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December 3, 2012

Tide puts four on All-SEC first team

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was a unanimous choice Monday for Associated Press Southeastern Conference offensive player of the year after a dynamic debut season in College Station.

The charismatic redshirt freshman known as "Johnny Football" passed for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns, rushed for 1,181 yards and an SEC-leading 19 TDs, and guided the Aggies to a surprising 10-2 mark in their first SEC season, including an upset of No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Four Alabama players earned first-team All-SEC honors including offensive lineman Barrett Jones and defensive back Dee Milliner, who were unanimous selections. Offensive lineman Chance Warmack and linebacker C.J. Mosley were also first-team picks.

Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones edged out South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney for the defensive player of the year award. Jones leads the conference with 22.5 tackles behind the line and ranks second to Clowney with 12.5 sacks.

Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin was named coach of the year, beating out Florida's Will Muschamp.

Manziel also was an overwhelming choice as freshman of the year, in addition to being selected on all ballots as the first-team quarterback - not bad in a league that features the nation's two highest-rated passers: Alabama's A.J. McCarron and Georgia's Aaron Murray.

"This season has been incredibly surreal," Manziel said. "It's beyond my wildest imagination. It's a true testament to how this team has grown every week, because without these guys none of my individual success would be anything."

He is also considered a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, which will be awarded in New York on Saturday. Manziel has put up bigger numbers than former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, a landslide pick for the Heisman in 2010.

No freshman has ever won college football's highest individual honor.

"He's a tremendous competitor and a tremendous leader, and that's something that you really don't see in a player as a redshirt freshman," Sumlin said. "His leadership on and off the field throughout the season has made our season a real successful one."

Though Manziel struggled a bit in the Aggies' two losses, to SEC stalwarts Florida and LSU, he became a national sensation with his dazzling runs and catchy nickname. Then, with the season winding down, he sent his profile soaring by leading Texas A&M to a stunning victory over the defending national champion Crimson Tide.

"I'm a small-town kid," said Manziel, who grew up in Kerrville, Texas. "I don't see myself as Johnny Football."

Like Manziel, Jones was a unanimous selection to the first team. The junior passed up a chance to enter the NFL draft and certainly helped his status with another big season between the hedges, even though the Georgia star missed a couple of games with nagging injuries.
"There have been games this year where he has made a phenomenal amount of plays," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "The guy is probably one of the best defensive players in the country in terms of his playmaking ability. He's a really good rusher. He's physical. He's instinctive."

Jones had two sacks, one stop behind the line and forced a fumble in last Saturday's thrilling SEC championship game. Georgia had a shot to play for the national title, but they lost to Alabama 32-28. The Crimson Tide will face top-ranked Notre Dame for the BCS crown on Jan. 7.

Five other players were unanimous picks for the first team: South Carolina's Clowney, cornerbacks Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State and Dee Milliner of Alabama, Arkansas receiver Cobi Hamilton, and Alabama center Barrett Jones.

Florida, which had a comeback season under Muschamp and earned a BCS bid to the Sugar Bowl, led all schools with six players on the first team. Tight end Jordan Reed and running back Mike Gillislee made it from the offense, tackle Sharrif Floyd and safety Matt Elam represented the defense, and the Gators landed both specialists off their superb special teams - kicker Caleb Sturgis and punter Kyle Christy.

Texas A&M also landed four players on the first team after jumping from the Big 12 to the SEC along with Missouri. Two of the linemen who protected Manziel so well, Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, were selected by the voters, as was defensive end Damontre Moore.

The rest of the first team included Georgia freshman running back Todd Gurley, receiver Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt, all-purpose threat Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee, offensive lineman Gabe Jackson of Mississippi State, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson of Missouri and a pair of LSU defensive standouts, linebacker Kevin Minter and safety Eric Reid.

Barrett Jones, Jarvis Jones and Sturgis were the only repeat first-teamers from the AP's 2011 All-SEC team.

LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery and Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo both slipped from the first team a year ago to the second team this season. Heading in the opposite direction were Jackson, Banks and Reid, all making the jump from second-teamers last year.

Every school was represented by at least one player on the first or second teams except Auburn, which endured a winless season in the SEC and finished 3-9 overall. Coach Gene Chizik was fired after a blowout loss to Alabama, losing his job just two years after guiding the Tigers to a national championship.

The 80th annual AP All-SEC team was selected by a panel comprised of 14 media members representing each of the expanded conference's 11 states.

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