The Southeastern Conference produced 10 bowl teams this year and a ton of college football's elite talent. In a league where recruiting is followed as closely as the games, opportunities for individual accomplishment for players are plentiful. Here are the nominees and winners for the BC Sports SEC Awards.
Coach of the Year
Dan Mullen – Mississippi State
2009 Accomplishment: Mullen did more with less at MSU steadily improving the team over the season culminating in a major upset of Ole Miss to end the year.
Nick Saban – Alabama
2009 Accomplishment: Winning the SEC Championship and completing back-to-back undefeated regular seasons proves to everyone that "Bama's Back" isn't just a magazine cover.
Rich Brooks – Kentucky
2009 Accomplishment: In spite of injuries at major positions, Kentucky still pulled a couple of major road upsets (Auburn and Georgia) and qualified for a fourth straight bowl game.
Urban Meyer – Florida
2009 Accomplishment: Meyer's run at Florida has been remarkable and another SEC East championship and SECCG appearance make him one of the top coaches in the conference and the country.
Awarded to: Nick Saban – Alabama
Back-to-back undefeated regular seasons is one thing, but accomplishing that in the SEC is something special. Saban is not cuddly, likeable, or remotely approachable. However, he knows how to build winners and can do it fast. What's he's accomplished at Alabama in three years is both remarkable and notable. One can only wonder if winning the BCS Championship this year will forever put his name among the history of elite coaches of the college game.
Offensive Player of the Year
Randall Cobb – WR/ATH, Kentucky
2009 Statistics: 37 receptions, 427 yds., 4 TDs; 84 rushes, 537 yds, 10 TDs; 46 kr/pr, 655 yds, 1 TD
Mark Ingram – RB, Alabama
2009 Statistics: 249 rushes, 1,542 yds, 15 TDs; 30 receptions, 322 yds., 3 TDs; 8 100+ yard games
Ryan Mallett – QB, Arkansas
2009 Statistics: 3,425 yds., 29 TDs/7INTs, 157.87 QB rating, 6 200+ yard games, 3 300+ yard games, 2 400+ yard games.
Tim Tebow – QB, Florida
2009 Statistics: 2413 yds., 18 TDs/5 INTs, 155.59 QB rating, 859 rushing yards, 15 TDs, 6 200+ yard passing games, 2 100+ yard rushing games. 1
Awarded to: Tim Tebow – QB, Florida
His numbers this season weren't the greatest. His passing motion is downright funky. But no other player has the impact of Tebow on the field. Multiple times in his career, he carried Florida to victory in spite of injury, odds, or his own well-being. Leading Florida to two back-t0-back SEC Championship Game appearances in no small feat. His performance against LSU (coming two weeks after being knocked out with a concussion) demonstrated his most important characteristic – leadership. That game plan couldn't feature him for obvious reasons and he led a conservative attack against a tough defense on the road and still managed to beat them by 10 points. He didn't win them all, but one can never claim Tim Tebow didn't bring it every time he hit the field.
Defensive Player of the Year
Antonio Coleman – DE, Auburn
2009 Statistics: 45 total tackles (20 solo/25 asst.), 15.5 tackles for loss (11 solo/9 asst.), 9 sacks (7 solo/4 asst.), 1 interception
Chris Marve – LB, Vanderbilt
Rolando McClain – LB, Alabama
2009 Statistics: 101 total tackles (51 solo/50 asst.), 4 sacks, 2 INTs, 1 forced fumble
Eric Norwood – LB, South Carolina
2009 Statistics: 71 total tackles (46 solo/25 asst.), 7 sacks, 2 INTs
Awarded to: Rolando McClain – LB, Alabama
All of the above players are worthy, but McClain is the one guy who's presence on the field was always felt in every game. As a junior (the lone underclassman of the nominees), McClain's value was evidenced when he had to bring along another teammate when a starter went down for Alabama early in the year. The Alabama defense was one of the stingiest thanks in no small part to the efforts of the star linebacker. In addition to his physical gifts, McClain is the kind of leader every defensive coach wants on the field and his physical and mental skills point to a bright future on the next level.
Special Teams Player of the Year
Javier Arenas – KR/PR, Alabama
2009 Statistics: 68 kr/pr, 1025 yds., 1 TD, 29 yd. avg kr/16.3 yd. avg. pr
Drew Butler – P, Georgia
2009 Statistics: 50-2442 yds., 48.8 yd. avg., long 75 yds.
Derrick Locke – KR, Kentucky
2009 Statistics: 19-563 yds., 1 TD, 29.6 yd. avg.
Leigh Tiffin – PK, Alabama
2009 Statistics: 29-33 FG, 38-41 PAT, 125 total points
Awarded to: Javier Arenas – KR/PR, Alabama
Arenas consistently provided a threat in the return game. So much so, many teams chose to kick it away from him completely and even accept penalties as a result. That's when you know the threat is real. In addition to his skills as a defensive back, Arenas' pro potential as a returner will make him a must have in the coming NFL Draft.
Freshman Player of the Year
Johnthan Banks – DB, Mississippi State
2009 Statistics: 33 total tackles, (20 solo/13 asst.), 4 INTs, 2 TDs,
Alshon Jeffery – WR, South Carolina
2009 Statistics: 43 rec., 735 yards, 6 TDs, 3 100+ yd. games
Trent Richardson – RB, Alabama
2009 Statistics: 126 rushes, 642 yards, 6 TDs; 14 rec., 107 yds.
Cornelius Washington – DT, Georgia
2009 Statistics: 6 games, 10 total tackles (8 solo/2 asst.), 4 sacks
Awarded to: Alshon Jeffery – WR, South Carolina
In a league where the emphasis on recruiting is as closely followed as the season in some cases, the youngest of players who make an impact are worth noting. Alshon Jeffery exploded onto the scene this year giving South Carolina's Steven Garcia a legitimate receiving threat on each play. Coming out of high school and finishing the year ranked among the top receivers in the league is no small feat and his future looks as bright as any of the stars of tomorrow on the list.