Manziel, Aggies lead SEC award winners

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first player to win both the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year and the league’s Player of the Year award in the same season.

Manziel, one of three Heisman Trophy finalists, was the headliner among individual award winners selected by the SEC coaches and announced by the league Wednesday.

The last freshman to be named SEC Player of the Year was Georgia running back Herschel Walker, who won the award in 1980, six years before the league started naming a Freshman of the Year.

Manziel’s coach, Kevin Sumlin, who led the Aggies to a 10-2 record, No. 10 ranking and a berth in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, shared Coach of the Year honors with Florida’s Will Muschamp, who led the Gators to an 11-1 record, No. 3 ranking and a berth in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

A&M grabbed another individual award as one of Manziel’s offensive linemen, Luke Joeckel received the Jacobs Blocking Trophy.

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was named the league’s top defensive player, and Gamecocks return specialist Ace Sanders and Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis were named the league’s top special teams players.

The league’s coaches also selected Barrett Jones of Alabama as the league’s scholar-athlete of the year.

Manziel passed for 3,419 yards and rushed for 1,181 yards, becoming just the fifth NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision player and first freshman to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. He had three games with 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards, which had never been done by a FBS player in a career, let alone a single season.

Sumlin, in his fifth year as a collegiate head coach, led the Aggies to their first 10-win season since 1998 and the 12th in program history. A&M compiled a 6-2 conference record in their first year in the SEC. Sumlin’s 10 wins were the most by a first-year Texas A&M head coach, bettering the eight wins compiled by R.C. Slocum in 1989 and D.X. Bible in 1917.

In Muschamp’s second year in Gainesville, the former LSU assistant guided the Gators to a 7-1 mark in SEC play to finish third in the final BCS poll. Florida defeated four teams this season ranked in Top 10 at the time of the game, or in the final polls.

Joeckel, who is a finalist for the Outland Trophy, has been the cornerstone of the one of the best offensive fronts in college football. With Joeckel leading the way, the Aggies led the SEC in rushing, passing, scoring and total offense.

Clowney is a record-setter in several respects this season, as he set new South Carolina standards for sacks in a season (13.0), tackles for loss in a season (21.5) and sacks in a single game (4.5 vs. Clemson). All of this came as a follow-up to his extremely successful freshman season, during which Clowney totaled eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

Sanders set the Carolina single-season record for punt return yards with 363. He was the top punt returner in the SEC, averaging 14.5 yards per return, with seven returns of 27 yards or more.

Sturgis leads Florida in scoring with 101 points and became the third player in school history to score 300 points in their career. He is tied for third in the nation in field goals and tied for the lead in the SEC in kicking scoring while tying for second in overall scoring (23 field goals, 32 PATs). In addition, Sturgis leads the SEC with 20 made field goals and an 85.2 field goal percentage. It’s the second consecutive season he has been a first-team All-SEC selection.

Jones is the only three-time Academic All-American in the history of Alabama football and on pace for a fourth selection this season.

The 2011 and 2012 SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, he carries a 4.0 GPA, has already received his degree in accounting and will complete his masters in accountancy next week. On Tuesday evening at the 55th National Football Foundation Awards Dinner he was named the winner of the 2012 William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes the best scholar-athlete in the nation.