SEC at the Half: Bama’s Tagovailoa among best

36
1474

By David Brandt, AP Sports Writer

It’s no surprise that top-ranked Alabama is once again the class of the Southeastern Conference halfway through the season. And considering his ample talent, the emergence of Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as an offensive force could have been easily predicted.

The rest of the SEC has produced a myriad of surprises, superlatives and disappointments through the season’s first seven weeks.

No. 5 LSU in very much in the national conversation under coach Ed Orgeron, Kentucky’s program has taken a big step forward thanks to stars like Benny Snell and Josh Allen and Auburn’s 4-3 start to the season has been a huge disappointment.

Here are some of the standouts from the first half of the season in midseason voting by Associated Press writers who cover the 14 SEC schools in 11 states.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Ed Orgeron, LSU

The barrel-chested Orgeron has surpassed all preseason expectations and built LSU into a powerhouse during his second full season with the program. The Tigers already have wins over Miami, Auburn and Georgia and a potential huge matchup with No. 1 Alabama looms in the near future. Orgeron’s defense has been very good as expected, but it’s the development of the offense under transfer quarterback Joe Burrow that’s vaulted LSU into the league’s elite.

Also receiving votes: Alabama’s Nick Saban, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

Tagovailoa has been so good through seven games that it’s easy to wonder if this Alabama team will end up being the best of Nick Saban’s current dynasty. The sophomore’s statistics are staggering: He’s completing nearly 72 percent of his passes for 1,760 yards, 21 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Those numbers would be even better if he played more, which hasn’t been necessary because Alabama’s opened up huge early leads in most games.

Also receiving votes: No one. Tagovailoa’s been that good.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Josh Allen, Kentucky

Allen is a 6-foot-5, 260-pound disruptive force who can harass quarterbacks, stop ball carriers and defend the pass. There’s no telling where the Wildcats would be without his do-it-all presence. He has 37 tackles and leads the SEC with 10½ tackles for a loss, including six sacks. He also has five quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles.

Also receiving votes: LSU’s Grant Delpit and Devin White, Georgia’s Deandre Baker and Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

The latest in a long line of Alabama playmakers is Waddle, who has quickly turned into an important player in the Tide’s offense and special teams. He’s fourth on the team with 17 catches for 340 yards and two touchdowns. He’s also gained 200 yards as a punt returner and scored a touchdown.

Also receiving votes: Florida kicker Evan McPherson.

MOST SURPRISING TEAM

Kentucky

The 14th-ranked Wildcats have emerged as a contender in the SEC’s Eastern Division and have a 5-1 record at the halfway point. It took coach Mark Stoops a while to build his program, but in his sixth season Kentucky won its first five games, including breaking a 31-game losing streak against Florida. Kentucky has one of the league’s best running backs in Snell and one of the nation’s best defensive players in Allen.

Also receiving votes: LSU

MOST SURPRISING PLAYER

Kellen Mond, Texas A&M

Mond was an intriguing, but inconsistent player during his first season at Texas A&M. Under new coach Jimbo Fisher, the sophomore has turned into one of the league’s best quarterbacks. He’s completing nearly 62 percent of his passes for 1,800 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. It’s a big reason Texas A&M is the nation’s 17th-ranked team.

Also receiving votes: Several others, including LSU kicker Cole Tracy and Kentucky’s Snell.

MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM

Auburn

Auburn’s year started with promise after a hard-fought win over Washington, but coach Gus Malzahn’s program has taken a big fall since that point. The Tigers have lost three of their last five games, including a stunning 30-24 home loss to Tennessee last weekend. A program that had aspirations of an SEC title is nowhere near that level and still has to play Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama.

Also receiving votes: South Carolina.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER

Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

Auburn’s problems aren’t all Stidham’s fault, but there’s no doubt more was expected from the veteran quarterback. Following a stellar season as a sophomore, he’s barely completing 60 percent of his passes and ranks seventh in the league with 214 yards passing per game.

Also receiving votes: South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley.

36 COMMENTS

  1. How is Orgeron the coach of the year? His team won 9 games last season. I’m pretty sure the coach that took over a 4 win team and has the same record as Orgeron, and who just so happened to beat him, deserves it more. Crazy!

  2. I guess this “journalist” was so busy swooning over Orgeron’s “barrel chest” that he missed the Gators whuppin’ of LSU. If the Vols aren’t even honorable mention for Most Disappointing, it shows justhow far that program has fallen. And apparently from this article, Georgia has left the SEC and must be hiding somewhere in another Conference or Division. I doubt if this amateur even watches the games. More likely he watches the ESPN talking heads, and Ichabod Finebaum, the headless commentator, and parrots whatever they blurt out.

  3. Should we Gators take this as a compliment? ie, that no one is surprised that the Gators are 6-1 and ranked 11th? Or that no one is surprised by the job Dan Mullen has done?
    Or should we just chalk it up to the normal tunnel vision short sightedness of AP voters?

    • He couldn’t have even done that, otherwise Polite would’ve at least made the others receiving votes list. I would be more inclined to say he doesn’t follow the SEC East at all, other than what he reads in the headlines.

