Southeastern Conference champion Alabama claimed four of the SEC’s seven individual player awards Wednesday as voted on by the league’s coaches.
Tua Tagovailoa was named SEC Offensive Player of the Year, Jaylen Waddle was voted SEC Freshman, Hale Hentges was selected as Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and Jonah Williams was named winner of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy.
Although Tua Tagovailoa had never started a college football game before this season, he didn’t exactly sneak up on the college football world. Tagovailoa became a household name — well, at least the “Tua” part — in college at the end of the 2017 season when he rallied Alabama to the national championship, including completing one of the most famous touchdown pass plays in history for the overtime victory.
That introduction notwithstanding, Tagovailoa, a 6-1, 218-pound sophomore quarterback from Eva Beach, Hawai’i, more than lived up to expectations in leading the Crimson Tide to a 13-0 record, No. 1 national ranking, and into the College Football Playoff that will begin Dec. 29 when Bama meets Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
He will be in New York as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy given to the nation’s best player.
Tagovailoa this year completed 199 of 294 passes (67.7 percent) for 3,353 yards and 37 touchdowns against only 4 interceptions. He averaged 257.9 yards per game passing, despite missing much of many games as his offense put most away before the fourth quarter began. His 37 TD passes is an Alabama single season record and he is within 135 yards passing to set that Tide record.
He averaged 16.8 yards per completion and 11.4 yards per attempt.
He was second in the SEC in passing yardage (with over 100 fewer attempts than the leader) and first in touchdowns and in quarterback rating.
Tagovailoa also rushed 48 times for 190 yards, 4.0 yards per attempt, and 5 touchdowns.
Waddle leads all SEC freshmen with 61.8 receiving yards per game and seven touchdown receptions. He is fourth in the SEC in yards per catch (19.6) and second in punt return average (15.1). Waddle has returned one punt for a touchdown this season.
He finished the season in dramatic fashion with a 55-yard touchdown reception in the final regular season game against Auburn and a 51-yard TD in Bama’s comeback win over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
Hentges graduated Magna Cum Laude in three years and is now pursuing a master’s in marketing. He earned a 3.74 GPA as an undergraduate and holds a 4.0 GPA in his master’s program. A CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree, Hentges has played in all 13 games this season and has a pair of touchdown receptions.
Williams has started all 13 games this season for Alabama and has helped pave the way for an offense that leads the SEC with 527.6 yards per game. The Crimson Tide leads the FBS with 11 games of 500-plus total yards.
Bama’s offensive line is a finalist for the Joe Moore Award as the nation’s best.
Other award winners were Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen defensive player of the year, Texas A&M punter Braden Mann special teams player of the year, and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops coach of the year.
As much of SEC history, Alabama has been prominent (if not dominant) in player of the year history.
From the first award in 1938 through 2002, there was just a player of the year. Beginning in 2003 the coaches selected both an offensive and defensive player of the year (and added a special teams player of the year beginning in 2004).
Under Nick Saban, Alabama players previously honored as offensive players of the year were Trent Richardson in 2011, Amari Cooper in 2014, Derrick Henry in 2015, and Jalen Hurts in 2016.
Rolando McClain in 2009, C.J. Mosley in 2013, Reggie Ragland in 2015, and Jonathan Allen in 2016 were SEC defensive players of the year under Saban, and DeMeco Ryans was the 2005 honoree.
Javier Arenas in 2009 and Christion Jones in 2013 were special teams players of the year.
Prior to 2003, Alabama players selected as SEC Player of the Year were:
Dixie Howell in 1934, Harry Gilmer in 1945, Pat Trammell in 1961, Steve Sloan in 1965, Johnny Musso in 1971, Terry Davis in 1972, Cornelius Bennett in 1986, Jay Barker in 1994, and Shaun Alexander in 1999.