The SEC announced its coaches’ preseason all-league team Wednesday, and we admit it – we were underwhelmed by some of their choices. We know we can do better, so here is our preseason All-SEC team.
We pick a position-specific team, i.e., a center, two guards and two tackles along the offensive line. The same goes for the defense, which has ends and tackles and corners and safeties.
We know arguments are going to ensue, so have at it.
QB Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
RB Nick Chubb, Georgia
RB Derrius Guice, LSU
About the backfield: Fitzgerald led the SEC in total offense last season and would seem to have a legit chance at 4,500 total yards this season. Guice proved last season that he can be a feature back; he is both strong and powerful, and will be the obvious focal point of LSU’s offense. Chubb will share carries with Sony Michel, but if Chubb truly is back to his early-season form of 2015, it makes sense to make sure he gets the bulk of the carries. He could (should?) finish his career as the No. 2 rusher in SEC history.
WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
About the receivers: It’s not a stretch to think these three could combine for 215 or so receptions. Kirk is as explosive as any receiver in the nation – on receptions, jet sweeps and punt returns. Ridley should be even more productive with Alabama’s renewed emphasis on a downfield passing attack. Ridley should become Alabama’s leading career receiver this season, while Kirk has an outside shot at the same status with A&M; more likely is that Kirk finishes this season as the No. 2 guy in receptions and No. 3 in yards. Hurst, a former minor league baseball player, has great hands and can get deep; while he needs improvement as a blocker, his receiving ability is what gets him on the field. He may not be targeted as much as he should be because the Gamecocks have two high-level wide receivers in Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards.
T Martez Ivey, Florida
T Jonah Williams, Alabama
G Ross Pierschbacher, Alabama
G Braden Smith, Auburn
C Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
About the linemen: Ragnow and Smith head into the season among the nation’s top two or three at their position. Williams, meanwhile, is a sophomore whose ceiling appears unlimited; he should be in the discussion for the nation’s best tackle by the end of the season. Ivey has moved from guard, where he started the past two seasons, to his natural position and should thrive. Pierschbacher, who is from Iowa, is a grinder who often blows guys up as a run-blocker.
E Marlon Davidson, Auburn
T Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
T Trenton Thompson, Georgia
E Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss
About the linemen: As usual, the SEC is filled with stud defensive linemen, especially at tackle. Payne and Thompson should vie for All-America honors and are difference-makers up front. The same goes for Haynes, who almost certainly will become Ole Miss’ career sacks leader this season. While the Rebels’ defense as a whole is questionable, Haynes’ high-level play is a given. Davidson, a sophomore, is a star on the rise. He started as a true freshman, and his upside is tremendous.
LB Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama
LB Arden Key, LSU
LB Darrin Kirkland Jr., Tennessee
About the linebackers: The SEC is a bit shy on standout linebackers this season – at least those who are 100 percent healthy. Key’s status remains murky. LSU coach Ed Orgeron has said he will miss the opener; when, exactly, will he be able to engage in contact work – and when will be the 100 percent this season? Key is one of the best pass rushers in the nation, but you have to wonder if he ever will be at peak efficiency this season. Hamilton, who is an emotional and physical team leader, is coming off a torn ACL suffered in the SEC championship game. When healthy, he is a sideline-to-sideline guy who is especially good against the run. We’re higher on Kirkland than most. When he was healthy as a true freshman in 2015, he showed he could be a top-shelf linebacker. He was not healthy last season, and the Vols really need him at 100 percent as they look to improve their rancid run defense.
CB Duke Dawson, Florida
CB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
S Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
S Armani Watts, Texas A&M
About the secondary: Fitzpatrick is the best defensive back in the SEC – and might be the best player overall. He and Florida State S Derwin James are the two best DBs nationally. Fitzpatrick has stood out at corner, nickel and safety, and wherever he ends up this season, he will play at a high level. He possesses a great skill set and can be a shutdown corner. Dawson also has seen time at nickel, corner and safety, but is set for corner this season, where he is expected to be the Gators’ next All-America-level player. Harrison has been overshadowed in the Tide secondary, but he blossomed into a top-shelf starter last season and will get some All-America notice this season. Watts was great in 2015, then slumped a bit last season because of some nagging injuries At his best, he is lethal against the run and also has shown solid coverage skills.
K Daniel Carlson, Auburn
P Johnny Townsend, Florida
KR Evan Berry, Tennessee
PR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
About the specialists: Carlson has a big leg (8-of-12 from 50-plus yards in his career, including a 56-yarder) and tremendous accuracy (69-of-83, 83.1 percent). In addition, 63.3 percent of his 222 career kickoffs have been touchbacks. Townsend might be the best punter in the nation; he led the nation in punting last season at 47.9 yards per attempt, had 18 punts of at least 50 yards (43 percent of his attempts) and also dropped 18 inside the 20. Berry, the brother of Kansas City Chiefs S Eric Berry, has four kickoff-return TDs in the past two seasons and owns an eye-popping career average of 34.2 yards on his 49 returns. Kirk is one of the most dangerous punt returners in the nation; he has five punt-return TDs in two seasons and has averaged 23.1 yards on his 27 career punt returns.
Read on for our second-team selections.
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