  4. So everyone knows, this article was not compiled by one sports writer. I read the original story from the AP and the winners of each category were compiled from votes from about 10 different AP sports writers. But clearly, most of them do not cover the SEC or know much about the conference so far. No way has Ed O. been a better coach this year than either Mullen or Stoops at Kentucky. And I was watching SEC Country yesterday and the former Bama QB was going on and on about LSU’s great season and mentioned their outstanding wins over a now not so outstanding Miami team, a not so outstanding (and not very good) Auburn team, and their great win over a Georgia team that has not won a game against a currently ranked top 25 team. And he never mentioned LSU’s loss to Florida or even mentioned Florida at all. Meanwhile, Florida beat the team (Tennessee) that just rolled over the team (Auburn) that was said to be a great win by LSU, beat a then and current top 25 team in Mississippi State, and actually beat the team he was raving about, LSU. Sometimes “logic” and content omissions from sports writers make little to no sense at all. Like this article.

  5. Since the reporter biting likely just looked at state and most recent game played to pontificate they saw a LSU win over UGA, KY loss (this one is the anomaly) Alabama do what they do. Thought pre season reporters where high on MO QB. And if they want to say disappoint UGA losing as it would seem at one point they were unbeatable on ESPN. Now are these guys running from their earlier predictions? I’m comfortable getting no respect for now. If I were a player it would be feeling the fire. If I were reading this it would be in the locker room. Remember the end zone stomp? They didn’t give any respect, I say go take it to them. Stay hungry my friends, stay hungry GATORS! take the swamp to Jax.

  6. How about Coach Mullen for Coach of the Year for leading the Gators to a 6-1 record and a big win against the “barrel chested”one and #5 LSU ?
    How about Devon Joseph for Surprise Player of the year who no one saw coming with more tackles than Josh Allen?
    How about Evan McPherson for Freshman of the Year with pin point accuracy on field goals? A Weapon!
    How about the Gators for Surprise Team of the Year for winning more games than last year at just the half way point and being tied for first in the SEC East and #11 nationally?

  7. Interesting … the AP believes that LSU Coach Ed Orgeron is the coach of the year at midpoint during the 2018 SEC season. They also believe that Alabama’s Nick Sabin and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops should be considered. Why not consideration for Florida’s Dan Mullen? Afterall the Gators beat LSU convincingly earlier this year. Orgeron is in his second year at LSU while Mullen is in his first year at Florida. Mullen had a bigger mess to clean up at Florida than Orgeron did at LSU. And nobody expected Florida to be 6-1 (expect me) at this point in the season and ranked #11 in the country and in contention to win the SEC East. Hopefully, Florida can win out, go 11-1 and meet LSU in Atlanta for a rematch. The AP better watch out because Mullen has done a masterful job in his first yearand I would put my money on the Gators to beat LSU in a rematch!

  8. This seems to be the prevailing opinion out there regarding the coach of the year. I heard that pinhead Finebaum say that the coach of the year was between Orgeron and Fisher. What?
    – So Orgeron gets out of the way and lets his coordinators do their jobs and this earns coach of the year?
    – So Fisher takes an uber talented team that was poorly coached and he wins possibly two more games than the previous year and he is coach of the year?

    Do these guys even understand what the award is about?

    These same morons were telling us that Mullen was YEARS away from winning at UF due to the dearth of talent and here we are at 6-1 and he isn’t even mentioned?
    Are lobotomies required in journalism school these days?

  9. And furthermore, as much as it pains me to say it, would it not be correct to state that Bama is the class of college football, as opposed to merely being the class of the SEC? There is not another team, in any conference, that can make a case for being better than Little Nicky Satan’s crew.

  10. I don’t see this as necessarily a slight against the Gators and CDM. Maybe it’s just the AP writers recognizing that the Gators had talent all along. If the debacle of last season really was all Mac’s fault for poor coaching, maybe they see this season’s success as simply the result of competent coaching and not something extraordinary. Maybe they see what CDM is doing as merely what Mac should’ve been able to do last season if he’d just been competent. I think CDM has done an excellent job, especially with Franks, but I don’t think he inherited as big a “mess” as some think. The Gators had talented players, and now they have an excellent coach to direct and develop that talent.

    • I think clearly the talent was there, Joe — but it was a defeated, disorganized team when Mullen got it. I think the “needing the plastic thingy that holds the 6-pack all together” metaphor really applies. Or analogy, what the hell do I know. But our pal Sly has changed my mind over the last few months as far as calling it a “mess” too. Maybe more than anything, the Gators just needed an “attitude adjustment”?

      • I agree, 6. I do think they gave up last season, at least to some extent, and Mullen has provided the energy for a much needed “attitude adjustment”. I think he’d be a fine choice for COY. I was just speculating as to a reason, other than anti-Gator bias, why they might be ignoring him.

        • 6 & Joe let ’em hate. Use it to fuel the drive and keep the focus. Mac didn’t know how to use the talented players he had. His assistants didn’t or couldn’t do their jobs either. Doesn’t matter that falls on the boss. They lost their heart when they lost confidence in their leader. They were constantly put in no win situations. Analogy every time I open the door I get got with a hammer. Doesn’t take long to decide opening that door isn’t a good idea. Even if coach days you are going to open the door. Now Mullen it’s here pouring them in position to win individual match ups and in turn games. Big difference in coaching. But like the team getting no respect CDM will use it for drive as well. Hope we can take that drive to UGA. Go Gators! 🐊

  11. We didn’t even receive votes for Most Surprising Team or Best Coach? Sure, I can see not getting the most votes… actually I can’t, but for the sake of argument… but to not get any votes at all? LSU is more surprising than we are? No love at all for Mullen? When we win a NC in the next few years, I wonder if they’ll notice. Yikes.