The SEC released the 2017 preseason poll and all-conference team Friday, putting a punctuation mark on the week that served as the season’s unofficial kickoff.
Unsurprisingly, LSU is represented on the first team by its stars on each side of the ball: running back Derrius Guice and outside linebacker Arden Key.
The preseason poll and all-conference team are both voted on by members of the media, including myself. Since transparency is a good thing, here is how I cast my ballot. Feel free to let me know your opinion.
Alex Hickey’s all-SEC team
QB: Jalen Hurts (Alabama), Austin Allen (Arkansas) — The ultimate measure of a man in this league is how he plays against Alabama.
Allen threw for 400 yards against the Crimson Tide last season. Elected second-team selection Nick Fitzgerald of Mississippi State was 10 of 33 for 145 yards and limited to 15 yards on 11 carries. I’ll take Allen.
RB: Derrius Guice (LSU), Bo Scarborough (Alabama), Nick Chubb (Georgia), Sony Michel (Georgia) — You could argue for another 4-5 backs over Michel and wouldn’t be wrong. This is a deep position in the SEC.
WR: Antonio Callaway (Florida), Deebo Samuel (South Carolina), Calvin Ridley (Alabama), Donald Gray (Mississippi State) — I justified leaving Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk off the list by voting for him as return specialist and all-purpose player. Guys from Mississippi State will always be overlooked and I thought Gray deserved props.
TE: DeAndre Goolsby (Florida), C.J. Conrad (Kentucky) — Conrad didn’t make it on the team, but he led returning SEC tight ends with four touchdowns last season. Like Gray, a guy penalized for his school.
OL: Martez Ivey (Florida), Braden Smith (Auburn), Martinas Rankin (Mississippi State), Ross Pierschbacher (Alabama), Lester Cotton (Alabama), Jonah Williams (Alabama), Jawaan Taylor (Florida), Tyler Howell (Missouri) — Media probably shouldn’t be voting on offensive line play since we don’t get to watch game film from end zone cameras, but we gotta do what we gotta do. I was a little surprised LSU’s Maea Teuhema was not on the ballot.
C: Frank Ragnow (Arkansas), Will Clapp (LSU) — It wouldn’t be crazy to say Ragnow is the second-best offensive player in the league behind Guice. Well, maybe a little crazy. But not wrong.
DL: Marquis Haynes (Ole Miss), Trenton Thompson (Georgia), Da’Ron Payne (Alabama), Da’Shawn Hand (Alabama), Denzil Ware (Kentucky), Jabari Zuniga (Florida), Cece Jefferson (Florida), Rashard Lawrence (LSU) — You’re wondering where Christian LaCouture is, rightly. The truth: I’ve only been on the beat a year and haven’t seen him play. Luckily he didn’t need my vote to make it onto the team.
LB: Arden Key (LSU), Jordan Jones (Kentucky), Shaun Dion Hamilton (Alabama), Rashaan Evans (Alabama), Roquan Smith (Georgia), Skai Moore (South Carolina) — He’s not there yet, but don’t be surprised if LSU’s Devin White cracks the postseason all-SEC team.
DB: Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama), Ronnie Harrison (Alabama), Duke Dawson (Florida), Mike Edwards (Kentucky), Donte Jackson (LSU), Armani Watts (Texas A&M), Dominick Sanders (Georgia), Anthony Averett (Alabama) — With LSU and Florida losing so much back-end talent from last season, this year it looks like Bama can call itself “DBU.”
PK: Daniel Carlson (Auburn), Gary Wunderlich (Ole Miss) — If not for Daniel Carlson, Les Miles might be employed by LSU. Chew on that for a moment.
P: JK Scott (Alabama), Johnny Townsend (Florida) — Is Scott the best JK since Rowling?
RS: Christian Kirk (Texas A&M), Deebo Samuel (South Carolina) — Both had return touchdowns last season.
AP: Christian Kirk (Texas A&M), Kerryon Johnson (Auburn) — Johnson is the one player I saw last season who made me think, “Man, they need to give this guy more touches.” Could be a big year for him if that happens.
Predicted SEC order of finish
- Texas A&M
- Ole Miss
- Mississippi State
Alabama is the best until proven otherwise. Auburn is a trendy pick to contend, but I think the Tigers are overhyped. Everyone is banking on their Big 12 quarterback lighting it up against SEC defenses. Kevin Sumlin is probably going to need better than a fifth-place finish to stay employed, but I don’t see him getting it.
- South Carolina
Georgia is the official pick to win the East, but I’ll believe in the Bulldogs when they show me something on the field. I really like Kentucky’s chances to make noise — at least by historical Kentucky standards. I was a bit surprised more people aren’t buying into the Wildcats, who were picked fifth. And like Sumlin, Butch Jones will probably need better than a fifth-place showing to stick around next year.
SEC Champion: Alabama.
Alabama-Florida isn’t exactly an SEC Championship trilogy anyone is begging for, but it feels like the one we’re going to get. Plus, it’s historically fitting. The first SEC title game was between Alabama and Florida in 1992. The first at the Georgia Dome was between the Gators and Tide in 1994. Why should the debut at brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium be any different?