Live from Atlanta, where the Braves won 10-1 last night and ran my overall record at Braves games to a robust 12-2. Before looking forward to two hours of traffic en route to Turner for tonight's game - I could never live here - the coaches announced their preseason All-SEC teams today (check it out at SECsports.com), prepping for SEC Media Days which take place next week. As usual, I'll throw my two cents into the equation:
2007 SESB PRESEASON ALL-SEC TEAM
QB - ERIK AINGE, TENNESSEE
In what could turn out to be the Year of the Quarterback in the SEC, there are familiar names like Stafford and Tebow, and there are players that are lesser known like Andre Woodson who may turn out to be the cream of the crop. But the best combination of tools and experience is found in Knoxville. Erik Ainge was believed to be a franchise player when he started as a freshman in 2004, and has always had the physical tools. He rebounded exceptionally well last year from a fragile 2005 season. Now charged with more of the responsibilitiy in the offense, the success or failure of the Vols' season will rise and fall, as it tends to do everywhere in the SEC, on the shoulders of the head coach, then the quarterback. Ainge has a chance to become a solid NFL first round draft pick, and the best quarterback in the SEC on a championship team. He also has a chance to struggle with new receivers and against solid defenses every week. There are no Heisman candidates among SEC quarterbacks, unless you count Ainge, so it's not an obvious pick either way. But Ainge has the best chance to excel.
RB - DARREN MCFADDEN, ARKANSAS
RB - CORY BOYD, SOUTH CAROLINA
The first choice is exceptionally obvious - McFadden is the best player in the conference and arguably the nation. But from there, you have lots of talent and options, but not one name that truly stands out. You could argue for McFadden's counterpart in Felix Jones. You could argue for BenJarvus Green-Ellis at Ole Miss, who quietly put up better numbers than most last year. You could argue for Kentucky's Rafael Little, who combines his rushing abilities with pass catching and return skills. Or you could choose Arian Foster or LaMarcus Coker in Knoxville. But I'll go to Columbia and take Cory Boyd, simply because I believe he's the most valuable RB in the SEC behind McFadden - without him, South Carolina's offense is in real trouble. When Boyd is 100%, he's a load to bring down and can make everything work right for Steve Spurrier's offense, in which a solid running back has always been an overlooked but critical component (Rhett, Taylor, Graham, etc.) Cory Boyd has a chance to be that component for Carolina in 2007. He gets the nod.
WR - EARL BENNETT, VANDERBILT
WR - MARCUS MONK, ARKANSAS
Bennett, as stated on a previous blog, could become the SEC's all-time leading pass receiver by November. He's the obvious choice for one, even if he does play for Vanderbilt. The second option is once again up for debate, because there are some flash names out there like Early Doucet and Percy Harvin. But the 6'6" Marcus Monk is a gamechanger, not because he has Harvin's speed or playmaking ability, but because he's such a handful to defend on every single play on a team where you have to respect the run with everything you have. Others will have better numbers, but I believe Monk is the second best wide receiver in the SEC this season.
TE - JACOB TAMME, KENTUCKY
In a year where it seems like finally both Florida and Georgia don't have a proven NFL threat at tight end, the senior Tamme is the obvious choice. He puts up bigger numbers at this position than anyone else by far, and is yet another option in the exciting Kentucky attack that hasn't been seen this decade. For clarification, Jared Lorenzen was a different kind of exciting.
OL - WILL ARNOLD, LSU
OL - JONATHAN LUIGS, ARKANSAS
OL - ANTOINE CALDWELL, ALABAMA
OL - CHRIS WILLIAMS, VANDERBILT
OL - ROBERT FELTON, ARKANSAS
Check it out - Vanderbilt has more offensive selections here than anyone else in the Eastern Division, and Florida and Georgia have none. Caldwell and Luigs are juniors, the other three are seniors, and obviously will all play important roles in the offensive success of their teams.
DE - QUENTIN GROVES, AUBURN
DE - DERRICK HARVEY, FLORIDA
Easy choices here - Groves is probably the better of the two players and might be the best overall defensive player in the SEC after Glenn Dorsey, but Harvey made a bigger name for himself in the BCS Championship Game, and is one of the only returning components on the Florida defense. Both can get after you in a hurry.
DT - GLENN DORSEY, LSU
DT - MARCUS HARRISON, ARKANSAS
Dorsey has been called the best player in college football by Kirk Herbstreit, and the senior may in fact be just that. He's got Top 10 draft pick written all over him. Harrison is another reason why you can't just write off Arkansas as a one year story or just a team with a great running back, though he'll carry more of the load by himself with Anderson now in the NFL. Remember when Tennessee was a staple crop to have a defensive lineman on the Preseason All-SEC team?
LB - ALI HIGHSMITH, LSU
LB - JASPER BRINKLEY, SOUTH CAROLINA
LB - WESLEY WOODYARD, KENTUCKY
It's a deep year at linebacker as well in the SEC, and there are other names that could go here, including Jerod Mayo. Brinkley is the best player on South Carolina's excellent defense, Highsmith bottles things up for LSU, and Woodyard continues to dominate at Kentucky while going relatively unnoticed.
DB - SIMEON CASTILLE, ALABAMA
DB - JONATHAN HEFNEY, TENNESSEE
DB - TONY JOINER, FLORIDA
DB - CHEVIS JACKSON, LSU
Castille seems like he's been around forever, and so does Hefney, who's been a starter for four years. Jackson is the next good defender in the secondary in Baton Rouge, while Joiner will be the only returning starter in Florida's secondary. All have NFL futures.
K - BRANDON COUTU, GEORGIA
P - BRITTON COLQUITT, TENNESSEE
Two guys who also feel like they've been aroud forever, Colquitt for his last name, Coutu because Georgia simply keeps turning out great kickers.