Breaking Down My Personal Preseason All-SEC Ballot

Nate Gabler

Sports Illustrated's publishers from around the SEC released our group 2020 Preseason All-SEC team yesterday, which you can find here. Garnering votes on two teams of players, the team aggregates our group's thoughts on who will be the best players in the upcoming SEC football season.

That said, it's only fair for the purpose of transparency to publish my own personal ballot and walk readers through the thought process behind some of the picks. 

Some of these are self-explanatory and I won't go into detail. But for my picks that took more of a detour from the group think, I'll give a bit of an explanation for the thought process. Here we go.

My All-SEC First Team:

Offense:

QB: Kyle Trask, Florida

Unlike past years, there's not really any top-10-pick-type player to throw in this spot. Some thought went into Jamie Newman of Georgia (you'll see him on my second team) and Bo Nix at Auburn. With Nix, you just need to see more and with Newman, a transfer from Wake Forrest, I want to see it at the SEC level. By that logic, the vote goes to Trask, who put up nearly 3,000 yards last year, throwing 27 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. 

RB: Kylan Hill, Miss. St.

Most people voted Najee Harris of Alabama into this slot – he's my second team RB and would be here on the first team if we didn't change the format a bit to include just one running back. Simply put, I love Kylan Hill's angry style of downhill running. If he can prove to be a reliable pass catcher (he only has 18 and 22 catches during 2018 and 2019 as a whole) in the Mike Leach offense, he's going to have some silly numbers this year. 

(Don't worry Rebel fans, you'll find Jerrion Ealy on this list too)

WR: Ja’marr Chase, LSU

WR: Seth Williams, Auburn

WR: Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

There's no need to elaborate on Ja'marr Chase; he may be the best player in the conference. Seth Williams is a guy I'm much higher on than most – we didn't see everyone's ballot but I would venture to bet that I was the only one with Williams on the first team. In his first year with Nix one season ago, Williams (6-foot-3, 220-pounds) went for 59 receptions, 830 yards and eight scores. I foresee a big jump for both Williams and Nix together in year two. With Waddle, it came down to him and his Alabama teammate DeVonta Smith. There's no way to go wrong with either.

TE: Kyle Pitts, Florida 

Pitts was another unanimous pick. At 6-foot-6, Pitts runs a 4.55-second 40. Yikes.

OL: Alex Leatherwood, Alabama

OL: Darian Kinnard, Kentucky

OL: Trey Smith, Tennessee

OL: Ben Cleveland, Georgia

C: Drake Jackson, Kentucky

A big surprise from research for this list was how impressive the Kentucky offensive line is. You see that play out with two picks here from the Wildcats. Mark Stoops has quietly built a very consistent program in Lexington, and he's doing it from the trenches out. 

Defense: 

DL: Tyree Johnson, Texas A&M

DL: Tyler Shelvin, LSU

DL: Big Kat Bryant, Auburn

Another major takeaway from my All-SEC was the lack of depth on the defensive line. Yes these players are very good (also Big Kat Bryant is an awesome name), but there's no blue chip, locked-and-loaded top-15 picks in the NFL Draft. That's something the SEC has had on the defensive line each of the last four years (Derrick Brown, Quinnen Williams, Daron Payne, Myles Garrett, etc.)

LB: Dylan Moses, Alabama

LB: Nick Bolton, Missouri

LB: Jabril Cox, LSU

Speaking of first-round picks, Dylan Moses likely would have been one in 2019 if not for his knee injury. He'll still probably be one in 2020. Additionally on the linebacker front, Nick Bolton might be the best player in the SEC that most football fans don't know. First-team All-SEC as a sophomore in 2019, Bolton recorded 107 total tackles and is fantastic in coverage, totaling 10 passes defended and intercepting two balls. 

DB: Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

DB: Jaycee Horn, South Carolina

DB: Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina

DB: Jacoby Stevens, LSU

DB: Richard LeCounte, Georgia

Picking defensive backs was the hardest part of this exercise. Outside of Surtain II, there may not be a top-20 pick in the NFL Draft among the group, but it seems like there's 15 guys that could be drafted in the first three rounds. 

Mukuamu was the guy I picked for the first team that I seemed to be higher on than most. He was Second-Team All-SEC in 2019 and stands 6-foot-4, ridiculous size for a defensive back. I also love his versatility, playing both corner and safety. 

All-purpose offense: Jerrion Ealy, Ole Miss

Jerrion Ealy would have been my second-team starting running back if we used a standard format. 

All-purpose defense: KJ Britt, Auburn

K: Brent Cimaglia, Tennessee

P: Max Duffy, Kentucky

KR: Jerrion Ealy, Ole Miss

PR: Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

My All-SEC Second Team:

QB: Jamie Newman, Georgia

RB: Najee Harris, Alabama

WR: DeVonta Smith, Alabama

WR: George Pickens, Georgia

WR: Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU

TE: Harold Joiner, Auburn

OL: Ben Brown, Ole Miss

OL: Cade Mays, Tennessee

OL: Deonte Brown, Alabama

OL: Tre Hill, Georgia

C: Landon Dickerson, Alabama

DL: Xavier Kelly, Arkansas

DL: LaBryan Ray, Alabama

DL: Bobby Brown, Texas A&M

LB: Sam Williams, Ole Miss

LB: Ventrell Miller, Florida

LB: Dimitri Moore, Vanderbilt

DB: Kaiir Elam, Florida

DB: Trey Dean III, Florida

DB: Tyson Campbell, Georgia

DB: Derek Singley, LSU

DB: Eric Stokes, Georgia

All-purpose offense: Kadarius Toney, Florida

All-purpose defense: MoMo Sanogo, Ole Miss

K: Evan McPherson, Florida

P: Mac Brown, Ole Miss

KR: Shi Smith, South Carolina

PR: Christian Tutt, Auburn

More from The Grove Report:

Sports Illustrated's 2020 Preseason All-SEC Team

Marc MacMillan Talks Lessons Learned from Coaching Under Mike Bianco

Ole Miss Linebackers Will Quarterback D.J. Durkin's Defensive Scheme

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