Thursday, October 22, 2009
A few more midseason awards in the SEC
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
We addressed several midseason awards in our look back at the first half of the SEC season on Tuesday.
AP Photo/John Bazemore
Patrick Peterson is tied for fourth in the league with seven passes defended.
Here are a few more:
Best Newcomer: QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas. A pretty easy call. Mallett, a transfer from Michigan, leads the SEC in passing with an average of 274.3 yards per game and has also thrown a league-high 14 touchdown passes. He’s second in passing efficiency and has definitely added another dimension to Arkansas’ offense. Honorable mention goes to Mississippi State defensive end Pernell McPhee, who’s been a difference-maker up front for the Bulldogs after coming over from junior college and leads the team with six tackles for loss.
Best Freshman: CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina. This was a tough call. Vanderbilt’s Warren Norman has the second most all-purpose yards in the league (1,074). Auburn’s Onterio McCalebb is the leading rusher among SEC freshmen (461 yards) and is averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Auburn’s Daren Bates has started all seven games at safety and is fifth on the team in tackles. South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery is coming on strong and has four touchdown catches. Tennessee’s Janzen Jackson has started the last five games at free safety and is a budding star, but Gilmore gets the nod based on the role he’s played on South Carolina’s defense and special teams. He’s started every game at cornerback and is also returning punts. He leads the team with six passes defended and has also intercepted a pass and forced a fumble.
Best Comeback Player: RB Montario Hardesty, Tennessee. For a while there, it was a pretty good race between Hardesty and Auburn quarterback Chris Todd. But Hardesty has separated himself with 696 rushing yards in his first six games and seven touchdowns. Not bad for a guy who averaged just 3.6 yards per carry a year ago and finished with 271 yards on 76 carries. He’s been durable, dependable and the centerpiece of Tennessee’s offense. Todd has sort of fallen off in the last two games, but had a terrific start to the season.
Best Player Returning From Injury: RB Derrick Locke, Kentucky. There was some concern that the knee injury Locke suffered last season might be career threatening. But he rehabilitated like a mad man in the offseason and is having his best season yet for the Wildcats. Locke leads the SEC with 162 all-purpose yards per game. He’s fifth in the league in rushing, third on Kentucky’s team in receiving and has also returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Mississippi State linebacker Jamar Chaney also deserves mention. He’s bounced back from his knee injury in the first game a year ago and is second on the team in tackles.
Most Improved Player: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU. He was already a very good player as a freshman, but Peterson has developed into a great player as a sophomore. He’s big and physical and has proved he can cover anybody. It’s a stellar year for cornerbacks in the SEC, but Peterson is right up there with the very best. He’s tied for fourth in the league with seven passes defended and is also one of the better tackling corners in the SEC. Alabama safety Mark Barron finishes a close second. He’s taken over for Rashad Johnson at safety after playing a reserve role last season and is tied for the SEC lead with three interceptions.
Most Underrated Player: QB/WR Randall Cobb, Kentucky. When people start reeling off the best offensive playmakers in this league, Cobb is rarely one of the first players mentioned. But he should be. He’s excellent at running from the Wildcat formation, has developed into one of the best receivers in the league, especially with his ability to go up and get the ball, and also returns kickoffs and punts. Kentucky coach Rich Brooks says he's never coached a player quite like Cobb.
Most Exciting Player: WR A.J. Green, Georgia. When he’s on the field, you never want to take your eyes off of him. It’s hard to believe there is a more talented player in the league. He’s outstanding after the catch. He has the speed to go deep, and he always wins those jump balls in the end zone because he has great leaping ability and great body control. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Green is close to averaging 100 yards receiving per game and already has six touchdown catches. What an offensive weapon.
Most Valuable Offensive Lineman: G Mike Johnson, Alabama. The guys up front get such little publicity that they deserve their own award. Johnson has been the rock of that Alabama offensive line, one that lost three starters from a year ago. But there hasn’t been a lot of drop-off, and Johnson’s leadership and production have been a big reason why. The Crimson Tide love running behind him at his left guard spot.