Henry captures another award: SEC offensive player of year

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ATLANTA (AP) — The honors keep rolling in for Derrick Henry.

Alabama's star running back was a unanimous choice for offensive player of the year on The Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference team announced Monday. That was hardly a surprise, considering he already claimed the Heisman Trophy as the nation's best player and a spot on the AP's All-America team this past weekend.

Another Crimson Tide player, linebacker Reggie Ragland, was chosen as the SEC's defensive player of the year. Henry and Ragland were among a league-leading seven Alabama players to make the first team, joined by offensive lineman Cam Robinson, center Ryan Kelly, safety Eddie Jackson, and defensive linemen Jonathan Allen and A'Shawn Robinson.

No other school has more than three selections to the first team.

The Crimson Tide (12-1) is headed to the College Football Playoff for the second year in a row, facing Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl semifinal on New Year's Eve.

Florida's Jim McElwain was honored as coach of the year after leading the Gators to the SEC championship game, where they were beaten by Alabama. The Gators settled for a spot in the Citrus Bowl against Michigan on Jan. 1.

Texas A&M freshman receiver Christian Kirk was selected as newcomer of the year.

The 6-foot-3, 242-pound Henry was the bruising leader of Alabama's offense, topping the nation with 1,986 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns. He broke the SEC season rushing record held for 34 years by Herschel Walker, was named MVP of the conference championship game, and now takes his talents to an even bigger stage in the playoff.

"He's had a phenomenal season," coach Nick Saban said, "and he deserves every accolade that anyone could ever throw his way."

Seeming to get stronger the more he carries the ball, Henry ran it 46 times in the regular-season finale against Auburn — and then took another 44 handoffs in a 29-15 victory over Florida in the SEC title game.

"My main focus is on finishing," Henry said. "I'm going to do whatever it takes to help this team win."

Ragland is not too shabby, either. Setting the tone on one of the nation's best defenses, he led the Tide with 90 tackles, recorded three sacks and forced a pair of fumbles.

In his first season as Florida coach, McElwain restored the Gators to national prominence after the Will Muschamp era. They won the SEC East and played in the league title game for the first time since 2009.

Even though Florida was hindered by a mediocre offense and clearly overmatched by Alabama in the championship game, McElwain vowed the best is yet to come.

"It's a great building block for the future," he said.

Kirk was among the top receivers in the conference with 70 catches for 925 yards and six touchdowns. He also made quite an impact on special teams, returning a couple of punts for touchdowns while leading the SEC with a 24.4-yard average.

Henry was among four players named on every ballot. LSU running back Leonard Fournette, Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson and Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III were also unanimous choices.

Two other Florida players made the first team, with Hargreaves accompanied by defensive lineman Jon Bullard and cornerback Jalen Tabor. Texas A&M also had three first-teamers with defensive lineman Myles Garrett, Kirk as an all-purpose selection, and punter Drew Kaser.

Georgia was represented by offensive lineman John Theus and safety Dominick Sanders, while Arkansas landed offensive lineman Sebastian Tretola and tight end Hunter Henry on the elite squad. LSU was the only other school with multiple selections: Fournette and offensive lineman Vadal Alexander.

The remainder of the first team was Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, Mississippi receiver Laquon Treadwell, South Carolina receiver Pharoh Cooper, Missouri linebacker Kentrell Brothers and Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham.

Tennessee and Kentucky were the only schools that didn't have a first-team selection, though the Volunteers did put six players on the second team.

The 83rd annual AP All-SEC team was selected by a 14-member media panel representing each of the conference's 11 states.


Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry.


AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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