LSU, Tide rule over all-conference list
Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 7:02 pm
By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — LSU and Alabama are the nation’s highest-ranked teams.
Only appropriate they would have the two best players in the Southeastern Conference.
Alabama running back Trent Richardson was a unanimous choice for offensive player of the year, while LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu took the honor as top defensive player on The Associated Press All-SEC team released Monday.
Later in the day, both were named Heisman Trophy finalists.
LSU’s Les Miles was tabbed as coach of the year after he guided the top-ranked Tigers (13-0) to the conference championship and a spot in the national title game against No. 2 Alabama, their division rival. Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell was named freshman of the year despite injuries and disciplinary issues.
As expected, LSU and Alabama (11-1) led the selections, with both powerhouses placing five players on the first team. SEC East champion Georgia, which lost to the Tigers 42-10 in the SEC championship game, had four first-teamers.
Mathieu gained national attention with his big plays as both a defender and a punt returner, not to mention his nickname. Dubbed the “Honey Badger” after a humorous YouTube video that chronicled the world’s fiercest animal, the sophomore showed no fear despite his diminutive size — just 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds.
“He’s a hard worker. He’s an achiever. Just watching him on the sideline is great,” said LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson. “He’s a big-time ballplayer.”
Despite being suspended for one game, Mathieu led the Tigers in tackles, caused six fumbles and recovered five loose balls, returning two of them for touchdowns. He also intercepted two passes and broke up seven other throws. On special teams, he averaged more than 16 yards per return and scored two more TDs, capped by an MVP performance in last Saturday’s SEC championship.
Mathieu sparked the sluggish LSU offense with a 62-yard punt return for a score. He added a 47-yard return that was even more spectacular, breaking away from or avoiding eight would-be tacklers before he was finally brought down, setting up a TD that gave the Tigers a commanding lead. In addition, he recovered a fumble that led to the go-ahead score.
“He’s a guy who gives everything to his team,” Miles said. “He’s a playmaker, and if he’s given an opportunity, he will do what he can.”
Richardson proved to be a worthy replacement to Heisman winner Mark Ingram in the Alabama backfield. The junior led the SEC with 1,583 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns, receiving every vote for the top offensive award and surging into Heisman contention himself.
He put up the second-highest rushing total in school history, surpassed only by Ingram’s 1,658 yards in 13 games during his Heisman-winning season in 2009. Published in The Messenger 12.6.11