SEC superlatives


Jarvis Jones, Johnny Manziel and Will Muschamp made their marks on the 2012 season. (Photos by The Associated Press)

Published: Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 8:34 p.m.

The last week of the regular season approaches, so it's time to honor the best and worst in the SEC:

BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER

Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel

The Aggies' quarterback has shattered the SEC record books, but there's at least one more NCAA record of the most prestigious kind that he could be breaking on Dec. 8.

Manziel looks to be well on his way to becoming the first freshman, true or redshirt, to win the Heisman Trophy.

Since first-year players became eligible to win the award in 1972, three promising ones nearly broke through: Herschel Walker (third in 1980), Michael Vick (third in 1999) and Adrian Peterson (second in 2004). But history may not repeat itself.

“I think if you look at his single-season numbers, I don't see how he couldn't be in that conversation,” said Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin. “You can put those numbers up against anybody that not only played this year but who's ever played the game for a single season.”

Honorable mention: Georgia QB Aaron Murray, Alabama QB AJ McCarron.

BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER

Georgia LB Jarvis Jones

Although cases can be made for fellow Chuck Bednarik Award finalist Jadeveon Clowney and the nation's sack leader Damontre Moore, Jones has displayed the ability to make his presence felt in more plays and more games.

Jones has registered 62 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 28 quarterback hurries, six forced fumbles and one interception.

The Bulldogs' junior made the impact plays his team needed in their biggest game of the year against the Gators, essentially putting his team into the SEC title game and two wins from Miami.

“He's got every pass-rush move you could imagine,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt. “He plays the run very, very strong. He's great in coverage with our 3-4 scheme. He's a cover linebacker as well, had a big pick in the Missouri game to ice the game for us. He's played middle linebacker for us as well when we've (gone against) quarterbacks that are really, really mobile and agile. ... Just a very versatile guy.”

Honorable mention: South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney, Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore.

BEST HEAD COACHING JOB

Florida's Will Muschamp

The Gators have gone from a 7-6 record to the best record in the SEC despite facing the country's toughest schedule.

Florida has managed to go 10-1, and in terms of opponents' rankings, UF has more quality wins and a more respectable defeat than the two other one-loss teams in the SEC, Georgia and Alabama.

Muschamp says he's learned plenty about being a head coach in Year 2 in Gainesville.

“More than anything, control things you can control,” he said. “And then handling things, managing your staff a little better. As much as anything, keep your team healthy and recruit for depth on both lines of scrimmage.”

Honorable mention: Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, Vanderbilt's James Franklin.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Newcomer Texas A&M

Consider this: The Aggies entered this season with a new coaching staff, a new offense, a new defense, a new quarterback and, of course, a new conference.

Yet, Texas A&M has made a seamless transition into the nation's most competitive conference and nearly spoiled its chances of a seventh straight national title with a win in Tuscaloosa.

Everyone said it would take a while to earn respect in the SEC, but coach Kevin Sumlin and his team rolled out its own red carpet.

“I think we're a great fit and Kyle Field and the atmosphere here in College Station, we've got nothing but compliments from the people at Florida and Arkansas and on and on and on that came to play here,” Sumlin said. “I think we've proven that we belong here.”

Dishonorable mention: Arkansas.

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