Alabama Team News

With the regular season over, it’s SEC awards time

2016 sec football schedule

With the SEC regular season over, we thought it the right time to ask our staffers to look back at the season and hand out some accolades.

Here are their choices for various SEC awards.


Player of the year: Alabama RB Derrick Henry. Herschel Walker’s single-season rushing record had stood for 34 years until Henry broke it against Florida in the SEC championship game. Henry closed the season with four 200-yard performances in his last six games. In the final two games. against Auburn and Florida, he carried the ball 90 times.He needs just 14 yards in the national semifinal against Michigan State to become the first SEC back in history to reach 2,000 yards.


Why isn’t this man smiling? Nick Saban’s Alabama team lost at home to Ole Miss in September, but regrouped and rolled to another SEC title. The Tide is in the playoff for the second season in a row, too, MARVIN GENTRY/USA TODAY SPORTS

Coach of the year: Alabama’s Nick Saban. Saban’s Alabama team was given up for dead after its Sept. 19 loss to Ole Miss. But Saban rallied his troops, made some changes and Alabama reeled off 10 consecutive victories to capture the SEC championship. A lot of people thought Saban’s dynasty was over in September. It was not.

Game of the year: Arkansas 53, Ole Miss 52 (OT), November 7. When the history of the Hugh Freeze era at Ole Miss is written, this game always will represent a golden opportunity that slipped away. The game included the single most improbable play of the season when Arkansas converted a fourth-and-25 in overtime when Hunter Henry, rather than be tackled after catching a pass, threw a lateral backward; it bounced into the waiting arms of Alex Collins, who converted the fourth down. Arkansas scored a touchdown and won on a two-point conversion. If not for that play, Ole Miss, the only SEC team to beat Alabama this season, would have won the West Division.

Biggest surprise, team: Florida Florida had no business winning 10 games in its first year under Jim McElwain. But he maximized the Gators’ strength (defense) and minimized the weakness and got Florida to the SEC championship game. McElwain also held his team together when starting QB Will Grier was suspended in October after testing positive for using PEDs.

Biggest disappointment, team: Auburn. The Tigers were picked to win the league championship during SEC Media Days in July. Instead, the Tigers finished 6-6 and will be playing in the Birmingham Bowl. We thought Auburn would get good quarterback play from Jeremy Johnson (it didn’t) and that the defense would be better under Will Muschamp (it wasn’t).

Biggest surprise, player: Arkansas QB Brandon Allen. Allen had been the whipping boy of disgruntled Arkansas fans for two season, and it didn’t help when the Hogs started 1-3. But Allen was incredible down the stretch. In the Ole Miss game alone, Allen threw for 442 yards and six touchdowns and scored the game-winning two-point conversion. He finished the season third in the SEC in passing, behind Chad Kelly and Dak Prescott, with 3,125 yards, 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He had the highest QB rating (165.18) in the SEC.

Biggest disappointment, player: Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn had us all convinced that Johnson would be an upgrade at quarterback over Nick Marshall. Malzahn believed that he would be able to do more in the vertical passing game, especially with the return of Duke Williams at wide receiver. But Johnson threw six interceptions in his first three games and was benched. Williams continued to be a problem child and was dismissed.

Projected SEC postseason record: Alabama will go 1-1 in the playoff, beating Michigan State in the semifinals and losing to Oklahoma in the championship game. The other nine teams will go 6-3, with Florida losing to Michigan (Citrus), Georgia losing to Penn State (TaxSlayer) and Auburn losing to Memphis (Birmingham).

Biggest takeaway from the league this season: It was a down year for the SEC because of the quarterback play. With a few notable exceptions (Chad Kelly, Dak Prescott, Josh Dobbs, Brandon Allen), it just wasn’t good. No less than nine SEC teams changed quarterbacks before the midway point in the season. Oh, yeah: The SEC East is still bad, going 2-12 against the West.

Projected division winners next season: Alabama in the West, Tennessee in the East.

(You can follow Tony Barnhart on Twitter @MrCFB)


Player of the year: Alabama RB Derrick Henry. Henry has set the SEC single-season rushing record and needs just 14 more yards to become the first SEC back to reach the 2,000-yard plateau. It took a while — he averaged just 17 attempts per game through the first four contests — but he eventually became the focal point of the offense and has carried the Tide to the playoff. He averaged 32 carries per game — and 180.3 yards per game — in nine SEC contests, with 14 TDs.

Coach of the year: Florida’s Jim McElwain. That he got the offense-challenged Gators to 10 wins is nothing short of a miracle. He guided the Gators to wins over three teams that unquestionably had more talent — Georgia, Ole Miss and Tennessee. But even a fabulous defense wore down against two other teams with more talent, Alabama and Florida State. The Tide and Seminoles’ defenses toyed with the Gators’ offense, sort of like a cat toys with a mouse it has caught.

Game of the year: Arkansas 53, Ole Miss 52 (OT), November 7. In an SEC season filled with memorable plays, this memorable game had the most memorable play — TE Hunter Henry’s over-the-shoulder lateral that ended up in the hands of Alex Collins, who rumbled for a first down to set up what became the game-winning TD. That TD also included a second-chance two-point conversion, after Ole Miss was penalized on the first failed attempt. Just think: This loss kept the Rebels out of the SEC championship game.

