*Update: Steele released a statement calling Barnett’s omission from the first two All-SEC teams an accidental omission
College football guru Phil Steele released his preseason All-SEC teams on Monday and seven Vols found a home on his All-SEC teams. Steele is a respected college football mind, which made his placement of Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett on the third team perplexing (Cam Sutton’s status as a third teamer is another discussion).
Anyone who paid attention to SEC football last year should be familiar with Barnett. He burst onto the scene as a true freshman with an impressive 72 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss and 10.0 sacks. The fact that he didn’t enroll early, and thus missed spring practice, makes those numbers even more impressive.
Despite his tremendous production, Barnett was overshadowed in non-Vol circles by fellow freshman Myles Garrett. A tremendous physical specimen, Texas A&M’s Garrett broke Jadeveon Clowney’s SEC sack record for freshmen after just nine games. The hype machine took off from there.
Without a doubt, Garrett’s season will go down as one of the best by a freshman in conference history – and rightfully so. He recorded 53 tackles, 14.0 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks.
But Barnett was better, especially in conference play.
In SEC games, Myles Garrett recorded 3.0 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss and 29 tackles. For those keeping score at home, that means Garrett tallied 8.0 sacks against non-conference foes Lamar, Rice, SMU and Louisiana Monroe. Barnett? He recorded ALL of his sacks (10), 18 of his 20.5 tackles for loss and 55 of his 72 tackles against SEC competition.
In the toughest conference in football, Barnett outperformed Garrett by seven sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss and 26 tackles.
How did the two fare against common opponents? Barnett comes out ahead there, too.
Barnett recored six sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss against South Carolina, Alabama and Ole Miss. Garrett recorded two sacks and two tackles for loss against the same teams.
That gives Barnett an advantage of six sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss against common foes.
He not only outperformed Garrett, who many view as the “best” defensive lineman in the SEC, he also outplayed the other players Steele ranked ahead of him. As RTI’s Daniel Lewis pointed out, Barnett had more sacks than Jonathan Bullard (2.5) and Jonathan Allen (5.0), the two ends selected to the second team, combined.
For the season, Barnett ranked second in the SEC with 20.5 tackles for loss, fourth in the SEC in sacks (10.0) and fourth among defensive linemen in tackles (72).
Tackles for Loss in 2014
Shane Ray – 22.5*
Derek Barnett – 20.5
Markus Golden – 20.0*
Trey Flowers – 15.5*
Sacks in 2014
Shane Ray – 13.0*
Myles Garrett – 11.5
Curt Maggitt – 11.0
Markus Golden – 10.0*
Derek Barnett – 10.0
Tackles by Defensive Linemen in 2014
Markus Golden – 78*
Bud Dupree – 74*
Danielle Hunter – 73*
Derek Barnett – 72
*Indicates players who graduated or entered the NFL Draft
Barnett is the only returning defensive lineman to rank in the top four of the conference in both sacks and tackles for loss.
Simply put – he’s the most productive returning defensive lineman in the SEC.
If Garrett is a first-team All-SEC lineman, then Derek Barnett must be as well. Placing Garrett on the first team and Barnett on the second would be egregious, but putting Barnett on the third team, like Phil Steele, is downright laughable.
Of course, each player will ultimately be judged by their production on the field this season. Both Barnett and Garrett are fine players who will ultimately be early draft picks; yet, when it comes to production, there’s no contest between the two.
Give me Barnett over Garrett.
And give me Barnett over any other returning defensive lineman in the SEC.