The Associated Press released its All-SEC team on Monday, and two Gamecocks cracked the first unit: defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Running back Mike Davis, cornerback Victor Hampton and spur Sharrod Golightly made the second team.
I was one of 14 voters for the team, and Ive included my ballot below. A quick word on the format of the vote: Each voter was asked to select a first-team and nothing more. The second-team and honorable mentions were filled out by using the players who got first-team votes but fell short of enough to make that team.
I voted for Quarles and Hampton on my first team, and at this point, Im sure youre thinking, What about Mike Davis? and Do you remember that Jadeveon Clowney plays for South Carolina? so Ill try to address those questions here.
Davis had a great season, and I would have had a much tougher decision had he not closed so slowly, averaging 2.7 yards per carry in the final three games of the year. Auburns Tre Mason and LSUs Jeremy Hill deserve the top two spots at running back, but Davis certainly will be a strong candidate for the preseason team next fall.
On Clowney, I agree that his disruption has influenced games even when his statistics have not, but I dont think that has equaled the years Missouris Michael Sam and Auburns Dee Ford had.
And, while you may not have thought about this question, Ill suggest it: What about Connor Shaw? Steve Spurrier suggested Shaw could even be a Heisman Trophy candidate so why not an All-SEC candidate? In my mind, at least, Shaw was definitely an All-SEC candidate, and the quarterback vote was the hardest for me on this ballot. I considered Shaw, and his 21 touchdowns passes and one interception, for a long time. In the end, though, Johnny Manziels staggering numbers were just too much for me to ignore. As important as Shaw is to the Gamecocks, can you imagine the Aggies without Manziel?
On the non-Gamecock front, a couple things struck me during the voting. The first was, what happened to all the linebackers in the SEC? The first-team released Monday are the three players I voted for Alabamas C.J. Mosley, Georgias Ramik Wilson and Tennessees A.J. Johnson but Im not going to try to convince anyone that Wilson and Johnson are elite players. Mosley is a stud, no question, but I wonder how much of the leagues defensive struggles this year can be traced to linebacker play that doesnt quite measure up to previous years.
The second thing was, where are all the superstar freshmen? I voted for Arkansas Alex Collins, and hes a really good player, but, again, its not like he had a fantastic season. It seems like in previous years, there were two or three freshman at least who made you think, Wow, that guy had a great year. This year, Collins was more like a fallback position. Its early to suggest this means other conferences might start closing the gap on the SEC, but its worth watching to see if it becomes a trend.