kalen DeBoer is used to winning his way. How much does DeBoer change in his first season? The new head coach of the Tide hired his offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb to call the offense. Will there be a completely new offense in Tuscaloosa and how long will it take for his team to learn his system? If there are any growing pains in DeBoer’s offensive install, expect LSU and Tennessee to attack the team’s flaws.

Does Sam Pittman still have the Arkansas locker room's respect?

Sep 11, 2021; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Arkansas Razorbacks;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Arkansas Razorbacks</a> head coach Sam Pittman shakes hands with <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Texas Longhorns;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Texas Longhorns</a> head coach Steve Sarkisian after the game at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas won 40-21. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Pittman seemed to have Arkansas on the rise in 2021 after wins over Texas and Texas A&M and competitive battles with top SEC teams. Since then, the Razorbacks have been on a downward trajectory. Do the players still listen to Pittman? This season could be the indicator.

Does Auburn have enough at quarterback?

Auburn’s 2023 starting quarterback Payton Thorne departs for Michigan State after an underwhelming season for the Tigers. Thorne completed 62.3% of his passes for 1,671 yards, 15 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Not terrible, but not impressive.

The receiver room provides targets to throw the ball with five-star Cam Coleman and former top receiver recruit Caleb Burton. Largely unknown signal caller Hank Brown completed 7 of 9 passes for 132 yards in the team’s Music City Bowl against Maryland. Elite quarterback prospect Walker White of Little Rock Christian comes in for a first season on the Plains. Does Auburn have a difference maker at quarterback on campus?

How resilient is Florida?

Sep 16, 2023; Gainesville, <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Florida;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Florida</a>, USA; Florida Gators wide receiver <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Ricky Pearsall;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Ricky Pearsall</a> (1) waits for the snap while Tennessee Volunteers defensive back <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Kamal Hadden;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Kamal Hadden</a> (5) defends during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Florida has been through its fair share of difficulty the last few seasons. The nonconference schedule has played a role in that difficulty. The schedule does not get easier in 2024. The Gators play Georgia, Texas, Ole Miss, LSU, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Kentucky. In addition, they face in-state rivals Miami and Florida State. Those are nine losable games. Can they reach bowl eligibility?

Does the tougher schedule give Georgia a loss?


Georgia is going to face several teams who want to knock them out of the top spot. Texas, Alabama and Ole Miss all face the Bulldogs at home. It might not matter. Georgia’s dynasty has produced two losses in three years. Beating them this season will be a tall task.

Is Brock Vandagriff an answer for Kentucky at quarterback?

Georgia quarterback Brock Vandagriff runs with the ball during the second half against <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:UAB;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">UAB</a> in Athens, Ga., on Sept. 23, 2023.
Georgia quarterback Brock Vandagriff runs with the ball during the second half against UAB in Athens, Ga., on Sept. 23, 2023.

There’s plenty of change offensively in Lexington. Offensive coordinator Liam Coen leaves for the NFL as the team will break in a new starting quarterback. Former five-star signal caller Brock Vandagriff leaves Georgia to lead the Kentucky offense, but he’s been consistently beat out by quarterbacks of lesser pedigree. Can he lead an eight-win contender in 2024?

Can Brian Kelly finally lead elite football in Baton Rouge?

Nov 26, 2022; College Station, Texas, USA; Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Evan Stewart;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Evan Stewart</a> (1) celebrates a touchdown catch by wide receiver <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Moose Muhammad III;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Moose Muhammad III</a> (7) against the <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:LSU Tigers;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">LSU Tigers</a> during the second half at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

LSU head coach Brian Kelly made a big impression in an overtime win at home over Alabama in his first season. Other than that performance, he hasn’t done much of note of the field. In 2022, the Tigers endured a 27-point home loss to Tennessee before closing out the season with double-digit loss to Texas A&M (5-7) and a 50-30 loss to Georgia. The next season wasn’t all that much more impressive. The Tigers lost by three touchdowns to Florida State to start the year. Then the team allowed 55 points to Ole Miss on its way to a three-loss season.

There’s national title talent in Baton Rouge. Can Brian Kelly capitalize on it or will he continue to live off the reputation he built with a win over Alabama in his first season?

Can Missouri duplicate Cotton Bowl success?

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

After defeating Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl, Missouri quarterback Brady Cook emphatically stated that Missouri is back. Nobody knows what it means to be back for the Tigers, but the team certainly had a strong showing in Cook’s breakout season. The dominant trio of Luther Burden, Mookie Cooper and Theo Wease return. Can the team live up to the target Cook put on its back or will the Tigers take a step back?

Does Mississippi State have the pieces to run the Lebby offense?

Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby is pictured before a college football game between the University of <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Oklahoma Sooners;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Oklahoma Sooners</a> (OU) and the <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:TCU Horned Frogs;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">TCU Horned Frogs</a> at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. Oklahoma won 69-45.

