Alabama Players Claim SEC Offensive & Defensive Players of the Year
Southeastern Conference champions Alabama had a league-leading four winners as the SEC on Wednesday announced its 2015 football individual awards. The honors were voted on by the league’s 14 head coaches, who were not allowed to vote for their own players.
Alabama’s Derrick Henry was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, while teammate Reggie Ragland was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Tennessee’s Evan Berry was named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year, Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk was named the SEC Freshman of the Year and Alabama’s Ryan Kelly was named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Kelly, along with Arkansas’ Sebastian Tretola earned the Jacobs Blocking Trophy. First-year Florida head coach Jim McElwain was named the SEC Coach of the Year.
The Crimson Tide are the first to have both an offensive and defensive player of the year winner in the same year since the league began the award in 2003. Alabama has also claimed either the offensive or defensive player of the year the last three seasons. Tennessee’s Berry is the first Volunteer to earn an individual award since his brother, Eric, won SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2008.
The year marks only the second time in league history that a pair of players have shared the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, with both of those occasions being an Alabama and Arkansas representative. The last time was in 2007, as the Crimson Tide’s Andre Smith and the Razorbacks’ Jonathan Luigs claimed the honor.
Henry, who on Monday was announced as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, has rushed for a school and SEC-record 1,986 yards and 23 touchdowns on 339 carries, while leading the Crimson Tide to the 2015 SEC Championship and the second seed in the College Football Playoff. He leads the nation in rushing yards and touchdowns and is second in yards per game (152.8). Henry has recorded four 200-plus yard performances this season, becoming just the third running back in conference history to do so. He has also scored a rushing touchdown in 18-straight games, which stands as the longest active streak in the conference and the most by an SEC player in the last 25 seasons.
Ragland leads the Crimson Tide this season with 90 total tackles and led UA in tackles in seven of its 12 games this season. The senior is the leader of an Alabama defense that leads the nation in rushing defense (78.9 yards), second in total defense (264.6 yards), third in scoring defense (14.3 points) and fifth in pass efficiency defense (100.97). Ragland has added 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 5 pass breakups, 4 quarterback hurries and 2 forced fumbles this season. He is also a finalist for the Bednarik, Butkus and Nagurski trophies.
Berry became the first Tennessee player in school history to earn First Team All-SEC honors as a return specialist yesterday. The sophomore leads the nation in kick return average (38.3 yards) and is tied for second nationally with three returns brought back for a touchdown. His three kickoffs returned for touchdowns tied the Tennessee single-season record set by Willie Gault in 1980. His total of 804 overall return yards ranks as the fourth-most in a season in Volunteer history, while his 34.8 career kickoff return average is a new school record.
Kirk set a new Texas A&M freshman single-season record for all-purpose yards with 1,659, which ranks fifth in the overall school history. Kirk is 65 yards short of eclipsing the 1,000 mark in receiving yards to go along with his 45 rushing yards, 341 punt-return yards and 348 kick-return yards. The freshman paced the Aggies with eight total touchdowns this season, six receiving and two punt return. He is also the first Aggie since Aaron Glenn in 1993 to record multiple punt return touchdowns in a season.
Kelly, a senior leader on the Alabama offensive line, has also been a standout in the classroom for the Crimson Tide. After completing his undergraduate degree in marketing last summer, Kelly is currently pursuing his master’s degree in the same field, which he is scheduled to receive this month. The senior currently holds a 3.75 GPA in his graduate studies. During his undergraduate career, Kelly was named to the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll three times, the SEC Freshman Honor Roll and the Dean’s list in both semesters of 2013. Kelly was selected as a semifinalist for the 2015 William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes the best scholar-athlete in the nation.
Kelly also landed the Jacobs Blocking Trophy to go along with his SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor, sharing the award with Arkansas’ Tretola. Kelly has started 33 career games from the center position for the Crimson Tide and has helped clear a path for 208.2 rushing yards per game that ranks 27th nationally and third in the SEC. Kelly has had an average offensive line grade of 88.33 percent this season, including five games above 90 percent. He has had 12 knockdown blocks from his center position this season and has not allowed a sack.
Tretola has been Arkansas’ starting left guard over the last 23 games and has graded over 80 percent in 10 of 12 contests this season. The senior earned SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors earlier this season and in over 25 career games at Arkansas, he has only allowed a half-sack to help the Razorbacks lead the SEC in fewest sacks allowed the last two seasons.
In his first season at the helm, McElwain guided the Florida Gators to a 10-3 record and their first SEC East Division Title since 2009. McElwain took over a Florida program that had gone 11-13 the past two seasons, making a quick turnaround en route to landing the Gators to a spot in Atlanta this past weekend for the SEC Championship. Monday, McElwain was named the 2015 AFCA FBS Region Two Coach of the Year, becoming one of six other coaches who have won the award in two consecutive years at two different schools. The Gators’ leader won the award last season as head man of the Colorado State Rams.
2015 SEC FOOTBALL AWARDS
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Derrick Henry, Alabama
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Reggie Ragland, Alabama
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Evan Berry, Tennessee
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
SCHOLAR-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Ryan Kelly, Alabama
JACOBS BLOCKING TROPHY
Ryan Kelly, Alabama
Sebastian Tretola, Arkansas
COACH OF THE YEAR
Jim McElwain, Florida