Hits and Misses of 2014 Preseason Coaches All‐SEC Football Team

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2014

Hits and Misses of 2014 Preseason Coaches All‐SEC Football Team

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    More than a month after the media picked its All-SEC first, second and third teams, the coaches have weighed in with their own version of the preseason superlatives.

    Announced Friday afternoon on the SEC's official website, the coaches' selections bear a general resemblance to the media's from mid-July, but there are a few minor differences of note. Two second-teamers on the previous list were named first-teamers on the newer one—and, of course, vice versa.

    All 14 SEC programs had at least one player represented, and half of them had at least seven. Alabama and LSU led the way with 11 players recognized in total, but the Crimson Tide had an SEC-best eight on the first team while the Tigers checked in with just one.

    But where did the coaches do the best job deviating from the media? And where did they make a mistake?

    Was anyone egregiously under/overvalued?

    Here's a quick recap of the list.

Miss: Bo Wallace over Dak Prescott on the Second Team

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    This one had to be included, if only for internal consistency.

    Bo Wallace might easily perform better than Dak Prescott this season, and if you believe the reports about his shoulder—i.e. that it's never been healthy the past two years but now finally is—he might perform better than Nick Marshall and make the first team, too.

    The problem with Wallace has never been talent so much as consistency. He looks great one play and awful the next; like 2008 Jevan Snead one week but like 2009 Jevan Snead the next.

    Prescott has a smaller sample size and struggled a bit against the best teams on Mississippi State's schedule, but his on-field body of work has by and large been better and more consistent than Wallace's. He finished No. 5 last year in ESPN's Adjusted QBR metric, ahead of players such as Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater.

    Wallace finished No. 35.

    That metric is not (and should not be) the end-all of measuring quarterback performance, but a discrepancy as wide as No. 5 and No. 35 seems important, nonetheless.

    Wallace is on the second team because of what he can become, but Prescott deserved to make it based on what he already is.

Hit: Trey Flowers over Gabe Wright on the First Team

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    Again…for internal consistency.

    Trey Flowers emerged from the shadow of Chris Smith last season and eventually became the best defensive end on the team. His 13.5 tackles for loss are the most among returning SEC players.

    Gabe Wright, meanwhile, had a fine season in the middle of Auburn's defense, and it's unfair to compare his stats with those of Flowers because he plays a different position (tackle instead of guard).

    Still, when Wright made the media first team over Flowers, it felt like he was representing Auburn's defensive line by proxy. A unit with LaDarius Owens, Montravius Adams and (as expected before SEC media days) Carl Lawson supporting Wright would be one of the best in the conference, so it couldn't be omitted from the list.

    But that type of thinking—if it's indeed what was going on—feels reductive toward the point of preseason all-conference teams: to highlight and reward the best individual players—not units.

    By that criteria, Flowers deserved his spot on the first team.

Miss: A.J. Cann Still on the Second Team

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    The coaches followed the template of the media, surrounding first-team center Reese Dismukes with three tackles (Laremy Tunsil, Cedric Ogbuehi and La'el Collins) and Alabama guard Arie Kouandjio.

    Two thoughts on this.

    First…um, why? If a real offensive line requires one center, two guards and two tackles, why doesn't a superlative team?

    I know that's a tad nitpicky, but aren't these supposed to be hypothetical all-star teams? As in, if martians landed tomorrow and challenged the SEC's best players to a football game with the fate of the planet on the line, this is the lineup we would start against them?

    Wouldn't that lineup have two guards?

    But on that point, I'll digress. The bigger issue is with Kouandjio over A.J. Cann in the one guard spot—even though there should be two. Kouandjio is a fine player in his own right, but Cann might be the best offensive guard in college football. There's a reason why he's been voted a consensus first-team All-American this preseason.

    Help me understand, SEC, how one of your own can be one of the five best offensive linemen in the country but not in the conference. How does that even make any sense? It would be like winning Miss America without winning Miss [insert state here].

    Backwards logic all around.

Hit: No Freshmen Allowed

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    There is an overwhelmingly high chance that at least one (and probably more) true freshmen make the postseason All-SEC teams.

    That doesn't mean any should be listed in the preseason.

    Projecting which freshmen will succeed and which ones won't is a tired exercise. We've spent the past four years watching them in high school to predict how they'll pan out, but we can't know for sure until they get on the field and play before an SEC audience.

