SEC Bloggers: Do Over
Now that the season is over, and the Southeastern Conference has claimed its fourth consecutive National Championship, seemingly like a birthright, CFN's SEC Bloggers look back and review their preseason picks
This story was originally published August 25, 2009 at cfn.scout.com; the review of which is in red text. On a side note, we'd like to congratulate Alabama for winning the conference's fourth straight National Championship! We're disappointed that it happened the way it did, as now everyone outside of the South will hang a big sloppy asterisk on a game that ‘bama was the clear favorite to win regardless, even with a particularly poor start to the contest.
In an effort for full disclosure, the SEC Bloggers from CollegeFootballNews.com lay out their picks for the major SEC awards, SEC division winners and championships of the 2009 football season. Keep an eye on this page as the season progresses to see how our predictions are panning out...
SEC COACH OF THE YEAR
- Houston Nutt, Ole Miss Rebels Well, it was a good idea pre-season. In retrospect, the only pick that might have been worse would have been if I had chosen Les Miles. Nutt forgot that Dexter McCluster existed for the first half of the season. Hmmm... let's take our best player, and not use him. Yeah, that makes sense. Thanks for making me look good Rev. Nutt. I'd love to give this award to Rich Brooks, because he's as deserving as anyone. But how can you not go with Alabama head coach Nick Saban?
- Urban Meyer, Florida Gators How often does a coach who led his team to a 12-0 regular season not deserve this award? It may be a testament to the expectations, but this Florida team was just…underwhelming. Was Percy Harvin really that important? It's not like there weren't other playmakers on this team. Maybe it was Dan Mullen? Either way, Florida limped through the season and was put out of their misery by Alabama in the SEC title game. As for the rightful winner, one can only give the devil his due -- Nick Saban definitely earned his salary this season.
- Bobby Petrino, Arkansas Razorbacks An eight win season is not bad for Arkansas, but the only coach in the league who would be coach of the year with eight victories is Bobby Johnson. I expected more from the Hogs this year and if those two close losses over UF and LSU had turned into wins maybe he would have fit as Coach of the Year. Since he did not there is really only one true choice…he took a first year starting QB and had an even better season than last year with a 5th year senior at the same spot Nick Saban, Alabama
- Urban Meyer, Florida Gators Maybe this wasn't such a bad pick after all. Meyer was obviously dealing with more than we could have ever thought and did not learn until the last two weeks. His team did go 13-1, won the SEC East and the Sugar Bowl yet they fell short of expectations. Coaches whose teams fall short of preseason expectations don't usually win postseason awards. Honorable mention to Rick Brooks at Kentucky and Gene Chizik at Auburn but Alabama was clearly the most consistent team throughout the year and the coach of the year was Nick Saban .
- Bobby Petrino, Arkansas Razorbacks Had Arkansas pulled out the road W against LSU, we could stick with this pick and pretend to be right, given the lack of talent he had to work with and the magnitude of the turnaround. But we'd be wrong – Rich Brooks' performance at Kentucky was better. But even with all the talent and a (relatively) favorable schedule, an undefeated SEC season is an undefeated SEC season. So our EOY pick is Alabama's Nick Saban
SEC OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Barrett Sallee - Tim Tebow, QB, Florida Gators It was definitely the safe pick, seeing as though that Tebow has a Heisman Trophy and a two National Championships in his back pocket. But my selection for offensive POY goes to Mark Ingram. He took home the Heisman, and literally took over several games en route to the BCS National Championship Game. Some Alabama fans may argue that he may not even be the best running back on the team, with Trent Richardson breathing down his neck. But one thing is for certain, Ingram was the best offensive player in the SEC this season.
Billy Gomila - Tim Tebow, QB, Florida Gators It almost feels like the guy had a bad year, but again, a testament to the expected. Tim Tebow led his team to a 13-1 mark through a concussion, but it just didn't awe you the way his previous two seasons did. In the end,Mark Ingram was simply the man who made the conference champion go.
Brian Harbach - Tim Tebow, QB, Florida Gators Agree with Barrett on this one, I took the safe pick here and while Tebow was a Heisman finalist, I would have to say this is his least successful season as a starter. The guy who impressed me the most this year offensively was Ryan Mallett. Mallett should have been first team All-SEC, but it hard for anyone to pass over Tebow but he should be the "obvious" choice when we do this next year..
