Picking SEC Offensive Player, Defensive Player, Coach of Year
It’s awards season, y’all.
Next week, we’ll find out which SEC players and coaches will be taking home the hardwood. We’ll probably continue to debate them — I trust you’ll use the comments section to tell me why I’m wrong — even after the winners are announced.
So I took a stab at predicting who will earn the SEC Offensive Player, Defensive Player and Coach of the Year awards.
Offensive Player of the Year — Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama QB
If your pick is anyone other than Tagovailoa, you’re just trying to be different for the sake of being different.
2017: Kerryon Johnson
2016: Jalen Hurts
2015: Derrick Henry
2014: Amari Cooper
2013: Tre Mason
But if you want to be right for the sake of being right, this award will easily go to the Alabama sophomore. Gone are the days in which the Alabama quarterback’s primary responsibilities consist of handing off. Tagovailoa’s game-changing abilities are why the Tide have won every game by at least 22 points this season.
Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray are both set to best Baker Mayfield’s FBS record in yards per attempt (11.9). The efficiency is mind-boggling. Someone who has 3 fourth-quarter pass attempts all year has already accounted for 41 touchdowns in 12 games. That’s basically saying he has 41 touchdowns in 9 games this season. Insane. And just in case that wasn’t enough, Tagovailoa has just 2 interceptions and he’s only taken 9 sacks.
What he’s doing is historically good, and it could easily go down as the best regular season we’ve ever seen from an SEC quarterback. It’s reminiscent of Tim Tebow in 2007 or Johnny Manziel in 2012, but certainly more efficient than either and for a better team. Both won the Heisman Trophy, which Tagovailoa is favored to do as well.
But not before he picks up the SEC Offensive Player of the Year trophy.
Defensive Player of the Year — Josh Allen, Kentucky LB
You could make a strong argument that Quinnen Williams, Devin White, Grant Delpit, Jeffery Simmons or Montez Sweat are worthy of this award. But Allen is my pick and here’s why.
2017: Roquan Smith
2016: Jonathan Allen
2015: Reggie Ragland
2014: Shane Ray
2013: C.J. Mosley, Michael Sam
What he’s meant to that Kentucky team — one that had its best season since 1984 — can’t be overstated. Allen does it all. Remember when he had that huge pass breakup on the 2-point conversion against Florida? Or how about when he single-handily took over against Mississippi State and haunted Nick Fitzgerald all second half? Few defensive players can impact a game in all facets like Allen can.
He’s not just Kentucky’s all-time sacks leader. He’s a playmaker in every sense of the word. The numbers back that up. He’s got 18.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks (second in FBS), 5 forced fumbles, 4 passes defended and 2 fumble recoveries. He’s everywhere all the time.
One of my favorite plays of the college football season:
Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen running with TE Jace Sternberger and breaking up the pass
Allen has the top pass-rush grade in the nation and he's dropped into coverage 101 times this year pic.twitter.com/NKl7fldlS2
— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) October 29, 2018
I mean, the guy earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors 4 times this year. That’s one third of the season when he had the best individual performance of any SEC player. Add it all up and it’s Allen who’s most deserving of the hardware.
Coach of the Year — Ed Orgeron, LSU
You could go a lot of different directions with this. There’s a strong case to be made for Mark Stoops and Dan Mullen, both of whom clinched 9-win regular seasons. You could even throw in Jimbo Fisher, who could win 9 games at Year 1 at Texas A&M.
2017: Kirby Smart
2016: Nick Saban
2015: Jim McElwain
2014: Gary Pinkel
2013: Gus Malzahn
But because of what we heard about Orgeron all offseason, he’s the SEC Coach of the Year.
The hot-seat talk was everywhere in part because many still had questions about Joe Alleva’s decision to shed Orgeron’s interim tag, but also in part because of the schedule. Oddsmakers had the early over/under at 6.5 wins for the Tigers. Then Orgeron went out and added Joe Burrow to a roster that was probably better than Vegas gave it credit for.
All Orgeron did was start off the year 4-1 against ranked teams before the Alabama game. And yeah, that game didn’t turn out well. Nor did the Texas A&M debacle, which in my opinion and anyone who watched that without maroon and white blinders on, could argue that the Tigers got robbed of a 10th win.
That team was ready to roll as an underdog against both Miami and Auburn in games away from home. And for those of you who want to dismiss LSU’s strength of wins because Auburn and Miami didn’t live up to their preseason billing, don’t forget that the Tigers clubbed Georgia for its only loss and they trounced top-20 Mississippi State. The Tigers still have more wins over winning Power 5 teams (4) than Ohio State (3) and Oklahoma (2).
This comes back to Orgeron’s ability to get his team ready to play week in, week out. His ability to motivate and prepare his team has been vastly underrated since the start of the 2017 season. LSU is still looking at a chance of possibly heading to its first New Year’s 6 Bowl in the Playoff era. Considering what preseason expectations were, that would be a monumental feat.
It’s about time Orgeron got some individual recognition — and a raise — for the job he did in 2018.