December 10, 2013 12:48:23 PM
ATLANTA -- One day after receiving a bid to play in the 55th AutoZone Liberty Bowl, the Mississippi State football had three players earn All-Southeastern Conference honors from The Associated Press.
Ole Miss had five players honored, while No. 3 Alabama and SEC East champion Missouri each had four players on the first team, more than any other school.
For MSU, senior offensive lineman Gabe Jackson earned first-team accolades, while freshman defensive lineman Chris Jones and senior defensive back Nickoe Whitley were honorable mention selections. Jackson earned his third AP All-SEC honor, while the selections were the first for Jones and Whitley.
Jackson is the first Bulldog with three SEC yearly honors since Derek Pegues was a three-time pick from 2006-08.
"Our whole team has worked hard all year and to receive an award like this is special," Jackson said.
Last week, Jackson received the C Spire Conerly Trophy winner as top player in the state of Mississippi. He is the first offensive lineman to earn the award. The Liberty native also was named the Kent Hull Award recipient as top offensive lineman in Mississippi.
On the field, Jackson graded out at 88 percent. He is helping MSU to one of its best offensive seasons in program history, averaging 426.2 yards a game, on pace to shatter the single-season record of 422 yards per game.
Jones has booked a team-high 10 quarterback hurries and seven tackles for lost yardage, while Whitley made two of the biggest defensive plays for the Bulldogs all season with a pair of forced fumbles. He halted a potential game-winning drive by Arkansas and ended the Egg Bowl by jarring the ball away from Bo Wallace.
Junior safety Cody Prewitt leads Ole Miss' five-player contingent. He was named to the first team as a safety. The Bay Springs native has started 11 of 12 games at free safety and helped Ole Miss finish the regular season with a 7-5 record and a berth in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. Prewitt's six interceptions lead the SEC and are tied for fourth-most by any player in the country. He leads or shares the team lead with 70 tackles, six interceptions and 13 passes defended, while he also has 4.0 TFLs and two forced fumbles.
Four Rebels -- offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, tight end Evan Engram and linebackers Serderius Bryant and Denzel Nkemdiche -- made the second team.
Denied a chance to play for a third-straight national title, Mosley -- a unanimous choice at linebacker -- led Alabama with offensive linemen Cyrus Kouandjio and Anthony Steen and punter Cody Mandell.
A year ago, Auburn was the only school that didn't have anyone on last year's Associated Press All-SEC team. Not surprising, since the Tigers failed to win a league game.
What a turnaround for the Tigers this season, in every respect.
Running back Tre Mason was named the offensive player of the year, Gus Malzahn claimed the coaching award and the No. 2 Tigers were well represented on the All-SEC squad after their amazing run from worst to first.
Also, Missouri's Michael Sam beat out Alabama's Mosley for the defensive player of the year award, while Arkansas running back Alex Collins took the honor as top freshman.
Mason was a unanimous choice at running back and overwhelming pick as the best offensive player after rushing for an SEC-leading 1,621 yards and 22 touchdowns, capped by a record 304-yard, four-touchdown performance against Missouri in the league championship game.
Malzahn revived the Tigers (12-1) in his first season as coach, taking over a proud program reeling from a 3-9 season, including a 0-8 mark in conference play. He installed a hurry-up spread option that quickly developed into one of the nation's most prolific offenses.
"We use last season as motivation, thinking about all the hard times that we went through last year and being one of the worst teams in college football to now being one of the best," Mason said.
Auburn proved it was for real with an upset of Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies. The Tigers caught the biggest break of the year when a desperation fourth-down heave against Georgia was deflected by two defenders into a winning 73-yard touchdown. Then they knocked off two-time defending national champion Alabama with the play of the year: a 109-yard return of a missed field goal with no time on the clock for a stunning 34-28 upset.
Last Saturday, the Tigers defeated Missouri 59-42 in a shootout for the SEC title, then slid into a shot at the BCS crown against top-ranked Florida State with Ohio State's loss in the Big Ten championship game.
"It's just been very unique," Malzahn said. "It's been one of the more unique experiences I've ever been a part of."
Mason was joined on the first team by two teammates: offensive tackle Greg Robinson and defensive end Dee Ford. Auburn placed three more players on the second team: center Reese Dismukes, tight end C.J. Uzomah and cornerback Chris Davis, whose long return beat Alabama.
Denied a chance to play for a third straight national title, Alabama was led by Mosley -- a unanimous choice at linebacker -- along with offensive linemen Cyrus Kouandjio and Anthony Steen and punter Cody Mandell.
Sam, named on every ballot at defensive end, paced the conference in sacks (10.5) and tackles behind the line (18.5). Another Missouri end, Kony Ealy, also made the first team, as did cornerback E.J. Gaines and offensive lineman Justin Britt.
Johnny Manziel repeated as the first-team quarterback with another stellar season, leading the SEC in total yards with 3,732 passing and 686 on the ground. He accounted for 41 touchdowns, but a poor defense left the Aggies with a disappointing 8-4 record.
Texas A&M had two more representatives from its high-scoring offense: receiver Mike Evans and lineman Jake Matthews.
Georgia, despite an injury plagued season that didn't meet expectations, had three first-teamers with tight end Arthur Lynch, linebacker Ramik Wilson and kicker Marshall Morgan.
Every school but Kentucky was represented by at least one first-teamer. The Wildcats had a couple of players on the second team.
The 81st annual AP All-SEC team was selected by a 14-member media panel representing each of the conference's 11 states.
1. No. 1 MSU begins preparations for Kentucky COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Ole Miss gearing up for improved LSU COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Alabama shines with looser mind-set COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Ole Miss will rely on defense COLLEGE SPORTS
5. MSU's Alwal hopes new habits will pay dividends COLLEGE SPORTS