LSU Tigers: Ace Sanders

In what was easily the toughest individual award to give out this year, Florida's Will Muschamp and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin were voted by their peers as SEC co-Coaches of the Year.

During Muschamp's second season at Florida, he helped lead the Gators to an 11-1 record and a 7-1 record in SEC play. Florida ended the season No. 3 in the BCS standings and will play Louisville in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Gators also defeated four teams that finished the season ranked in the top 12 of the BCS standings.

As for Sumlin, in his first year at Texas A&M, the Aggies went 10-2 (6-2 SEC) and upset No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. A&M also owned the SEC's No. 1 offense and quarterback Johnny Manziel broke the SEC record for total offense in single season and is a Heisman Trophy finalist. The Aggies are headed to the AT&T Cotton Bowl to take on Oklahoma.

The coaches also named Manziel, who threw for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns to eight interceptions and rushed for an SEC-high 1,181 yards and 19 touchdowns, the SEC's Offensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year.

Here are the individual awards voted on by the SEC's coaches:

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

CO-SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
*Caleb Sturgis, Florida
*Ace Sanders, South Carolina

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Manziel

SCHOLAR-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Barrett Jones, Alabama

JACOBS BLOCKING TROPHY
Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

CO-COACHES OF THE YEAR
*Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
*Will Muschamp, Florida

* ties

Tigers must hone five areas before Bama 

October, 23, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Here's a key number that describes LSU's challenge next week: 32.7.

That's the average margin of victory this season for Alabama, the nation's top-ranked team and defending national champion, and the team that stands as a daunting hurdle in LSU's path to the BCS championship.

In that margin, one finds a team with no weaknesses exposed so far. However, unbeaten Mississippi State, which visits Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday, could be the team to point out some flaws.

3 Up, 3 Down: LSU 23, South Carolina 21 

October, 14, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- What we liked and didn't like from LSU in Saturday's 23-21 win over South Carolina:

Three Up

1. Offensive line: Few expected LSU's patchwork offensive line to hold up against a defense like South Carolina's. Not only did the line of (from LT-to-RT) Josh Dworazczyk, La'El Collins, P.J. Lonergan, Trai Turner and Vadal Alexander hold up, they opened holes for a running game that averaged 4.9 yards a carry (led by 124 yards for freshman Jeremy Hill) while quarterback Zach Mettenberger stayed clean, sacked just once.

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BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU dominated the first half of the showdown with No. 3 South Carolina Saturday, but had a 7-3 deficit to show for it.

A 2-yard pass from Connor Shaw to Ace Sanders for a touchdown, set up by a 70-yard interception return of a Zach Mettenberger pass by Jimmy Legree was enough to give South Carolina the lead despite having half the first downs and (5 to LSU's 10) and less than half the yards (69 to LSU's 179).

LSU, usually a team that excels at special teams, had a missed field goal and a shanked punt.

Stat of the half: 7-for-10. A week after the Tigers failed to convert on 12 of 13 third downs in a 14-6 loss at Florida, the Tigers converted 7 of 10 third downs and consistently moved the chains, holding the ball for 17:25.

Player of the half: Legree, who jumped a slant pass and returned it inside the LSU 1 to change a game that was dominated by the Tigers.

What's working for LSU: The makeshift offensive line. With two starters out, the Tigers still controlled the clock, piecing together 10 first downs, 87 yards rushing and 178 total yards. Trai Turner got his first start for the Tigers at right guard for Josh Williford. Josh Dworaczyk started at LT for Alex Hurst.

What's not working for LSU: Mettenberger's interception spoiled an otherwise decent half (7-for-14, 91 yards). The Tigers' special teams was off. Drew Alleman shanked a 33-yard field goal attempt (he did make a 23-yard attempt for the Tigers' only points) and Brad Wing shanked his only punt attempt for 10 yards. The Tigers were good at moving the chains, but all three times they failed to convert a third-down conversion, they were in South Carolina territory, twice in the red zone.

Notes: Sanders not anonymous with LSU 

October, 10, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Ace Sanders said he can walk to classes at the University of South Carolina without ever getting asked about his football accomplishments because, at 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, nobody thinks he's actually a football player.

"I'm able to keep a level of anonymity," he said.

[+] EnlargeAce Sanders
Dale Zanine/US PresswireLSU special teams are on alert for South Carolina's Ace Sanders, who is averaging 15.5 yards a return, fifth best in the nation.
He's quickly making a name for himself as one of the SEC's most dangerous punt returners, averaging 15.5 yards a return, fifth best in the nation. He's a major topic conversation this week coming off his electrifying 70-yard touchdown return in last week's 35-7 rout of Georgia.

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The SEC's top kickers and punters have been ranked, so now it's time to rank some of the most exciting players in the league.

Past rankings:
Here are our top return men in the SEC:

[+] EnlargeTyrann Mathieu
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireTyrann Mathieu was a big-play machine for LSU last season.
1. Tyrann Mathieu, Jr., LSU: When he got the ball in his hands on punt returns you never knew what might happen. He showed excellent vision and movement and really drew more praise as a returner with his three game-changing returns against Arkansas and Georgia, with two going for scores. He finished the year averaging 15.6 yards on 27 returns, with a long of 92 yards and two touchdowns.

2. Dennis Johnson, Sr., Arkansas: He was one of the top returners out there before an injury cut his 2010 season short. He returned in 2011 to average 25.6 yards on 18 returns and had a 98-yard touchdown. Johnson will have even more energy on returns with Knile Davis returning to the backfield. For his career, Johnson enters the fall as the SEC’s active leader in career kickoff return yards and total return yards with 2,475.

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