If Thursday's balloting of Southeastern Conference football coaches is any indication, the West will be best again.
Of the 28 players named by coaches to the league's preseason first team — a total that includes ties at two positions and four special-teams spots — 21 suit up for West Division schools. The SEC West made college football history last November when LSU, Alabama and Arkansas occupied the top three spots in the Bowl Championship Series standings.
LSU, the defending SEC champion, and Alabama, the reigning national champ, each had 11 players named to the league's first, second and third teams, while Arkansas was right behind with 10 selections.
For a ninth consecutive year, the SEC released its preseason vote by coaches in conjunction with the annual media days event at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. Media days will start Tuesday and run through Thursday, when the media voting will be announced.
Receiver Da'Rick Rogers from Calhoun, Ga., represented Tennessee on the first team, and receiver Justin Hunter and defensive back Prentiss Waggner were second-team picks. Offensive lineman Dallas Thomas and linebacker A.J. Johnson were tabbed to the third team.
Georgia's first-team representatives were linebacker Jarvis Jones and defensive back Bacarri Rambo, while quarterback Aaron Murray and nose tackle John Jenkins were second-team picks. Murray was picked behind Tyler Wilson of Arkansas and ahead of AJ McCarron of Alabama, the offensive MVP of the Crimson Tide's 21-0 thrashing of LSU in January's BCS title game.
Wilson became the first quarterback in Arkansas history to be named first-team All-SEC last season after throwing for 3,638 yards and 24 touchdowns and leading the Razorbacks to 11 wins.
The two first-team running backs, Knile Davis of Arkansas and Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina, are coming back from injuries. Davis suffered a season-ending ankle fracture last August after running for 1,322 yards in 2010, which included a 157.8 yards-per-game average in November.
Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards as a freshman in 2010 and had gained 818 yards last season before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the seventh game against Mississippi State.
Offensive linemen Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker and linebackers C.J. Mosley and Nico Johnson were Alabama's first-team selections. LSU led the voting with seven first-team picks -- offensive lineman Alex Hurst, defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, defensive backs Tyrann Mathieu and Eric Reid, punter Brad Wing and Mathieu again as the return specialist.
Mathieu was a finalist last season for the Heisman Trophy.
Florida, which failed to have a first-team All-SEC performer at the end of last season for the first time in 40 years, did not have a first-team selection in Thursday's balloting. Defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd, linebacker Jon Bostic, defensive back Matt Elam and return specialist Andre Debose were second-team picks for the Gators.
Auburn now for Foster
The world of SEC football recruiting reverberated Thursday when Reuben Foster committed to Auburn after having previously committed to Alabama.
Foster, the No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 2 overall prospect nationally according to Rivals.com, announced his decision at Auburn High School. The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder went through spring practice at Auburn High after transferring from Troup County High in LaGrange, Ga., where he amassed 144 tackles, 32 tackles for loss and 14 sacks this past fall.
"I want to make an announcement so I can put this behind me and get to work on what I need to do to prepare for college both academically and athletically: I am going to enroll at Auburn University," Foster said. "I have a lot of respect for Alabama, the coaches, and all of the people there and the fans, but at the end of the day, I feel like Auburn University is the best place for me and my family.
"I am 100 percent confident with my final decision."
Foster's prepared statement was virtually identical to the one in December by touted running back T.J. Yeldon, who switched his commitment from Auburn to Alabama.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...