LSU running back Jeremy Hill began the regular season on the cusp of being dismissed from the team. He ended it by grabbing one of the Southeastern Conference’s most prestigious honors.
Hill and receiver/return man Odell Beckham Jr. made the AP All-SEC First Team, leading a pack of nine LSU players to be named first, second or honorable mention.
Receiver Jarvis Landry and left guard Trai Turner were on the All-SEC Second Team offense while defensive tackle Anthony Johnson and linebacker Lamin Barrow made the All-SEC Second Team defense.
Three more LSU players were named to honorable mention, including quarterback Zach Mettenberger, safety Craig Loston and defensive tackle Ego Ferguson.
No. 14 LSU (9-3, 5-3 SEC) takes the field again against Iowa (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten) at noon Jan. 1 in the Outback Bowl.
Hill joined Auburn’s Tre Mason as SEC First Team running backs. Behind Mason, Hill finished second in the SEC with 1,185 yards and 14 touchdowns despite missing five quarters this season.
He was benched the first five quarters of the year, an unofficial suspension for a guy who violated his probation in the spring by punching a man in the parking lot of a Baton Rouge bar. The team voted unanimously to allow Hill to return.
Beckham was on the First Team as an all-purpose player. He averaged 185 all-purpose yards a game, which leads the league. Beckham was fourth in the SEC in punt return average, fifth in receptions per game, fourth in receiving yards a game and third in kick return average.
Mason was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, and Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam, the league’s sack leader with 10.5, was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was Coach of the Year. In his first season, Malzahn has led the Tigers to a meeting with Florida State in the BCS national championship game a year after AU won three games.
AP voters selected only a first team. The second team and honorable mention list were compiled from players who didn’t receive enough votes to land on the first team.
LSU’s nine players on the first, second or honorable mention ranks third-most among the 14-team SEC, trailing Alabama (12) and Auburn (10).
Mettenberger, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during the regular season finale against Arkansas, was beat out by Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (first team) and Georgia’s Aaron Murray (second team).
Johnson made the All-SEC Second Team despite finishing with just 32 tackles this season. Ferguson, on honorable mention, had 58 tackles.
In the days preceding Monday’s bowl announcement, Les Miles says he began to see LSU’s bowl destination clearing up. That means he knew the chances of playing his alma mater were strong.
Several projections had LSU in the Gator Bowl against Michigan, a team the LSU coach refuses to schedule because of his deep passion for the Wolverines.
Crisis averted as the Outback picked LSU and Iowa.
“I think it would have been probably harder on me to play Michigan than it would have been our team. I think our team would have enjoyed the competition,” Miles said Sunday night after bowls were announced. “I have a very strong spot, favorite spot, in my heart for that team. It’d be hard for me to kind of gear up, but I certainly think that as we got closer to the game the need for competition (would take) over.”
LSU has never played Michigan in program history. The Wolverines will play n the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against Kansas State.
Palelei pulls LSU commitment
Sione Palelei, a three-star East Ascension High running back, de-committed from LSU over the weekend and committed to Oklahoma State.
Palelei suffered a season-ending knee injury in October. He ran for 752 yards on 58 carries and scored 10 touchdowns during his senior year. He committed to LSU over the summer.
On his Twitter account, Palelei reached out to LSU fans after news of his de-commit became public. He took a visit to Oklahoma State this past weekend.
“My heart opened up to OSU!! N that’s that!! You can hate me from decommitting from LSU but I feel like this the place for me” he wrote on Twitter.
LSU now has 14 commits for the 2014 class. The Tigers are now pursuing John Ehret running back and four-star prospect Darrel Williams, TigerSportsDigest.com reported.
Alleva releases letter
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva in a letter to fans Monday encouraged them to travel to the Outback Bowl, congratulated Mettenberger and touched on LSU’s “bright” future.
LSU is selling its allotment of 12,000 Outback Bowl tickets at www.lsutix.net. Tickets are about $80 apiece. If LSU sells its allotment, the school can request more.
Alleva called Mettenberger a “fearless leader always willing to place the needs of the team ahead of his own.”
The athletic director wrote that true freshman backup quarterback Anthony Jennings’ game-winning drive against Arkansas, a potential “blockbuster” signing class and the team’s group of veterans “solidifies LSU’s standing as a perennial championship contender.”
Aside from Mettenberger (knee) and safety Corey Thompson (knee), LSU is completely healthy for the Outback Bowl, Miles said Sunday.
Beckham is OK after suffering a “significant bruise” to his hip during the win over Arkansas on Nov. 29, Miles said. The receiver could have played had LSU had a game last weekend, the coach said. As reported earlier last week, a knee injury will keep Thompson from playing in the bowl.
Meanwhile, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said quarterback Jake Rudock will make his 13th consecutive start for the Hawkeyes in the Outback Bowl. Rudock injured his right knee in Iowa’s regular season finale against Nebraska and suffered a left knee injury earlier in the season.
“We expect Jake to be the starter,” Ferentz said on an Outback Bowl teleconference Monday.
As gifts from the Outback Bowl, LSU players will get a $150 Best Buy gift card, Fossil watch, Jostens bowl ring and an Outback Steakhouse gift card, according to sportsbusinessdaily.com.
The NCAA allows bowls to give up to $550 in gifts to each player. According to the website, Fossil watches are the most popular single gift item among bowl this season. Fifteen bowls are giving watches.