Every year, the media gathered at SEC Media Days votes on their All-SEC first, second, and third teams. And every year, there are players who are left off those teams who probably deserve to be on them. This year, I think a couple Tennessee players were notably snubbed from those teams.
Only one Vol made the three All-SEC team selections, and that was sophomore offensive lineman Trey Smith. Despite missing all of spring practices, Smith was voted as a first-team selection on the offensive line. He was voted a Freshman All-American and All-SEC performer after his first year with the Vols last season, so it’s no surprise he’s thought of highly by SEC media members heading into his sophomore year. Especially now that Pruitt announced at SEC Media Days that he should be a full go for the start of fall camp.
But Smith was the only Vol selected to any of the three All-SEC teams. And I believe Tennessee should’ve had a couple more players on at least the third-team.
The Vols aren’t going to get the benefit of the doubt from the media right now. Nor should they. Tennessee is coming off a 4-8 season and saw a lot of their best players either get hurt or underperform last season.
But there were a few players on Tennessee’s roster who actually had pretty good years last season. Yet they got overlooked because of the Vols’ overall extremely poor results last year.
One of the more obvious snubs on the Vols’ roster is junior safety Nigel Warrior. Last season, Warrior was second on Tennessee’s team with 83 tackles and ended up tied with a handful of other players for the second-most forced fumbles in the SEC with three. He returns the 10th-most tackles of any returning SEC players heading into this season.
Yet Warrior wasn’t even on the ballot for All-SEC voting.
Daniel Bituli was noticeably absent from the All-SEC selections as well. As a sophomore last year, Bituli led the Vols with 90 tackles and returns with the seventh-most tackles among all returning SEC players heading into the 2018 season. There were a lot of talented linebackers eligible for voting this year at SEC Media Days, but it would’ve made sense for Bituli to at least sneak in as a third-team selection.
Senior safety Micah Abernathy would be another Vol you could look at as a potential snub from the All-SEC voting. He, along with Warrior, wasn’t even on the ballot. This despite heading into his senior season with 150 tackles, four tackles for loss, eight passes defended, two interceptions, and four fumble recoveries over the last two seasons.
The Vols have a lot of unknowns on their roster, and a lot of their most talented players, such as Jauan Jennings, Marquez Callaway, Drew Richmond, and Darrin Kirkland Jr., have either been hurt or misused so far in their Tennessee careers. Not only that, but many of the players who could be big time contributors for Tennessee this season — such as Ty Chandler, Dominick Wood-Anderson, Alontae Taylor, and Brandon Kennedy — either weren’t used much last season or are newcomers for this year.
It makes sense why Tennessee only had one player voted to the All-SEC teams this year, but the Vols do have more than one player worthy of being on those teams. And as long as they can stay healthy, I fully expect some of Tennessee players to prove me right in 2018.