Biggest surprise, team: Florida. The defense was lights out, as expected. The offense struggled, as expected. Still, new coach Jim McElwain somehow coaxed 10 wins out of the Gators and led them to their first SEC East title since 2009. Yes, the East is down. But McElwain was able to make sure the Gators took advantage. Once he gets adds some more talented offensive pieces, this could get really interesting.


Chad Kelly set the Ole Miss single-season record for total offense and led the league in that category in his first season as a Rebel. JUSTIN FORD/USA TODAY SPORTS

Biggest disappointment, team: Auburn. The Tigers were expected to contend for a playoff berth. Instead, they finished last in the SEC West at 2-6 and will finish below .500 overall if they lose the Birmingham Bowl to Memphis. Gus Malzahn’s offense is predicated on playmakers making plays in space, but the offense lacks playmakers. The defense, meanwhile, doesn’t have enough top-level talent.

Biggest surprise, player: Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly. He put up big stats in junior college, but there still was a question as to how quickly he could adapt. Well, he adapted quickly, throwing six TD passes in his first two games. He then threw three in a win at Alabama and finished the regular season with 27. Kelly also leads the league in total offense. There was some worry that the Rebels’ offense could take a half-step back without Bo Wallace. It actually took a big step forward.

Biggest disappointment, player: Georgia G Greg Pyke. Pyke, a junior, was supposed to be the best offensive lineman in the league and a lock as an early-entrant candidate. Instead, his play was so uneven that he got benched on an offense that never reached its potential.

Projected SEC postseason record: The SEC is favored to win nine of its 10 bowl games, and if Alabama beats Michigan State, the Tide almost certainly will be favored in the national title game. Still, I think the SEC goes 8-3 in the postseason.

Biggest takeaway from the league this season: Until the SEC gets better quarterback play, the league as a whole is going to suffer. This season, the SEC had two of the top three or four running backs in the nation. It had one of the best wide receivers and some stud offensive linemen. It had the best group of defensive linemen of any league. It had legit star linebackers. And it had excellent DBs, too. But there were four good quarterbacks; that’s it. For a league like the SEC, that’s embarrassing.

Projected division winners next season: Alabama in the West, Tennessee in the East.

(You can follow Mike Huguenin on Twitter @MikeHuguenin)


Player of the year: Alabama RB Derrick Henry. Not only did Henry break Herschel Walker’s SEC single-season rushing record, he did most of his damage against the best teams on the Tide’s schedule. He rushed for 200 yards in four of his last seven games. Against the weaker foes — MTSU, Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern — he rushed for just 230 yards combined.

Coach of the year: Florida’s Jim McElwain. The Gators probably had the worst offense of any team to ever win the SEC East, yet McElwain figured out a way to go 7-1 in league play despite losing starting QB Will Grier at midseason. McElwain converted several key fourth downs with excellent play calls. And he instilled a confidence in the team that was lacking under Will Muschamp.

Game of the year: Ole Miss 43, Alabama 37, September 19. It took a 5-0 turnover margin for the Rebels to prevail in Tuscaloosa, and even with that, the Tide had a chance to win in the fourth quarter. That game had more bizarre and thrilling plays than most any other SEC game. And for Ole Miss to beat Alabama for a second year in a row was a stunning achievement.


Jim McElwain did a masterful job in leading Florida to the SEC East championship in his first season as coach of the Gators. KIM KLEMENT/USA TODAY SPORTS

Biggest surprise, team: Florida. The Gators were 11-14 in the two years before McElwain arrived, with no offense. Florida was picked by most to finish fourth or fifth in the East Division. Watching Florida struggle to score nine points against Vanderbilt and need overtime to beat a horrible Florida Atlantic team tells you how bad the offense was without Grier and made you appreciate McElwain even more.

Biggest disappointment, team: Auburn. The Tigers were picked by the SEC media to win the league, yet they are 6-6 overall and 2-6 in conference play. An offense expected to be explosive ranked eighth in the league in scoring. A defense expected to be improved under Muschamp ranked 11th in the league in scoring defense. You knew Auburn was in trouble when it needed overtime to beat Jacksonville State on September 12.

Biggest surprise, player: Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk. The Aggies were loaded at receiver, yet a true freshmen emerged to lead the team with 70 catches — third-most in the SEC — for 925 yards and six touchdowns. In addition, Kirk led the SEC in punt returns with an astonishing 24.4 average; he also returned two punts for scores.

Biggest disappointment, player; Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson. The way Gus Malzahn talked, Johnson was going to be a poor man’s Cam Newton. Not even close. Johnson had trouble with his accuracy and his decision-making, and he wasn’t that good a runner. So much of the optimism surrounding Auburn was because of Johnson’s potential. But Johnson was benched in September.

Projected SEC postseason record: I say 8-3. Key question: What teams really care about their bowl outcome? I think Alabama wins the national title, but the Big Ten gets two wins over the SEC and Memphis beats Auburn.

Biggest takeaway from the league this season: The lack of quality quarterback play. Only five teams had solid quarterback play. Seven teams benched their starter and two more suspended their starter. Three teams had more interceptions than touchdown passes, and six teams had 12 or fewer TD passes. That’s not good.

Projected division winners next season: Alabama in the West, Tennessee in the East.

(You can follow Jimmy Hyams on Twitter @JimmyHyams)

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