From a talent perspective, the Florida Gators can probably match up with all but about one or two teams in the Southeastern Conference. Yet, you wouldn’t know it by the way the media voted for the preseason All-SEC teams, announced Thursday on the final day of SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama. The Gators got two first team selections on defense – Vernon Hargreaves III and Dante Fowler Jr., the two guys everybody knew would be first team – one second teamer (kick returner Andre Debose) and one third teamer (offensive tackle Chaz Green). That’s it.
This is what happens when you go 4-8 the year before. You don’t get a lot of respect but let’s be honest here. Even if the Gators had gone 8-4 last season it wouldn’t be all that much different, at least not in the eyes of the media. Coming off an 11-2 season that had the Gators ranked preseason top five in just about every magazine and poll, the Gators only had eight players selected either first, second or third team by the media at SEC Media Days in 2013.
The Gators were also picked third in the SEC East, which is about where they belong but when it came to voting for the teams likely to win the SEC title in Atlanta, there was absolutely no mention of the Gators. Alabama – no shock there – was picked as preseason #1, which will probably happen from now until eternity or Nick Saban croaks, whichever comes first, followed by Auburn which would be the favorite except that the Tigers get no respect for beating Alabama to win the SEC West, winning the SEC championship and then making it to the national championship game. South Carolina, which is loaded enough that Steve Spurrier is feeling VERY confident, is a distant third followed by Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Mississippi State.
Yea, you read that right. Arkansas got a vote. Maybe that was someone’s protest joke. The Razorbacks will be extremely fortunate to win five games this season.
You can make an argument that the Gators would have difficulty beating the likes of Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina and LSU although it’s not out of the realm of possibility that on a night when all things go right that the Gators could win those games. You don’t have to imagine all things going right, though, to believe the Gators could and quite probably would beat Georgia, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Mississippi State.
It is way too early to start thinking about anything other than the season opener with Idaho on August 30, but it is not too early for Will Muschamp and his staff to start letting the Gators know that they get no respect around the league. This is a team that needs every advantage it can get against one of the nation’s most brutal schedules. Putting a chip on the Gators’ shoulders and keeping it there is one way to make sure this is a hungry team with something to prove.
At least the Gators got two first team selections. South Carolina didn’t have a single first team selection, got three second teamers on offense – running back Mike Davis and O-linemen A.J. Cann and Corey Robinson – and third team defensive back Brison Williams. Georgia, meanwhile, got three first team, three second team, and three third team picks. Now, if you know anything at all about Steve Spurrier, he’s already letting his players know that they don’t rate with the SEC media. It’s ridiculous, by the way, that A.J. Cann didn’t make first team. He’s the best guard in the league.
Missouri is another team that can play the disrespect card. The Tigers went 12-2 last season, won the SEC East and scared the bejabbers out of Auburn, which lost in the last seconds of the national championship game to Florida State. Yes, Missouri lost a lot of good players, but the Tigers only managed one second team selection and three third teamers, and two of the third teamers were on special teams.
The media voted its preseason All-SEC team and the fact that neither Georgia running back Todd Gurley, Cody Prewitt of Ole Miss or Florida corner Vernon Hargreaves III were (a) unanimous selections or (b) the top vote getters on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball is almost comical. They are the three best returning players in the league by far. If you go by what the pro scouts say, then you could also throw Texas A&M offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi in that group. Barring injury or going brain dead and getting kicked off the team for some reason, Ogbuehi will be the third straight Texas A&M offensive tackle to go in the first five or six picks of the NFL Draft.
Gurley received 281 out of a possible 293 votes that were cast. Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper received 282, most among offensive players. Alabama safety Landon Collins received 274 votes, best on defense. Hargreaves received 243, second best but that also meant there were 50 voters who didn’t think he belonged on the first team, which is absolutely ridiculous. Cooper is the best wide receiver in the league and you could make a case that he should be close to unanimous, but Landon Collins? He’s really good but he’s not even the best safety in the league. That’s Cody Prewitt of Ole Miss, who made first team All-America last year. In fact, you could say that Prewitt and Hargreaves are #1 and #1A when it comes to defensive players in the SEC. Ogbuehi only received 174 votes, the lowest total among offensive linemen voted onto the first team. LSU’s La’el Collins got the most votes among O-linemen (231) but even he should have gotten more votes than that and whatever he got should have been topped by Ogbuehi.
Alabama had nine first teamers, which tied Alabama 2011 for the most since they began collecting data for media preseason predictions. Alabama 2010 and Florida 2009 each had nine first teamers. Alabama only had one second teamer and one third teamer. Auburn had four first teamers selected, three second and six third teamers. Interesting is the fact that Auburn, which had one of the league’s worst defenses last year, had one first, one second and four third team defensive players selected.
Nick Saban on holes in Alabama’s lineup: “We’re basically an unproven team in some areas and in some cases it’s at critical positions ... We’re a team that has a tone of questions.”
Saban on losing two games at the end of 2013 and what that means for 2014: “We have to re-establish our identity as a team at Alabama. It’s going to take every player to do a tremendous amount of buy-in for us to be able to do that.”
Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper on motivation for 2014: “When you have people doubting you, you’re automatically hungry. You want to work hard just to prove them wrong.”
Mark Richt on 14 years at Georgia: “When I was at Florida State I had many opportunities to go. Even at Georgia I’ve had opportunities to leave but I chose to stay. I chose to stay at Georgia even before I came to Athens. When I accepted the job, my goal was that this would be the last stop for me because there’s no greater place than Athens, Georgia. There’s no greater program than the University of Georgia in my mind for me.”
Georgia running back Todd Gurley on Heisman talk: “I’m not really too big on it. People say a lot but it’s not the thing I’m going after. I feel like the Heisman is a team award. You could be a great player, but if your team is not winning, you’re not going to get the award. It would be great to win it, but I’m just happy to play the game of football. I don’t do it for the awards.”
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze on the academic turnaround at Ole Miss: “Academically I couldn’t be more proud of the progress we’ve made in the APR. We’ve had two consecutive years of 965 or above. We were really struggling some when I arrived here in that regard and I couldn’t be more pleased with what’s going on with that.”
Hugh Freeze on a short hair cut after playing golf with Steve Spurrier: “My hair is quite shorter than normal today. Spurrier takes credit for that. If he won our match, come Media Day you had to buzz cut your hair so that’s why my hair is so short today.”
Are you buying into all the hype that Alabama should be the number one team in the SEC this year?
I still remember hearing Deep Purple live the first time. That was in Melbourne in the spring of 1969. Well, let me correct that. I don’t know how much I actually heard after the first 20 or so minutes. In fact I don’t know how much I actually heard for the next three or four days because my ears never stopped ringing. Other than hearing Vanilla Fudge at Florida Gym back in February, Deep Purple was the loudest music I had ever attempted to listen to. This is their classic “Smoke in the Water” that came off their 1972 “Machine Head” album. I heard that live two times. At least I think I did.