Gabe Harris - Tim Tebow, QB, Florida Gators Tebow had a good year, not a great one, especially by his standards but that does not diminish his standing as one of the greatest players in SEC history. Mark Ingram may never reach Tebow's status but for one year he was clearly the best in the SEC.
Russ Mitchell - Tim Tebow, QB, Florida Gators Well, this was a miss. There were some games where he was downright pedestrian (Tennessee: 115 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 1 FUM). But the winner should be obvious to all, and yet it's only fitting that I am perhaps the only person that's going to give him the nod, as I think I've been this man's lone advocate for four years. Anthony Dixon led the SEC in rushing this season, not Ingram. He did it with a materially inferior offensive line and quarterback. He ended the season 6th best in the nation – Ingram wasn't in the top ten. And let's face it – every team in the league knew going into the game that Dixon was it, and yet he still amassed these numbers. Clutch. He's going to be a superstar in the NFL, and had he played on any SEC team with a pulse, he'd be a superstar now.
SEC DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Barrett Sallee - Eric Berry, S, Tennessee Volunteers Going to have to go with Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain. If you go by the Heisman Trophy definition, which is that the award goes to the "most outstanding player in college football," McClain may have been more in the mix. He is the best player on the best unit in the SEC, without question. I don't want to take anything away from Eric Berry, because he's an outstanding player too, but he's not up to McClain's level.
Billy Gomila - Eric Berry, S, Tennessee Volunteers Maybe this is what happens when you take the chalk? That expectations word pops up again – it's not that Berry didn't have a good season. It just wasn't the kind of season we'd grown accustomed to seeing from somebody who broke the conference record for interception return yardage in just two seasons. Eric Norwood hasn't been the first name on a lot of people's lips this season – but the bottom line is the numbers he put up at South Carolina would have won him every award at the higher-profile schools.
Brian Harbach - Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama Crimson Tide It looks like this one was dead on correct, it was a blast watching McClain make defensive calls this season for the best defense in the country and he made big play after big play. McClain stepped up in every game Alabama had to win including the Iron Bowl where he dominated the second half when Alabama needed to step it up. My pick hasn't changed, McClain.
Gabe Harris - Eric Norwood, LB, South Carolina Gamecocks I thought I had this one nailed after Norwood's monster first game against NC State when he had 8 tackles and 2 sacks. While he had a great season, it wasn't the best. Joe Haden (Florida) was great as were Antonio Coleman (Auburn) and Eric Berry (Tennessee) but Rolando McClain was a rock on the conference's best defense and was truly the best player on his team. His amazing tip to a teammate for an interception in the Kentucky game sealed it for me.
Russ Mitchell - Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida Gators I'm fine leaving this. I could go with McClain, but he had great help around him. For that reason, I'd probably go with Norwood over both McClain and Spikes. But you're splitting hairs here – the D's in the SEC were just stock full of NFL players this year. Perhaps even more so then usual.
SEC SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Barrett Sallee - Brandon James, PR, Florida Gators James was a good pick, but I am going to have to go with Auburn place kicker Wes Byrum as my SEC Special Teams POY. Byrum hit every extra point that he attempted, and was 15-for-16 in FG attempts. How he was not first team All-SEC, I'm not sure.
Billy Gomila - Joshua Shene, K, Ole Miss Rebels Not really that bad of a pick – but this was a spot that a lot of people could have made a case for this award in 2009. Drew Butler of Georgia was better at his job than anybody else in the league was at theirs, leading the league in punting average by a full five yards per kick.
Brian Harbach - Javier Arenas, PR, Alabama Crimson Tide I still feel good with this one, Arenas was the most dynamic and danderous return man in the country and his ability to change field position greatly aided Alabama's roll towards Pasedena. There were a lot of other great options this year but Arenas stood out the most. Staying the same with Arenas.
Gabe Harris - Javier Arenas, PR, Alabama Crimson Tide Arenas finished 2nd in kick return average and punt return average and was a game changer. There were a lot of great performances this year: Wes Byrum (Auburn), Warren Norman (Vanderbilt) and Drew Butler (Georgia) but I'm going to have to give it to Leigh Tiffin at Alabama. 29 field goals with only 4 misses is a percentage a lot of NFL teams are looking for right about now and the Tennessee game stands out.
