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SEC Bloggers: 2010 Early SEC Picks, Part 1
Could the Mad Hatter get the axe in 2010?
The SEC Bloggers kick this off-season off in style with some very early 2010 SEC pre-season prognostications.
It's hard to believe that the 2009 college football season is already in the books. Seven months is too long to wait for 2010. With that in mind, the SEC Bloggers from CFN are here for you. So to kick the off-season off with style, we give you Part 1 of our 2010 Ridiculously Early SEC Picks.
SEC OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Billy Gomila - A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Mark Ingram or Ryan Mallett are the chalk picks, but after a season where the chalk picks didn’t exactly work out, call this an off-the-grid selection. Green was dominating SEC secondaries despite an inconsistent (and that’s a generous assessment) quarterback and negligible running game. Mark Richt’s done enough to make me think the Bulldogs have a rebound season in them, and Green will lead that with a huge season (likely his last before departing to the NFL).
Brian Harbach - Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
Trying to think outside of the box with this pick really doesn’t make a lot of sense because Mallett had such a fantastic first season as an SEC quarterback. The scary thought is what would his numbers have been if the Razorback receivers didn’t drop ball after ball. He probably deserved this award a year ago, but the SEC will make it up to him this year.
Gabe Harris - Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
Smartly returns to school for one more year under Bobby Petrino’s QB-friendly offense and with many of the SEC schools turning over the QB position, the time is right for Mallett to run away with this award. He’ll put up huge numbers and even though Mark Ingram will give him a run for his money, Trent Richardson will take away enough carries in Alabama’s backfield to ensure Mallett wins this award.
Russ Mitchell - Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
This might be the easiest pick of the lot. Another year in Bobby’s system, a bit more maturity (which the kid needs), and a WR corps that’s only getting better. They lose Mike Smith as a threat out of the backfield, but he was hobbled for much of the season and both youngsters got a lot of reps. Plus Petrino got a recruiting class very heavy on defense, particularly the line – which should get the ball in Mallett’s hands more often. We wish all Mallett had to learn is that he doesn’t need to win it by himself… Except he does.
Barrett Sallee - Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
Mallett returns to Arkansas after deciding to pass on the 2010 NFL Draft. After what happened to Sam Bradford in 2009, I find the move very surprising. But the NFL's loss is Arkansas' gain. An argument could have been made for Mallett winning this award in '09, throwing for 3,627 yards and 30 touchdowns. Now that Tebow's gone, he should be considered one of the front-runners in 2010. Plus, he'll have plenty of weapons. The Hogs get wide receivers Joe Adams and Greg Childs back, and should get a solid running game from Broderick Green and Dennis Johnson. Mallett will benefit from a potent Razorback offense, and take POY honors in 2010.
SEC DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Billy Gomila - Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Football games got boring at times for Peterson in ’09. That’s a testament to how much he was completely avoided by opposing quarterbacks. He’s big, he’s physical, he’s fast and he is the best pure cover guy in America.
Brian Harbach - Kelvin Sheppard, LB, LSU
The idea of picking Patrick Peterson makes a lot of sense but it would be pretty shocking if any SEC offense tries to pick on him this year. Hands down he is the best defensive player in the league, but will he have the impact of a guy like Kelvin Sheppard who is going to improve on a season where he had 110 tackles. He will be the leader of a very good LSU defense and he will have a visible impact in each game this year.
Gabe Harris - Chris Marve, LB, Vanderbilt
The junior to be is a tackling machine and deserves some more headlines. Earned second-team All-SEC by the head coaches as a sophomore and led the SEC with 10.1 tackles per game while totaling 121 tackles. He was a model of consistency as he had double digit tackles in seven of Vandy’s 12 games and had at least four tackles in every game. None of this is new to Marve as he had over 100 tackles as a freshman. Will he actually win this award? Not likely, but if he played for any other SEC team then he would be one of the frontrunners.
