Mizzou’s Sam earns SEC defensive player of the year award

ATLANTA — Auburn was the only school that didn’t

have anyone on last year’s Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference

team. Not surprising, since the Tigers failed to win a league

game.

What a turnaround for the Tigers this season,

in every respect.

Running back Tre Mason was named

the offensive player of the year, Gus Malzahn claimed the coaching award

and the No. 2 Tigers were well represented on the All-SEC squad after

their amazing run from worst to first.

Also,

Missouri’s Michael Sam beat out Alabama’s C.J. Mosley for the defensive

player of the year award, while Arkansas running back Alex Collins took

the honor as top freshman.

Mason was a unanimous

choice at running back and overwhelming pick as the best offensive

player after rushing for an SEC-leading 1,621 yards and 22 touchdowns,

capped by a record 304-yard, four-touchdown performance against Missouri

in the league championship game.

Malzahn revived the

Tigers (12-1) in his first season as coach, taking over a proud program

reeling from a 3-9 season, including a 0-8 mark in conference play. He

installed a hurry-up spread option that quickly developed into one of

the nation’s most prolific offenses.

“We use last

season as motivation, thinking about all the hard times that we went

through last year and being one of the worst teams in college football

to now being one of the best,” Mason said.

Auburn

proved it was for real with an upset of Johnny Manziel and the Texas

A&M Aggies. The Tigers caught the biggest break of the year when

a desperation fourth-down heave against Georgia was deflected by two

defenders into a winning 73-yard touchdown. Then they knocked off

two-time defending national champion Alabama with the play of the year: a

109-yard return of a missed field goal with no time on the clock for a

stunning 34-28 upset.

Last Saturday, the Tigers

defeated Missouri 59-42 in a shootout for the SEC title, then slid into a

shot at the BCS crown against top-ranked Florida State with Ohio

State’s loss in the Big Ten championship game.

“It’s

just been very unique,” Malzahn said. “It’s been one of the more unique

experiences I’ve ever been a part of.”

Mason was

joined on the first team by two teammates: offensive tackle Greg

Robinson and defensive end Dee Ford. Auburn placed three more players on

the second team: center Reese Dismukes, tight end C.J. Uzomah and

cornerback Chris Davis, whose long return beat

Alabama.

No. 3 Alabama and SEC East champ Missouri

each had four players on the first team, more than any other

school.

Denied a chance to play for a third straight

national title, Alabama was led by Mosley – a unanimous choice at

linebacker – along with offensive linemen Cyrus Kouandjio and Anthony

Steen and punter Cody Mandell.

Sam, named on every

ballot at defensive end, paced the conference in sacks (10.5) and

tackles behind the line (18.5). Another Missouri end, Kony Ealy, also

made the first team, as did cornerback E.J. Gaines and offensive lineman

Justin Britt.

Johnny Manziel repeated as the

first-team quarterback with another stellar season, leading the SEC in

total yards with 3,732 passing and 686 on the ground. He accounted for

41 touchdowns, but a poor defense left the Aggies with a disappointing

8-4 record.

Texas A&M had two more

representatives from its high-scoring offense: receiver Mike Evans and

lineman Jake Matthews.

Georgia, despite an injury

plagued season that didn’t meet expectations, had three first-teamers

with tight end Arthur Lynch, linebacker Ramik Wilson and kicker Marshall

Morgan.

The rest of the first-team offense was

Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews, LSU running back Jeremy Hill,

Mississippi State lineman Gabe Jackson, Arkansas center Travis Swanson

and LSU all-purpose threat Odell Beckham Jr.

On

defense, the remaining selections were tackle Kelcy Quarles and end

Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina, Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson,

Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, Vanderbilt safety Kenny Ladler

and Mississippi safety Cody Prewitt.

Manziel,

Mosley, Jackson, Clowney, Jake Matthews and Jordan Matthews were repeat

selections to the first team. Georgia running back Todd Gurley dropped

to the second team after missing three games with an ankle injury.

Alabama’s AJ McCarron slipped from second-teamer to honorable mention

despite an impressive senior season, an indication of the tremendous

depth at quarterback in the SEC.

Every school but

Kentucky was represented by at least one first-teamer. The Wildcats did

have a couple of players on the second team.

The 81st

annual AP All-SEC team was selected by a 14-member media panel

representing each of the conference’s 11 states.