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Johnny Football is Mr. SEC after dynamic debut

Johnny Football is Mr. SEC after dynamic debut

ATLANTA (AP) Johnny Football is Mr. SEC.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was a unanimous choice Monday for Associated Press Southeastern Conference offensive player of the year after a dynamic debut season in College Station.

The charismatic redshirt freshman known as ``Johnny Football'' passed for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns, rushed for 1,181 yards and an SEC-leading 19 TDs, and guided the Aggies to a surprising 10-2 mark in their first SEC season, including an upset of No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones edged out South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney for the defensive player of the year award. Jones leads the conference with 22.5 tackles behind the line and ranks second to Clowney with 12.5 sacks.

Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin was named coach of the year, beating out Florida's Will Muschamp.

Manziel also was an overwhelming choice as freshman of the year, in addition to being selected on all ballots as the first-team quarterback - not bad in a league that features the nation's two highest-rated passers: Alabama's A.J. McCarron and Georgia's Aaron Murray.

``This season has been incredibly surreal,'' Manziel said. ``It's beyond my wildest imagination. It's a true testament to how this team has grown every week, because without these guys none of my individual success would be anything.''

He is also considered a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, which will be awarded in New York on Saturday. Manziel has put up bigger numbers than former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, a landslide pick for the Heisman in 2010.

No freshman has ever won college football's highest individual honor.

``He's a tremendous competitor and a tremendous leader, and that's something that you really don't see in a player as a redshirt freshman,'' Sumlin said. ``His leadership on and off the field throughout the season has made our season a real successful one.''

Though Manziel struggled a bit in the Aggies' two losses, to SEC stalwarts Florida and LSU, he became a national sensation with his dazzling runs and catchy nickname. Then, with the season winding down, he sent his profile soaring by leading Texas A&M to a stunning victory over the defending national champion Crimson Tide.

``I'm a small-town kid,'' said Manziel, who grew up in Kerrville, Texas. ``I don't see myself as Johnny Football.''

Like Manziel, Jones was a unanimous selection to the first team. The junior passed up a chance to enter the NFL draft and certainly helped his status with another big season between the hedges, even though the Georgia star missed a couple of games with nagging injuries.

``There have been games this year where he has made a phenomenal amount of plays,'' Alabama coach Nick Saban said. ``The guy is probably one of the best defensive players in the country in terms of his playmaking ability. He's a really good rusher. He's physical. He's instinctive.''

Jones had two sacks, one stop behind the line and forced a fumble in last Saturday's thrilling SEC championship game. Georgia had a shot to play for the national title, but they lost to Alabama 32-28. The Crimson Tide will face top-ranked Notre Dame for the BCS crown on Jan. 7.

Five other players were unanimous picks for the first team: South Carolina's Clowney, cornerbacks Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State and Dee Milliner of Alabama, Arkansas receiver Cobi Hamilton, and Alabama center Barrett Jones.

Florida, which had a comeback season under Muschamp and earned a BCS bid to the Sugar Bowl, led all schools with six players on the first team. Tight end Jordan Reed and running back Mike Gillislee made it from the offense, tackle Sharrif Floyd and safety Matt Elam represented the defense, and the Gators landed both specialists off their superb special teams - kicker Caleb Sturgis and punter Kyle Christy.

Alabama, which will be seeking its third national title in four years when it faces the Fighting Irish, had four first-teamers. Barrett Jones and Milliner were joined by offensive lineman Chance Warmack and linebacker C.J. Mosley.

Texas A&M also landed four players on the first team after jumping from the Big 12 to the SEC along with Missouri. Two of the linemen who protected Manziel so well, Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, were selected by the voters, as was defensive end Damontre Moore.

The rest of the first team included Georgia freshman running back Todd Gurley, receiver Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt, all-purpose threat Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee, offensive lineman Gabe Jackson of Mississippi State, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson of Missouri and a pair of LSU defensive standouts, linebacker Kevin Minter and safety Eric Reid.

Barrett Jones, Jarvis Jones and Sturgis were the only repeat first-teamers from the AP's 2011 All-SEC team.

LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery and Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo both slipped from the first team a year ago to the second team this season. Heading in the opposite direction were Jackson, Banks and Reid, all making the jump from second-teamers last year.