Russ Mitchell - Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Outside of Eric Berry in Tennessee, there was no DB more frightening in 2009, and outside of Joe Haden at Florida, there wasn’t a better lock down CB in the conference. But unlike Haden, Peterson has the size/personality to be exceptionally intimidating, to both receiver and QB alike. The flaw we saw repeatedly in 2009 was trying to do too much on his own – a penchant for trying too hard to make the “big play”. Difficult to criticism him for that, but it left the talented Tiger vulnerable to seasoned QBs – the hitch-and-go on Penn State’s first Capital One Bowl TD being a prime example. As a junior, Peterson will hopefully learn to rely less on athletic ability and more on game preparation – he must now learn how to out-think his opponents. If he does, Peterson could be the most dominating CB this conference has seen in more than a decade. Better enjoy him this year, Tiger fans – he plays on Sundays in 2011.
Barrett Sallee - Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Peterson, a second-team all SEC performer in 2009, finished the year with 52 tackles and two interceptions. However, one of the knocks on Peterson last year was that he was a little too reckless in the defensive backfield. Defensive coordinator John Chavis should be able to get that fixed in the off-season, and make Peterson a force to be reckoned with in 2010. If LSU can somehow find a way to get that offense turned around, Peterson and the Tigers may be on their way to reclaiming their spot atop the SEC West.
SEC SURPRISE PLAYER OF THE YEAR (aka, “The Crompton Award”)
Billy Gomila - DeAngelo Peterson, TE, LSU
A former receiver, Peterson grew into a spot as the top pass-catching backup to Richard Dickson in 2009, compiling 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns on just five catches. His speed and athleticism creates a mismatch for linebackers, and if LSU offensive coordinator Gary Crowton has any hope of stabilizing this attack, weapons like Peterson have to be better utilized.
Brian Harbach - Mario Fannin, RB/WR, Auburn
This is Fannin’s fifth year on campus and he has shown flashes in each season with his big play ability but has never been able to put an entire season together. This could be the year he does that with an opportunity to get more carries along with his role as receiver in Gus Malzahn’s offense. He does not have the speed of a Dexter McCluster but it is possible he could end up with 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards. He has the talent to break out, he will get the opportunity to make plays, but can he take advantage of them?
Gabe Harris - Ronnie Wingo, Jr., RB, Arkansas
Arkansas looks to be the early favorite for most explosive offense in the SEC during the 2010 season. They have as many weapons as any team in the conference and expect several shootouts with the Hogs. The tailback position is up for grabs with senior Michael Smith graduating and Bobby Petrino has already said that Wingo needs to get the ball in his hands more this upcoming season and if he does, Wingo will become a name SEC fans know well by midseason. Wingo averaged 6.5 ypc during his 2009 freshman and he has the size (6’3”, 218 lbs) to carry the load for Arkansas.
Russ Mitchell - Richard Murphy, RB, LSU
We forgive you for not knowing the name, trapped as he’s been on the LSU depth chart behind Jacob Hester, Charles Scott and Keiland Williams, and sitting out nearly all of last season with a knee injury. But for those outside of the bayou, please welcome Mr. Murphy to the party. He was a three-time first-team all-state selection, and possesses a frighteningly explosive combination of speed/power. The book on Murphy: (i) he’s rarely brought down by the first tackle, (ii) prefers “north/south” running, (iii) is murder to cover out of the flat, and (iv) takes particular glee in using his speed as leverage to punish tacklers (wait for the hit two minutes in). However, it’s this aggressive running style that makes Murphy susceptible to injury, particularly given he’s built for speed (6’1”, 200 lbs). If he can stay healthy, his name will be on everyone’s lips by season’s end. We’ve heard his recovery has been so successful, LSU nearly considered giving the RsJr a couple of snaps in the Capitol One Bowl. He’ll be 100% for the Spring. Oh, and he’ll be 24-years-old for most of his last season. Think he’s focused?
Barrett Sallee - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
After gaining notoriety late in the season, it might be a shock to see Trent Richardson in this category. But this is why he's here – Richardson won't just have a good season, he will have a HEISMAN-CALIBER season. Mark Ingram may be the reigning Heisman winner, but Richardson has the talent to take home the hardware too. Will he win the Heisman? Probably not. He won't get enough carries. He will, however, show that he is going to be a legitimate contender for the award in the very near future.
