LSU freshmen Alexander, Collins honored by SEC

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Two LSU players — tackle Vadal Alexander and defensive back Jalen Collins — were named to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team, which was selected by the league’s coaches and announced Thursday.

Alexander, a true freshman from Buford, Ga., started the final eight games and helped stabilize a unit that lost three starters and played its best down the stretch. Alexander replaced senior Alex Hurst, a preseason All-SEC pick who left the team for personal reasons.

Collins, a redshirt freshman from Olive Branch, Miss., didn’t start but played a significant amount of time as the Tigers’ third cornerback and tied for third on the team with two interceptions and tied for second with six pass break-ups. He was 12th with 28 tackles.

All but two of the league’s 14 teams were represented on the team. SEC champion Alabama, Florida and Texas A&M tied for the most selections with four each. LSU, Georgia and Ole Miss had two each.

Two members of the All-Freshman team had been honored previously by the coaches. Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel was named SEC Offensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year on Wednesday. Georgia running back Todd Gurley was second team All-SEC.

The coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players.

Alexander lined up next to another freshman who played well after being thrust into the starting lineup. Redshirt freshman Trai Thomas of New Orleans replaced junior Josh Williford at right guard after Willford suffered a concussion against Florida on Oct. 6.

Collins backed up another freshman who played well in secondary. Jalen Mills, a true freshman from DeSoto, Texas, started all 12 games. He earned the starting position in preseason camp after All-America cornerback Tyrann Mathieu was kicked off the team Aug. 10. Mills finished fourth on the team with 52 tackles and tied for third with two interceptions and tied for fourth with five pass break-ups.

Freshman running back Jeremy Hill of Redemptorist has had a standout freshman season, but played a position that included great competition. Hill started just four games but led LSU with 631 rushing yards (seventh most by a Tigers freshman) and scored a team-high 10 touchdowns, which tied for seventh-most in the SEC. His 10 rushing touchdowns tied Justin Vincent (2003) for second-most by a freshman in school history.

Gurley and Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon were picked as the All-Freshman running backs. Gurley was second in the league and first among running backs in the league with 1,138 yards. He tied for the conference lead among running backs with 14 rushing touchdowns and averaged 6.5 yards per rush, second only to Yeldon’s 6.6.

Yeldon was 12th in the league in rushing, one spot ahead of Hill, finishing with 847 yards.

Earlier in the week the coaches named five Tigers to their All-SEC team.

Safety Eric Reid, linebacker Kevin Minter and defensive end Sam Montgomery made the first team, and defensive end Barkevious Mingo and place-kicker Drew Alleman made the second team.