The SEC coaches and ESPN have both spoken, and both have left a bad taste in Vol fans’ mouths.
Both ESPN and coaches in the SEC have released their All-SEC selections this week, but the teams are extremely thin on Vol players. In the SEC coaches selections, only Evan Berry was picked as a first team member, and that as a kick returner. Running back Jalen Hurd and defensive end Derek Barnett were chosen as second team players, but those were the only three players on both teams. ESPN only chose a first team All-SEC squad, and only offensive lineman Kyler Kerbyson and Berry were selected.
The Vols may have had a somewhat disappointing season (depending on who you ask), but the team had plenty of players who performed at a high level this season. But very few of them are being recognized for their work.
Let’s start with Derek Barnett, arguably Tennessee’s best defensive player on the roster. While Barnett’s sophomore season may have been slightly less productive than his freshman campaign, he still put forth one of the best stat lines for a defensive lineman in the country, and one stat metric claims he’s even the No. 2 edge rusher in all of college football.
Barnett finished the 2015 regular season with the fifth-most sacks in the conference (9) and tied for 12th in tackles for a loss (11.5). And, once again, Barnett did almost all his damage against top competition. All but one of Barnett’s sacks came against SEC foes or Oklahoma. Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, however, still earned a large portion of his stats from non-conference games, racking up 5.5 of his league-best 11.5 sacks against Arizona State and Nevada.
But at least Barnett is making the All-SEC teams. There are several notable Vols who are not.
Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin is one of the most notable Vols to not be on any All-SEC team despite finishing the season with 99 total tackles and 13 tackles for a loss, both ranking in the top 10 in the SEC. Reeves-Maybin also has 5 sacks, 4 pass break-ups, and 2 forced fumbles on the year.
Yet Reeves-Maybin isn’t even on the second team All-SEC. This despite having better overall numbers than Alabama’s first team All-SEC linebacker Reggie Ragland and Georgia’s second team All-SEC linebacker Leonard Floyd.
Another Vol noticeably absent from any All-SEC lists is cornerback Cam Sutton. While not his best year from a statistical standpoint on defense, his punt return ability alone should warrant him All-SEC consideration.
Sutton set a school record for punt return yards this season with 467 yards and led the entire NCAA in punt return yards. Not only that, but he also returned two punts for scores this season, and his 18.7 yards per return put him at No. 2 in the nation among qualifying players. Evan Berry deservedly earned first team honors in both All-SEC selections, but Texas A&M Christian Kirk was chosen for the second team in the coaches selections. Kirk was dynamic as a punt returner as well, returning 14 punts for 341 yards and two scores. Sutton and Kirk were both great on special teams this season, but Sutton has the edge in overall numbers.
Speaking of special teams, Tennessee’s Trevor Daniel has received no love for All-SEC punter.
Texas A&M’s Drew Kaser and Florida’s Johnny Townsend have taken first and second team honors in both selections even though he has comparable stats. Daniel has averaged 45.6 yards per punt, ranking him second only to Kaser in the SEC. He also has 20 punts of over 50 yards and has had 23 of his 53 punts downed inside the 20 yard-line.
The Vols came into the 2015 season with only three players on the first and second team preseason All-SEC teams, and they finished the regular season with just three All-SEC selections. Tennessee didn’t have the season they could have, but some of the players being snubbed from the All-SEC lists are head-scratching.
Tennessee can help itself out next season by capitalizing on a down SEC East and put up solid statistics once again. A better overall record will likely draw more honors, and in that way Vol fans will no longer feel like their players are being left out.
All of the players on the All-SEC teams deserve the honors bestowed upon them. All of them had stellar seasons that are worthy of the awards given them. But Tennessee has plenty of athletes who had great seasons as well, and they deserve some recognition.