This week, the mothership asked that we submit our pre-season ballots for All-Americans, the Heisman, and coach of the year awards. What will surprise you, the reader, is that there are actually five Kansas State names on our ballot. Yes, that does sound a little homerrific. It's also completely justified, as we'll see.
BotC's Pre-Season First Team All-America Offense:
|QB||Johnny Manziel||Texas A&M|
|WR||Marqise Lee||Southern California|
|C||B.J. Finney||Kansas State|
|T||Jake Matthews||Texas A&M|
Really, there's not too much argument to be had here. I did not select a tight end, because there really isn't a standout. At most positions, nobody else even got a second thought here; the exceptions are my decision to name Thomas as third RB over a tight end or Clemson's Sammy Watkins, and my selection of Finney at center over Oklahoma's Gabe Ikard. You can't fault me for the latter; Finney is also Phil Steele's first-team selection, so I'm obviously not alone here. And then there's Seastrunk, who I think is being somewhat overlooked. The Baylor offense is going to revolve around him even more than it did last season with the departures of Nick Florence and Terrance Williams, and Seastrunk was already pretty scary as it was. Remember, K-State's defense was actually good last year, especially against the run... and Seastrunk completely destroyed them.
BotC's Pre-Season First Team All-America Defense:
|DE||Jadeveon Clowney||South Carolina|
|DT||Louis Nix III||Notre Dame|
|DT||Anthony Johnson||Louisiana State|
|DE||Devonte Fields||Texas Christian|
|ILB||Max Bullough||Michigan State|
|OLB||Ryan Shazier||Ohio State|
|CB||Jason Verrett||Texas Christian|
|S||Ty Zimmerman||Kansas State|
|CB||Bradley Roby||Ohio State|
Possibly I am reaching by giving Zimmerman the nod at safety. Steele has him as a second-teamer, and that seems to be sort of the consensus from other writers, but I am taking into account the fact that the K-State defense is his this year with Arthur Brown's graduation. That's going to bring a lot of attention onto Zimmerman, and he's going to be stepping up to make The Big Plays when needed. Of course, things could go the other way entirely; if the K-State defense collapses in the wake of losses from last season's unit, Zimmerman could just as easily end up looking pretty bad.
Elsewhere, again I don't think there's a lot of argument. I think I'm probably higher on Bullough than most, but I don't see the selection as egregious. Some folks are leaving Fields off their lists because he's going to miss two games, but he'll be back in time for conference play and quite frankly Fields is a beast in a, um, field that has one obvious selection and a half-dozen fairly arguable ones.
BotC's Pre-Season First Team All-America Specialists:
|P||Kirby Van Der Kamp||Iowa State|
|RS||Tramaine Thompson||Kansas State|
|AP||Tyler Lockett||Kansas State|
Here is where I might get in trouble and accused of blatant homerism. The thing is, Lockett's a perfectly deserving candidate at the all-purpose position; a dangerous kickoff return threat (and a punt return threat if you kick it short) as well as a go-to receiver. If SB Nation had asked us to specify a punt returner and a kickoff returner rather than a single return specialist, Lockett would have been the kickoff returner and nobody would have batted an eyelash -- in fact, there's only one other player who compares to Lockett as a returner, and De'Anthony Thomas is already on this team as a running back and I don't believe in double-dipping. That left the field wide open for the return slot, and I really see no reason not to go ahead and give the nod to Thompson, who may be the best pure punt returners in the nation. At kicker, Santos won the Groza award last year as a junior, and was a finalist as a sophomore. Selecting him here is a no-brainer. As for Van Der Kamp, last year we were all annoyed that David Ubben kept pimping him as the Big 12's best punter based mostly on counting stats when Ryan Doerr was actually better; he just wasn't called on to punt as often, and when he was he usually had a relatively short field with which to work. Well, Doerr's gone now, as are all the other major competitors for last year's title as best punter in the land; as such, I have no problem pointing to Van Der Kamp as the nation's best.
BotC's Pre-Season Coaching Awards:
|HC||Bill Snyder||Kansas State|
When your name comes up in nearly every coaching vacancy during the off-season and your boss makes it known that while you really deserve the opportunity he still really, really doesn't want you to leave, you get on this list. Such is the case with Kirby Smart, architect of possibly the greatest sustained college football defense in decades. Steve Farmer may be a surprise to most, but he was largely responsible for the Most Exciting College Football Team of September 2012. He also played a role in providing us with the absolutely delightful spectacle of dual shotgun quarterbacks on the field, and really, that's worth recognition in and of itself.
Should K-State come anywhere near challenging for the Big 12 title this year after all the losses they sustained to graduation, I'm not the only person who's going to calling Bill Snyder the coach of the year. This is always a hard honor to predict in the pre-season, because much of what makes a solid coach of the year candidate revolves around exceeding expectations. Well, that's Bill Snyder's entire modus operandi, and that being the case we'll just default to him for the pre-season pick.
BotC's Pre-Season Heisman FInalists:
|1||Jadeveon Clowney||South Carolina|
|2||Johnny Manziel||Texas A&M|
Accusations of haterade are forthcoming, I am certain, but for all you Aggies out there let me be clear: I ain't hatin'. Let's get this understood right quick: this is not my list of who I think the three best players will be in the coming season. It's a list who who I think is going to win the Heisman. That's important here, because there are factors at play beyond who the best player actually is.
Manziel was electric last year, of that there is no doubt. I don't think he's going to be as electric this year; hardly anyone ever is. Think back to all the mind-blowing underclassman performances you can remember by players who didn't (or couldn't) immediately bolt for the draft. Almost every single one regressed from "ungodly" to "merely awesome" (or worse), because coming into the season they've got a bullseye on them. Opposing coaches are going to work overtime planning for them during the off-season.
Furthermore, there's going to be a sentiment among the voters to pick someone else. You know it, I know it; there's always a segment of the voting pool who doesn't want a repeat winner. That sentiment won't be universal, but you can rest assured there's no sentiment to give it to Manziel just because he won it last year, right?
Clowney, on the other hand, is probably going to murder some poor quarterback right there on the field this year, and if there's anyone who is going to actually ride another sentiment -- that a defensive player ought to win the damn thing once in awhile -- it's Clowney. And I think for those reason that if you're handicapping the Heisman race, he actually has to be your front runner.