In an odd turn of events the SEC was snubbed on Monday when the Jim Thorpe Award watch list was released. With only three players from the top football conference in the land on the preseason list for this prestigious award the prevailing question is, has the SEC lost its way?
The Jim Thorpe Award has been around since 1986 honoring the top defensive back in the nation. Over the past six seasons the SEC has dominated the award with four winners: Eric Berry – 2009 (Tennessee), Patrick Peterson – 2010 (LSU), Morris Claiborne – 2011 (LSU), and Johnthan Banks – 2012 (Mississippi State).
When the 2015 NFL Draft had been completed 47 of the 256 players selected were defensive backs. Of the 47, five were from SEC programs. The 2014 NFL season featured 53 former SEC players on team rosters.
With all of this talent coming out of the SEC how could only three players be considered among the best of the best DBs in the nation?
The sad truth for any Power 5 Conference, per the Thorpe Award watch list, is the Mountain West Conference has the best DB talent with six representatives. The Pac-12 and ACC can lay claim to second best with five players each with the Sun Belt, MAC, and Conference USA each landing four on the list. The SEC, Big Ten and AAC each managed just three selections.
Preseason publications will have the public believing LSU, Florida, Ohio State and Ole Miss are the top pass-protecting and run-stopping groups in college football. LSU fans can cry foul that Jamal Adams (top photo), Tre’Davious White and Jalen Mills were each absent from the watch list. Tennessee can tout Cameron Sutton and Brian Randolph, with Arkansas bringing up Jared Collins, and Alabama with corner Cyrus Jones. The same can be said for Ohio State’s Eli Apple.
When the smoke clears on the 2015 season time will tell which players are truly the best of the best, but for now the SEC has to play the role of the underdog until the final votes are in on All-American teams and the winner of the Thorpe Award has been announced.
The Jim Thorpe Award is overseen by the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. The list of 42 players will be narrowed down to 15 semifinalists on Nov. 2. On Nov. 23 three semifinalists will be selected the winner announced on Dec. 11.
Jim Thorpe Award Watch List (SEC players in bold)
Ishmael Adams, UCLA – Pac-12
Mackensie Alexander, Clemson – ACC
Tony Annese, Central Michigan – MAC
Budda Baker, Washington – Pac-12
Adairius Barnes, Louisiana Tech – Conference USA
Dante Barnett, Kansas State – Big 12
Vonn Bell, Ohio State – Big Ten
Quin Blanding, Virginia – ACC
Kevin Byard, MTSU – Conference USA
Michael Caputo, Wisconsin – Big Ten
Jeremy Cash, Duke - ACC
Tony Conner, Ole Miss – SEC
Donte Deayon, Boise State – Mountain West
Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech – ACC
Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida – SEC (pictured above, right)
Nate Holley, Kent State – MAC
Adoree' Jackson, USC – Pac-12
William Jackson, Houston – AAC
Randall Jette, UMass – MAC
Jonathan Jones, Auburn – SEC
Karl Joseph, West Virginia – Big 12
Damontae Kazee, San Diego State – Mountain West
Montres Kitchens, Troy – Sun Belt
Mitch Lane, Louisiana-Monroe – Sun Belt
Richard Leonard, FIU – Conference USA
William Likely, Maryland – Big Ten
Paris Logan, Northern Illinois – Mid-American
Trent Matthews, Colorado State – Mountain West
Adrian McDonald, Houston – American Athletic
Doug Middleton, Appalachian State – Sun Belt
David Mims II, Texas State – Sun Belt
Fabian Moreau, UCLA – Pac-12
Parry Nickerson, Tulane – AAC
Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State – Big 12
Jalen Ramsey, Florida State – ACC
Max Redfield, Notre Dame – Independent
Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma – Big 12
Jordan Simone, Arizona State – Pac-12
Weston Steelhammer, Air Force – Mountain West
Darian Thompson, Boise State – Mountain West
JJ Whittaker, San Diego State – Mountain West
Xavier Woods, Louisiana Tech – Conference USA
AAC – 3
ACC – 5
Big 12 – 4
Big Ten – 3
Conference USA – 4
Independent – 1
MAC – 4
Mountain West – 6
Pac-12 – 5
SEC – 3
Sun Belt – 4
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.