SEC: Archie Manning

It's the Season, as in singular. There can be only one, which means along the way we had to make some some gargantuan choices.

This is what we set out to determine -- one great season by an individual that can be considered the best in the history of all 128 FBS schools. ESPN.com writers and editors, in consultation with sports information directors, settled on one player for each school.

As you would imagine in the SEC, there were some incredibly close calls. These are the top three, and we'd like your help to see if we got it right.


Auburn

Cam Newton, quarterback, 2010
SportsNation

Who had the best season in Auburn history?

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Newton played just one season at Auburn, and boy, was it epic. He won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, led the Tigers to an undefeated season and the BCS National Championship. His numbers were eye-popping: 4,369 yards of total offense, 51 touchdowns to lead the nation, 1,473 yards rushing to lead the SEC. It was, quite simply, one of the most dominant individual efforts in NCAA history.

Bo Jackson, running back, 1985
Twenty-five years before Newton, Jackson became a legend at Auburn with his intoxicating blend of speed, power and grace. He won the Heisman Trophy after running for 1,786 yards and 17 touchdowns. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry, which at the time was the best in SEC history. Jackson was recently named the greatest athlete of all time by ESPN Sport Science.


Tennessee

SportsNation

Who had the best season in Tennessee history?

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Discuss (Total votes: 4,177)

Peyton Manning, quarterback, 1997
Few question Manning's place as the greatest Vol of all time. Heck, they even renamed one of the roads leading to Neyland Stadium, changing it to "Peyton Manning Pass." He surprised many by returning to Tennessee for his senior year and delivered an SEC championship after a 10-1 season. He threw for 3,819 yards and 36 touchdowns, which earned him the runner-up spot to Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in the Heisman Trophy voting. Manning was, however, a consensus first-team All-American and won plenty of hardware after his memorable final season at Tennessee, including the Maxwell Award, the Davey O'Brien Award and the Johnny Unitas Award.

Reggie White, defensive end, 1983
Before he became known as the "Minister of Defense," White was a relentless, dominating defensive end for the Volunteers. After a subpar junior year (by his standards), White was a force of nature in his final season wearing Tennessee orange. He set the school's single-season record with 15 sacks, and also had nine tackles-for-loss and an interception. White recorded 100 tackles, including 72 solo stops -- ridiculous numbers for a lineman. He was named the SEC Player of the Year, a Lombardi Award finalist and was a consensus All-American.


Ole Miss

SportsNation

Who had the best season in Ole Miss history?

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Discuss (Total votes: 3,958)

Eli Manning, quarterback, 2003
Manning holds most of the Ole Miss passing records, but his senior season stands above the rest. He threw for a school-record 3,600 yards and 29 touchdowns in leading the Rebels to a 10-3 record, a share of the SEC West crown and a Cotton Bowl victory. He was a first-team All-American and racked up several honors, including SEC Player of the Year, the Maxwell Award as the nation’s best all-around player, and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.

Archie Manning, quarterback, 1969
The patriarch of the first family of Southern football, Archie Manning is revered in his home state. He held several of the school records that were eventually broken by son Eli. In his junior season, Archie was named SEC Player of the Year after throwing for 1,762 yards and nine touchdowns. He also ran for 502 yards and led the SEC with 14 rushing TDs. Manning won the Walter Camp Memorial Trophy, given annually to the college football player of the year. He also earned All-America and All-SEC honors and came in fourth in the 1969 Heisman Trophy voting.

You can also vote on who had the best individual season in college football history. Stay tuned throughout the week as we narrow the list from 16 to one.
THIBODAUX, La. -- The campers who attend the Manning Passing Academy each summer at Nicholls State University certainly get a kick out of learning from the first family of quarterback play -- Archie Manning and sons Peyton, Eli and Cooper -- and a who’s who of college quarterbacks.

But those counselors from the college ranks might get even more out of the experience than the kids. The opportunity to interact with and learn from such successful NFL quarterbacks -- and fellow college players such as Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Baylor’s Bryce Petty -- lured 42 college quarterbacks from across the country to Thibodaux, a small town in south Louisiana.

“It might be even better to be a counselor,” said Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley, who attended the camp prior to his junior and senior seasons of high school. “I’ve enjoyed it day in and day out. Just being around these guys and talking to them … it’s a very select, elite group. We speak a different language sometimes.”

