Win the SEC title as a team, win the SEC’s individual awards as well.
That has tended to be the case historically and it appears 2017 will be no different as a host of Bulldogs have now received conference recognition. Coach Kirby Smart is the Associated Press SEC Coach of the Year. Smart led his alma mater to only its third 12 win season in school history with the chance to add to that total in the upcoming college football playoff.
Junior linebacker Roquan Smith, yesterday named the Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker, was today voted a first team All-SEC selection and the SEC defensive player of the year. Smith leads the team with 113 tackles and has tallied 10.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, and 2 of the most important fumble recoveries in program history. Auburn tailback Kerryon Johnson was tabbed the SEC offensive player of the year.
Jake Fromm shared the league’s newcomer of the year award with his SEC title game adversary, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham. Senior offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn was voted to the first team by league media, a well-deserved honor for a hard worker who really came into his own during the 2017 season. Nick Chubb was selected for the second team offense behind Johnson and Kentucky bell cow Benny Snell, Jr. Senior Lorenzo Carter and sophomore J.R. Reed earned second team honors on defense. Mecole Hardman was the second team selection for “all purpose” player.
I am a little surprised at the selection of Florida punter Johnny Townsend (first team) and Alabama punter JK Scott (second team) over Cameron Nizialek. If ever there was a data point for the “sports writers are lazy” trope this was it, as Nizialek had a lower percentage of punts returned than Townsend and his kicks were returned for less than half the average yardage (10.93 ypr versus 5.25). If half the folks who voted for this one didn’t just go look up the punter with the longest yards per punt number I’ll eat my red Nike dri-fit visor. Their second instinct was to go with the guy who plays in Tuscaloosa. C’est la vie.
I’m also a little surprised that neither Terry Godwin nor Javon Wims merited either first or second team recognition at receiver. That being said the field was pretty deep at that position this season, and the players selected (Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, Ole Miss’s AJ Brown, Missouri’s J’Mon Moore, and Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk) were all outstanding players.
All in all, this is more confirmation that Kirby Smart has things headed in the right direction in Athens and it hasn’t gone unnoticed around the SEC. It is truly a great time to be a Georgia Bulldog.