Athlon Sports released their All-SEC list today and 10 Florida Gators made the cut for the annual pre-season honor. In total, Florida had two players selected on offense, six on defense and two more on special teams.
The 10 Gators that were named to the All-SEC teams were two more than a year ago and the four Gators named to the first team was one more than the previous season as well. The players that were honored with the distinction of being named to one of the four teams were Dominique Easley, Loucheiz Purifoy, Kyle Christy and Andre Debose on the first team, Marcus Roberson came in on the second team, Jon Halapio and Antonio Morrison were named to the third team and Jonotthan Harrison, Dante Fowler and Jaylen Watkins were named to the fourth team.
Starting with Athlon’s first team All-SEC team, Dominique Easley came in ahead of Kelcy Quarles from South Carolina, Bryan Jones of Arkansas and Donte Rumph of Kentucky. These are all players who are legitimate NFL prospects and putting Easley ahead of them even though he hasn’t played defensive tackle full-time since his sophomore season is a big decision. Easley is a natural defensive tackle and should have a big season if he can stay healthy.
Loucheiz Purifoy also was named to the first team defense. Personally, I feel that Roberson is a better all-around cornerback but Purifoy seems to always be around the ball and he definitely garnered the headlines last season with some highlight reel plays. I would switch Purifoy and Roberson if it was my list but Purifoy is deserving of the distinction.
Kyle Christy and Andre Debose rounded out the first team coming in as the first team punter and kick returner respectively. Christy will likely be a unanimous selection on every pre-season ballot after coming off of a season where he averaged 45.80 yards per punt last season. Debose has been making a lot of first team kick returner lists based on his history. He struggled with consistency last season and his 28.33 return average wasn’t in the top 100 in the country. If Debose is healthy – and in the good graces of the coaching staff – you can expect him to return to his old form and become a player to watch on special teams in 2013.
Marcus Roberson was the lone player selected to the second team. The one knock on Roberson has been his physicality and desire to come up and tackle people in space. Roberson looks like he has spent some time in the weight room this offseason and the additional bulk could lead to him becoming a more physical corner a la Loucheiz Purifoy. I expect a very good season from Roberson and for him to introduce himself to the rest of the nation with his play this season.
The third team hosted two more Gators in Jon Halapio and Antonio Morrison. Halapio has been a rock in what has become a very unstable offensive line the past three seasons. Halapio was named a team captain prior to last season and has started every game the past two seasons. While he has yet to garner a lot of attention from the NFL, Halapio is a very reliable, sturdy member of the offensive line and deserving of the distinction.
Antonio Morrison makes his way to the list despite not being a starter last season. Morrison did start three games in the absence of Jelani Jenkins and provided the Gators with 34 tackles, two for a loss and one sack as a freshman. Morrison was named the starting middle linebacker this spring before he was arrested this past weekend. It is unclear what punishment Will Muschamp will dole out on the freshman but we can only hope that Morrison learns from the experience and doesn’t make the same mistake again. He should be a player that is a leader both on and off the field and I’m sure the coaching staff will drill that into his head from this point on.
Three Gators rounded out the fourth team All-SEC list with Jaylen Watkins, Jonotthan Harrison and Dante Fowler just making the cut. Watkins was listed at safety – a position he will move to in the fall. Watkins spent the past two preseasons being cross-trained at cornerback and safety so the transition to full time safety should be smooth for the athletic senior. Fowler was listed as one-of-two fourth team defensive ends and I think he will outperform the pre-season ranking. His dedication to football both on and off the field have allowed Fowler to shed the baby fat he carried last year while impressing Muschamp with his work ethic in the film room. He’s poised for a breakout sophomore season.
Harrison is the last Gator we’ll talk about and that is by design. For the most part, Athlon nailed the list. While I might have flip-flopped Roberson and Purifoy, that’s really a preference call. However, Harrison being named to the fourth team is too low. Harrison has started 26 straight games dating back to the 2011 Outback Bowl for Florida – including not missing any time after an elbow injury last season.
The players listed ahead of Harrison (Travis Swanson – Ark., James Stone – Tenn., Ryan Kelly – Bama.) are all worthy of being named to the preseason All-SEC team but I think Harrison is as good if not better than all three.
While the preseason distinctions are nice, Will Muschamp would be the first person to tell you that it doesn’t matter where you start; it’s about where you finish. If the Gators want to match or better their 11-2 mark from a season ago they will need these 10 players – as well as some players not listed – to play at an All-SEC caliber all season long.