[+] EnlargeHutson Mason
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsGeorgia's Hutson Mason said he has been taking notes at the Manning passing camp.
Several of the college players who met with the media after Friday morning’s practice cited the appeal in learning from the Mannings and other NFL personnel on hand as reasons to attend. And not just learning new throwing drills, but also how to carry oneself like a professional.

“I’m an observer, so I just observe the way [Peyton] does things,” Winston said. “He’s so detail-oriented and how he carries himself – I’m really trying to see how he carries himself because I want to be the guy 10, 15 years from now that’s viewed like a Peyton Manning or an Eli or an Archie.”

Entering his first season as Georgia’s starting quarterback, Hutson Mason -- one of seven SEC quarterbacks in attendance -- said he immediately started learning new things from the pro and college players upon arrival at the camp on Thursday.

For one thing, he said Peyton and Eli emphasized that a quarterback’s pregame routine should include more than just warming up with a few deep balls and skeleton-style throws with no defender. They told the college players to focus on quarterback-specific drills where they practice moving inside the pocket and keeping their eyes focused downfield.

“I think that’s what I was looking forward to is not only asking these guys how they do things at their school and maybe taking a little bit from them, but also the Mannings have drills that I’ve never really done. Yesterday I went and wrote them down so I wouldn’t forget them,” Mason said. “We kind of get repetitive with the drills we do, so it’s good to go into like a new library, use new resources, so to speak. You can’t get anything better than these guys.”

A welcome reprieve: The campers and counselors aren’t the only ones who continue to learn lessons about how to handle their high-profile position.

Archie was impressed with the way Peyton shook off the humiliation of his Denver Broncos’ 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl and found a way to move on with life. The week after the big game, the five-time NFL MVP decided to become a late entrant into the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

“You’d better not get over it immediately, but he handled it,” Archie said. “I think Peyton gets wiser every year. He turned around the week [after] that game and went and played in the AT&T golf tournament -- smartest thing he ever did. He played well and the PGA so much appreciated him coming, and it was good for him, too. You can’t sit around and mope when you lose a football game, so Peyton, he handled it.”

Alma mater connections: Among the several dozen college quarterbacks in attendance are seven from the SEC: Mason, Worley, Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, Florida’s Jeff Driskel, Missouri’s Maty Mauk and South Carolina’s Dylan Thompson.

It’s no coincidence that two of those players, Worley and Wallace, are the presumptive starters at the alma maters of Peyton (Tennessee) and Archie and Eli (Ole Miss).

Both college players say they’ve developed bonds with the Mannings since arriving at their respective schools.

“Usually when I see Eli, it’s just, ‘How are you doing?’ I’ve never really gotten pointers or anything like that,” Wallace said. “I’ve gotten texts from Archie before games before, but it’s never been pointers or anything like that. It’s usually just friendly talk.”

Worley said in addition to his time working with the family at the camp, Peyton has worked a bit with the Voluntseer quarterbacks in Knoxville.

“We’ve got a very good relationship,” Worley said. “He came back a couple weeks and we threw for a couple days and had a meeting with him.”

SEC lunchtime links

July, 9, 2014
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How about that World Cup match yesterday? Germany 7, Brazil 1. As our esteemed colleague Chris Low tweeted yesterday -- he just started his own Twitter account, so follow him here -- “And we thought the defenses were down in the SEC last season.”

Arkansas AD to lead committee

October, 14, 2013
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Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long will have the distinction of being the first chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee.

Sources said the 13-person panel charged with selecting the four teams that will go on to the playoff following the 2014 regular season will be announced in a Wednesday news conference.

ESPN and The Associated Press have identified the other members of the committee as:
  • Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez
  • Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, the former Air Force Academy superintendent
  • USC athletic director Pat Haden
  • Former NCAA executive vice president Tom Jernstedt
  • West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck
  • Former NFL and Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning
  • Former Nebraska athletic director/coach Tom Osborne
  • Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich
  • Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
  • Former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese
  • Former USA Today reporter Steve Wieberg
  • Former Stanford/Notre Dame/Washington coach Tyrone Willingham

Archie Manning faces family history

September, 24, 2013
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Archie Manning doesn't cotton to the notion that he and his wife Olivia are the heads of the First Family of the Southeastern Conference. For one thing, it's a presumption of self-importance, and Archie wasn't raised to be anything but humble.

"I've always said, in the era that I played, all those years with the Saints, you don't come out with a big ego," Manning said.