Russ Mitchell - Javier Arenas, PR, Alabama Crimson Tide Wow. I was thinking, "Boy, I hope I picked Javier." Saw that I picked Javier, and smiled. But how do you not take Georgia's Drew Butler here? Javier gets all the accolades and attention because he scores points, and that stands out. However, I haven't seen a punter as dominating as Butler in the SEC for years. I'm going to call it a tie – both were catalysts that changed the way their opponents game planned.
SEC FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Barrett Sallee - Bryce Brown, RB, Tennessee Volunteers Brown was pretty non-existent in the Vols offense. He played well when he was in, but he simply didn't get enough touches to be seriously considered for this award. My pick for SEC FOY goes to South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery finished the year with 46 catches for 763 yards and six touchdowns....FOR SOUTH CAROLINA! That's a good stat line for any freshman, much less one playing for the offensively-challenged Gamecocks.
Billy Gomila - Carlton Thomas, RB, Georgia Bulldogs This is what I get for listening to spring chatter – did Thomas even play this season? A number of freshmen were impressive in spurts, but Warren Norman of Vanderbilt sustained it the best, as one of the only playmakers the Commodores had in 2009.
Brian Harbach - Stephon Gilmore, S, South Carolina Gamecocks Gilmore had a great freshmen year and honestly he would have been my pick here if he had made more of an impact on offense. I am not sure what Spurrier was thinking while the Gamecock offense struggled last again, Gilmore should have been in the Wildcock formation much more and it was mean to only use him against Clemson. The pick has changed, but it will stay in Columbia asAlshon Jeffrey was the most impressive freshmen this year.
Gabe Harris - DeAngelo Benton, WR, Auburn Tigers Whoops, wrong Auburn freshman as Onterio McCalebb should have been my pick. While McCalebb started out strong he faded down the stretch due to injuries. The clear winner in my mind is Warren Norman from Vanderbilt. Norman rushed for 783 yards and had 1,050 return yards. He broke Herschel Walker's freshman all-purpose yardage record and when you break one of Herschel's records, you've done something.
Russ Mitchell - Andre Debose, WR, Florida Gators I still contend that were it not for an injury, I was spot on with this call. And how the season might have been different for the Gators with this "Harvin-esque" threat. Now here I sit, breaking the tie between Alshon and Warren. Gabe is right – anyone that breaks a Herschel Walker record while at Vandy gets the nod, so we're going Warren Norman
SEC EAST DIVISION WINNER
Barrett Sallee - Florida Gators This really wasn't much of a debate. With a solid defense and Tim Tebow running the show at quarterback, this wasn't really ever up for debate (as demonstrated by the fact that all five of us picked the Gators in the pre-season.
Billy Gomila - Florida Gators 'Bout time I got one right. It wasn't impressive the way we'd come to expect from the Gators, but style points only count when it comes to media polls and the BCS.
Brian Harbach - Florida Gators No reason to be too fancy with an explanation here, it was never a contest. UGA fell apart as did South Carolina while Tennessee struggled with a much tougher schedule than the other two. The Gators were the only option here.
Gabe Harris - Florida Gators As easy a call as there has ever been in one of the SEC divisional races and it was never in doubt throughout the season.
Russ Mitchell - Florida Gators No explanation needed. The East was weak this season, and the Gators were the pride of the group.
SEC WEST DIVISION WINNER
Barrett Sallee - Ole Miss Rebels Dear Mr. Nutt, this might have been a good pick if you would have used McCluster more earlier in the season. Oh wait, that still didn't excuse the fact that Jevan Snead had as many touchdowns as interceptions (20). I think it's safe to say that I won't be picking the chic pick next season.
Billy Gomila - Ole Miss Rebels My colleague Mr. Sallee points out that it took half a season for Houston Nutt to figure out that Dexter McCluster was a running back – to which I point out Les Miles and Russell Shepard. I should have trusted my own skepticism in Jevan Snead, especially given that some media outlets were ranking him as one of the five best QB's in the country.
Brian Harbach - LSU Tigers While it is obvious to everyone Alabma is the best team in the country, I would have liked to have seen a healthy LSU finish that game against Alabama. You just can't win with Jarrett Lee in the SEC, well…there is always next year. Just don't ask Russ about the Peterson pick or the phone call he had with me after ?
