Alabama won the Southeastern Conference football championship and the Crimson Tide placed 10 men on the Coaches All-SEC team, including seven on the first team. Still, it was startling that Bama so dominated the individual awards as voted on by the league’s 14 head coaches (who could not vote for their own players).
Alabama had the offensive and defensive players of the year in tailback Derrick Henry and linebacker Reggie Ragland, and center Ryan Kelly is the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year and shared the Jacobs Blocking Trophy award.
The Crimson Tide is the first team to have both the offensive and defensive player of the year in the same season since the league began the award in 2003. Alabama has also claimed either the offensive or defensive player of the year the last three seasons.
Jim McElwain, a former Alabama offensive coordinator under Nick Saban, earned SEC Coach of the Year in his first season at the helm for the Gators. Tennessee’s Evan Barry was Special Teams Player of the Year, Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk the Freshman of the Year, and Sebastian Tretola of Arkansas shared the Jacobs Award with Kelly.
Tennessee’s Berry is the first Volunteer to earn an individual award since his brother, Eric, won SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2008.
The year marks only the second time in league history that a pair of players have shared the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, with both of those occasions being an Alabama and Arkansas representative. The last time was in 2007, as the Crimson Tide’s Andre Smith and the Razorbacks’ Jonathan Luigs claimed the honor.
Henry, who on Monday was announced as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, has rushed for a school and SEC-record 1,986 yards and 23 touchdowns on 339 carries, while leading the Crimson Tide to the 2015 SEC Championship and the second seed in the College Football Playoff. He leads the nation in rushing yards and touchdowns and is second in yards per game (152.8). Henry has recorded four 200-plus yard performances this season, becoming just the third running back in conference history to do so. He has also scored a rushing touchdown in 18-straight games, which stands as the longest active streak in the conference and the most by an SEC player in the last 25 seasons.
Ragland leads the Crimson Tide this season with 90 total tackles and led UA in tackles in seven of its 12 games this season. The senior is the leader of an Alabama defense that leads the nation in rushing defense (78.9 yards), second in total defense (264.6 yards), third in scoring defense (14.3 points) and fifth in pass efficiency defense (100.97). Ragland has added 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 5 pass breakups, 4 quarterback hurries and 2 forced fumbles this season. He is also a finalist for the Bednarik and Nagurski trophies and finished second in the nation for the Butkus Award.
Kelly, a senior leader on the Alabama offensive line, has also been a standout in the classroom for the Crimson Tide. After completing his undergraduate degree in marketing last summer, Kelly is currently pursuing his master’s degree in the same field, which he is scheduled to receive Saturday. The senior currently holds a 3.75 GPA in his graduate studies. During his undergraduate career, Kelly was named to the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll three times, the SEC Freshman Honor Roll and the Dean’s list in both semesters of 2013. Kelly was selected as a semifinalist for the 2015 William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes the best scholar-athlete in the nation.
Kelly also landed the Jacobs Blocking Trophy to go along with his SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor, sharing the award with Arkansas’ Tretola. Kelly has started 33 career games from the center position for the Crimson Tide and has helped clear a path for 208.2 rushing yards per game that ranks 27th nationally and third in the SEC. Kelly has had an average offensive line grade of 88.33 percent this season, including five games above 90 percent. He has had 12 knockdown blocks from his center position this season and has not allowed a sack.
In his first season at the helm, McElwain guided the Florida Gators to a 10-3 record and their first SEC East Division Title since 2009. McElwain took over a Florida program that had gone 11-13 the past two seasons, making a quick turnaround en route to landing the Gators to a spot in Atlanta this past weekend for the SEC Championship. Monday, McElwain was named the 2015 AFCA FBS Region Two Coach of the Year, becoming one of six other coaches who have won the award in two consecutive years at two different schools. The Gators’ leader won the award last season as head man of the Colorado State Rams.