The SEC Championship Game has evolved from being a competitive matchup that served as a play-in game to the meaningful college football postseason to a victory lap for the SEC West champion.


The SEC East has been a big, hot mess.

Florida has made it to Atlanta each of the last two seasons with a quarterbacks situation pieced together with duct tape and glue, Tennessee has failed to live up to expectations, Georgia and South Carolina have made coaching changes, and Missouri has regressed.

You have to crawl before you walk. Here is the most important issue facing each team during fall camp.

Florida -- Find a difference-maker at quarterback: It's not exactly breaking news to say Florida needs help under center. It's just the truth. Former Notre Dame signal-caller Malik Zaire came to Florida this summer after a highly-publicized courting process that included a legislative fight that loosened the SEC's graduate transfer rules. Zaire was a role player behind Everett Golson for the Fighting Irish in 2014 and earned the trust of coach Brian Kelly to earn the starting job -- and force Golson to Florida State -- leading into 2015. But after his only two career starts, he broke his ankle and opened the door for DeShone Kizer.

Now, he's the favorite to win the job over redshirt freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask, as well as junior Luke Del Rio. "We're now up to finally our number in the scholarship count that we want to be in the quarterback room," coach Jim McElwain said at SEC spring meetings. "We've got some real options there. And that's a good thing."

With a defense that returns just three starters and Michigan looming in Week 1, the Gators must make sure the quarterback is not just a place-holder but a difference-maker. Defense has led the way during McElwain's first two seasons in Gainesville, but with so many holes on that side of the ball, the quarterback needs to be a weapon if the Gators plan on winning the East for the third straight season.

Georgia -- Make sure the O-line is set: Georgia's offensive line was the college football equivalent of a turnstyle last year, which limited how much then-freshman Jacob Eason could develop at quarterback. That has to change. Lamont Gaillard returns at center, and Isaiah Wynn and Dyshon Sims have plenty of starts under their belts in various spots throughout their careers. But they need to be better than a year ago, when the Bulldogs gave up 16 sacks in SEC games and running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel routinely got hit or changed direction in the backfield. Coach Kirby Smart is happy with where they are right now.

"It's tough to go out there and move people," he said at SEC Media Days. "Nobody, with consistency, nobody moves big people on defensive fronts in the SEC. We have to find ways to run around them, create space and create open plays for skill players. We do have to be more physical up front, and I thought we took steps toward that in the spring, but not necessarily in the spring game, because that wasn't meant to be a running adventure."

There are plenty of options for Smart up front, including Ben Cleveland, Aulden Bynum, Solomon Kindley and several new arrivals. If the offensive line can just be a little better, it should allow coordinator Jim Chaney to get creative with the offense and give Chubb, Michel and quarterback Jacob Eason a little more time. A little time will go a long way.

Kentucky -- Get set defensively: Kentucky was all over the place defensively toward the end of last season. They gave up 10.15 yards per play in a loss at Tennessee, but then gained four turnovers against the Lamar Jackson-led Louisville Cardinals despite giving up 7.9 yards per play.  A little consistency couldn't hurt. With eight starters back including a great linebacking corps and extremely underrated safety Mike Edwards, coach Mark Stoops is hoping that a focus on fundamentals will help the Wildcats achieve a little bit more consistency.

"I've been a coordinator long before I've been a head coach, and there's always been a fine line there between doing too much and fundamentally getting better," he said. "I've always been of the belief to just do what you do and get better and better and better at it and fundamentally play the game the way it's supposed to be played."

The Wildcat offense could be special, with quarterback Stephen Johnson, running back Benny Snell and a talented wide receiving corps back. If they can get "just enough" defense, don't rule out Stoops and Co. making noise in the east.

Missouri -- Get the identity back: Remember when Missouri was known for its fierce defense and, specifically, a line that was downright terrifying? That was Missouri's identity, and it was noticeably absent last year when the Tigers gave up a league-worst 479.7 yards per game, 6.07 yards per play (10th in the SEC) and 31.5 points per game (12th).

