Mitchell: Preseason All-SEC Team Problems
Florida's Jeff Demps
Florida's Jeff Demps
Posted Jul 14, 2011

A week ahead of the SEC Media Days, the conference Thursday released its Coaches preseason list of top players, and no different than in previous years there are some puzzling decisions

Every July when the SEC coaches release their preseason All-SEC rankings, there quickly follows a great deal of head scratching and furled brows. 2011 is no exception.

The First (and most) Glaring Whiff is Florida's Jeff Demps as a second team running back ahead of Mississippi State's Vick Ballard (third team).

Demps had 551 yards in 2010, while Ballard was a hair shy of 1,000 (968). While Demps might be electric and gets a lot of yards per carry, to say he's injury prone is to be kind. You simply can't count on the Gator to carry a full workload.

Meanwhile, Ballard averages a none-too-shabby 5 ypc, and closed out 2010 as Chairman of the (running back by) Committee in Starkville with 19 carries against Bama, 33 in a great game against Arkansas, 22 in the Egg Bowl, and 20 against Michigan.

Not to mention his 19 touchdowns (nod to @Shooter475 for the reminder).

While we're here, let's stay with RBs for our Second Glaring Whiff: UT's Tauren Poole snubbed outright, while the aforementioned Demps and Auburn's Onterio McCalebb make second/third team, respectively.

In his first full season as the Vol's main tailback, Poole started all 13 games, had more than 1,000 yards rushing, along with eight games with 15 or more carries (20+ against Oregon, LSU and Vandy). He was an AP Honorable Mention while recording six 100 yard games in 2010, which tied for best overall in the SEC.

Poole was also a prolific receiver out of the backfield (22 catches), and until quarterback Tyler Bray emerged on the scene to mop up the leftovers on the 2010 schedule (yes, you read that right), Poole WAS the Vol offense.

For our Third Glaring Whiff, we'll move over to defense, and the grand larceny that is Alabama's Dont'a Hightower making first team over Arkansas' Jerry Franklin. I recognize I'm in the minority here – as everyone is simply in love with Hightower's promise. But Franklin plays in the same conference – same division – and his production has simply dwarfed that of Hightower's.

If I was drafting an NFL team, on promise alone I might take Hightower over Franklin. Hightower is younger, and wow just look at all that athletic ability. One day he may indeed develop into the dominating linebacker that Franklin is today.

One might even argue that LSU's Ryan Baker (second team) deserves the nod ahead of Hightower. Baker's 2010 numbers were nearly 20% better than Hightower's, while deferring to All-everything teammate Kelvin Sheppard. Moreover, the Tiger had seven sacks and a forced fumble in 2010. Hightower? Zero and zero.

Staying in Red Stick, our Final Glaring Whiff is LSU's Rueban Randle making second team wide receiver ahead of either Arkansas' Jarius Wright (third team) or Cobi Hamilton (excluded).

Granted, Randle has struggled to show his true potential suffocated as he is beneath the wet blanket that is LSU's quarterbacking morass. But that's not Wright's problem. Nor is it his fault that his colleagues Greg Childs and Joe Adams already (and justly) received first and second team honors, respectively.

Bottom line: Wright is the SEC's fourth best returning wide receiver in terms of production (behind Alshon Jeffery, Childs and Adams), plus averaged 19 ypc in 2010, on 42 receptions. Randle? 16 ypc on 33 reception.

His career so far in three years for the Hogs? As a third option, Wright has nearly 2,000 yards (1,817) on just 102 receptions – or 18 ypc.

As for Hamilton, that he was snubbed outright is equally egregious. Cobi's the fourth man in Fayetteville and still is the conference's sixth most productive returning wide out, plus averaged a staggering 20 ypc in 2010, on a healthy 32 receptions. By comparison, Randle again averaged four yards less on a nearly equal 33 receptions.

Over their careers, Hamilton averages 19 ypc on 52 receptions, Randle averages 16 ypc, while third teamers Marquis Maze and Emory Blake average 15 ypc. Why exactly is Hamilton not on this list?

Follow Russ Mitchell on Twitter @russmitchellsec.