SEC EXTRA: SEC Freshman of the Year award has many worthy contenders

Florida coach Urban Meyer says if the SEC Freshman of the Year voting were held right now, he knows who he’d vote for — Vanderbilt’s Warren Norman.
Norman, a 5-foot-10, 188-pounder from Stone Mountain, Ga., leads the Commodores in rushing with 593 yards and three touchdowns and also is one of the SEC’s best kick returners, as his 28.4-yard average ranks fourth in the league. He’s returned three kicks for touchdowns.
Add in 81 receiving yards and another score on 13 catches and Norman leads the SEC with 1,526 all-purpose yards, an average of nearly 170 per game.
With No. 1 Florida set to entertain Vanderbilt Saturday, those numbers have Meyer’s attention.
“He’d get my vote right now,” Meyer said of Norman. “To have three kickoff returns as a true freshman — we have a hell of a returner (Brandon James) and I don’t think he’s had three in his career. I always look who he’s done it against. He’s doing it against schools with good athletes like South Carolina and Georgia Tech.”
While this year’s crop of freshmen may not be as star-studded as the group from last year, when Georgia’s A.J. Green earned the coaches’ award and Alabama’s Julio Jones took the AP honor, there will be several candidates to challenge Norman:
Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks is tied for the SEC lead in interceptions with four, returning two for touchdowns against Florida.
Ole Miss’ Jesse Grandy is second in the conference in kickoff returns, averaging 30.1 yards with two touchdowns, including an 82-yarder last week against Auburn. Teammate Tyler Campbell is second in the SEC in punting, averaging nearly 44 yards per kick.
South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore has been a mainstay at cornerback and has averaged 14.8 yards since taking over the team’s punt-return duties. Teammate Alshon Jeffery leads the Gamecocks in receiving with 28 catches for 497 yards and five TDs.
Auburn safety Darren Bates has 51 tackles, and teammate Ontario McCalebb is 10th in the conference in kickoff returns (24.7 yards) and second on his team in rushing (464 yards, four TDs).
Alabama’s Trent Richardson is second on his team in rushing with 377 yards and four touchdowns.
Tennessee safety Janzen Jackson has made 33 tackles and was the league’s freshman of the week after making seven tackles and forcing a fumble against South Carolina. Teammate Bryce Brown is second on the Vols in rushing with 345 yards and two TDs.
Vanderbilt’s Ryan Fowler is 9-of-10 on field goals and 18-of-18 on extra points.
Arkansas defensive end Tenarius Wright has made 25 tackles and is third on his team in tackles for loss with six.

AL.com
11/5/9