Part of the work here at SEC Media Days is putting together your preseason All-SEC team and the predicted order of finish for the East and West divisions. Some of those choices are easy, some require a little more thought. Here’s my ballot for the 2019 season.
QUARTERBACK 1 Tua Tagovailoa – QB – Alabama 2 Jake Fromm – QB – Georgia
This was probably the easiest decision of the day, the two best quarterbacks who play for the two best teams. Tua will pile up stats all season long, Fromm will be efficient and put up big numbers himself. I honestly didn’t consider anybody else here.
RUNNING BACK 1 D’Andre Swift – RB – Georgia 2 Najee Harris – RB – Alabama 3 Scottie Phillips – RB – Ole Miss 4 Kylin Hill – RB – Mississippi State
Swift was the obvious choice, but then again so is whoever is going to be the primary ball carrier for Alabama. Harris was the nation’s number one running back coming out of high school three years ago, alongside Mississippi’s own Cam Akers. On the second team we get some home state recognition, with Phillips and Hill poised to be the chief playmaker for both their respective offenses.
WIDE RECEIVER 1 Jerry Jeudy – WR – Alabama 2 Henry Ruggs III – WR – Alabama 3 Jhamon Ausbon – WR – Texas A&M 4 Van Jefferson – WR – Florida
Going Alabama with both first team wideouts wasn’t a difficult choice, it was just picking who to put alongside Jeudy. I think Ruggs is the better choice than Devonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle. Ausbon should bounce back big from an injury riddled sophomore season, and Jefferson’s experience made him a solid choice for the second team.
TIGHT END 1 Jared Pinkney – TE – Vanderbilt 2 Albert Okwuegbunam – TE – Missouri
You would not be wrong in assuming I don’t know much about either of these guys, but I do know they are the leading returning receivers among tight ends in the SEC for 2019. I went with Pickney first team, as the Commodores are breaking in a new quarterback who will likely look to him as a safety valve.
OFF. GUARD/TACKLE 1 Alex Leatherwood – OL – Alabama 2 Andrew Thomas – OL – Georgia 3 Jedrick Wills Jr. – OL – Alabama 4 Ben Cleveland – OL – Georgia 5 Dylan Wonnum – OL – South Carolina 6 Damien Lewis – OL – LSU 7 Marquel Harrell – OL – Auburn 8 Matt Womack – OL – Alabama
Leatherwood and Thomas are both future first round picks, and their teammates Wills and Cleveland probably aren’t far off from that either. It’s no surprise that the two best teams in the league have the best offensive lines. Of note for Mississippi State fans, there wasn’t a Bulldog given among the options for selection here.
CENTER 1 Darryl Williams – OL – Mississippi State 2 Lloyd Cushenberry – OL – LSU
Williams has been so good at guard for MSU the past two seasons, I think he’ll make an easy transition for center for Joe Moorhead. Cushenberry has been really solid for the Tigers, I think he’s also a future pro.
DEFENSIVE LINE 1 Derrick Brown – DL – Auburn 2 Raekwon Davis – DE – Alabama 3 McTelvin Agim – DL – Arkansas
4 Rashard Lawrence – DE – LSU 5 Nick Coe – DE – Auburn 6 Chauncey Rivers – DL – Mississippi State 7 Javon Kinlaw – DL – South Carolina 8 Marlon Davidson – DE – Auburn
Probably at least three first round picks in this group, with Davis and Brown both returning for the senior seasons coming off of years that could have had them in the pros already had they declared for the draft. For Mississippi State, I think Chauncey Rivers could match the production the Bulldogs got the past two seasons from Montez Sweat. Keep an eye on Nick Coe, a freak athlete who will benefit from the talent around him at Auburn.
LINEBACKER 1 Erroll Thompson – LB – Mississippi State 2 Dylan Moses – LB – Alabama 3 Anfernee Jennings – LB – Alabama 4 K’Lavon Chaisson – LB – LSU 5 Terrell Lewis – LB – Alabama 6 Willie Gay Jr. – LB – Mississippi State
If you have listened to SportsTalk Mississippi or the Thunder & Lightning podcast, you know how high I am on the Mississippi State linebacking corps. Thompson is the best of the bunch, a potential All-American. Moses was the top high school player in the country his senior season, he’s poised to lead what should be a resurgent Alabama Defense. Another Bulldog on the second team, Willie Gay, who might be the best athlete in this group.
DEFENSIVE BACK 1 Cameron Dantzler – DB – Mississippi State 2 Grant Delpit – DB – LSU 3 Kristian Fulton – DB – LSU 4 C.J. Henderson – DB – Florida 5 Xavier McKinney – DB – Alabama 6 Marco Wilson – DB – Florida 7 Richard LeCounte – DB – Georgia 8 Trevon Diggs – DB – Alabama
Cam Dantzler is right there with Thompson in terms of pro potential on the Mississippi State defense, it will just depend on how much he’s targeted for any kind of postseason honors. LSU’s Grant Delpit might be the best overall player in college football, a lock to be a top 10 pick in the NFL Draft, he and Kristian Fulton will only enhance LSU’s image as DBU.
PLACEKICKER 1 Rodrigo Blankenship – PK/P – Georgia 2 Jace Christmann – PK – Mississippi State
There might not be a more famous kicker in college football than the bespectacled Rodrigo Blankenship, who has been a big part of Georgia’s success the past couple of seasons. He’ll have a lot of opportunities with what should be a potent Georgia offense. Christmann has been so solid for Mississippi State the past two seasons, and an improved effort from the Bulldogs should get him plenty of chances.
PUNTER 1 Braden Mann – P – Texas A&M 2 Joseph Charlton – P – South Carolina
I took the same tack here as I did at tight end, with both All-SEC punters back in action. Mann is a legitmate weapon for the Aggies, but that offense should be pretty good this year, which might limit his attempts.
RETURN SPECIALIST 1 Jaylen Waddle – WR – Alabama 2 Freddie Swain – WR – Florida
Waddle’s emergence as a true freshman gave Alabama yet another weapon for Tua, and he is equally dangerous in the return game. Don’t be surprised if he ends up on the postseason as a wide receiver if he takes a big step forward as a sophomore.
ALL-PURPOSE 1 Clyde Edwards-Helaire – RB – LSU 2 Kadarius Toney – WR – Florida
Edwards-Helaire will likely be the primary ball carrier for LSU this season, and when you combine that with his pass-catching ability, you have an easy choice for this pick. Toney is a jack of all trades for Florida, a player you could see take some snaps in any Wildcat formation for the Gators.
SEC WEST PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
3 Texas A&M
4 Mississippi State
6 Ole Miss
The top two and bottom two were easy to pick, the middle required a little thought. Right now, A&M is probably only going to be an underdog in four games, and MSU having to go on the road to play them makes them the early favorite. As I have said numerous times this summer, I just don’t see the hype for Auburn. They remind me a lot of MSU last season, only without the experienced quarterback. I won’t be surprised at all to see the Tigers with a new head coach in 2020.
SEC EAST PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
5 South Carolina
This was very similar to the West in terms of top two and bottom two. I think the addition of Kelly Bryant and a favorable schedule should put Missouri into third place, and I think Tennessee is on the rise. South Carolina is sliding, and Will Muschamp is running out of opportunities to prove he belongs as a head coach. Kentucky takes a big step back this year, and Vanderbilt is Vanderbilt.
My SEC Champion is still Alabama, I just don’t think Georgia has all the pieces in place just yet to dethrone the Tide, but I could see the Bulldogs making the playoff as a one loss team. For now though, the king stays the king, as Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide continue to rule the roost in college football’s most powerful conference.