Gabe Harris - Alabama Crimson Tide The reigning SEC West champs had most of the pieces returning and a very favorable schedule made this an easy pick for me and they did not disappoint.
Russ Mitchell - Alabama Crimson Tide Same.
Barrett Sallee - Florida Gators This wasn't too outlandish pre-season. I mean, only a contrarian would be picking against the Gators. That won't be the case next season, considering the Gators are likely to have full roster upheaval, and may not have its coach either.
Billy Gomila - Florida Gators With 20 starters back from a national championship, it seemed like a gimme (remember that fact next season, Tide fans), but nobody ever replaced Percy Harvin with any consistency, and Steve Adazzio clearly lacked Dan Mullen's killer instinct as a play-caller.
Brian Harbach - Florida Gators Gators were the obvious choice preseason with great senior leadership and an easier schedule compared to 2008, but they just got beat by a better team this year.
Gabe Harris - Florida Gators There were only two legitimate choices to win the SEC in 2009 and I stand by my choice of picking a two-time national champion with a Heisman Trophy QB returning. The Gators just ran out of gas underneath the weight of expectation.
Russ Mitchell - Florida Gators Absolutely stunning. I thought there was a fighter's chance ‘bama could win, but I would have given it to the defense, NOT an amazing performance by Tide QB Greg McElroy! The much maligned (and overrated) McElroy saved his (without a doubt) finest performance of the year for when it was needed most. Had he played this way the entire season, no team would have been within double digits of the Tide. A breathtaking performance.
Barrett Sallee – Colt McCoy, QB, Texas Longhorns I figured that Heisman voters would give McCoy a "Lifetime Achievement Award." Had it not been for McCoy's debacle in the Big 12 Championship Game, I probably would have been right. The Heisman Trophy has evolved into an award for the best offensive player on the best team, so it's kind of hard to argue against Mark Ingram taking home the hardware. But if you want to go by the definition set forth by the Heisman Committee, it should have gone to Toby Gerhart or Ndamukong Suh.
Billy Gomila - Tim Tebow, QB, Florida Gators Thirty-one combined touchdowns is only considered a bad season if your name is Tim Tebow.
Brian Harbach - Colt McCoy, QB, Texas Longhorns McCoy would have won the Heisman if he had played decent against Nebraska, but calling his play against the Huskers decent would be an insult to decent folks everywhere. Voters held onto their ballots this year and watched Ingram dominate Florida and the SECCG won him the award.
Gabe Harris - Colt McCoy, QB, Texas Longhorns I thought McCoy would win by default and getting the sympathy vote for a "Lifetime Achievement Award as well. He would have won if not for the Big 12 Championship Game debacle.
Russ Mitchell - Colt McCoy, QB, Texas Longhorns He was in like Flynn – particularly after the A&M game. Until he upchucked on himself in the Big 12 Championship. Ingram was the poster boy on the National Champion, but he didn't even lead his own conference (though he was the most important player on that team). For that reason, I'd have prefered either Toby Gerhart or Ndamukong Suh; particularly Suh. But Ingram's 1c.
Barrett Sallee - Florida over USC Well, at least the Florida pick made at least a little bit of sense. USC = epic fail.
Billy Gomila - Florida over Texas Hey, I was at least right that the SEC champ would end up playing Texas. I knew the Horns would walk through the Big 12 at least…
Brian Harbach - Florida over Ohio State I was taking this one based on a weak Big Ten and USCw starting a true freshmen on the road early in the season, not crazy, but not correct. The Gators were a game away which is more than I can say for Ohio State, but my incorrect pick is saved by the SEC's 4th straight year with a chance for a national championship.
Gabe Harris - Florida over Texas I only picked this half right on the teams but at least I got the conferences correct. Florida was as overwhelming a favorite to start the season as there has been in recent memory while Texas had the team and the schedule to make a run to Pasadena.
Russ Mitchell - Florida over Texas Coin toss. More interestingly… We have a depth chart for a reason – and everyone talks about how critical injuries are. Yet year in and out, teams play with only one QB, rarely if ever allowing the backup to get even meaningless playing time. Not to take anything away from Alabama, as they were the better team playing in the tougher conference, but had something happened to McElroy in the first five minutes of the Championship game, they'd have been counting on Star Jackson (who?), and the outcome would have been the same blowout in reverse. (And we don't want to appear ungrateful, but any chance we can get this game played on Jan. 2?)