Overlooked Vols could make All-SEC

It just didn't look right. Tennessee didn't have any more players on the three coaches' All-SEC teams than Kentucky. Each had six.

Kentucky was judged to have a better quarterback.

Kentucky was judged to have better receivers.

Kentucky was judged to have a better tight end.

Of the 78 players on the teams, LSU and Arkansas had the most with 12 each. Auburn had eight. Tennessee was in a cluster with five others at six each.

Vols honored were safety Jonathan Hefney, linebacker Jerod Mayo and punter Britton Colquitt on first team, quarterback Erik Ainge and running back LaMarcus Coker on second team and offensive lineman Anthony Parker on third team.

Were any Vols overlooked? Were any Vols underrated?

That's debatable. I would have had Ainge first team. I wouldn't have picked Coker or Parker. I'm not sure Coker will start over Arian Foster and I like Eric Young over Parker.

I do think more than six UT players will earn post-season All-SEC honors. Which Vols omitted from the coaches' list have the best chance to make All-SEC?

Here is my list:

Defensive end Xavier Mitchell (senior). Mitchell was UT's only defensive lineman with more than one sack last year – he had four. He also had a team-high 13 quarterback hurries. He had a game-saving stop on a two-point conversion try against Air Force. It took Mitchell awhile to adjust to the college game as he had just 15 combined tackles in his first two seasons, but he had 43 last year and could emerge as one of the SEC's sack leaders.

Running back Arian Foster (junior). You might remember Foster as the man who has made two key fumbles during his UT career – against Penn State and South Carolina. But he can make UT fans forget that with a stellar senior season. He has good speed, has beefed up to 225, runs with good vision and can dart through holes. He's got more NFL potential than Gerald Riggs had, and don't forget, he averaged almost 150 yards in five starts as a redshirt freshman in 2005.

Defensive tackle J.T. Mapu (senior). Mapu has lost about 15 pounds but looks much stronger and he should be in better football shape after a two-year Mormon Mission. Mapu played end sparingly as a freshman, but moved to tackle as a sophomore in 2003 and he responded with 26 total tackles, 4.5 behind the line. He had two sacks. Mapu had only eight tackles last season, but he could be a disruptive force this season.

Tight ends Chris Brown or Brad Cottam. Brown has caught 45 passes the past two seasons, 31 last year. He is an excellent route runner for a tight end and he's got good hands. Brown lost weight before last season to help his speed and endurance. A two-year starter, Brown could catch 50 passes this season.

Former UT and NFL quarterback Pat Ryan said the 6-foot-8, 272-pound Cottam has NFL ability. But injuries have kept him from being productive. He caught 14 passes for 182 yards last year, including a 45-yarder against Vanderbilt. With his surprising speed, he can make plays downfield. He caught a pass in nine consecutive games.

Offensive lineman Eric Young. Moved from starting right tackle to left tackle, Young played well last season until a midseason shoulder injury. He's got the most experience of any UT offensive lineman. He could play his way into being a mid-round draft pick. He was a Parade All-American in high school.

Linebacker Rico McCoy (junior). As a redshirt freshman last season, McCoy had 38 tackles and made the coaches All-SEC freshman team and third-team Freshman All-American. He had eight stops against Vanderbilt, three behind the line, and a career-high nine in his first career start against Kentucky. He tied for team honors with seven special-teams tackles. He's an explosive player who will rack up plenty of big plays when he gains experience.

STATE HAS FOUR: While Tennessee had six players on the All-SEC teams, the state of Tennessee had four.

Two are Vols – Colquitt and Coker.

The other two are offensive linemen – Michael Oher of Ole Miss and King Dunlap of Auburn. Oher is from Memphis and picked the Rebels over the Vols. Dunlap is from Brentwood. I don't think UT offered Dunlap.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories