ATHENS - It's one of those dichotomies that arises periodically during awards season: The outside world viewing players on a team much differently than the team itself. And such it is with Georgia inside linebackers Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera.
Wilson was named first-team All-SEC by both the AP and the coaches. The junior was the runaway SEC leader in tackles (128) and solo tackles (72), and also had four sacks and 11 tackles-for-loss. He was the only Georgia defensive player to make all-conference.
But when it came time for Georgia to name its defensive player of the year, it was Herrera, the other junior inside linebacker. Herrera was second to Herrera in tackles (107) and solo tackles (50), and only had five TFLs and half a sack.
When head coach Mark Richt was asked about the selection, he pointed to Herrera's responsibilities as the all-but-official captain of the defense, and his leadership. (Richt could not vote for his own players on his All-SEC ballot.)
“Ramik obviously had more tackles, and Ramik statistically had a better year. Not by a lot, but I think that’s part of the reason why Ramik was first team All-SEC," Richt said. "Amarlo is the signal caller, and he has a lot of responsibility to get guys lined up and communicate a lot of things. He led well, so that’s part of it, too. Because of Amarlo’s extra responsibilities and the way he played and the way he led in the summer, that was a big part of it, as well.”
Herrera was asked about Wilson being named first-team All-SEC.
“It doesn’t surprise me. I know what he’s been doing all season, and I know how hard he worked during the offseason. I was just happy to see him get there," Herrera said. "I pretty much knew he could do it; he just had to get a shot. When he got the opportunity, he made the most of it.”
Todd Gurley opined that Garrison Smith and Herrera both should have been on the all-conference teams. (It probably helped that as Gurley was speaking, Smith was walking by and looking into Gurley's interview scrum.)
Asked if that meant taking Wilson off, Gurley said: "No, I would have put them both on."
(Side note: One of the people voting for Wilson over Herrera was myself, in the AP vote. I did that realizing the same things Richt alluded to, and also realizing that a lot of people who watch Georgia would say Herrera was the better player. For awhile, I felt that way too. But having watched all season, I sincerely felt Wilson got better as the season went along and by the end of the season was becoming a difference-maker. I'm not going to argue anybody who feels Herrera is a better player, but the postseason awards, in my opinion, should be for individual performance, and by that criteria Wilson deserved the honor.)
Gurley was named second-team All-SEC by the AP, but was left off by the coaches. He didn't appear too upset about it.
"I missed like five games. Why would I be up there?" Gurley said.