Head coach: Kirby Smart
2018 record: 11-3, 7-1 SEC
Returning starters: 14 (5 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams)
Hardest question Kirby Smart faced: “What’s your thought process on handling athletes who are dealing with a lot of struggles more so off the field, but also a little bit on the field?”
Smart’s reply: “I think it’s maybe not talked about enough, and we talked about the education of us as coaches on dealing with mental health issues. I certainly think it’s beginning to show itself more and more in college football. Our medical staff, Ron Courson, handles all of those mental health issues. You can’t do enough to help the young men be successful, and we want to be able to give back to them that way.”
You need to know: Kirby Smart’s record after three seasons at Georgia (32-10) is almost the exact same as Mark Richt’s first three years at Georgia (32-8).
Best player quote: “Transferring is transferring, it’s always a tricky thing. You never know why a kid transfers. The transfer portal I think just makes it more accessible for everyone to see who’s transferring and who enters the portal and all that. I know when I transferred no one knew I was transferring into some portal, I just feel like it’s more like a media thing that people obsess about. I think if you got to transfer you got to own it and you got to go make your decision and always work wherever you go.” – Senior safety J.R. Reed on the transfer portal
Head coach: Matt Luke
2018 Record: 5-7, 1-7 SEC
Returning starters: 14 (3 offense, 8 defense, 3 special teams)
Hardest question Luke faced: “Coach, given the departure of Coach Rodriquez’s departure from Arizona, what in your conversations with him, did you hear that made you comfortable that you weren’t recruiting a workplace issue to Oxford?”
Luke’s response: “The more I spoke with Rich, the more I saw that we were aligned when he came in. One of the things I’ve noticed about his offenses was the fact that he got the most out of his players, and they always played with a toughness and an edge. And that’s really what you need in this league to sustain a winner.”
You need to know: The Rebels are looking to become bowl eligible this season for the first time since the 2016 Sugar Bowl.
Best player quote: “Matt reminds me a little bit of Chad Kelly. He has that attitude, rhythm, and swagger. I think he is going to grow into a great quarterback and hopefully he’ll be one of the best ones.” — Senior offensive linemen Alex Givens on how he would characterize his quarterback Matt Corral
Head coach: Jeremy Pruitt
2018 Record: 5-7, 2-6 SEC
Returning starters: 18 (8 offense, 6 defense, 4 special teams)
Hardest question Pruitt faced: “Jeremy, Tennessee obviously has a storied past, but the last dozen years or so have been a struggle. What’s it going to take to get Tennessee back to winning consistently in a big way, and how close do you think you guys are doing that?”
Pruitt’s response: “When I was growing up, Tennessee was one of the premier programs in the country, and that is still the expectation for the fans, and everyone associated with the athletic department, our coaching staff, and our players. What comes with that has a lot to do with who you play. And this league is very competitive. We have very good coaches in this league. Probably, It’s more competitive now than it ever has been. There’s good players. You know, so we got to do our part. And we have to plan as a staff. We have to execute the plan. Our players believe in our vision and the kids we are recruiting. And it takes a lot that goes into it, and we’re continuing to work on our plan.”
You need to know: The Volunteers are 2-14 in SEC play over the last two seasons.
Best player quote: “I think that game meant a lot to us. I think we had not won an SEC West game in a long time. So being able to come out of the difficult setting meant a lot to us, and it was able to show us what we are able to do. It was definitely a boost for this year with being able to learn from what we went through in a big away game.” – Redshirt-junior quarterback Jarrett Garantano on if the turning point of last season was the win against Auburn
Head coach: Jimbo Fisher
2018 record: 9-4, 5-3 SEC
Returning starters: 12 (6 offense, 4 defense, 2 special teams)
Hardest question Fisher faced: “You play the teams that will likely be ranked, in some order, one, two, three in the poll: Clemson, Alabama and Georgia. If I were to refer to Texas A&M as a spoiler, would you consider that encouraging or condescending?”
Fisher’s reply: “Condescending. We don’t want to spoil anything; we want to take care of our own. … They are great programs, but Texas A&M can be the same way. We have to go play and prove ourselves and do the things we have to do, but I definitely think we’re on that track.”
You need to know: Texas A&M is 20-6 at home over the last four seasons against every team but Alabama, but 0-2 against the Crimson Tide with losses of 8 and 18 points.
Best player quote: “We could talk ball literally all day. His mind is kind of like a hamster wheel. He’s constantly thinking ball all day, so for me, being able to learn from him… is really a blessing.” — junior quarterback Kellen Mond on the football knowledge of head coach Jimbo Fisher
Compiled by Hunter Jones, Tyler Martin and James Ogletree