When the 2015 All-SEC teams were announced after SEC Football Media Days concluded last week, Vol fans found themselves disappointed with the results. Only four Vols were on the teams, and the only offensive player on any of the teams was quarterback Joshua Dobbs on the third-team.
The lone Vols player on any of the All-SEC first-teams was redshirt senior Curt Maggitt, listed as a linebacker on the first-team defense. Sophomore defensive end and junior cornerback Cam Sutton were on the second-team defense, and that was it for the Vols. Notably left off the list were sophomore running back Jalen Hurd, redshirt senior Brian Randolph, sophomore offensive guard Jashon Robertson, junior linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, and sophomore kicker Aaron Medley.
Hurd's omission was especially surprising considering who was on the All-SEC squad. Hurd amassed over 1,100 total yards of offense and 7 overall touchdowns as a freshman behind one of the worst offensive lines in Tennessee history, but he still failed to even make the third-team. Alabama running back Kenyan Drake, however, did make the third team despite missing most of last season with a leg injury and will start out 2015 as a back-up behind Derrick Henry. Drake certainly has the potential to be a solid SEC running back, but Hurd seemingly has the edge in proven ability at this point.
Safety Brian Randolph has been a stalwart for the Vols since coming in as a freshman in 2011, piling up 240 tackles, 6 interceptions, and 10 passes defended in three-plus seasons at Tennessee. Aaron Medley finished second in the SEC in field goals made in 2014, and he started the entire season as placekicker as a freshman. But he couldn't land a spot even on the third-team. Jashon Robertson made the Freshman All-SEC first-team after last season but couldn't find his way onto the preseason All-SEC team this year. And Jalen Reeves-Maybin had a solid sophomore season, racking up 101 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, and an interception. But even he was snubbed from the All-SEC list.
Tennessee fans were also upset with the placement of Barnett and Sutton. Florida's Vernon Hargreaves III and Alabama's Cyrus Jones made the first-team, and while Hargreaves is definitely deserving of the honor, Jones's placement is questionable. Even with teams throwing away from Sutton due to a lack of a solid second cornerback for the Vols in 2014, Sutton put up comparable, if not better, numbers than Jones. Both intercepted three passes and had 13 pass break ups, but Sutton had four tackles for a loss compared to Jones's two. Jones was even criticized at times last season for inconsistent play while Sutton was arguably Tennessee's best defender last year.
Then there's Derek Barnett. As a freshman, Barnett had one of the most productive freshman campaigns in the nation, racking up 20.5 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks. But Auburn's Carl Lawson and Texas A&M's Myles Garrett claimed spots on the first-team, leaving Barnett on the second-team. Lawson had a solid freshman year in 2013 but missed all of 2014 with a knee injury. While Lawson certainly has the skill to be an All-SEC player he hasn't put up the type of production Barnett has.
Myles Garrett deserves to be on the first-team defense, but if it truly came down to Barnett and Garrett, there should be no contest when looking further into their respective stats. Garrett had 11.5 sacks as a freshman last season, but only 3 of those came in SEC play. Garrett racked up eight of his sacks against Lamar, Rice, and Louisiana-Monroe. Barnett, on the other hand, had all 10 of his sacks against SEC opponents.
The Vols are finally beginning to garner some respect in the SEC, as they were picked to finish second in the SEC East and received 36 first place votes in the process. But clearly there is still a long way to go in earning the full respect of the SEC media, but for now the Vols will have to settle for playing with chips on their shoulders in an effort to prove their doubters wrong this season.