SEC NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Billy Gomila - Ronald Powell, DE, Florida
The Gators are rebuilding on defense, and Urban Meyer’s never been shy about getting young guys on the field early. Powell was the No. 1 defensive end in almost every ranking, and put on a show in the post-season all-star games. He and classmate Sharif Floyd stand good chances at having an early impact.
Brian Harbach - Tyler Russell, QB, Mississippi State
When was the last time Mississippi State had a weapon at the quarterback position? Wayne Madkin? Look at the names the Bulldogs have had at QB over the past decade…Tyson Lee, Michael Henig, Omar Connor and Kevin Fant. Sure a few were left out, but none of them made an impact, Tyler Russell will make an impact this season. Russell has a very quick delivery, he is comfortable in the shot gun and should be an upgrade over the type of athlete at the QB position that MSU has not seen in years.
Gabe Harris - Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn
Newton was the No. 1-rated JUCO transfer for the 2010 recruiting class after putting up incredible numbers at Blinn College. It took Gus Malzahn one season to have a quarterback set the Auburn record for number of touchdown passes in the season with Chris Todd. What could he possibly do with a talent like Newton?
Russ Mitchell - Andre Debose, WR, Florida
Is this cheating? Hey, it ‘aint cheatin’ if you don’t get caught! Andre was our newcomer of the year last year, but never saw a down due to injury – so step off, we’re picking him again. Oh how the season might have been different for the Gators... His vision, balance, cutting, first step, receiving… All amazing. And none of those are his best attribute – cold, hard speed. If you haven’t seen this young man play, brace yourself. That’s the best HS football Florida has to offer, and he made those boys look silly. With more than a year on campus, if he can put on the same bulk Harvin did during his Florida matriculation and stay healthy, you’ll find yourself saying “Who Dat?” quite a lot in 2010. It’s Debose. Andre Debose.
Barrett Sallee - Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn
Newton used to sport the orange and blue of the Florida Gators. After transferring to Blinn College in Texas and setting records in the junior college ranks, Newton will again wear orange and blue, but this time for the Auburn Tigers. The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Newton has been compared to former LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell. A native of Atlanta, Ga., Newton threw for 2,833 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 655 yards and 16 touchdowns in his only season at Blinn College. He joins the battle to replace former Auburn quarterback Chris Todd, along with Neil Caudle, Barrett Trotter, Tyrick Rollison and Clint Moseley.
SEC COACH OF THE YEAR
Billy Gomila - Gene Chizik, Auburn
The Chiz Man had a solid first season, but the talent level on the plains is lacking. Gus Malzahn’s offense ran pretty well with the less-than-imposing Chris Todd pulling the trigger. If JUCO transfer Cam Newton is as talented as many think, it could make that attack even more dangerous. The rest of the SEC West, aside from Alabama, is pretty wide open. It wouldn’t take a ton of improvement on Auburn’s part to step up.
Brian Harbach - Urban Meyer, Florida
The Gators will be without Tim Tebow, without most of their defensive playmakers from a year ago and without major members of their coaching staff who have moved on and Florida will still win the East and maybe an SEC Championship. This could be Meyer’s best coaching job yet if he can get Florida back to Atlanta for a third straight year and if he does accomplish that goal he should be the SEC Coach of the Year.
Gabe Harris - Gene Chizik, Auburn
Everyone expects Alabama to go undefeated again and those types of teams don’t usually have coaches win their league’s coach of the year unless there aren’t any surprise teams. Anything less than undefeated will be a disappointment and won’t win Nick Saban this award again. Urban Meyer has set the bar too high and if he wins 10 or less then he probably doesn’t win this award either. So who are some teams with younger coaches who could make a big leap? Bobby Petrino and Gene Chizik immediately come to mind. Their teams should be much improved over good 2009 seasons. Auburn’s schedule is set up for 10 wins and if the offense gains some more consistency and depth on the defense improves then this could easily be retribution for one of the most criticized hires in recent memory.