    Everyone who made the All-SEC teams has done that already, has proven what they can do. Highly ranked potential starters such as LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson will have to earn the respect of the coaches.

    Especially with Fournette—who was the No. 1 overall player in the class—it would have been difficult to slot him in on a list that didn't even include Alabama running back Derrick Henry. Both are unproven in college after historically dominant high school careers, but Henry at least showed a glimmer of what he can do in the Sugar Bowl.

    If he can't crack the third team, neither should Fournette.

Miss: Derrick Henry Nowhere to Be Found

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    …That reminds me.

    How the heck is Henry not on this list?

    The top four running backs are obvious: Rank them in whatever order you please as long as Todd Gurley is No. 1, and T.J. Yeldon, Mike Davis and Alex Collins are the three directly behind him.

    Down on the third team, though, things begin to get dicey. Keith Marshall is a fair inclusion (provided his ACL heals up) and so is Arkansas' Jonathan Williams. But tied with Williams in the final spot was Florida's Matt Jones, which is…um, let's say hard to reconcile.

    A case could be made for several running backs over Jones—including two (Kelvin Taylor and Mack Brown) from his own team. The same goes for Auburn's tandem of Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne.

    But Henry, more than anyone, sticks out for his omission after what he did to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. His two long touchdowns in that game felt like statements more than mere plays, which explains why he's listed at 20-1 to win the Heisman, per Odds Shark

    Only two running backs in the country rank higher.

    Jones is not a bad player by any stretch, and it would have been nice to see what he could have done had he stayed on the field last year. Alas, a viral infection forced him from the lineup, and we didn't. He still finished with more touches than Henry, and although he looked good in them, not a single one made the splash Henry did in New Orleans.

    Hook any SEC head coach or defensive coordinator up to a polygraph machine, and ask him how much Henry terrifies him. Try to get him to say with a straight face that Henry is not one of the seven best running backs in the conference.

    Then you'll get your real All-SEC preseason team.

Hit: LSU's Defense Is Low on Star Power, High on Depth

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    LSU does not have a defensive superstar for the first time in—I don't know, forever? But who cares?

    That doesn't mean the unit is in trouble.

    Even without a single defender on the All-SEC first team, LSU placed six on the list overall. Linebacker Kwon Alexander and defensive backs Tre'Davious White and Corey Thompson made the second team, and defensive back Rashard Robinson and defensive linemen Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco made the third team.

    The secondary sticks out for having three players listed, and it could get even better pending the status of Jalen Mills, an all-conference-caliber safety who was reinstated to the team this fall after a suspension for legal troubles this spring. According to Shea Dixon of 247Sports, it is unclear whether he will miss game action.

    Add Mills to White, Robinson, Thompson and a whole slew of younger, talented depth pieces, and LSU has a chance to emerge as this year's Florida—the team with the preposterous secondary. 

    "Everybody was thinking that the DBU tradition really was gone, but it really hasn't," Robinson told David Ching of ESPN.com. "We're here. Our time is now."

    The Tigers still have Les Miles and John Chavis running the show, and even without the blue-chip, All-America-type talents they are used to trotting out, they still have an excess of red-chip, all-conference-type talents at every single level of the defense.

    It's nice to see them get some credit.

Miss: Trey Williams Snubbed from Third Team

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    The top two all-purpose slots went to Alabama's Christion Jones and LSU's Terrence Magee—and rightfully so. No problem there.

    It's a little odd, though, to see South Carolina's Pharoh Cooper over Trey Williams on the third team. Not because Cooper is undeserving—he's not; he's really, really good—but because Williams is even less undeserving. Both players have nearly unlimited potential, but Williams has been given a better platform to prove it.

    Last year, Williams finished with 407 yards on 58 offensive touches, and Cooper finished with 231 on 23. Cooper's average was better, but Williams' came in more important spots. The only games where Cooper topped 30 total offensive yards were a 52-7 blowout of Arkansas and a 70-10 blowout of Coastal Carolina.

    Williams made a difference in meaningful situations.

    This year, both Cooper and Williams stand to make a bigger impact on their respective offenses. Cooper will inherit the slot role made vacant by Bruce Ellington, and Williams should see more touches with the departure of Ben Malena and Johnny Manziel.

    Both players are bona fide breakout candidates who could find themselves on the first or second team by season's end. Based on what we've seen so far, though, Williams seems the far safer choice.


    Note: All recruiting info refers to the 247Sports composite rankings.