For another, Manning is the chair of the National Football Foundation and the College Football Hall of Fame. To his well-developed sense of propriety, appearing to favor one conference over another is downright unseemly, like belching in church or not throwing the checkdown.

Of course, Manning also understands that to ignore his family's ties to the SEC is to ignore the fusion of history and reality, of myth and memory, of what makes college football a family heirloom. There's a reason that four-year-olds in Manning's home state of Mississippi know the words to "Hotty Toddy."

"I love the conference," Manning said on the phone the other day. "I cherish my time at Ole Miss. I cherish those four years. I've said publicly, and it's true, I've had a lot of wonderful things come my way. But personally, the greatest thing I ever accomplished was when I was named the starting quarterback at Ole Miss. That was my childhood dream, as it was thousands of kids in Mississippi. Every kid I knew wanted to be a quarterback at Ole Miss. They were such heroes in those days, Ole Miss quarterbacks. They were to me."

In the SEC Storied documentary "The Book of Manning," which debuts Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN, the story of Archie and Olivia is told -- how they met and fell in love at Ole Miss, the folk hero quarterback and the homecoming queen. The film tells the story of the hero worship that Manning endured until it went away, of how Archie and Olivia settled down and raised three boys in New Orleans as normally as they could, right down to the VHS camera on Archie's shoulder.

To read the rest of the story from Ivan Maisel, click here.

Video: SEC Storied: The Book of Manning

September, 11, 2013
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Peyton Manning talks about what it was like growing up with an All-Pro quarterback as a father in "SEC Storied: The Book of Manning", which premieres September 24, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Bo Wallace wins 2012 Conerly Trophy

November, 28, 2012
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Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace took home some hardware Tuesday night.

Days removed from generating 334 yards of offense and tossing five touchdowns in the Rebels' 41-24 win over Mississippi State, the sophomore won the C Spire Conerly Trophy, as Mississippi's top college football player in 2012.

Wallace received the trophy during a special awards program in Jackson, Miss., at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. He joined four other Rebels as former winners of the award -- quarterbacks Stewart Patridge (1997) and Eli Manning (2001 and 2003), running back Deuce McAllister (1999) and linebacker Patrick Willis (2006).

“This has been a very strong year in terms of individual and overall performance and leadership among all of the schools who submitted nominees for the award," said Jim Richmond, vice president of Corporate Communications for C Spire Wireless. "Our winner is not only a great football player, but an outstanding young man with good character, a strong record of community involvement and a terrific work ethic.”

Under new coach Hugh Freeze, Wallace helped lead the Rebels to a 6-6 record and their first bowl berth since 2009. He also guided Ole Miss to three SEC wins after the Rebels opened the year with 14 straight conference losses.

Wallace passed for 2,843 yards with 19 touchdowns, ran for another 363 yards and eight touchdowns and scored a touchdown on a 25-yard pass. He finished the season sixth in the SEC with a 144.20 quarterback rating this year. His 3,206 total offensive yards made him only the second player in school history to eclipse 3,000 yards in a season behind Manning, who reached that total twice during his Ole Miss career. Wallace’s eight rushing touchdowns are the most by an Ole Miss quarterback since Eli’s father, Archie, in 1969.

Joining Wallace as finalists were Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks, Southern Miss defensive lineman Jamie Collins, Jackson State wide receiver Rico Richardson and Delta State offensive tackle Kendall Hunter.

The six Conerly Trophy victories by Ole Miss are more than any other school. Mississippi State and Southern Miss have each won the award four times.
A year ago, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson was just starting to learn the ropes of being a full-time starter in the SEC.

Talented and equally tough, Wilson proved he could throw the football with anybody in 2011, and led the league with 3,638 passing yards.

He’s back for a second season as the Hogs’ starting quarterback, and the expectations for him and the team are as lofty as ever. One of the things that best prepared Wilson for what he was getting into last season was his experience at the Manning Passing Academy.

He makes a return trip to Thibodaux, La., beginning Thursday, along with some of the other top college quarterbacks in the country, and will value his time with the First Family of Quarterbacks even more the second time around.

“It’s the little things you pick up that mean the most,” Wilson said. “When Peyton or Eli or Archie walk into the room, it’s the way they carry themselves. It’s their mannerisms. The room just stands still.

“They exude leadership, and that’s what you’ve got to have if you’re going to be a great quarterback.”