The Jeff Lebby era begins in Starkville. In time, the Mississippi State offense could be one of the best in college football. But after several departures from an already lacking roster, it’s unclear where the team will go from here. Highly regarded impact tight end Cameron Ball transfers from Buffalo, a school known for producing top players. Lebby might rely heavily on passes down the seam in his first season as head coach.

Is this Lane Kiffin's breakout season?

Dec 30, 2023; Atlanta, GA, USA; <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Mississippi;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Mississippi</a> Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin after a victory against the <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Penn State Nittany Lions;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Penn State Nittany Lions</a> at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Lane Kiffin is widely regarded as one of college football’s best offensive minds. He’s never led a true title push. Last year, Kiffin was unable to beat Georgia or Alabama to launch his team into playoff discussion. Even so, the Rebels earned big wins over LSU and in the Peach Bowl over Penn State to get to an 11-win season. The talent is present after several impact transfer portal additions. Is this the year Ole Miss makes a College Football Playoff?

Can Oklahoma prove it's up to the 'SEC grind?'

Oct 28, 2023; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Kansas Jayhawks;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Kansas Jayhawks</a> tight end <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Mason Fairchild;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Mason Fairchild</a> (89) celebrates after a play against the Oklahoma Sooners during the second half at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma faces one of the toughest conference schedules in the SEC. Their schedule includes Alabama, Ole Miss, Missouri, LSU and Tennessee who all won nine or more games a year ago.

The Sooners have recruited SEC talent, but have plenty to prove. Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables has gone 10-8 vs Big 12 foes since taking over in Norman with losses to Kansas and Oklahoma State in his second season. Three of the above 10 wins came against BYU, UCF and Cincinnati, all of which joined the ranks of the Big 12 last season. Oklahoma is trending upward, but a double-digit win season could be hard to come by in 2024.

Can South Carolina avoid relegation to the bottom four?

Nov 25, 2023; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Shane Beamer on the field prior to a game against the Clemson Tigers at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 25, 2023; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Shane Beamer on the field prior to a game against the Clemson Tigers at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

Shane Beamer is a good head coach. In his short time in Columbia, his team has defeated a 2022 contending Tennessee Volunteers team and earned a rare victory over Clemson. In addition, the Gamecocks have two five-star recruits in their 2024 recruiting class. Does the team have the overall roster depth to keep it from falling to a losing season?

Is Nico the answer?

Tennessee quarterback <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Nico Iamaleava;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Nico Iamaleava</a> is seen during Tennessee Football Media Day, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023.
Tennessee quarterback Nico Iamaleava is seen during Tennessee Football Media Day, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023.

Tennessee could have the breakout star of college football in new signal caller Nico Iamaleava. They could also have growing pains breaking in the young starter. The Volunteers will go as their quarterback goes which leaves a high ceiling and low floor for the team. We’ll have an idea of how good the Vols can be against the Oklahoma Sooners in Tennessee’s fourth game of the year.

Can Texas portal players live up to the hype?

SAN ANTONIO, TX – NOVEMBER 12: Linebacker <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Trey Moore;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Trey Moore</a> #31 of the <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:UTSA Roadrunners;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">UTSA Roadrunners</a> celebrates after his sack and fumble recover against Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in the second half at Alamodome on November 12, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

Texas has perhaps the most underrated portal haul in the SEC. The Longhorns didn’t build the roster through the portal, but simply added players who can improve the team right away. The list of those players include wide receivers Isaiah Bond (Alabama), Silas Bolden (Oregon State) and Matthew Golden (Houston), tight end Amari Niblack (Alabama), 14-sack edge rusher Trey Moore (UTSA) and three-year starting safety Andrew Mukuba (Clemson). If those players play like they did before Texas, the Longhorns will continue to be a force in college football.

How will new systems work in College Station?

Nov 25, 2023; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Elko looks on before the first half of the game against Pittsburgh Panthers at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 25, 2023; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Elko looks on before the first half of the game against Pittsburgh Panthers at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M head coach Mike Elko comes back after being the architect of one of the top defenses in college football while in College Station. We know Elko can coach defense. The questions arise on the other side of the football. New Texas A&M offensive coordinator Collin Klein will have dynamic weapons at his disposal led by starting quarterback Conner Weigman and wide receiver Moose Muhammad. But is the coordinator a good fit for Weigman in the prolific passer’s third season on campus?

What makes this year any different for Vanderbilt?

Nov 27, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Vanderbilt Commodores;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Vanderbilt Commodores</a> head coach Clark Lea coaches during the second half against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Does anything change for Nashville’s college football program? Utah transfer Nate Johnson heads to Vanderbilt after going for 734 total yards and seven total touchdowns in 2023. Former Texas offensive coordinator Tim Beck will look to bring more success for the Commodores in the same position for the team. Nevertheless, the ‘Dores will again face an uphill battle having won two conferences games over the last four seasons.

Story originally appeared on Longhorns Wire