So the Associated Press announced their 2009 All-SEC team yesterday. Auburn had five players honored:
— Antonio Coleman was named first-team All-SEC at defensive end.
— Walt McFadden (at CB), Ryan Pugh (at C), and Ben Tate (at RB) were each named to the second team.
— Lee Ziemba was named Honorable Mention at T.
And so, the Auburn-centric response:
Congratulations, Antonio. I know 7-5 and Auburn’s overall defensive backslide maybe weren’t what Coleman was imagining from a collective team standpoint when he decided to return for his senior season … but from a personal standpoint, you can’t do a whole lot better than leading the SEC in both sacks and tackles-for-loss despite no one else from Auburn finishing in the top-20 in either statistic. As much as Auburn struggled on defense this season, it’s hard to imagine how far they’d have fallen if Coleman had departed. Here’s to hoping his draft status has gotten a big bump this year.
Great to see McFadden recognized. The other senior anchor on Auburn’s defense, McFadden really, really came into his own this year. Corner is an absolutely loaded position in the SEC–McFadden’s company on the second team is Patrick Peterson and Myron Lewis, both mortal locks to play on Sundays–and for McFadden to hold his own against the rest of the league’s candidates says a lot about the kind of season he had. I was totally expecting to gripe about McFadden’s snub once these teams were announced–it’s quite the pleasant surprise, but it’s one that’s totally deserved.
Kudos likewise for Tate, Pugh, Ziemba. Less surprising to see these guys honored, but that’s because all three are so richly deserving. Auburn’s offensive line more than earned their representation, and even if I’d like to think a case could be made that Tate deserved first-team honors over Dixon, when you’re rubbing shoulders with Dexter McCluster and Mantario Hardesty on the second team, you’ve obviously done something very right.
Darvin Adams? Hello? What the hell? That a player with as little name-recognition as Adams didn’t make first-team is hardly surprising … but not even the second team? Not even honorable mention? Fer God’s sake, voters: Adams finished in the top-5 in the league in receptions (4th), yards (3rd), average-per-completion (4th), and touchdowns (1st). You get one guess how many other SEC receivers pulled off that feat.
Take your guess now.
Time’s up. I hope you guessed zero, because that’s the right answer. And yet he finished outside the running behind Joe Adams, who finished 26th in receptions, one spot behind Brandon Barden (who? exactly) and 13th in total yards. Yes, that Adams was able to return from a freaking stroke to lead the league in yards-per-completion is a great story, but no way you can argue he accomplished more this season than Adams. No way.
And–again–Adams couldn’t even snag an honorable mention nod. Sad. (At least he’s just a sophomore.)
Wes Byrum also has a gripe. I’m not going to seriously argue that Byrum deserved a spot ahead of Leigh Tiffin–who I don’t think is as good (nice honked extra point last Saturday there, buddy), but who does lead the nation in FGs made and saved the Tide’s bacon against Tennessee–or Blair Walsh, whose combination of accuracy and leg strength makes him as good as any kicker in the country. (UCLA’s Kai Forbath–who didn’t miss a single field goal all season from inside 50–is your only other serious candidate for that title.)
But come on: Byrum finished the year 14-of-15 with his only miss from 46 and a perfect 47-of-47 on extra points. If that’s not worth some kind of recognition no matter what the competition was, I don’t know what is.
Ditto for Josh Bynes. Yet another utterly stacked position–how many NFL teams are starting a group as strong as Eric Norwood, Rolando McClain, and Rennie Curran?–but Bynes’s tremendous efforts in keeping the Auburn D somewhat afloat deserved some sort of a nod. He’s not the only player outside the second team who has a right to complain–how is Chris Marve, who trailed only Curran in tackles, only honorable mention?–but at least an honorable mention citation was in order here. (While we’re on this topic: why is Kentucky’s Sam Maxwell on the second team? OK, he showed a knack for stepping in front of short passes, but he’s not even the best linebacker on his own team–that’s Micah Johnson.)
Overall: could have been worse, but could have been better, too. As I said, nice to see McFadden get the nod, but I’m not sure if that totally makes up for the Adams snub in particular.
A HEISMAN RANT AND FISK WHILE WE’RE DISCUSSING POSTSEASON AWARDS
Let me say this first: Mark Ingram is a whale of a running back. His combination of power, balance, and vision is pretty much unmatched in current D-I; with the possible exception of Toby Gerhart, no one has made more yards from less space as consistently as Ingram. If he wins the Heisman, there will have been far, far more egregious mistakes by the Downtown Athletic Club, even in recent history. (Eric Crouch, anyone?)