Leadership will be more important than ever this season for Wilson, who has already shown this past spring and summer, during the most trying of circumstances, that he can be a rock for his teammates.

Wilson was one of the players who stood up and sternly reminded everybody in the locker room that nothing had changed, including their goals, after Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long delivered the sobering news to the team that Bobby Petrino had been fired as head coach.

More importantly, Wilson went out and practiced with that same purpose, led with that same purpose, and attacked the summer conditioning program with that same purpose.

He wasn’t the only one. Running back Knile Davis and linebacker Tenarius Wright are two other veterans who’ve been exemplary leaders for the Hogs.

But the quarterback is the leader of your team. And when he’s one of your best leaders, and also one of your best players, that’s when you typically have something special.

“That’s one of the things you notice right away about Peyton and Eli. They just have that presence about them,” Wilson said. “Some people call it a swagger. Some people call it the “it” factor. Whatever it is, they have it.

“You just want to be around people like that, and if it rubs off on me, that in itself is definitely worth the trip.”

Wilson said the camaraderie he establishes with the other quarterbacks at the camp serving as counselors also comes in handy. He and former Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden still keep in touch after hitting it off last year.

Among the quarterbacks scheduled to attend this year are USC’s Matt Barkley, Alabama’s AJ McCarron, Florida State’s EJ Manuel, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace and Tennessee’s Tyler Bray.

“I like seeing all the different personalities,” Wilson said. “Some guys are more laid back in how they attack the game, and some are real technical in their approach. I find it fascinating that the game can be played both ways.”

Now that he knows what to expect, Wilson feels like he will get even more out of this year’s experience.

“You make sure you soak up everything you can, and you also make as many connections as you can,” Wilson said. “The most important thing, though, is spending time around Eli, Peyton and Archie, and realizing that the reason they’re so successful is because of the kind of people they are.

“That’s something you carry into every huddle, every meeting and every workout.”

SEC lunch links

March, 23, 2012
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A Friday stroll around the SEC:

SEC lunch links

November, 18, 2011
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Linking our way around the league on a Friday:

Lunchtime links

November, 15, 2011
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Get your SEC linkage on while you get your chicken salad sandwich on.

SEC quarterbacks and the first round

April, 28, 2011
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With most signs continuing to point toward Auburn's Cam Newton being drafted No. 1 overall Thursday night by the Carolina Panthers, it's worth looking at the most recent SEC quarterbacks to go in the first round.

There have been seven over the past 10 years, which doesn't include Arkansas' Matt Jones, who was drafted as a receiver in the first round in 2005:
If you go back to the 1998 draft, there have been five SEC quarterbacks taken with the No. 1 overall pick. Kentucky's Tim Couch was drafted with the top pick in 1999 and Tennessee's Peyton Manning in 1998.

Going back to the 1971 draft and Ole Miss' Archie Manning, there have been eight SEC quarterbacks drafted with one of the top three picks:
  • 2009 – Georgia’s Matthew Stafford, 1st pick
  • 2007 – LSU’s JaMarcus Russell, 1st pick
  • 2004 – Ole Miss’ Eli Manning, 1st pick
  • 1999 – Kentucky’s Tim Couch, 1st pick
  • 1998 – Tennessee’s Peyton Manning, 1st pick
  • 1994 – Tennessee’s Heath Shuler, 3rd pick
  • 1973 – LSU’s Bert Jones, 2nd pick
  • 1971 – Ole Miss’ Archie Manning, 2nd pick

McElroy's presence hard to ignore

July, 1, 2010
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Alabama senior quarterback Greg McElroy will be making a return visit to the Manning Passing Academy next week on the campus of Nicholls State in Thibodaux, La.

McElroy was also a counselor a year ago at the popular camp, which is run by SEC legend Archie Manning and his two famous quarterback sons, Peyton and Eli.

[+] EnlargeGreg McElroy
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireAfter attending the Massing Passing Academy last year, Archie Manning had a good feeling that Greg McElroy would have success.
Archie Manning said earlier this week that the other SEC quarterbacks scheduled to work this year's camp are LSU’s Jordan Jefferson, Ole Miss’ Nathan Stanley and Tennessee’s Matt Simms.

Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett was also originally scheduled to be there, but had to pull out because he’s still recovering from the broken bone in his foot, according to Archie Manning.

