Breaking down the All-SEC squad

Whether or not the results will mean anything come December, remains to be seen. But the votes for pre-season All-SEC are in. Understandably, defending champion Georgia led the way with seven players selected. <br><br>For its part, the Tide placed more players on the first-team All-SEC squad (five) than any other school.

Of course the first football game won't start for almost a month, and rating teams or players now is more a matter of public relations as anything else. But if a writer is going to bother to vote in the pre-season poll (I did, most did not), then you ought to be willing to discuss the outcome.

First-Team Offense

Another honor for Justin Smiley

To begin with, fans should note two truths about the voting. Only 78 of the more than 600 registered media members bothered to turn in a ballot, so the results could hardly be called scientific. And even at that, in many cases the total number of votes cast for each player can be taken with a grain of salt.

For some, like Shawn Andrews of Arkansas, a high vote total is a true reflection of their ability. But for many other athletes it was more a matter of a lack of viable competition. Surprise, surprise, writers are inclined to favor players they've seen in person. So many times a relatively low vote total simply means the ballots were spread out among several players.

Additionally, I continue to think that listing four "OL slots" and one center position is wrong. If center is clearly different from the other four spots, then so are guards different from tackles. And since tackle will always be the glamour position on the offensive line, the practice invariably ends up slighting otherwise deserving guards. A similar argument could be made for designating a fullback versus tailback position, but I feel less strongly about that point.

To the results...

Several of the offensive winners are as good as they come. Junior linemen Andrews, Britt and Smiley are all almost certain to play in the NFL (maybe next season). Clayton and Gibson are frighteningly good at wide receiver. Even allowing for home-school bias, anyone that didn't vote for Clayton is nuts. Eli Manning is a Heisman candidate, and when healthy, Williams (the Carnell variety) is terrific. No offense to Watson and Wilkerson, but the quality of players at tight end and center respectively isn't what it was last season.

Shaud Williams

My ballot differed somewhat from the final list. I had Travelle Wharton of SC rated ahead of Hall. Based on what I've seen in person, David Greene of Georgia has performed better at quarterback than Manning. Obviously many disagree (Rebels violently), but I would trust the heady Greene in a tight game more than Manning.

Believe it or not, Auburn fans, my two running backs were Ronnie Brown (first) and Carnell Williams. From what I saw Brown finished the season as the best back in the conference. And as much as I like Shaud, I couldn't in good conscience place him ahead of Carnell. Thankfully for Shaud, my vote didn't keep him off the team.

First-Team Defense

The most glaring problem with the list is the presence of four linebackers and only three linemen, which flies in the face of game-day reality in the SEC. Maybe the reasoning is that in any given year there will be more all-star candidates at linebacker than among the guys with their hand in the dirt, but it's still wrong.

Pollack was an easy choice, and frankly should have been unanimous. But Odom's relative low vote total revealed more ignorance on the part of the voters than you might expect. But he made the list, so no harm, no foul. Dansby and Thomas are probably the best backer duo in the league (I'd argue that Bama's starting group is overall stronger than the Tiger's).

Brooks Daniels (#18) and Antwan Odom (#98) in action versus Oklahoma. (Associated Press)

My ballot didn't differ greatly from the final list, but I saw things differently at inside linebacker and at safety. From my point of view, if you're going to list four linebackers then if possible two should be outside guys and middle backers shouldn't be slighted. Dansby and Brooks were easy votes for outside speed. Thomas plays inside and on my ballot I placed Freddie Roach beside him. No offense to Razorback fans, but Bua is an outside player only (really a safety).

I had no problem with Ratliff and Webster at corner (though I frankly think Charlie Peprah may end up better than both), but from my point of view the writers completely missed the safety slots. Bama's Charles Jones should have gotten All-SEC consideration last season. He's my starter at free safety. And Auburn's Junior Rosegreen was all over the field last season--my kind of DB.

First-Team Specialists

Good move by the conference to recognize a return specialist. Bad move by any writer that didn't vote for the spectacular Abney. (Kwane Doster of Vanderbilt? C'mon!) I had LSU's Donnie Jones at punter, but that's just me.

Second-Team Offense

Not much to say. If Bama's Evan Mathis can stay healthy, he'll belong on the post-season list. Florida's best receiver only got five votes? Oh, how the "mighty gators" have fallen. Of course the fact that Cedric Houston out-polled Brown is nonsense.

Second-Team Defense

Good to see Mawhinney on the team--not that he's that great of a player, but you hate to see the once-proud Bulldogs shut out on defense. "Batman" Carroll's presence is proof of the value of a good nickname. Ole Miss has a defensive lineman on the All-SEC squad?

Second-Team Specialists

  • PK Brent Smith (10), Mississippi State
  • RS Damien Gary (2), Georgia
  • RS Kwane Doster (2), Vanderbilt
  • P Donnie Jones (23), LSU

Despite claiming most of last year's championship team has departed, Georgia led with seven players earning pre-season All-SEC honors. Alabama, Tennessee and LSU all had six. The Tide led all schools with five players receiving first-team honors.

Two writers voting for Mr. Doster kept the Commodores from being shut out completely.

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