SEC mailbag: Jones gets the nod over Green ... barely

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Now that the BCS National Championship Game has been set and all the bowl matchups are locked in, what else is there to talk about? In the realm of the SEC mailbag, there's always something:

Preston in Athens, Ga., writes: Explain to me how Julio Jones deserved Freshman of the Year honors over A.J. Green when Green outgained Jones by 104 receiving yards and scored twice as many touchdowns (8 to 4). And I forgot to mention that Green led the entire SEC in receiving yards, but I guess that doesn't cut it. My God a Freshman!

Chris Low: First of all, love the Larry Munson impersonation. Secondly, I'm one of those who voted for Jones over Green. Both had fabulous freshman seasons. Both have unbelievable futures. What it came down to for me was that Jones was simply a better player, the toughest one-on-one cover in the league and the guy nobody could tackle after the catch. I realize Green had better numbers, and I'm not taking anything away from his season. But the Bulldogs threw it nearly 100 more times than the Crimson Tide this year. Had Jones been in Georgia's offense, his numbers would have been comparable, if not better, than Green's. The real story here is that the SEC has two of the better freshman receivers in the country and two of the better receivers I've seen come into this league in the same year in a long time.

Joe in Greenwood, S.C., writes: Mr Low, you're usually very accurate with you stories and blogs, so I was surprised when claimed Chris Smelley would be starter for the South Carolina/Iowa game in your bowl preview blog. Steve Spurrier announced Stephen Garcia as the starter shortly after the Clemson game. Part of the draw for the Outback bowl selecting South Carolina was because Tampa is Garcia's hometown.

Chris Low: Joe, you are 100 percent correct, which is why I count on you guys to keep me straight. Spurrier did indeed announce Garcia as the starter for the bowl game soon after the Clemson loss. Granted, the Head Ball Coach still has the rest of this month to change his mind, and he's never been one to change his mind, right? Honestly, he's gone back and forth so much between quarterbacks this season that I lost track a long time ago. You can see the frustration oozing out of him any time the Gamecocks' quarterback play is mentioned. He's not giving up on Garcia, especially since he's only a redshirt freshman. But Garcia had better become more of a student of the game and respond better to Spurrier's coaching if he wants to be South Carolina's quarterback of the future. Thanks again for the heads-up. I heard from several in the Gamecock Nation, and I've since clarified in the Outback Bowl preview that Garcia will be the starter. I also realize this means I probably won't be allowed back into my hometown of Rock Hill again. Maybe they'll take me in Fort Mill or Lancaster or even Great Falls.

Nat in Atlanta writes: No offense to the Oklahoma offensive coordinator, but Stacy Searels was robbed when he didn't win the Broyles Award. I guess he wasn't as visible because Georgia wasn't in the running for a conference or national title. With all the O-line injuries and youth, and for that offense to be as explosive as it was, Searels had a lot to do with it and deserves at least some sort of recognition.
Chris Low: You're preaching to the choir. Searels would get my vote as the SEC assistant who did the best job this season. For that matter, he did a terrific job in 2007 when he was starting three freshmen. The Bulldogs were again young this season, but injuries forced them to play four different left tackles. They also had four different starters to miss games this season, and Searels probably quit counting at five or six as far as the number of different combinations he had to use up front. Through it all, the Bulldogs never really skipped a beat offensively. Any time you have a quarterback that throws for more than 3,200 yards, a running back that runs for more than 1,300 yards and two receivers who have more than 900 yards in receptions, the guys up front -- and their coach -- are doing something right. Now, if we could just get Searels to tell us how he's done it these last two seasons. He doesn't speak to the media.

Jason in Valdosta, Ga., writes: Can you give me a valid reason why Rashad Johnson isn't in the running for the Jim Thorpe award? I'm not going to throw stats at you because I want you to look at them for yourself, 12-1 in a "rebuilding" year and Alabama still gets no respect. Call me a homer if you want, but this isn't right.

Chris Low: Rashad Johnson is easily one of the best three or four safeties I saw in college football this season. When the Thorpe semi-finalists came out and his name wasn't included, I immediately wrote that it was a sham. That next week, Johnson intercepted three passes, including one he returned for a touchdown and one that sealed the game, in a 27-21 overtime win against LSU. Had they waited a week later, there's no question in my mind that he would have been included and still deserved to be anyway. He's an example of everything that's good about college football. Nobody recruited him out of high school, and he wasn't on all the recruiting lists. He walked on at Alabama, made a name for himself on special teams and is now one of the best defensive backs in the SEC and a senior leader on an Alabama team that returned the Tide to national prominence this season.