But there’s no freaking way Mark Ingram is the Most Outstanding Player in college football. He’s not even the Most Outstanding Player on his own team–give me a choice of any Tide player to build a team around, and I take Rolando McClain every day of the week and twice on Sunday. And as far as the rest of the country goes, I don’t see how anyone who watched what Ndamukong Suh did against Texas last Saturday or Missouri earlier in the year or Oklahoma in the Huskers’ big win over the Sooners and not believe he’s the best player in college football. You simply don’t see defensive tackles who have the kind of impact Suh has; as great as Ingram is, there’s still a dozen Ingrams out there for every Suh. (Hell, there’s already one of them on Alabama’s roster named Trent Richardson … and maybe two, if you note that over 46 carries–not exactly the smallest sample size in the world–Roy Upchurch has gained more per-carry this year than Ingram has.)
Which is why Chris Low’s kind of thinking drives me completely up a wall. To the fisk we go:
Ingram’s performance against so many good SEC defenses is what sold me on him. That and his value to an Alabama team that’s ranked No. 1 in the country.
His value?!?! He’s more valuable than a defensive tackle that led the nation’s No. 9 defense in solo tackles? When even the Tide’s own fans admit his backup “may even be a more effective player“? Ask yourself this, Chris: why is this Alabama the No. 1 team in the country–their 35th-ranked offense, or their No. 2 defense? But an offensive player is still their “most valuable.” Right.
The guy is incredible after contact and to rack up 189 rushing/receiving yards against Florida’s defense speaks for itself.
Uh, with all due respect to the game-of-their-lives performance by the Tigers in the Iron Bowl, to rack up 51 rushing/receiving yards against Auburn’s defense speaks for itself. (To anyone who would respond “but Auburn’s gameplan was all about stopping Ingram”: you think Texas’s gameplan last Saturday wasn’t to stop Suh? You think Ga. Tech’s gameplan last Saturday wasn’t to stop C.J. Spiller?)
According to this week’s NCAA statistics, Ingram faced six of the top 28 defenses in the country (No. 4 Florida, No. 14 Virginia Tech, No. 15 South Carolina, No. 16 Tennessee, No. 24 Ole Miss and No. 28 LSU). And in those six games, Ingram rushed for 924 yards, averaging 154 yards per game and scoring seven touchdowns.
Here, watch Andy Bitter reduce this argument–at least where it concerns Ingram’s biggest competition at RB–to tiny, stupid shreds:
Gerhart stacks up very nicely with Ingram in terms of the kind of rushing defenses they faced this year. In seven games against a rushing defense ranked 60th or higher (in the top half of the FBS), Gerhart ran for 1,015 yards (145.0 ypg) and 18 touchdowns. Ingram ran for 924 yards in six of those games (154.0 ypg) with six touchdowns. But despite the SEC’s reputation for being the elite defensive conference nationally, Gerhart played against four rushing Pac-10 rushing defenses ranked 30th or higher, finishing with 480 yards (120.0 ypg) and nine touchdowns in those games. Ingram only faced one rushing defense ranked in the top-30 (Florida at No. 13) …
Ouch, babe. But don’t worry, Low’s still got the hammer to drop:
When Alabama needed him the most this season, he was at his best.
Sometimes there’s nothing to type other than: OMG. OMG. Less than five minutes remaining, Alabama 12, Tennessee 3, and the Tide has just gotten a roughing-the-kicker call which should allow them to bleed out the clock; Ingram fumbles the ball away on first down, igniting what would become a furious Vol rally and the closest call of the Tide’s season.
And later, of course, Auburn goes up 14-0 on Alabama in the first quarter; just as the Tide “needs him most,” Ingram rushes for 30 yards on 16 carries and leaves the game-winning drive with a hip pointer.
In short: the two times Alabama came closest to defeat this season, both times could be directly attributed to Ingram’s poor play. It’s more accurate to say that when Alabama needed him the most this season, Ingram was at his worst.
He has 1,542 rushing yards and 30 catches going into the BCS National Championship Game.
How many players in SEC history have rushed for more than 1,500 yards and caught 30 passes in the same season?
Here’s betting we spend a long time looking.
You know, other than just throwing out some random statistical benchmark and saying “I don’t know how many other players have reached this totally, utterly arbitrary statistical feat, but I bet it’s not very many,” don’t you think it would have been a little bit more effective to actually look up how many players actually fit the category?
I spent about three minutes poking around cfbstats and didn’t find any other SEC running backs with 1,500 yards and 30 receptions, but I did find that in 2007 Darren McFadden had 1,800 yards and 20 receptions, so if it’s not exactly what Low had in mind the question “how long do you have to look to find an SEC running back who had a more impressive season overall than Ingram”–not that this is in any way relevant to who should win the 2009 Heisman Trophy–is “about three minutes.” (And how far back you have to go is “two seasons.”)
Speaking of looking, I looked long and hard at Suh as my top choice. He’s the most dominant interior defensive lineman I’ve seen in college football in a long time.
And yet you went with a running back who’s quite arguably not even the most dominant running back this season.
That, Heisman Trophy, is why you fail.
Just for the record, I guess, my hypothetical ballot would go 1. Suh 2. McClain 3. Gerhart 4. Ingram 5. Eh, either Brandon Graham or Josh Nesbitt