SEC Honor Roll: Week 9
In a weekend that featured two high-profile conference games on the menu, a shadow was cast over some premier individual efforts Saturday. Marcus Lattimore's injury was national news, for good reason. He's an elite college running back, leading South Carolina to an SEC Championship appearance in 2010 as a freshman, but the last two seasons have ended in cruel fashion for the junior.
When discussing top Week 9 performers, the conversation starts with offering the best of wishes for Lattimore's recovery.
With that being said, there were myriad impressive performances that warranted attention as well. Jarvis Jones single-handedly reinvigorated Mark Richt's tenure at Georgia. Hugh Freeze continues to work his frenetic magic at Ole Miss. And a freshman quarterback reinserted himself into the Heisman race by eviscerating another SEC opponent.
Here are this week's most outstanding performances:
Big Men On Campus
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin inherited an outstanding talent in Manziel, and the redshirt freshman keeps proving it week after week. In a bounce-back performance from his difficult game against LSU, Manziel made a name for himself on the Plains, coordinating an attack that handed Auburn one of its worst home losses in school history. Manziel accounted for 350 yards and five total touchdowns. His 3,009 yards of total offense ranks third nationally this season, and his 29 touchdowns outnumbers 62 FBS teams.
Bryson Rose, Ole Miss: It's fun to play the hero. Rose, a senior from Raleigh, NC, sealed a 30-27 win against Arkansas for Hugh Freeze's team on Saturday, nailing two fourth-quarter field goals, including the 31-yard game-winner as time expired. Rose finished the game 3-for-3, including a career long of 53 yards.
Tyler Bray, Tennessee: Though it came in a losing effort , Tennessee's ultra-talented junior quarterback delivered against SEC like never before. Bray entered Williams-Brice Stadium Saturday with more interceptions than touchdowns in his career against conference opponents — traditionally posting his gaudy numbers versus lesser foes — but South Carolina's once-feared defense had no answer for Bray. He threw for 368 yards and four touchdowns. If it weren't for his porous defense allowing 38 points, he never would have had to throw his lone interception in desperation. His coach might be on his way out, but Bray's NFL stock is on its way up.
Josh Evans and Matt Elam, Florida: The Gators' safeties are a pure joy to watch, playing with a reckless abandon and making plays all over the field. Evans and Elam each snagged an interception against Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray in Jacksonville, making the redshirt junior look lost at times — even below average. Elam returned his pick 31 yards into Bulldog territory. If it weren't for Florida's offense turning the ball over every way possible, holding Georgia to just 17 points would not have been in vain.
Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: Lattimore deserves to be on this list nearly every week, not only for his play but for his personality and everything he represents in college football. He's special. When the junior running back suffered a knee injury against Tennessee, his second in as many seasons, Williams-Brice Stadium stood still — until both sidelines emptied. Volunteer and Gamecock players alike were in tears, knowing how hard Lattimore worked to get back on the field this season. He finished the game with 62 yards and a score. His 11 rushing touchdowns rank second in the SEC so far this season.
Disappointment of the Week
Florida's offense: Finger-pointing is tough in a team game, but it was a one-sided effort for Will Muschamp's team at EverBank field. Florida's defense smothered Georgia, but the Gators offense kept them in the game. Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones had a hand in that. However, turning the ball over six times — Florida had just four turnovers total in its first seven games, second-best nationally — is inexcusable in such a pivotal rivalry game. The SEC East title was on the line Saturday, and Muschamp's program squandered it away.
Player of the Week
Jarvis Jones, Georgia: What superlative has not been used for Georgia's All-American linebacker? Ethereal? Omnipresent? Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham put together a high-energy game plan to keep Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel uncomfortable, and he structured it around Jones. The redshirt junior linebacker delivered with three sacks, two forced fumbles — including the game-winning strip of Florida tight end Jordan Reed — and two fumble recoveries. For his efforts, Jones has certainly played himself into the Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame: He has posted 8.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks and four forced fumbles in just two games in Jacksonville. Yeah, ethereal works.
Coach of the Week
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss: What a turnaround Freeze has orchestrated in Oxford. Just a season ago, the Rebels were the worst team in the SEC for multiple years running. They posted just two wins in 2011. Freeze has more than doubled that total in his first season at the helm, beating SEC West opponents Auburn and, now, Arkansas — no matter how futile those programs have proven to be — in the process. On the leg of Bryson Rose Saturday, Freeze kept himself in Coach of the Year considerations. Nick Saban and Mark Richt deserve recognition as well, but Freeze takes the cake this week.