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July 22, 2011

Bob's All-SEC selections

The 2011 preseason All-SEC team, voted on by the media at SEC Media Days, was released Friday, the final day of the annual circus in Birmingham.

Mississippi State did not have any representatives on the first team offense, defense or special teams, though there were three Bulldogs named to either the second or third teams.

Here, I will share my ballot, along with the actual winners, and I'll include my take on it. Some positions were harder to vote on than others, and I'll be the first to admit I'm more familiar with teams in the SEC West, particularly MSU, as that is who I spend my time reporting on.

The media also voted on predicted order of finish and the SEC champion, which you can find at the bottom.

As a primer, every team in the SEC is represented on my ballot, though I didn't do that on purpose. I did, however, try to avoid picking players for two different honors.

Quarterback

Media pick: Aaron Murray, Georgia

Bob's pick: Murray

Bob's take: This was, far and away, the easiest vote on the ballot. After Murray it gets muddied, but he is the class of the SEC at quarterback.

Running backs

Media picks: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina and Trent Richardson, Alabama

Bob's pick: Richardson and Lattimore

Bob's take: The SEC is loaded at running back in 2011, so this was tough to decide. I had to consider Knile Davis, Brandon Bolden, Vick Ballard and Michael Dyer, but I think it's tough to argue that Lattimore and Richardson aren't the top two, even if it is just by a slim margin.

Wide receiver

Media picks: Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina and Greg Childs, Arkansas

Bob's picks: Jeffery and Childs

Bob's take: Jeffery is the top receiver in the SEC, but the next three or four might all be Razorbacks. It's hard to think Childs isn't the best of that bunch up in Fayetteville.

Offensive linemen

Media picks: Barrett Jones (Alabama), Bradley Sowell (Ole Miss), Cordy Glenn (Georgia) and a tie between Larry Warford (Kentucky) and Brandon Mosley (Auburn)

Bob's picks: Jones, Sowell, Glenn and Mosley

Bob's take: There is a clear top three in the SEC with Jones, Sowell and Glenn, but after that it's tough. There are talented guys who haven't quite got it all together, as well as guys performing above their ability. I considered MSU right tackle Addison Lawrence as my fourth, just because of his experience and leadership.

Center

Media pick: William Vlachos, Alabama

Bob's pick: Vlachos

Bob's take: Vlachos has been a multi-year starter for one of the most talented and consistent offensive lines in the country. He's a no-brainer.

Tight end

Media pick: Orson Charles, Georgia

Bob's pick: Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn

Bob's take: Perhaps Charles has been over-shadowed on UGA's offense by other stars, but I think Lutzenkirchen has the best all-around game in the conference.

Defensive line

Media picks: Jake Bequette (Arkansas), Josh Chapman (Alabama), Kentrell Lockett (Ole Miss) and Malik Jackson (Tennessee)

Bob's picks: Jackson, Lockett, Devin Taylor (South Carolina) and Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State)

Bob's take: As always, the SEC is stacked at the defensive line. Taylor is a bit underrated as a key to the Gamecocks' defense, and Cox is possibly the best defensive tackle in the conference, though perhaps playing at MSU and being a lineman keeps him under the radar.

Linebackers

Media picks: Dont'a Hightower (Alabama), Courtney Upshaw (Alabama) and Danny Trevathan (Kentucky)

Bob's picks: Hightower, Trevathan and Chris Marve (Vanderbilt)

Bob's take: Somebody tell Chris it's supposed to be spelled "Mavre." Anyway, Hightower is the class of the conference at linebacker, and I was glad to see Trevathan get the recognition he deserves despite playing for Kentucky. I won't argue Upshaw over Marve, but I think that Marve would be thought of much more highly if he played elsewhere.

Defensive backs

Media picks: Mark Barron, Alabama and Robert Lester, Alabama and Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina and Morris Claiborne, LSU

Bob's picks: Barron, Janzen Jackson, Tennessee, Claiborne and Charles Mitchell, Mississippi State

Bob's take: This is where I differed the most from the rest of the media, which speaks to the depth in the secondary. Don't sleep on Jackson at UT. He's had issues, but if he's on the field he's unstoppable. On Claiborne, did you know he had more interceptions than Patrick Peterson last year? Yep, sure did. And maybe I think too highly of Mitchell because I cover him on a daily basis, but he's an incredible leader, a high-character guy and an immensely talented safety, even if he doesn't project well at the next level.

Specialists

Media picks: PK: Blair Walsh, Georgia. P: Drew Butler, Georgia. Return specialist: Brandon Boykin, Georgia. All-purpose: Trent Richardson, Alabama

Bob's picks: Walsh, Butler, Marquis Maze (Alabama), LaDarius Perkins (Mississippi State)

Bob's take: Walsh and Butler were easy picks, but the next two were tough. Maze does great things as a returner and I expect that to continue. As for Perkins, did anyone else notice he's listed at No. 1 on kickoff returns on MSU's updated depth chart? He'll do that well and I'd be surprised if he doesn't find his way onto the field for punt returns, too. Everyone has seen what he can do in space out of the backfield and I expect (Dan) Mullen to use him in creative ways as a sophomore in 2011. It should also be noted that Mullen used him in short-yardage situations often in 2010. He can do it all.

SEC West order of finish

Media pick: 1. Alabama, 2. LSU, 3. Arkansas, 4. Mississippi State, 5. Auburn, 6. Ole Miss

Bob's picks: 1. Alabama, 2. Arkansas, 3. LSU, 4. MSU, 5. Auburn, 6. Ole Miss

Bob's take: I really wanted to pick Arkansas to win it all, and I may change my mind later, but I just can't go against Bama and their elite defense. I question Arkansas' total depth at offensive line and I think people are expecting way too much from Tyler Wilson at quarterback. He might be great, but we don't know that. I also question the development of LSU's offense and how the defensive will react to losing so many talented players. I picked MSU over Auburn, because I think the winner of their matchup gets the fourth spot, and right now I feel like MSU wins it.

SEC East order of finish

Media picks: 1. South Carolina, 2. Georgia, 3. Florida, 4. Tennessee, 5. Kentucky, 6. Vanderbilt

Bob's picks: 1. South Carolina, 2. Tennessee, 3. Florida, 4. Georgia, 5. Vanderbilt, 6. Kentucky

Bob's take: I think South Carolina wins the SEC East with ease. I also think the Volunteers have the second best combination of talent and coaching in the division and I see them squeaking out wins over Florida and Georgia. It's a bit of a gamble, but I think UT has higher upside than many realize. Georgia has an easy schedule, but I just can't get over the fact that they lost about 47 offense lineman (an exaggeration), their top two running backs (not an exaggeration), the SEC's best receiver and their best defender. It's too much. As for Vanderbilt, I think running back Warren Norman and quarterback Larry Smith manage to score a few points for the 'Dores this year. UK lost Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke, and Cobb and Locke were the entire team last year.

SEC Champion

Media pick: Alabama over South Carolina

Bob's pick: Alabama over South Carolina

Bob's take: Once again, I think USC gets to the championship game and loses to the better team. Whether it's LSU, Bama or Arkansas, I think USC comes out on the bottom.


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