tampabay.com

Writers like Vols to dominate East

By ANTONYA ENGLISH
Published July 30, 2005


HOOVER, Ala. - Urban Meyer's arrival at Florida has brought renewed optimism for the Gators, but Tennessee is still considered the team to beat.

The Vols were the runaway favorite to finish atop the SEC East, based on votes by the league's media members Thursday. The Vols received 49 of 87, followed by Florida (29) and Georgia (nine). South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Kentucky round out the East.

LSU was chosen to win the West, followed by Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Mississippi State.

Defending SEC champion Auburn picked up the most first-team selections (six), including offensive lineman Marcus McNeil, who was the top vote-getter (84 of 87).

Florida and Tennessee each had nine members on the team, followed by Auburn and LSU with seven. Georgia had three.

Quarterback Chris Leak, center Mike Degory and receiver Chad Jackson were first-team selections; the Gators had no first-team defensive players. Second-team selections: offensive lineman Randy Hand, receiver Andre Caldwell, linebackers Brandon Siler and Earl Everett, and defensive back Dee Webb.

BRING ON THE GATORS: Florida and Alabama don't play until the first weekend in October, but first-team All-SEC defensive back Roman Harper already is looking forward to that game. More specifically, Leak. "I'm really looking forward to playing against Chris Leak," Harper said. "I've only seen him on TV. I'm really excited about it. Everything I've seen about him has been really good. He runs well, makes all the great throws and I just want to compete against him."

REALLY, I'M FINE: Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle is as known for his serious injuries the past two seasons as for his play on the field. But while on a hunting trip in Argentina with his father and some friends from Pensacola this month, Internet rumors surfaced that Croyle was dead.

"My mother said I was dead," he said.

The rumors ranged from a car accident to kidnapping to a shooting. It's sort of par for the course for Croyle.

"I have enough Internet rumors, so what's another one?" he said.

His health is such a popular topic around Tuscaloosa that Croyle said during the spring semester he was probably asked 65 or 70 times daily.

Croyle will graduate in 11/2 weeks with a degree in Human and Environmental Sciences and said he feels better now than he has since junior high. His teammates are confident he'll survive the season.

"Brodie is Superman to me, and Superman cannot be taken down by anything," Harper said. "He will be good and healthy this year and have a great season."

HOT SEAT? WHAT'S NEW? Alabama coach Mike Shula is among those popping up in preseason publications as being "on the hot seat." Shula is 10-15 the past two years but said he's used to the scrutiny.

"When I took this job, my name was on the hot seat from Day 1," Shula said. "That's how I look at it. I don't worry about that. If I do, then I'm not worrying about what I need to be concentrating on, and that's helping this team get better. What's fair and not? When you win, people are probably going to say good things about your football team. When you lose, they probably are not. I can't worry about that."

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks enters his third season with a 6-17 record and is also rumored to be in trouble.

"Job security is a tenuous thing in college football and certainly in the SEC," Brooks said. "I can't control job security. All I can do is control the direction we're headed and the plan and path we achieved in getting Kentucky out of probation. ... We're going to do it the right way. Whether I'm allowed to finish the process or not, I can't control that."

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I think probably the only time I saw somebody cry was when we won the national championship." - LSU running back Joseph Addai when asked if he had ever seen former coach Nick Saban bring a player to tears.