The Mizzou Football team was one of the top turnaround stories in all of college football in 2013, and recognition is starting to come in for a team that far surpassed the pre-season expectations of the football world.
The Associated Press today released their 2013 All-Southeastern Conference football team, and seven different Tigers received mention, including four who landed on the first team, two on the second team and one honorable-mention selection.
Leading the way was senior DE Michael Sam, who not only won 1st-team honors, but he also won the league’s defensive player of the year award for his outstanding play. Sam led the SEC in both sacks (10.5) and tackles for loss (18.0), ranking in the top 10 in both categories nationally. He is the second Tiger to ever win conference defensive player of the year honors, matching former standout Jeff Gaylord, who won the A.P. award in the Big Eight in 1981.
A pair of defensive teammates joined Sam on the A.P.’s first team, in senior CB E.J. Gaines and junior DE Kony Ealy. Gaines is now a two-time first-team all-conference performer, as he also won 1st-Team All-Big 12 honors as a sophomore in 2011. The last Tiger to lay claim to first-team honors in different leagues was Charles Rash, who was 1st-Team All-Big Seven in 1957 at guard, and who repeated at the same position in 1958 as part of the Big Eight. Ealy joined line mate Sam as one of the most disruptive pairs of bookends in the nation, as he added 7.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in 2013. Ealy forced a pair of fumbles in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game, one of which was returned for a touchdown in the second quarter by Gaines.
Senior LT Justin Britt represented the Tiger offense on the SEC first-team, as he helped pave the way for an offense which was one of the most improved in the nation in 2013. Britt is MU’s first offensive lineman to win first-team honors since Tim Barnes at center in 2010, and he’s the first Mizzou tackle to win first-team A.P. honors since Rob Droege in 2003.
Earning a spot on the A.P. second team were senior LB Andrew Wilson and sophomore WR Dorial Green-Beckham. Wilson, who was an A.P. honorable-mention All-Big 12 selection in 2011, led the Tigers with 98 tackles – marking his third straight year with the team’s top tackle total. Green-Beckham emerged as one of the league’s top threats as he grabbed 55 receptions for 830 yards and 12 touchdowns, the latter of which tied for most in the SEC. He caught six passes for a career-high 144 yards in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game, including two which went for scores.
A third Tiger defensive end earned all-league recognition as well, as junior DE Markus Golden was named to the A.P.’s honorable mention squad for his stellar play in 2013. Despite coming off the bench in all 13 games, Golden notched 6.5 sacks, 13.0 tackles for loss, and ranked 7th on the team with 51 total tackles. His 70-yard interception return for a touchdown against Toledo was a key play in MU’s 38-23 win on Sept. 7th.
Mizzou is off from practice this week as they focus on final examinations. The team will begin bowl preparations next week as they work to ready themselves for the 2014 AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, set for Jan. 3rd in Arlington, Texas, against Oklahoma State.
For more information about the 2014 AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, please visit the official site of the Cotton Bowl, at http://www.attcottonbowl.com.