As a voter in Team Speed Kills' SEC Power Poll and, subsequently, their inaugural All-SEC Team balloting, I've been tapped to participate in the rollout that began today with the quarterbacks over at Florida blog Alligator Army. I get the honor of revealing the winning receivers, which is a particular pleasure given that the top vote-getter was . . .
. . . A.J. Green, sophomore, Georgia (nine votes). Green was recruited out of Summerville High School in South Carolina as the game-breaking wide receiver that the Bulldogs had desperately needed ever since the graduation of Reggie Brown and Fred Gibson, and he didn't disappoint, setting a Georgia freshman record with 56 receptions his first year (for 963 yards, the third-best season total in Georgia history). This year, he's rolled up 751 yards on 47 catches and earned first-team All-SEC honors despite missing three full games due to a shoulder injury; that injury also caused Green to miss most of the Auburn game, but he still finished second in the SEC in both receptions per game (5.22) and yards per game (84.33).
Perhaps no single receiver in the country has been as vital to his team's success as Green has. He hauled in seven passes for 136 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a wild early-season shootout at Arkansas, which Georgia won 52-41, and followed that up the very next week with a season-best 153 yards and a TD (should've been 157 yards and two TDs, but whatever) against Arizona State. Just for good measure, he blocked ASU's 37-yard go-ahead field-goal attempt with four and a half minutes left in the game. Without Green as an all-but-foolproof every-down option in the passing game, there's a good chance Georgia is 5-7 (or worse) and in full crisis mode right now.
The one player who topped Green in per-game stats? Shay Hodge, senior, Ole Miss (seven votes), who led the SEC with 63 catches for 1,023 yards; he was the only SEC player to record a thousand-yard receiving season in 2009. Hodge broke the hundred-yard mark in four games this season, including the upset against LSU, in which he caught the go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown from Jevan Snead; you may also remember him as the receiver who caught the go-ahead 86-yard pass from Snead against Florida last year, which helped deal the eventual national champions their only loss of the season.
For his career, Hodge has amassed 2,534 yards and 22 TDs on 166 receptions. He, like Green, was named an All-SEC first-teamer this year, and is projected as a mid-round pick in next year's NFL Draft.
Others receiving votes:
Brandon LaFell, senior, LSU (five votes) -- tied for first place among all SEC receivers with 10 touchdowns and finished eighth in the SEC in yards per game (58.8). Made critical touchdown grabs in close wins over Mississippi State and Arkansas. Has totaled 2,430 yards and 24 TDs for his career.
Darvin Adams, sophomore, Auburn (three votes) -- in a year in which Auburn's offense dramatically outperformed expectations, particularly in the passing game, Adams provided a spark for a receiving corps that had underachieved for years, leading the team with 855 yards on 48 catches. Tied LaFell's 10-TD mark and finished third in the SEC overall in yardage; highlights included a three-TD performance against West Virginia and a 72-yard touchdown catch against Alabama.
UPDATED: The full list of All-SEC players is as follows, along with links to the blogs presenting them:
Quarterback: Tim Tebow (Florida)
Offensive line: Mike Johnson (Alabama), Maurkice Pouncey (Florida), Ciron Black (LSU), Mike Pouncey (Florida), John Jerry (Ole Miss)
Running backs: Mark Ingram (Alabama), Dexter McCluster (Ole Miss)
Wide receivers: A.J. Green (Georgia), Shay Hodge (Ole Miss)
Defensive linemen: Terrence Cody (Alabama), Antonio Coleman (Auburn), Carlos Dunlap (Florida), Justin Houston (Georgia)/Cliff Matthews (South Carolina)
Linebackers: Rolando McClain (Alabama), Eric Norwood (South Carolina), Rennie Curran (Georgia)
Defensive backs: Eric Berry (Tennessee), Joe Haden (Florida), Javier Arenas (Alabama), Mark Barron (Alabama)
Special teams: P Drew Butler (Georgia), K Leigh Tiffin (Alabama), PR/KR Javier Arenas (Alabama)