While McElroy might have been a bit of an unknown last year at the camp, he won’t be this year.

Not after leading Alabama to a 14-0 record and BCS national championship in his first year as a starter.

But even last year, Archie Manning said it was pretty obvious with the way McElroy carried himself at the camp that he had the right stuff to effectively lead the Crimson Tide. McElroy reached the final round of the accuracy competition along with former Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford and Texas A&M’s Jerrod Johnson.

“Greg just had a great presence about him,” Archie Manning said. “I think we all had a good feeling about him coming out of that week that he was going to be fine. You never know for sure, but there was certainly a presence about him.

“And even though he didn’t have any on-the-field experience, he’d been there. They had a good team around him with a great running game, so they didn’t throw him to the wolves and didn’t have a lot of third-and-12s. He’s smart and carried himself well throughout the season.”

The college quarterbacks working the camp will arrive next Thursday and work out with Peyton and Eli Manning that first day. Then on the final day of the camp, they will participate in skills competitions.

Sights and sounds from Ole Miss

August, 15, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

OXFORD, Miss. -- I was able to keep it under the posted 18 mph speed limit Saturday morning on the Ole Miss campus as I made my way to the Rebels' 150,000-square foot indoor practice facility.

Built in 2004, it's the nicest and most complete indoor practice facility that I've seen in the SEC. Everything the football program needs -- from the coaches' offices, to the locker room, to the weight room, to the training room, to the players' lounge -- is right there.

There's also a short tunnel from the facility leading to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, which really makes it convenient on game days.

But back to the speed limit on campus. It's safe to say that the Manning name is pretty revered around here and no coincidence that the 18 mph speed limit matches the No. 18 jersey number that Archie Manning wore during a legendary career at Ole Miss.

It's just one of the many things that make this place unique along with The Square downtown, The Grove (Why couldn't it be a game day?), City Grocery and the sprawling fraternity houses that take you back in time.

The only thing they're missing is championship football, at least over the last 40 years, but that could be changing this season. The Rebels, who haven't won an SEC title since 1963, were picked No. 10 in the preseason coaches' poll and are one of the favorites in the Western Division.

"Our seniors did a good job of getting us to this point last year," junior defensive tackle Jerrell Powe said. "Now it's time to take it from where they left off and get this thing to another level."

It's back to the future for Ole Miss

June, 25, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Mentioning Ole Miss and SEC championships in the same sentence is akin to bringing up plaid suits when you're discussing high fashion.

Ole Miss last won an SEC title in 1963, and plaid suits haven't been in fashion since ... maybe never.

"There's a lot of hype, a lot of enthusiasm at every Rebel Club we go to, a lot of expectations," Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. "It comes back to players and coaches doing their part."

It also comes back to handling those expectations.

After 40-plus years of being mostly an afterthought in the SEC race, Ole Miss enters the 2009 season with the kind of hope and anticipation surrounding the program that hasn't been seen since the Mannings were the toast of Oxford.

Archie Manning led the Rebels to a Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas capping the 1969 season and then back to the Gator Bowl following the 1970 season.

Nearly 35 years later, Eli Manning guided the Rebels to a share of the SEC's Western Division crown in 2003 and a Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma State.

And this coming season?

Well, the Rebels will likely start the year ranked in the top 10 and are being picked by many to win the Western Division.

"Nobody ever won a championship by talking about it," said Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix, whose defense tied with Florida State last season to lead the country with 112 tackles for loss. "This is a different year with different challenges. We'll see how it all comes together."

The Rebels would seem to have all the pieces in place to make a serious run. Their defensive line is one of the deepest in college football, and junior quarterback Jevan Snead already has the NFL scouts drooling. He also has a versatile cast of playmakers surrounding him, including Dexter McCluster.

If Snead plays the way he did to end the season, when he threw 16 touchdown passes and only three interceptions during the Rebels' six-game winning streak, this is a team that will be favored in just about every game it plays.

The schedule also works in their favor. They get both Alabama and LSU at home, and Florida drops off the schedule next season. The nonconference slate is ridiculously easy, and the toughest SEC road date is probably South Carolina on a Thursday night (Sept. 24) in Columbia.

If the Rebels are 4-0 heading into that Alabama game on Oct. 10, look out. Three of their first four games are on the road. But starting with Alabama, six of their next seven are at home.

Sounds like the Grove is in for some drama-soaked Saturday afternoons this fall.

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