Texas A&M lands five on All-SEC Media Days preseason team led by Smith

Texas A&M football’s multi-talented Ainias Smith was named the all-purpose player on the Southeastern Conference’s 2023 Media Days All-Preseason Football Team. Aggie senior defensive lineman McKinnley Jackson, fifth-year senior safety Demani Richardson and graduate punter Nik Constantinou were on the second team. Two-time defending national champion Georgia was picked to win the league over Alabama, which was picked to win the Western Division with LSU second and A&M third.
Smith, who returns for a fifth year after suffering a season-ending injury in the fourth game last season, also was the return specialist on the second team and made the third team at wide receiver. Also on the third team was A&M senior offensive guard Layden Robinson.
The graduate receiver last season had 15 receptions for 291 yards (19.4 avg.) with two touchdowns. He added eight punt returns for 27 yards and three carries for 11 yards before breaking his leg in a 23-21 victory over Arkansas. A&M’s offense struggled without Smith, averaging 360.9 yards per game to rank 92nd in the country and 22.8 points to rank 100th as A&M finished 5-7, its worst season since 2008.
Smith for his career has 127 receptions for 1,612 yards (12.7) with 17 TDs, 67 carries for 384 yards (5.7) with four TDs, 62 punt returns for 551 yards (8.9) with a TD and 13 kickoff returns all in his freshman season for 257 yards (19.8).
Richardson has started 43 of 44 games with 245 career tackles, 155 of them solos. He has four interceptions, 15 pass deflections, three caused fumbles and a fumble recovery. He had a career-high 73 tackles last with six pass deflections. Richardson shunned the NFL Draft to return for an extra season granted by the NCAA for COVID-19.
Jackson, despite dealing with injuries last season, had a career-high 37 tackles, 23 of them solos in eight games. Jackson, who made the league’s all-freshman team in 2020, had seven tackles for 29 yards in losses.
Constantinou last season averaged 41.7 yards on 62 punts, a huge drop from his sophomore season when he average 46.6. But Constantinou had a career-best 27 punts fair caught and pinned 23 inside the 20 to match the number from the previous season. Constantinou was selected as the SEC’s best punter in 2021 by the Associated Press and was on the coaches’ second team. Constantinou was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award as a freshman.
Robinson, who started every game last season, was a second-team pick on the AP’s 2021 team.
Georgia had 16 players on the three teams, including a league-best 11 on the first team led by All-American tight end Brock Bowers. Alabama, which was 11-2 last season, had 15 players honored, including five on the first team and eight on the second team. Junior Kool-Aid McKinstry was on the first unit at defensive back and return specialist. LSU, coming off a 10-4 season, had 11 players picked with junior quarterback Jayden Daniels, junior wide receiver Malik Nabers and sophomore offensive tackle Will Campbell on the first team. Ole Miss had only one player selected, sophomore Quinshon Judkins, who was on the first team. Vanderbilt was the only team without a selection.
Georgia received 181 votes to win the title, almost three times as many as Alabama (62).
Georgia received 265 votes and 2,011 points to be predicted to win the Eastern Division followed by Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky, Florida, Missouri and Vanderbilt, which received five votes to win the SEC, more than nine other schools, but the four-day event was held in its hometown, Nashville, Tenn.
In Western Division voting, Alabama earned 165 first-place votes and 1,899 points to edge LSU (117 first-place votes, 1,838 points), which beat Alabama in the regular season last year and won the West. A&M received a first-place vote and 1,144 points to edge Ole Miss (1,128) for third. Arkansas was fifth followed by Auburn and Mississippi State.
Only nine times since 1992 has the predicted overall champion at SEC Media Days won the title.
A&M tied Auburn last year for sixth in the SEC West, both going 2-6 after being picked second behind Alabama. Two years ago, the Aggies also were picked second in the West and finished 4-4, tying Arkansas and Mississippi State for third.

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