Hits and Misses of Phil Steele's 2014 Preseason All-SEC Team
Your summer has started, which means it's time to hit the newsstand and grab your preseason magazine of choice. After all, you have to spend that quality pool and beach time studying up on the 2014 college football season.
One of the most prominent preseason magazines is published by ESPN's Phil Steele.
His annual encyclopedia of college football knowledge will hit the shelf within the next few weeks, but he gave the world a sneak peek by posting his All-SEC team on his website Friday.
What are some of the hits and misses of that All-SEC team?
Hit: Nick Marshall as the First-Team Quarterback
There's a remarkable absence of experienced quarterback talent in the SEC this year after stars like Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger and others moved on to play on Sundays.
Auburn's Nick Marshall, Ole Miss' Bo Wallace and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott are the three most successful quarterbacks returning this year, and Steele got it right with Marshall leading the pack.
Great quarterbacks are successful within the system, and Marshall—with only three weeks as the starter to prepare for his first game last season—led the Tigers all the way to Pasadena and to within 13 seconds of a national title. He passed for 1,976 yards, 14 touchdowns and only six picks and rushed for 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Tigers.
He'll be better through the air this season, thanks to another year in the system and the presence of freak junior college transfer receiver Duke Williams.
Miss: The Cornerbacks
Steele's All-SEC teams are built based on where he thinks players will finish, not where they are now. That explains why his teams look a little different than others that you'll see this summer.
But man, those cornerbacks are all out of place.
Texas A&M's Deshazor Everett is a first-teamer alongside Vernon Hargreaves III of Florida, and Georgia's Damian Swann and Auburn's Jonathon Mincy are both listed on the second team. Everett has struggled in pass coverage during his career, Swann has tackling issues in addition to the confusion that reigns supreme in Georgia's secondary and Mincy was inconsistent at best last year for the Tigers.
LSU's Tre'Davious White and Mississippi State's Jamerson Love are listed on the third team, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if either—or perhaps even both—make a strong case for first-team status at the end of the season.
The cornerback section of Steele's All-SEC team includes some incredibly bold picks.
Hit: Leonard Floyd as a First-Team Linebacker
Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd is a freak.
At 6'4", 220 pounds, he may give off the impression of simply being a pass-rusher outside, but his long arms and strength make him much more of an all-around linebacker than he may appear.
He led Georgia with 6.5 sacks as a freshman last season and also notched 9.5 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hurries.
He's exactly what Georgia needs, especially considering the uncertainty in the secondary. He's the kind of linebacker that will make a living in the backfield, force mistakes and, in a perfect world for head coach Mark Richt and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, force turnovers.
Miss: The Arkansas Running Backs
Arkansas' running back corps is going to be filthy this year, with sophomore Alex Collins, junior Jonathan Williams and sophomore Korliss Marshall all likely to get plenty of opportunities to shine.
Collins is going to be the leader, without question. Yet he is listed as a fourth-team All-SEC performer, with Williams listed on the second team.
Nothing against Williams. He's a really, really good running back who absolutely has top-tier talent. But Collins was brought in by the staff to be "1A." He ascended to that spot on the depth chart as a true freshman coming from head coach Bret Bielema's first recruiting class in Fayetteville, and he's not going to give up that role anytime soon.
Hit: Florida QB Jeff Driskel Getting Some Love
If you've already written off Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, you better hope you wrote in pencil, because you're going to need that eraser.
Driskel was listed as a third-team performer by Steele, and while I wouldn't necessarily have had him above Mississippi State's Dak Prescott, I do applaud the boldness—mostly because I agree.
Driskel, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2011, is finally in an offense that suits his skills—a no-huddle scheme led by former Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.
"I really do like the tempo," Driskel told B/R. "When you get in a tempo and don't huddle, you can really get into a groove as a quarterback. There were times in spring where I felt really comfortable and everything went smooth."
Driskel has a big luxury with this offense with this particular Florida team—he has the potential and the scheme to put up ridiculous stats, but with the running backs and defense he has, he might not need to. Expect big things from Driskel in 2014.
Miss: Arie Kouandjio as a First-Team Guard
Alabama guard Arie Kouandjio has potential and has shown flashes of brilliance during his Crimson Tide career.
But first team? Ahead of LSU's Vadal Alexander?
Not so sure about that.
Kouandjio struggled at times, including in high-profile games against Virginia Tech to start the season and in the fourth quarter of the de facto SEC West title game at Auburn.
Running back T.J. Yeldon is at his best in a zone-blocking scheme, and that's something that Kouandjio struggled with last year. If Derrick Henry is going to make a bigger impact in 2014, it will force Alabama to go to more of a power running game—which is what it was successful with while Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy were toting the rock.
Henry's emergence would help Kouandjio live up to first-team expectation. But will that happen?
Miss: Alabama's Running Backs
First-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has a rich man's problem at running back, with T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake all vying for playing time.
Yeldon is going to get his fair share of preseason love, and he deserves it. But the margin of error for him to keep his job is razor-thin. He led the team with five fumbles last year, losing four. If those issues persist or Kiffin decides to use more of the power scheme that made Alabama what it is, Yeldon will lose carries to Henry.
Maybe I'm in the minority, but I think Henry will be the No. 1 running back in Tuscaloosa at season's end.
The roles will likely be reversed, with Henry as the first-team All-SEC running back, with Yeldon making a strong case for the third team—especially, as noted on the previous slide, if Arie Kouandjio is going to be a first-team guard.
Do you want to tackle the guy on the left?
Hit: Mississippi State WR Jameon Lewis on the First Team
Who's the leading returning wide receiver in the SEC?
Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
It's Mississippi State wide receiver Jameon Lewis, and he appeared in his rightful spot on the first team in Steele's All-SEC team.
The 5'9", 183-pound slot receiver caught 64 passes for 923 yards and five touchdowns last season and is back for more in head coach Dan Mullen's offense.
"Instead of being a great athlete—you know, being the great high school quarterback that he was—learning the receiver position and the ins and outs of that, I think he's done a great job developing year to year," Mullen told B/R. "He had his first time as a starter last year and really took advantage of that and had a great season."
Is he better than Tennessee's Marquez North, Alabama's DeAndrew White, Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell and several others that are behind him on Steele's All-SEC team? Yep, even if you haven't heard of him.
Miss: Position Flexibility
All-conference teams need to be consistent and, at times, Steele's isn't.
Auburn's Robenson Therezie is listed as a second-team safety, while South Carolina's Sharrod Golightly is tabbed as a third-team linebacker. This despite the fact that both play the same hybrid linebacker/safety role ("Star" in Auburn's defense and "Spur" in South Carolina's). Both players move around in specific packages, but this is the same position, not two different ones.
There's also two offensive tackles listed as third-team guards—Florida's D.J. Humphries and Texas A&M's Germain Ifedi, and LSU true freshman running back Leonard Fournette is fit nicely in the column reserved for what should be a fourth-team wide receiver.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted, and all stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!