Monday, June 4, 2012
SEC's top individual seasons
By Chris Low
When I start searching my memory bank for the best individual seasons of the past 50 years in the SEC, I don't have to go back very far to come up with at least two that rank up there with any in college football history.
But like any other ranking in the SEC, coming up with the top five individual seasons is one tough chore.
1. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn, 2010: Granted, it was only one season. But what a season it was on the Plains for Newton and the Tigers. Newton, who came over from junior college after starting his career at Florida, guided Auburn to a 14-0 record and the school's first national championship in 53 years. He was unstoppable as a runner and equally dynamic as a passer, accounting for 51 touchdowns. The runaway winner of the 2010 Heisman Trophy, Newton was second nationally in passing efficiency (182.05) and led all SEC players in rushing with 1,473 yards. In short, it was about as close as it gets to being a perfect season.
2. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida, 2007: Tebow's sophomore season was his best statistically, even though the Gators didn't win a national title that year. He became the first quarterback in FBS history to pass for 20 touchdowns and rush for 20 touchdowns in the same season. Tebow finished with 32 passing touchdowns and 23 rushing touchdowns in becoming the first sophomore in history to win the Heisman Trophy. Not known for his passing prowess, Tebow threw for 3,286 yards and only six interceptions that season. He also rushed for 895 yards and was the Gators' go-to guy any time they got near the goal line.
Herschel Walker rushed for 1,616 yards during the 1980 season, leading the Bulldogs to a 12-0 record and national championship.
3. Herschel Walker, RB, Georgia, 1980: Even though Walker won his Heisman Trophy in 1982, it was his freshman season in 1980 that everyone remembers. It remains almost mythical with the way he burst onto the scene in the second half of the opener that year against Tennessee and ran over Bill Bates at the goal line. He rushed for 1,616 yards that season in leading the Bulldogs to a 12-0 record and national championship. In a lot of ways, Walker was the first of his kind, a 225-pound bruiser who had track speed. To this day, many consider him to be the SEC's greatest player.
4. Derrick Thomas, OLB, Alabama, 1988: When you start talking about pure stats and gaudy numbers, it's hard to top what Thomas accomplished during the 1988 season. He set an SEC record with 39 tackles for loss, including an NCAA record 27 sacks. Thomas, who died in 2000, also had an incredible 45 quarterback hurries that season. He completely took over the Penn State game with three sacks and a safety, and to this day he remains the standard for rushing the passer in this league. Former Alabama coach Bill Curry called him the "best football player I ever coached."
5. Danny Wuerffel, QB, Florida, 1996: Never fully satisfied with the way his quarterbacks perform, Steve Spurrier came close in 1996. Wuerffel was brilliant that season in leading the Gators to a national championship. He finished with 3,625 passing yards and 39 touchdown passes on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy. His accuracy and ability to put the ball in places his receivers could turn short gains into touchdowns made him one of the Head Ball Coach's favorites. "Danny Wonderful" didn't have an exceptionally strong arm but always knew where to go with the football.