SEC predictions

07/20/2011 10:26 AM

For the first time since 2000, I won’t be turning in a preseason ballot at SEC Media Days. But I’ve still got the football bug in me, so here’s a look at my All-SEC team and predicted order of finish. The coaches released its selections earlier this week with the media’s picks set to be released on Friday.

1) South Carolina (11-1, 7-1)-Steve Spurrier finally has the Gamecocks looking like some of his loaded Florida teams. There’s plenty of skill position talent, and the defense should be nasty. The only question mark is quarterback. If Stephen Garcia can put his knucklehead ways behind him, the Gamecocks will be in the thick of the BCS title chatter.

2) Georgia (10-2, 6-2)-There’s a lot to like about the Bulldogs. They should have the league’s best quarterback in Aaron Murray and perhaps the nation’s best special teams unit. The schedule is also very user-friendly, with no real brutal road games. Mark Richt should get a much-needed bounce back year, but I think South Carolina’s just a little bit better.

3) Florida (6-6, 3-5)-My predicted won-loss record for the Gators might surprise you, but let’s face the facts: Florida wasn’t very good last year, and they’re in the midst of a major coaching overhaul. There’s still talent on board, and I think Will Muschamp will ultimately get it done. But this looks like a transition season.

4) Tennessee (6-6, 2-6)-Derek Dooley seems like he’s doing things the right way in Knoxville. But when you do things the right way, it usually takes a little time. UT has some young talent, but they’ll likely tread water for another year before making a big move in 2012.

5) Kentucky (6-6, 2-6)-It’s hard to get a read on the Cats, who have a lot of ‘what-ifs’. If Morgan Newton comes of age and the defense picks up the new scheme, UK could move into the top three or four of the division. But with all of the question marks this seems like a safe place for Joker Phillips and Co.

6) Vanderbilt (3-9, 0-8)-The good news is that the early buzz surrounding new coach James Franklin suggests he has the energy and recruiting juice to succeed at Vandy. The bad news is that he inherits a roster than won just two games last year and has potentially demoralizing road games at South Carolina and Alabama.

1) Alabama (11-1, 7-1)-I think the Tide will stub its toe once along the way (at Mississippi State?) but will end up playing South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game with a berth in the BCS title game possibly at stake.

2) Arkansas (10-2, 6-2)-With a stud running back in Knile Davis (1,322 yards, 13 touchdowns in 2010) and the nation’s most dangerous set of receivers, the Hogs will still roll up the points even without Ryan Mallett. With Bobby Petrino now having the parts in place for a quality defense, Arkansas is a realistic threat to ‘Bama for the West crown.

3) LSU (9-3, 6-2)-The Tigers have top-notch talent, but there’s no way Les Miles gets all the breaks he got last year. Everybody’s talking about how improved Jordan Jefferson should be, but we’ll have to see. The non-conference schedule is also a bear, with a neutral game against Oregon to start the season and a Sept. 24 road trip to West Virginia.

4) Mississippi State (7-5, 3-5)-The folks in Starkville are looking for bigger and better things after last season’s 9-4 run, but the West is just too tough for the Bulldogs to make major noise. But make no mistake about it. This is a very good team that would probably contend in the East.

5) Auburn (5-7, 2-6)-You’ve got to give Gene Chizik some props, but if Auburn fans are really honest with themselves they know that last year was mostly about Cam Newton and Nick Fairley. It’s not like the Tigers will suddenly be terrible, but just look at the schedule. At Arkansas. At Georgia. At LSU. The Iron Bowl. Hard to imagine them making much noise in 2011.

6) Ole Miss (4-8, 1-7)-Houston Nutt always seems to have nine lives, but time may be running out for him in Oxford. He has too many issues at quarterback, receiver and on defense.

QB-Aaron Murray, Georgia-Steady and sure-handed sophomore will help get the Bulldogs back on track. If he was at South Carolina the Gamecocks would run the table.
RB-Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina-Could go from National Freshman of the Year to the Heisman Trophy.
RB-Trent Richardson, Alabama-A lot of scouts are saying Richardson is better than former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. He’ll get a chance to prove it in 2011.
WR-Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina-When I saw this guy light up Kentucky as a true freshman a couple of years ago, I knew he was the real deal. Ripped through a loaded Alabama secondary last year as well.
WR-Greg Childs, Arkansas-Was on his way to a monstrous year statistically before a knee injury sidelined him the last four games.
TE-Orson Charles, Georgia-Athletic freak who is a matchup nightmare for linebackers in the open field.
C-William Vlachos, Alabama-Will have added importance as the Tide breaks in a new QB.
OL-Larry Warford, Kentucky-Warford will be on the radar of NFL scouts after the season.
OL-Bradley Sowell, Ole Miss-The O-line is one area where the Rebels can hang with anybody in the league.
OL-Cordy Glenn, Georgia-You’ve got to feel good when you’re left tackle has 36 career starts under his belt.
OL-Barrett Jones, Alabama-This is how loaded the Bama O-line is: In addition to Jones and Vlachos, the Tide have two other honors candidates in super sophomore D.J. Fluker and Cyrus Kouandijo, the nation’s top incoming freshman lineman.

DL-Devin Taylor, South Carolina-At 6-feet-7, 250-pounds, Taylor is an imposing figure coming off the edge.
DL-Jaye Howard, Florida-How did a guy with 12 tackles for loss get left off the Coaches All-SEC team?
DL-Malik Jackson, Tennessee-One thing Vol fans can’t be mad at Lane Kiffin about is him bringing this USC transfer to Knoxville to bolster the D-line.
DL-Melvin Ingram, South Carolina-Will team with Taylor and freshman Jadeveon Clowney for what should be America’s fiercest pass rush.
LB-Dont’a Hightower, Alabama-Hightower has created monstrous expectations but should be in position to reach them now that he’s another year removed from knee surgery.
LB-Danny Trevathan, Kentucky-Trevathan is still underrated across the league despite leading the SEC in tackles and making plays over the field in 2010. A Gainesville Sun poll had him as the SEC’s 19th-best player. Seriously?
LB-Jerry Franklin, Arkansas-The best player on what should be Petrino’s best defensive unit at Arkansas.
DB-Mark Barron, Alabama-First-team All-American last year who surprisingly said no the the NFL.
DB-Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina-Saw him get burned quite a bit last year but is still highly-regarded
DB-Morris Claiborne, LSU-Will step into Patrick Peterson’s shutdown corner role for the Tigers. Has the talent to handle it.
DB-Robert Lester, Alabama-One of several pro prospects in the Crimson Tide secondary.

K-Blair Walsh, Georgia-Is literally money in the back (20-23 on FG’s).
P-Drew Butler, Georgia-Fell off just a tad after winning the Ray Guy Award in 2009, but he’ll be back in the mix this time.
RS-Brandon Boykin, Georgia-Has four career kick return TD’s.
AP-Joe Adams, Arkansas-Could go over 1,000 yards receiving and is also a dangerous punt returner.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR-Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR-Dont’a Hightower, Alabama
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR-(tie)-Isaiah Crowell, Georgia and Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
COACH OF THE YEAR-Bobby Petrino, Arkansas


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