SEC Still Dominant League Despite Missing Title Again


Florida State SEC Lead School and Conference Draft Choices

 By John Ventola

Teams do not win championships if they do not have talent. Coaching can cover up some shortcomings, but a glaring weakness in any area will soon be uncovered and exploited by the opposition. Talent, a lot of it, is mandatory for any collegiate team to capture a league championship, and be able to advance to the national playoff stage (formerly the BCS, now the College Football Playoff (CFP) system). One or two star players can lead a team, but it takes talented teammates with varied skill-sets to capture a title.

Although 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston left Florida State with one


Winston Led But Seminoles Were Loaded

national championship and fashioned an impressive 26-1 record as the Seminoles leader, talented teammates surrounded him in Tallahassee. That fact was driven home in the 2015 NFL Draft. Eleven Seminoles were chosen in the draft, ten coming in the draft’s first 194 picks, and six in the first three rounds.

Florida State’s 2015 total gives the school a new three-year record of 29 choices (2012-2014), breaking the previous record total of 28 set by Miami (2002-2004), and USC (2008-2010). Not surprisingly, the Hurricanes and Pete Carroll’s Trojans were powerhouses during those time frames. Top talent is the difference maker.

School-wise, Louisville followed FSU with ten picks, while Florida had eight. Alabama and Miami were next with seven draftees, while Missouri, Oklahoma, and USC had six each.

Ohio State supplanted Florida State last year by winning the first CFP impressively, but the Buckeyes were led by sophomores, and juniors that did not declare early for the draft. Senior wide receiver Devin Smith was selected by the New York Jets with the fifth pick in the second round (No. 37 overall), and Denver took senior TE Jeff Heuerman with the third round’s twenty-eighth choice (No. 92 overall).

I found it interesting that one highly acclaimed sports show host was spouting off about the fall of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) after the first day of the draft. His


SEC Talent Drop-off Only Wishful Thinking By Some Schools And Media

rationale, completely off base, was that the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and PAC 12 Conference had the most first round picks with nine each. Of course, that included No. 1 Winston, and No. 2 Marcus Mariota, but his rush to judgment was swift, even though the SEC had seven first round picks. As he found out after the next two days, his premise was flawed.

The draft ended with fifty-four SEC players being selected, or 21% of the 256 draft choices. It marks the fifth straight year the SEC has posted the most selections, and this year’s total breaks its old 2004 record of 49. Hardly a fall from grace, but because the league did not win the last BCS (Florida State) or the first CFP (Ohio State), after capturing seven consecutive BCS championships, many in the media want to try and poke holes into the league’s reputation.

The ACC, with FSU’s eleven leading the way, finished with 47 draft choices, while the PAC-12 garnered 39. Other conference players represented in the draft included the Big Ten with 35 (but only three first-rounders); Big 12 with 25 (two first-rounders); AAC with 11 (two first- rounders); Mountain West Conference, 10,  a second-rounder being its highest; CUSA, with six, a third-rounder being its highest (Tulane defensive backs Lorenzo Doss, No.164, and Taurean Nixon, No. 251, among them); and the Sunbelt, three, with a third-rounder its highest. The MAC had no players drafted, and only two players were drafted from programs that play as independents, Navy long-snapper Joe Cardona in the fifth round by New England, and Notre Dame TE Ben Koyack with the No. 229th pick in the seventh round.

Koyack’s position in the draft and the fact he is the only Irish player to be selected brings up an interesting point. Notre Dame annually is in the running for some of the top


Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, either a great coach, or a terrible developer of players.

high school talent in the country.  Either Brian Kelly is an excellent coach (Irish had magical unbeaten season in 2012 before thrashing by Alabama and becoming last of the SEC’s title game victims), or Kelly and his staff fail miserably in developing young talent during their careers in South Bend (a middle seventh-rounder being ND’s only pick). The university has sent many players to the NFL over the years and names like Hornung, Theismann, and Montana immediately come to mind when the school and the league are mentioned in the same sentence.

The unfortunate case of La’el Collins cost the young man millions of dollars. The former LSU offensive tackle made some personal errors in judgment that were apparently compounded by an irresponsible agent, and terrible legal advice. After his former friend was killed, he should have made himself readily available to answer police questions. If innocent, why not voluntarily go down to the police station—-after all, a long worked for payday was only six days away? Millions of dollars.

Big question to me, and I know a lot of LSU fans will find fault with my reasoning, is where is his beloved college coach Les Miles when Collins is facing the toughest time in


Sad Tale Of Collins Real Head Scratcher

his life. Granted, he cannot make another block for the Tigers, but Miles could have (I sincerely hope he did) reached out. If Miles did, and Collins foolishly refused advice, then he made a terrible decision. The advice he did listen to, to talk to police AFTER the draft, did not serve him well.

After having thirteen first round draft choices since Miles’ arrival in Baton Rouge and 60 players chosen in that ten year period, LSU earliest pick was corner back Jalen Collins in the second round, No. 42 overall to Atlanta. Defensive end Danielle Hunter followed as a third round pick of Minnesota (No. 88 overall), linebacker Kwon Alexander by Tampa Bay (No. 124 overall), and running back Kenny Hilliard at No. 235 to Tampa Bay, gave the Tigers their fewest number of draftees in years. LSU had nine players drafted in both the 2013 and 2014 drafts.

Five Tigers were signed as free agents, running back Terrence Magee, safety Ronald Martin, fullback Connor Neighbors, center Elliott Porter, and defensive end Jermauria Rasco.

High school football recruiting and professional team evaluations determine the success of college programs and pro franchises. Both efforts are filled with so many variables that they are classified as inexact exercises. A lot of four and five star high schoolers do not pan out, while there continues to be a first or second round draft choice that does not live up to expectations.

The processes capture fan interest, and keeps them thinking that this recruiting class, this draft class, will be the key to a successful season by their chosen college or professional team.

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