VETTEL: Coaches Get All-SEC About Right

A year ago at this time I was railing in this space about the idiocy of the SEC Coaches choosing Jay Cutler over Chris Leak for pre-season All-SEC quarterback. I turned out to be the idiot. The coaches more accurately forecast Leak's struggles with a new offense, and Cutler had the superior season. Oh well, I say let bygones be bygones.

The 2006 All-SEC Football Team as chosen by the Sec Head Coaches in the league was released today and it seems like they pretty much got it right. Ten Gators earned recognition on one of the three All-Conference units, and based on their productivity, I can't find much to argue about.

Leak Gets the Nod

Senior quarterback Chris Leak was chosen first team this time around, finishing ahead of LSU's JaMarcus Russell and Brandon Cox of Auburn. Leak is coming off a season that saw him complete 63 percent of his passes for 2,639 yards and 20 touchdowns. Leak had two other standout stats. He threw only six interceptions last season, and he ran for six touchdowns. If he can have another season where his rushing touchdowns match his interceptions, the Gator offense will have a huge year.

Leak should also have a very busy season moving up the UF career passing charts. He is currently fourth in passing yardage (8,271) and needs just 894 more to pass Rex Grossman, and 1,017 to move ahead of Shane Matthews. Leak can pass Danny Wuerffel for All-Time passing leader if he throws for 2,605 this year.

Leak is also poised to move up the touchdown pass list. His total of 65 is fourth-best at UF, trailing Matthews by nine and Grossman by a dozen. This is one place where he can't catch Danny Wuerffel….. He trails by 49!

Only two other Gators were named on the offense. Dallas Baker (52, 697, 13.4, 5 td) is on the second team, trailing Sidney Rice of South Carolina and Vandy's Earl Bennett. Dwayne Bowe of LSU joins Baker on the second team while a pair of receivers on the mend, Tyrone Prothro and the Gators' Bubba Caldwell (10, 148 in less than 3g.) are third team picks. No Gator runner or lineman is mentioned.

Gator Defense Gets More Love

Defensively the Gators got more recognition from the coaches and with good reason. Florida is right up there with Auburn in having the most proven talent returning on that side of the ball.

Brandon Siler was a first team choice at linebacker, no small accomplishment in this linebacker loaded league. Siler doesn't have the tackling stats (64 in '05) that impress casual observers, but the league's field mosses took note of Siler's ability to make place in a wide variety of ways. The junior form Orlando registered four quarterback sacks last season and led the nation with seven fumbler recoveries. And he scored a safety to boot.

Florida's nickel back extraordinaire Reggie Nelson was also placed on the first team. Nelson has big play ability and tremendous physical gifts, but his versatility might be his greatest asset. He could remain at nickel, he might end up starting at safety or he may be needed to solidify a spot at corner. I promise you every coach in the league would love to suit him up and figure out where to play him later.

Three More on 2nd Team

The one guy I would argue for being higher up is Florida tackle Marcus Thomas. The first team defense only has one tackle in Justin Harrell of Tennessee. Not only do I consider Thomas to be better, but the first unit should have two tackles anyway.

Instead, Thomas is a second team pick, along with fellow lineman Ray McDonald. Ray Mac apparently showed enough late in '04 and early last year to convince the coaches that he can be a star. The third Gator on the second team defense is linebacker Earl Everett. Florida's leading tackler last season, Everett needs to be more disruptive this fall. 72 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 int. is not bad, but he can be more of a big-play guy.

No Gators were on the third team, but by the end many will wonder why on earth they didn't vote for Jarvis Moss. Moss had 7.5 sacks in part-time duty last fall and if he stays healthy is a certain double-digit sackmeister in the upcoming season. In fact, I think Moss could very well break Alex Brown's school record of 13 set back in '99.

Both Florida kickers were acknowledged. Chris Hetland is the second team place kicker and Eric Wilbur made third team as a punter.

Four Schools Dominate

If the SEC Coaches are correct, there are two teams in each division with clearly more talent than the others. In the East, Florida's 10 total selections is surpassed by Georgia, which had twelve. The Bulldawgs had four on the first team and three special team selections to move ahead of UF. The Gators do lead Georgia in combined first and second team choices, Florida having seven to five for the boys from Athens.

Out West, Auburn leads the way with twelve total selections including a league-high six first team picks. The Tigers had three on each side of the ball with TE Cole Bennett, OL Tim Duckworth and RB Kenny Irons on the offense. Defensively, Auburn has first team choices in DE Quentin Groves, LB Will Herring and CB David Irons.

In case you were wondering, Alabama had six honorees but just one first team pick (DB Ramzee Robinson). Tennessee had five honorees with two on the first team (Harrell and OT Aaron Sears) and South Carolina just two guys mentioned at all with WR Sidney Rice on the first team and DB Fred Bennett a second teamer.

We'll find out what the media thinks next week at the SEC Meetings in Birmingham. Look for Auburn to be picked to win it all with a close Florida/Georgia vote in the East.

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