"Defensively, we weren't near good enough last year," coach Barry Odom said. "I know that's been talked about enough since season's end. And when you win four games, guys, believe me, it hurts your soul. And that's where I was at. So you figure out how to fix it whether you inherited the problems or you had the problems on your watch. That's the job of a coach. That's why they call you coach. Go fix it."

There it is. Odom knows the issue, and flat out said at media days what he has determined as job No. 1. The next problem is talent. Marcell Frazier and Terry Beckner are solid pieces to build around up front, but Beckner has been battling the injury bug for a big portion of his career in Columbia. Eric Biesel is a solid linebacker who is brimming with confidence, but far from a proven star.

Odom is a defensive-minded coach and gets a mulligan for his first go-round in charge of Missouri. He won't get another -- especially if the problems on his side of the ball persist.

South Carolina -- Solidify the trenches: Very quietly, defensive end Darius English was sneaky-good for the Gamecocks a year ago with nine sacks. With him gone, who will step up and provide that pressure off the edge? Coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson need to find an option in fall camp.

"It starts up front in our league obviously," Muschamp said. "Taylor Stallworth, Ulric Jones, and Dante Sawyer are three seniors. For us to play well defensively, we need these guys to play well. So we're putting the pressure on these guys."

On the offensive side of the ball, there are questions as well. The Gamecocks are set at skill positions and have four starters returning up front. But ... and this is a big "but" ... they gave up a league-worst 41 sacks and 102 tackles for loss (13th) a year ago. Muschamp's crew can be dangerous offensively if quarterback Jake Bentley and running back Rico Dowdle aren't running around in the backfield, and it's up to the veterans in the trenches to step up and make sure they get the time they need. 

Tennessee -- Find leaders on the D-line: Everybody is going to focus on the quarterback battle on Rocky Top between Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano. But don't be fooled, the defensive line is a much more pressing issue that will determine whether it's a successful season for coach Butch Jones or not. Shy Tuttle will be limited in fall camp, Kahlil McKenzie hasn't become a star like many (myself included) have expected, Jonathan Kongbo was more sizzle than steak last year, and Kendal Vickers needs to show just how high his ceiling is.

Jones is confident in the Vols' progress thus far, especially with McKenzie. "I like everything I see from him, and not just on the field but in a leadership role as well," he said Saturday. "For a defensive lineman right now, it's just all about your technique and the use of your hands and the fine details. We'll know more obviously when the pads go on."

Tennessee's offense should be fine. Yes, there are questions, but that's one side of the ball where Jones shines and always finds ways to make it work. They have to get off the field defensively and give that offense a chance, and it starts up front with players who were signed to be stars. 

Vanderbilt -- Find Kyle Shurmur some help: The junior signal-caller showed flashes of brilliance in his first full year as the unquestioned No. 1 last year, but nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions won't cut it. Not with that kind of talent and not with a loaded backfield that is led by Ralph Webb. Somebody has to become a true No. 1 at wide receiver to take some pressure off. 

C.J. Duncan was decent last year and Trent Sherfield has shined against lesser competition, but for Vandy to be consistently dangerous, a true deep threat needs to emerge. With so much attention bound to be paid to Webb, one-on-one matchups will be there for Shurmur to exploit if somebody can step up and gain consistent separation against SEC defenses.

"I think Kyle's got tight ends. Kyle's got veteran guys outside when you're talking about Caleb Scott and Trent Sherfield," Mason told CBS Sports. "When you look at C.J. Duncan, he's played a lot of football. You're talking about three seniors right out of the gate. We feel like we are going to create one-on-ones outside, and be able to isolate guys."

The ultimate goal for Mason is to replicate the kind of game his Commodores produced last November, when Shurmur racked up 416 yards in a win over rival Tennessee. "If you want to load the box, load the box," Mason said. "Tennessee tried to load the box, and look what happened."