As you may know by now, SEC coaches vote on the conference’s players of the year honors. What sets this conference apart from others is that the people who have to scheme against these players and face them on Saturday decide who’s the best in the conference. So, winning a PotY honor in the SEC is more than simple hardware; it’s a genuine acknowledgement of respect.
That’s what makes today’s news striking. as the Crimson Tide claimed three of the seven possible honors for SEC Players of the year.
Alabama DB Caleb Downs named SEC freshman of the year.— Nick Kelly (@_NickKelly) December 6, 2023
Alabama OLB Dallas Turner was named SEC defensive player of the year.
Alabama K Will Reichard was named SEC special teams player of the year
SEC Special Teams Player of the Year: Will Reichard
The NCAA’s most prolific scorer, and among the strongest and most accurate legs in the game, Will Reichard took home this honor that was equal parts valedictory and recognition. Reichard is a Groza award finalist, and is projected to the the first kicker in the 2024 NFL Draft, with several mocking him as a third round selection.
For more on Will Reichard’s stats, and highlights, click the link below. We just honored him today.
Dallas Turner: SEC Defensive Player of the Year
The Bednarik Award finalist has finally come into his own. After a freshman campaign that saw him storm to notoriety, followed by a bit of a sophomore slump, the Junior has been a terror on the edge much in the vein of his mentor, Will Anderson, and has really rounded out his game in 2023. He will be a Top 10 draft pick this Spring, and earned our vote for the Defensive Heisman — for as much as he has done to improve those around him, for his productivity, which was impressive enough standing alone.
Turner has 9 sacks, 13.5 TFL, 50 tackles, a PBU, 13 QB Hurries, and 11 QB hits. He was at his best on third down, where No. 15 could always been found around the ball. His dominance also allowed Chris Braswell to finally mature into his own right at Jack (40 tackles, 8.0 sacks, and 10.5 TFL)
Caleb Downs: SEC Freshman of the Year
This was the player that I personally was most excited about and the one single recruit that I said Alabama’s defense had to have. Since Nick Saban arrived, Alabama’s defenses have always dominated when there is a cerebral, playmaking free safety. These players simply do so much in the scheme, from coordinate the secondary, to disguising coverages, to making plays on the ball. Caleb Downs lived up to every bit of the expectation too.
A day one starter, Downs has immediately filled that role that players like Minkah Fitzpatrick did before him, and has made Alabama’s defense one of the sport’s most elite. His numbers in a vacuum won’t wow anyone: 3 PBU, 2 PD, 3 INTs, 1 FF, 3.5 TFL. But he is always around the ball, notching 99 tackles on the season. He even picked up punt return duties, after Kool-Aid had the yips, and has been excellent in that role.
There’s also the knock-on effect that Downs has had that to improve the defense as a whole. Just as Turner’s dominance has allowed Braswell to shine, the play of Caleb Downs allowed Mal to move to Star, where he has had a career renaissance after a few years of up and down play.
It’s impossible to overestimate what a critical role Downs has in this defense, and just how good he’s been. At this rate, like Minkah, he’ll be the first safety off the board in two years, a Top 5 NFL selection, and a decade-long pro-bowler.
Congratulations to all of the Tide’s winners, and let’s go get some more hardware in a month.