Russ Mitchell - Nick Saban, Alabama
Every Oscar season, my wife and I have a friendly wager on the event. And every year, I win. She complains that I pick the actor/movie that will win with no moment for emotion, and that she picks the performance she enjoyed most. Perhaps. But I win. Who’s stopping Saban? There’s little change to digest in capstone, and more than enough talent to absorb that. And most of his coaches even stayed – a rarity for Nick. LSU has the best chance in Baton Rouge, but Jordan Jefferson is too inexperienced; we just don’t trust that offense to beat that defense. Ole Miss lost Snead. Arkansas needs more pieces. Florida? Hard to say what Florida will look like this year; we don’t even know who will be coaching. Alabama may not go undefeated, but it wins the SEC in back-to-back years. And for that, Saban gets the nod here.
Barrett Sallee - Bobby Petrino, Arkansas
As a lifelong Falcons fan, I hate to give Petrino any credit. But Petrino has Arkansas poised for a big jump in the SEC. The 8-5 record in 2009 was a small step, but considering that three of those losses were to ranked teams on the road, it makes the jump a little bit more impressive. Arkansas' offense is going to be very good yet again. If they can find any semblance of a defense, they can jump back into the second spot in the SEC West. I don't see them battling Alabama for a trip to Atlanta, but don't be surprised to see the Razorbacks picked second in most pre-season publications.
SEC COACH ON THE HOT SEAT
Billy Gomila - Les Miles, LSU
This one’s not hard to guess. The political cache is gone for now and results will tell the tale for Miles in Baton Rouge. Improvement has to come, and the schedule will be unforgiving.
Brian Harbach - Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
This is it; anything short of an SEC Eastern Division title is a failure because if you ask any Carolina fan they will tell you this is their year (sure you hear that every year, but this year they mean it). Nineteen starters are returning, the East is relatively down and Florida lost nearly their entire team. Any other coach would have been fired after the five years Steve Spurrier has had and he will not be in Columbia with another five or six loss season.
Gabe Harris - Les Miles, LSU
8-8 the last two years in the SEC does not cut it at a school now accustomed to competing for the SEC Championship year in and year out. Miles has a penchant for making suspect coaching decisions yet they somehow seemed to work but his luck might have run out. The offense has regressed under Gary Crowton and if another .500 league record includes a third straight loss at the hands of Nick Saban and Alabama then the clock will likely run out on the Les Miles era.
Russ Mitchell - None
It’s not Les Miles; not if LSU cares about its future for the next decade. Park the passion and just think about it for a sec. If LSU pulls the trigger on a coach with (i) a few decent if not spectacular seasons with two inexperienced, sophomore QBs and a two new DCs, (ii) six straight top 15 recruiting classes, (iii) is the only Tiger coach to beat Florida, Alabama and Auburn in a single season, ever... and he’s done it twice, (iv) produced a good graduation rate, and (v) is just three years removed from winning it all, riddle me this: what top flight coach is going to step into that nightmare? What kind of bar are you setting? So you’re saying you can accomplish all Miles has to this point (including the 2007 NC), lose your DC, have decent seasons with those rookie QBs, and you get fired??? Good luck finding a truly A-list coach to take his place. Nope, for the second straight season, not a single SEC coach will be fired. How ‘bout ‘dem apples. Richt gets another pass even with a flop. South Carolina has proven it won’t fire the OLD Ball Coach. Kentucky’s got a new man, and everyone else is either too new or has built up too much good will to get fired in 2010.
Barrett Sallee - Les Miles, LSU
The two bone-headed clock management debacles of 2009 have put Miles on the hot seat. The angst over the inexplicable coaching decisions has reached its tipping point in Baton Rouge. If Miles doesn't contend for the division title next year, he could be in very serious trouble. 7-5 gets him fired and 8-4 may also, depending on what those four are.
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- Click here to read SEC Bloggers: 2010 Early SEC Picks, Part 2