LSU's Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckham Jr. named first team All-SEC

Nine Tigers earn league postseason accolades

LSU running back Jeremy Hill began the regular season on the cusp of being dismissed from the team. He ended it by grabbing one of the Southeastern Conference’s most prestigious honors.

Hill and receiver/return man Odell Beckham Jr. made the AP All-SEC First Team on Monday, leading a pack of nine LSU players to make the first team, second team or honorable mention.

Receiver Jarvis Landry and left guard Trai Turner were on the second-team offense, and defensive tackle Anthony Johnson and linebacker Lamin Barrow made the second-team defense.

Three more LSU players were honorable mentions: quarterback Zach Mettenberger, safety Craig Loston and defensive tackle Ego Ferguson.

No. 14 LSU (9-3) returns to action against Iowa (8-4) at noon Jan. 1 in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla.

Hill joined Auburn’s Tre Mason as SEC first-team running backs. Behind Mason, Hill finished second in the SEC with 1,185 yards and 14 touchdowns despite missing five quarters this season.

He was benched the first five quarters of the season, an unofficial suspension for a guy who violated his probation in the spring by punching a man in the parking lot of a Baton Rouge bar. The team voted unanimously to allow Hill to return.

Beckham was on the first team as an all-purpose player. He averaged 185 all-purpose yards, which led the league. Beckham was fourth in the SEC in punt return average, fifth in receptions per game, fourth in receiving yards per game and third in kick return average.

Mason was the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, and Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam, the league’s sack leader with 101/2 was the Defensive Player of the Year.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was Coach of the Year. In his first season, he has led the Tigers to a meeting with Florida State in the BCS National Championship Game a year after Auburn won three games.

AP voters selected only a first team. The second team and honorable mentions were compiled from players who didn’t receive enough votes to land on the first team.

LSU’s nine players on the first team, second team or honorable mention ranks third in the 14-team SEC, trailing Alabama (12) and Auburn (10).

Mettenberger, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during the regular-season finale against Arkansas, was beaten out by Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (first team) and Georgia’s Aaron Murray (second).

Johnson made the second team despite finishing with just 32 tackles. Ferguson, an honorable mention, had 58.

Dodging Michigan

In the days preceding Sunday’s bowl announcement, coach Les Miles said he began to see LSU’s bowl destination clearing up. That means he knew the chances of playing his alma mater were strong.

Several projections had LSU in the Gator Bowl against Michigan, a team Miles refuses to schedule because of his deep passion for the Wolverines.

Crisis averted: The Outback picked LSU and Iowa.

“I think it would have been probably harder on me to play Michigan than it would have been our team. I think our team would have enjoyed the competition,” Miles said Sunday after the bowl matchups were announced. “I have a very strong spot, favorite spot, in my heart for that team. It’d be hard for me to kind of gear up, but I certainly think that as we got closer to the game, the need for competition (would take) over.”

LSU has never played Michigan. The Wolverines will play Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

Palelei pulls LSU commitment

Sione Palelei, a three-star running back from East Ascension High School, de-committed from LSU over the weekend and committed to Oklahoma State.

Palelei suffered a season-ending knee injury in October. He ran for 752 yards on 58 carries and scored 10 touchdowns during his senior year. He committed to LSU over the summer.

On his Twitter account, Palelei reached out to LSU fans after news of his de-commit went public. He took a visit to Oklahoma State this weekend.

“My heart opened up to OSU!! N that’s that!! You can hate me from decommitting from LSU but I feel like this the place for me,” he wrote.

LSU now has 14 commits for the 2014 class. The Tigers are pursuing John Ehret running back and four-star prospect Darrel Williams, TigerSportsDigest.com reported.

Alleva releases letter

In a letter to fans Monday, LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva encouraged them to travel to the Outback Bowl, congratulated Mettenberger and touched on LSU’s “bright” future.

LSU is selling its allotment of 12,000 Outback Bowl tickets at lsutix.net. Tickets are about $80 apiece. If LSU sells its allotment, the school can request more.

Alleva called Mettenberger a “fearless leader always willing to place the needs of the team ahead of his own.”

Alleva wrote that freshman backup quarterback Anthony Jennings’ game-winning drive against Arkansas, a potential “blockbuster” signing class, and the team’s group of veterans “solidifies LSU’s standing as a perennial championship contender.”

Health matters

Aside from Mettenberger (knee) and safety Corey Thompson (knee), LSU is completely healthy for the Outback Bowl, Miles said.

Beckham is OK after suffering a “significant bruise” to his hip during the win over Arkansas on Nov. 29, Miles said. The receiver could have played had LSU had a game last weekend, the coach said.

As reported last week, a knee injury will keep Thompson from playing in the bowl.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said quarterback Jake Rudock will make his 13th consecutive start in the Outback Bowl. Rudock injured his right knee in Iowa’s regular-season finale against Nebraska and suffered a left knee injury earlier in the season.

“We expect Jake to be the starter,” Ferentz said Monday.

Gift-giving

As gifts from the Outback Bowl, LSU players will get a $150 Best Buy gift card, a Fossil watch, a Jostens bowl ring and an Outback Steakhouse gift card, according to sportsbusinessdaily.com.

The NCAA allows bowls to give up to $550 in gifts to each player. According to the website, Fossil watches are the most popular gift item among bowls this season: Fifteen bowls are giving watches.