LITTLE ROCK — Pro or con about the Razorbacks’ upcoming season, Arkansas fans can use the coaches’ preseason All-SEC teams to support their argument.
Whether the ammunition is recent history or sheer numbers, there is ample data to back up those who believe Tyler Wilson, Knile Davis, and others can get Arkansas to Atlanta for the SEC championship game and an equal amount of info available for those who debunk the idea that a Western Division title is in store for the Razorbacks. The advocate simply has to be selective about use of the available material.
A debate would go something like this:
Pro-pig: Arkansas has 10 players on the three units of the All-SEC team, only one less than Alabama and LSU, so the Razorbacks should be toe to toe with those opponents.
Con: Arkansas led the league with 14 players on the All-SEC team last year, one more than Alabama, and was no match for the Crimson Tide last September in Tuscaloosa.
Pro: The 13 players Alabama had on the All-SEC team last year were a hint that the Crimson Tide would make a run at the national championship and Georgia, the Eastern Division champion, had six on the first team — more than Alabama or anybody else. So, 10 Razorbacks bodes well.
Con: A year ago, LSU only had seven players total, including one on the first team, was 13-0, and played for the national championship.
Pro: With Wilson, Davis, and wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas has half of the first-team playmakers on offense, so the Razorbacks should be prolific on offense.
Con: Defense wins championships in the SEC and senior linebacker Alonzo Highsmith is the only Razorback among 38 defensive players on the first three units.
Pro: But, the number of selections from Arkansas says the talent levels are very close.
Con: Three of those 10 are involved in the kicking game. Dylan Breeding punted a total of 13 times last year against Alabama and LSU and Zach Hocker only tried 27 field goals all year. Including kickoffs, they might not be on the field a dozen times total in either of the games in Fayetteville. All 11 of Alabama’s All-SEC representatives are every-down players and both of LSU’s kickers are ahead of the Razorbacks’ specialists.
As time expires, the moderator awards a slight edge to those who still believe there is a discrepancy in talent between Arkansas and the best in the West.
Like any other preseason team, the coaches’ selections for All-SEC are based on past production, expectations, and familiarity. Injuries do not compute. When the 2011 All-SEC team was announced, to the victors went the spoils — 10 players each for Alabama and LSU and seven for Arkansas.
Realistically, both Arkansas and Alabama were going to fall short because, for some reason — maybe to tease fans — the coaches go three units deep in the preseason, but only pick a first and second team after the season.
Usually, the coaches hit about .500 on the first team. Last year, the coaches’ backfield included Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, plus running backs Marcus Lattimore, and Trent Richardson. After the season, the coaches went for Wilson, Auburn’s Michael Dyer, and Richardson. Georgia tight end Charles Olson won both times and so did three of the five offensive linemen. Nowhere to be found in July, Will Blackwell of LSU was a first teamer in December. A year ago, wide receivers Alshon Jeffery of South Carolina and Greg Childs of Arkansas were on the preseason first team. In December, it was Arkansas’ Jarius Wright and LSU’s Rueben Randle.
On defense, the coaches got two of the four linemen correct, one of three linebackers, and two of four defensive backs.
The preseason team was a bridge to this week’s gabfest called SEC Media Days where the participants will provide the fodder to navigate the two weeks until fall practice.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.