SEC Spotlight: Reviewing the conference’s 2021 season

College football regular season and conference leagues are in the books. What happened we expected? I did not expect? Here is a conclusion, continuing today with the Big Ten.

EXPECTED

Georgia and Alabama in the title game – We all knew at the start of the season that these were the two best teams, and that’s exactly how it went. Even though they did it in different ways (Alabama’s explosive attack and Georgia’s stifling defense), both were head and shoulders above the competition, and are now both in the playoffs.

The OL of Kentucky was dominant – I picked this one as one of the best units in the country ahead of the season, and they agreed with Darrian Kinnard and co. paving the way for a 9-3 record and second place in the East. They average 5.5 yards per carry as a team, good for fourth place in the country.

Vanderbilt does not belong – While the expectations weren’t very high in Clark LeaIn season one, things couldn’t have been much worse for the Commodores. They opened being dominated by FCS East Tennessee State, barely beating Colorado State and Connecticut, and no conference wins. Their attack was pathetic, as they were banned twice in the conference and didn’t seem to have any beats outside of Chris Pierce Jr.

*****

UNEXPECTED

Shane Beamer (USA Today Sports Images)

South Carolina goes bowlingShane Beamer undertook a major rebuild in Columbia when he was hired, and expectations weren’t high for the season, especially when they had to start university assistant Zeb Noland early in the season. But they have rallied well, beating both Florida and Auburn at the end of the season, and manage to take on North Carolina in the postseason.

Arkansas finishes in the AP Top 25 – The Razorbacks showed signs of life last year in Sam PittmanIt’s first season at the helm, but they’ve really come alive this season, scoring some big wins over the then top-10 Texas A&M, Texas and Mississippi State. They finished third in the West and Treylon Burks elevated his game to become one of the best WR in the country.

Tennessee is dangerous – After losing what appeared to be their entire roster due to the portal and bringing a new trainer in Josh Heupel at the end of the cycle, it looked like it was going to be a losing season for the Vols. But their bout really got to cook in the second half of the season, finishing eighth in the country in scoring.

*****

AWARDS

Matt Corral

Matt Corral (USA Today Sports Images)

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Young, Alabama – The Heisman Trophy winner runs away with this one, as he had one of the best quarterback seasons we’ve ever seen. He was the leader of the conference’s most marked offense as he led the SEC in touchdowns on the way to a conference title and the number one seed in the College Football Playoff.

Defender of the Year: Will Anderson, Alabama – Even though Georgia’s unity as a whole was better than Crimson Tide’s defense, you could argue that Anderson is the best defensive player in the whole country. The second year he led the nation in sacks (15.5) and tackle for loss (29) on the road to taking home the Nagurski Award and a fifth place in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Relocation of the Year: Jameson Williams, Alabama – The Ohio State relocation had a truly amazing campaign, leading the SEC into yards and touchdowns and becoming the most dangerous deep-ball receiver in the country. He was also an extraordinary one in special teams, reporting two kickoffs per touchdown and being an impact player on almost any unit.

Freshman of the Year: Brock Bowers, Georgia – Bowers has had a fantastic year for any tight end, but he’s doubly impressive considering he’s a true freshman. The team’s best catcher, Bowers scored 47 receptions for 791 yards and 11 touchdowns and was the most reliable target for Stetson Bennett.

Coach of the Year: Josh Heupel, Tennessee – Yes, you could easily give it to Nick Saban or Clever Kirby, but what Heupel did with a completely decimated list was nothing short of miraculous. The Vols finished 7-5 and third in the East after losing nearly all of their impact players on the transfer portal. Hendon Hooker turned into a real threat at QB and the team averaged over 200 yards per game on the ground.

NFL Draft Escorts (Offense): QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss – Corral was in the second and third rounds of discussion before the start of the season, but has now presented himself as a potential all-time pick in the top-10. His arm talent has always been around, but he cut down on mistakes in a big way.

Draft NFL Stock Up (Defense): CB Roger McCreary, Auburn – McCreary has morphed into one of the most technically solid and complete cornerbacks in the draft after not being on the radar in the first round. He improved his ability to cover larger receivers and play the ball.

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