Originally created 12/05/01

Florida falls short in SEC, but not on All-SEC team



ATLANTA -- Florida won't get a chance to play for the Southeastern Conference championship, but the Gators fared much better on The Associated Press All-SEC team.

Florida (9-2) dominated the 69th annual AP team released Tuesday, claiming eight spots on the first team and sweeping the top individual awards.

Quarterback Rex Grossman was named offensive player of the year, while end Alex Brown earned the award for best defensive player.

Houston Nutt of Arkansas was voted coach of the year. Georgia quarterback David Greene was named the top freshman.

An overwhelming presence on the All-SEC team is little solace to the sixth-ranked Gators, who reached No. 1 during the season and hoped to play for the national title. They didn't even win their own division, losing to 18-point underdog Tennessee 34-32 at The Swamp last weekend.

The No. 2 Vols (10-1) advanced to play in Saturday's SEC title game at Atlanta against 21st-ranked LSU (8-3). Those two teams had fewer first-teamers combined - three for each school - than Florida.

Grossman has a chance to become the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. He completed nearly 66 percent of his passes for 3,896 yards, with 34 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions.

Brown, a senior, led a Florida defense that gave up the fewest points (14.1 per game) and yards (290.2) in the SEC. He ranked third with nine sacks.

Tennessee, which needs to beat LSU to clinch a spot in the Rose Bowl and play for the national title against top-ranked Miami, placed running back Travis Stephens, offensive guard Fred Weary and defensive tackle John Henderson on the first team.

Stephens was a unanimous choice after rushing for 1,427 yards - 453 more than anyone else in the SEC. Henderson, the defensive player of the year in 2000, repeated as a first-teamer.

Florida had a couple of unanimous picks in Grossman and receiver Jabar Gaffney. They were joined by six teammates: Brown, cornerback Lito Sheppard, safety Todd Johnson, linebacker Andra Davis, offensive tackle Mike Pearson and kicker Jeff Chandler.

Gaffney, Sheppard and Johnson were first-teamers for the second year in a row.

Gaffney, in fact, has been named on all ballots in each of his first two seasons for the Gators. The freshman of the year in 2000, he had 67 receptions for 1,191 yards and a league-high 13 touchdowns as a sophomore.

Brown and Chandler were on the first team in 1999, dropped to the second team last year and rejoined the elite group this season.

Among LSU's first-teamers were two unanimous picks, receiver Josh Reed and running back LeBrandon Toefield, along with linebacker Trev Faulk.

Reed, named on all ballots for the second year in a row, was the only player who challenged Grossman for offensive player of the year. The LSU junior led the conference in receptions (90), receiving yards (1,680) and all-purpose yards (1,800).

Toefield, a sophomore, tied an SEC record with 19 rushing touchdowns.

Georgia (8-3), which had surprising success under first-year coach Mark Richt, landed cornerback Tim Wansley, offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb and tight end Randy McMichael on the first team.

Kentucky, despite a dismal 2-9 record, also had three first-teamers: defensive end Dennis Johnson, returner Derek Abney and punter Glenn Pakulak.

The rest of the first team included linebacker Jermaine Petty and safety Ken Hamlin of Arkansas, defensive end Jarret Johnson and center Alonzo Ephraim, of Alabama, offensive tackle Kendall Simmons of Auburn, offensive tackle Terrence Metcalf of Mississippi, linebacker Kalimba Edwards of South Carolina and safety Pig Prather of Mississippi State.

Edwards and Prather also made the first team in 2000.

Vanderbilt (2-9), the only school to go winless in the league, also was the lone school excluded from the first team. The Commodores did have a second-teamer, receiver Dan Stricker.

Three players - Tennessee defensive end Will Overstreet, Mississippi State linebacker Mario Haggan and Auburn punter Damon Duval - slipped from first to second team. Duval also made the second team as a kicker.

Kentucky tight end Derek Smith and Tennessee kicker Alex Walls dropped from first-teamers to honorable mention.

Nutt picked up the coaching award for holding Arkansas together after an 0-3 start in the SEC. The youthful Razorbacks (7-4) rebounded with a six-game winning streak before falling to LSU 41-38 in the season finale.

"To selected as coach of the year in this league, boy, I'm really humbled by it," said Nutt, who is 30-17 in four seasons at Arkansas. "There's so many great coaches, so many people who've done a great job, I don't know how you could pick just one."

Eight freshmen played key roles for Arkansas, including second-team offensive tackle Shawn Andrews and quarterback Matt Jones.

"We're real young and the future is just so bright," Nutt said.

Greene set a Georgia record by passing for 2,789 yards as a freshman, with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He helped the Bulldogs beat Tennessee in Knoxville for the first time since 1980 and end a three-year losing streak against Georgia Tech.

"I guess if you had asked me in August, I'd probably have been surprised," Greene said. "This year is something I will always cherish."

The AP All-SEC team, first released in 1933, is chosen by a panel of sportswriters from all nine states.