Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Sometimes those opinions are just wrong.
Maybe we were even off base at points last week when we tried to nail down the SEC’s top five players at each position over the last decade. In some cases, the SEC blog’s readers let us know just how wrong we were – and so we decided to chime in with our own thoughts this week.
Each day this week, we will revisit those position rankings, with one of our SEC writers discussing his thoughts on the position with the co-worker who came up with the original top five.
Concerning the offensive line top five (1. Barrett Jones, 2. Michael Oher, 3. Chance Warmack, 4. Andre Smith, 5. Maurkice and Mike Pouncey) ESPN SEC writer Edward Aschoff is not sold on David Ching’s choice for the final spot on the list:
Edward Aschoff: The top four looks good. I’d love for those big boys to block for any of my quarterbacks any day of the week. But I must say that your five spot might not have had the most talented guy(s). The Pouncey twins were outstanding at Florida, especially Maurkice, but when I’ve talked to people around the league, the name that always comes up in conversation about the best linemen in the past 10 years is Laremy Tunsil.
Yes, he had his suspension last season, but I’ve talked to people who have called him the best college lineman they’ve ever seen (no, David, they aren’t Ole Miss coaches). He was a franchise left tackle for the Rebels and gave up two sacks in 2 1/2 seasons. He came right back from his suspension and played like an All-American against one of the country’s best pass-rushers in Myles Garrett in Game 1. There’s a reason he was called the “Dancing Bear” by Ole Miss teammates with all that agility and footwork. You seriously don’t think he was at least the fifth-most-talented lineman in the last 10 years?
Oh, and you left Sebastian Tretola off the “just missed the cut” list. David, he threw a touchdown pass. I can’t even take you seriously if you can't put the guy with the golden arm on here!
David Ching: Come on, man. Tretola was an outstanding college lineman, but the other guys on that list are all studs who won national awards or who became early draft picks and NFL starters. Tretola was a sixth-round draft pick.
Now the Tunsil discussion is one worth having. There’s no denying his talent, but I didn’t base my list on talent alone. I ultimately went another direction because of that suspension that cost him half of his junior season – and we’ll see whether it costs Ole Miss more than losing his services for half of a season, depending on what NCAA investigators dig up on his case.
Of course you’re right, though: Tunsil was a great player. There were so many good choices available that you ultimately were going to leave some legit stars out of the top five. In fact, there are 14 NFL first-round draft picks over the last decade who didn’t make my list of top five offensive linemen, and half of them didn’t even make the “just missed the cut” list. The SEC has turned out so much ridiculous talent along the line of scrimmage during this golden era of football within the conference that it was tough to bring up everyone who deserves attention.
Ultimately, though, the two guys who were the most difficult to leave out of the top five both came from Texas A&M: Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. Joeckel, in particular, was a dominant player basically from day one. He started at left tackle all three years he was an Aggie and was a unanimous All-American and Outland Trophy winner in 2012. As good as he was in college, though, he played only one season in the SEC since A&M joined the conference in 2012. That’s not his fault, but if we are discussing the best SEC offensive linemen of the last decade, there are players with similar resumes who spent more time in the league. That’s what's made me go with the Pouncey brothers, who both had outstanding careers at Florida and eventually became NFL first-round picks and Pro Bowlers.
Aschoff: Oh, how people forget beauty that is placed right in front of their faces. How dare you turn a blind eye to this majestic, big-man passing touchdown! How many offensive linemen -- or quarterbacks -- have a QBR of 480.4? Anyway, I'll get over that, and I understand your hesitation with Tunsil. I just can't ignore his outright talent. He was too good to be left off. The off-field junk aside, when he was on the field, there wasn't a better offensive lineman in the stadium.
I also have no problem excluding Joeckel. Sure, he was outstanding for the Aggies, but you're absolutely right about his limited time in the SEC. Who knows what he would have looked like with more seasons in the league? I'm not taking a shot at him, but it's hard to argue putting someone in this top five when they barely played in the SEC.