For the third straight season on the SEC blog, we pay homage to the top seniors in the league.
We changed it up a little bit this year and didn’t pick one senior on all 12 teams. Instead, we picked the 12 best seniors -- period. These guys all rose above and beyond in terms of on-the-field production, leadership and their impact on their teams.
There were a lot of tough calls and a lot of terrific seniors in the league this season, meaning several deserving players were left off. We looked hard at how players fared against league competition, their consistency and whether or not they were able to make it through the whole season.
Here’s introducing our 2011 SEC Super Seniors. They’re listed in alphabetical order:
Arkansas WR/RS Joe Adams: He was Mr. Versatility for the Hogs, scoring touchdowns running, receiving and returning punts this season. Adams earned consensus All-America honors as a punt returner and all-purpose player. He returned three punts for touchdowns and also finished among the SEC league leaders with 49 catches for 630 yards.
South Carolina S Antonio Allen: Playing the hybrid “Spur” position in the Gamecocks’ defense, Allen led the team with 81 total tackles, including 8.5 tackles for loss. He was everywhere the ball was -- forcing four fumbles, recovering three fumbles and intercepting three passes. He scored a pair of defensive touchdowns and earned second-team All-America honors by the Associated Press.
Alabama S Mark Barron: Widely considered the top safety in college football, Barron was second on Alabama’s team with 66 total tackles and the anchor of one of the top defensive backfields in the country. He was a consensus first-team All-America selection and one of three finalists for the Thorpe Award as the top defensive back in America.
LSU OG Will Blackwell: He moved from right guard to left guard this season after missing most of 2010 with a broken leg and was named first-team All-American by a couple of different services. Blackwell was a driving force in the Tigers’ bruising running game, which averaged an SEC-leading 220.4 rushing yards against league competition.
Georgia OT Cordy Glenn: A fixture up front for Georgia and one of the highest rated offensive line prospects in the SEC, Glenn has started the past 46 games for the Bulldogs. He settled in this season as one of the best left tackles in the SEC after playing left guard in 2010. He earned third-team All-America honors by the Associated Press and was a consensus first-team All-SEC selection.
Vanderbilt CB Casey Hayward: One of the top cover cornerbacks in the league, Hayward was a Walter Camp second-team All-American. He tied for the SEC lead with 14 passes defended and tied for third in the league with five interceptions. He routinely went up against the other team’s best receiver, won a lot more battles than he lost, and was a big reason the Commodores were able to play so aggressively on defense.
South Carolina DE Melvin Ingram: Already one of the league’s most feared pass-rushers, Ingram showcased his athleticism in the Georgia game with his 68-yard touchdown run on a fake punt. He became just the third South Carolina player in history to earn consensus All-America honors, Ingram tied for fourth in the SEC in both tackles for loss (13.5) and sacks (8.5).
Vanderbilt LB Chris Marve: The rock of the Vanderbilt defense for each of the past three seasons from his middle linebacker position, Marve led the Commodores with 84 total tackles this season, including seven for loss. His leadership was invaluable this season as the Commodores made it back to a bowl game for the second time in four years. He earned second-team All-SEC honors for the third straight season.
Kentucky LB Danny Trevathan: The SEC’s most consistent defender over the past two seasons, Trevathan has led the league in total tackles each of the past two seasons, finishing with 143 this season. He led all linebackers nationally with five forced fumbles, was second among all linebackers with four interceptions and led the Wildcats with 11.5 tackles for loss. While he didn’t get the publicity that some linebackers around the country did, Trevathan matches up to any of them on the field.
Alabama OLB Courtney Upshaw: Picking out Alabama’s most valuable defender would be a difficult task. The Crimson Tide have about four or five candidates. Upshaw would certainly be in that conversation, and it’s a no-brainer that he was the Crimson Tide’s top big-play defender. He’s second in the SEC with 17.5 tackles for loss and tied for fourth with 8.5 sacks. He also led the Crimson Tide with 11 quarterback hurries.
Alabama C William Vlachos: A three-year starter at center with 39 straight starts, Vlachos was a first-team All-SEC selection by both the coaches and Associated Press this season. He was also a finalist for the Rimington Trophy as the top center in the country. He consistently graded out as one of Alabama’s top offensive linemen this season, and helped pave the way for 27 100-yard rushers during his 39 starts.
Arkansas WR Jarius Wright: Already one of the Hogs’ most productive receivers, Wright took his game to another level this season as far as making things happen after the catch. He turned into the SEC’s best all-around receiver and set school records with 63 catches for 1,029 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wright averaged 16.3 yards per catch and also became the Hogs’ all-time leader in receptions with 165.