Texas A&M was picked to finish sixth in the seven-team SEC West Division in balloting by media members Thursday despite a 20-6 record in its first two football seasons in the league.
Results were announced during the final session of the SEC media days.
A&M finished ahead of only Arkansas, a 3-9 team last season, in voting by 293 media members, the most to participate in the annual poll.
The Aggies, a 9-4 team last season, will play for the first time in the SEC era without Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel leading the offense and Thursday’s ballots reflected that void.
In terms of individual honorees, A&M placed three players on the first-team All-SEC list: offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, defensive back Deshazor Everett and punter Drew Kaser. The only other A&M honoree was Trey Williams, a third-team pick as an all-purpose player.
Rival coaches who took the dais Thursday downplayed the significance of the preseason poll, which had Auburn and Missouri — the two participants in last year’s SEC championship game — near the bottom of their respective division standings in 2013.
“The league’s wide open every year, obviously,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “I think it’s wide open every year because there’s so many good teams.”
Media members selected Alabama to defeat South Carolina in the 2014 SEC championship game.
Among the 293 ballots, eight teams received at least one vote to win the SEC title. Alabama received 154, followed by Auburn (75) and South Carolina (32).
A&M garnered no first-place votes, the lone West Division school to be shut out.
Others receiving at least one first-place vote included LSU (9), Ole Miss (2), Mississippi State (1) and Arkansas (1).
During Tuesday’s session at SEC media days, A&M coach Kevin Sumlin cited the potential for the Aggies to be overshadowed in balloting.
“You’ve got to come into this league and compete. We’ve got a ways to go,” Sumlin said. “For us to be where we need to be, we need to increase our depth.”
Support for players
Richt threw his support behind proposed NCAA governance and legislation changes that would allow player stipends to cover the full cost of college attendance rather than the tuition, books and board model in place today.
“I’m all in,” Richt said. “Anything we can do to bless these guys for what they’ve done for us, I’m all for those kind of things.”
Embracing trip to Kyle
After playing home games against Texas A&M the past two seasons, Ole Miss will make its first trip to Kyle Field as an SEC rival on Oct. 11.
The opportunity excites Rebels defensive end C.J. Johnson, especially with Manziel now in the NFL.
“Everybody in here knows how it will be different. They don’t have Johnny,” Johnson said. “We will not have to chase him around, so it will definitely be a lot easier.”
Alabama QB situation
Alabama coach Nick Saban did not rule out the possibility of using of a two-quarterback system this season with returnee Blake Sims and Jacob Coker, a transfer from Florida State.
Coker, last year’s backup to Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, graduated from FSU and transferred with immediate eligibility.
“It’s not something that I would hope would happen. Is it something I can rule out? Not really,” Saban said before reiterating his preference for one clear-cut starter.
If that proves to be Coker, receiver Christion Jones said teammates will be receptive.
“He’s a cool guy. He’s laid back,” Jones said. “He’s doing everything he needs to do. He’s just a mature player coming from Florida State. He understands the level of competition that he’s going against.”
Favoring NFL tweak
Saban said he favors an NFL initiative that will limit schools to five third-year players per year who can receive feedback from NFL teams before deciding about entering the draft as underclassmen.
Grades would be limited to first-round, second-round or stay-in-school.
“All these players that went out for the draft and didn’t get drafted, they were potential draft picks next year,” said Saban, who had 11 underclassmen request NFL feedback before the 2014 draft.
“They’re not in the draft next year. And they’re not playing college football, either.”