December 5, 2017 10:56:19 AM
The No. 4 Alabama football team led the way with eight first-team selections Monday to The Associated Press' All-Southeastern Conference team.
Mississippi State defensive end Montez Sweat, defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons and offensive lineman Martinas Rankin were named to the team, while Ole Miss sophomore wide receiver A.J. Brown was named to the first team.
Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson was picked as the offensive player of the year, while Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith was selected as the top defensive player. Smith was MVP of the title game, coming up with two fumble recoveries in the Bulldogs' 28-7 victory.
Georgia's Kirby Smart got the nod as SEC Coach of the Year after leading his team to the College Football Playoff in just his second season between the hedges. Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham, a transfer from Baylor, and Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm shared the award for newcomer of the year.
Alabama, which also claimed a spot in the four-team national playoff despite failing to win the SEC West, had receiver Calvin Ridley, offensive tackle Jonah Williams, tackle Ross Pierschbacher, center Bradley Bozeman, defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne, linebacker Rashaan Evans and safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison named to the first team.
A three-time SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honoree, Sweat is the first defensive end since Willie Evans in 2005 to earn first-team All-SEC honors from The AP. The Stone Mountain, Georgia, native leads the SEC and is ninth nationally with nine-and-a-half sacks. Sweat has 12 1/2 tackles for loss, which is fourth in the conference. Overall, he has 44 tackles and a fumble recovery.
Simmons, a former standout at Noxubee County High School in Macon, also earned first-team laurels, marking the first time since 2000 that MSU has placed at least two defensive players on The AP All-SEC First Team. Simmons has dominated a defense that ranks in the top 20 nationally in four categories. He has 57 tackles despite being double-teamed for most of the season.
Simmons is 10th in the conference with 11 tackles for loss, which includes a career-best four-and-a-half sacks. He has forced and recovered two fumbles and recorded three blocks on special teams, which ties SMU's Justin Lawler for the national lead.
Earning second-team honors, Rankin is MSU's first offensive lineman to earn AP All-SEC recognition since Ben Beckwith in 2014. A team captain, Rankin has started eight of the nine games he has appeared in. The Mendenhall native is part of an offensive line that has allowed just 11 sacks this season, which is the fewest by any Power 5 team this season, and the sixth-fewest in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
Ole Miss offensive lineman Greg Little and defensive ends Marquis Haynes and Breeland Speaks were voted to the second team.
Brown finished the season as the Ole Miss single-season record-holder in receiving yards (1,252) and tied for the top spot in receiving touchdowns (11). He led the SEC and ranks sixth nationally in receiving yards per game (104.3). His six 100-yard receiving games tied for best in a season, equaling Laquon Treadwell's mark in 2015. The 2017 Conerly Trophy winner finished third on the single-season record charts in receptions (75).
Little started all 12 games for the Rebels (6-6). The sophomore from Allen, Texas, helped pass protect for an offense that led the SEC and ranked 10th nationally with 328.4 yards passing per game.
Haynes, a senior from Jacksonville, Florida, led Ole Miss with 11 tackles for loss and seven-and-a-half sacks. He finished his four-year career as Ole Miss' career leader in sacks (32) and tackles for loss (47 1/2). Haynes had 45 tackles and a team-leading three forced fumbles this season.
Speaks was second on the team in tackles (67) and sacks (seven). After spending time at the nose tackle position for the first five games of the season, Speaks started the last seven games at defensive end. The junior from Jackson had eight tackles for loss.
n In related news, Alabama's Bozeman was named Monday a finalist for the Dave Rimington Trophy, the Boomer Esiason Foundation announced.
Bozeman is one of three centers named to the finalist list. The Rimington Trophy has been presented annually since 2000 to the top center in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Barrett Jones (2012) and Ryan Kelly (2015) are Alabama's previous Rimington honorees.
In his second season as the Crimson Tide's starting center, Bozeman has graded out at an average of 85.6 percent as a senior. He has 16 knockdown blocks and seven missed assignments in 724 snaps (99.0-percent success rate).
LSU's Will Clapp and Ohio State's Billy Price are the other finalists. The winner will be announced Thursday at the Red Carpet Show prior to the ESPN College Football Awards in Atlanta.