Every school was represented by at least one player on the first or second teams except Auburn, which endured a winless season in the SEC and finished 3-9 overall. Coach Gene Chizik was fired after a blowout loss to Alabama, losing his job just two years after guiding the Tigers to a national championship.

The 80th annual AP All-SEC team was selected by a panel comprised of 14 media members representing each of the expanded conference's 11 states.

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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American League All-Star Game Roster Projection: AL will be loaded once again

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American League All-Star Game Roster Projection: AL will be loaded once again

The 2018 Major League All-Star Game is less than a month away. Fan votes are well underway and early frontrunners are close to locking their position in the Midsummer Classic.

Yesterday, we projected how the National League roster will play out. Today it is time to look at the American League roster projection.

For five straight seasons, the AL has had the upper hand in the MLB All-Star Game. In 2018, it does not appear that will change as the American League roster will be loaded from top to bottom.

As a reminder, here is how the process shakes out, first with the fan vote, players’ ballots, and the MLB Commissioner’s Office:

  • Fan vote: nine position players in AL (DH)/ eight in NL; plus final vote for each league
  • Player’s ballots: next 17 players in AL/ 16 players in NL; (five starting pitchers, three relievers must be chosen)
  • MLB Commissioner’s Office: five AL players (four pitchers, one position player) and seven NL players (four pitchers, three position players)

One player from each team must make the initial roster (before injury withdraws, etc.). Below is how it looks the American League roster will play out, considering the latest fan vote returns:

American League All-Star Roster Projection:

C – Wilson Ramos, Rays (Fan Vote), Gary Sánchez, Yankees (Player Ballot)
1B – José Abreu, White Sox (Fan Vote), Joey Gallo, Rangers (Player Ballot)
2B – Jose Altuve, Astros (Fan Vote), Jed Lowrie, Athletics (Player Ballot)
3B – José Ramírez, Indians (Fan Vote), Yangervis Solarte, Blue Jays (Player Ballot), Mike Moustakas, Royals (Commissioner’s Office)
SS – Manny Machado, Orioles (Fan Vote), Jean Segura, Mariners (Player Ballot),
OF – Mookie Betts, Red Sox (Fan Vote), Mike Trout, Angels (Fan Vote), Aaron Judge, Yankees (Fan Vote), Michael Brantley, Indians (Player Ballot), Eddie Rosario, Twins (Player Ballot), Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees (Player Ballot),
DH – J.D. Martinez, Red Sox (Fan Vote), Shohei Ohtani, Angels (Player Ballot)

SP – Justin Verlander, Astros (Player Ballot), Luis Severino, Yankees (Player Ballot), Corey Kluber, Indians (Player Ballot), Chris Sale, Red Sox (Player Ballot), Gerrit Cole, Astros (Player Ballot), Blake Snell, Tampa Bay (Commissioner’s Office)

RP – Edwin Díaz, Mariners (Player Ballot), Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox (Player Ballot), Aroldis Chapman, Yankees (Player Ballot), Joe Jiménez, Tigers (Commissioner’s Office), Delin Betances, Yankees (Commissioner’s Office), Chris Devenski, Astros (Commissioner’s Office)

Manager: Jeff Luhnow, Astros

Based on this projection, the New York Yankees will have the most representatives with six. The Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox will both have four.

Ensuring no snubs, there will be five players selected for the final fan vote to get one more All-Star into the game for a total of 32 for the American League. As you can see, no matter how the AL roster plays out, it will be a dominant team once again as they look for six straight All-Star wins.

Four of those five wins were inside a National League stadium and that will not change as the Washington Nationals will host this season.

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Capitals don't get Penguins for home opener, but Penguins will host Capitals in theirs

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Capitals don't get Penguins for home opener, but Penguins will host Capitals in theirs

The Capitals found out who their opponent will be for the home opener on Oct. 3 and it's not the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And you know what? That's OK. Winning the Stanley Cup was awesome and the banner raising will be an incredible scene regardless. 

Plus, the Penguins need that night off because they have to get ready for their own home opener on Oct. 4 against...the Caps?

Wait, what?

In 2016, the Capitals were in attendance as the Penguins raised their Stanley Cup banner. That had to sting considering Pittsburgh eliminated Washington in the playoffs.

It has not become a tradition to make rivals watch as teams raise banners and there's nothing that said the NHL had to schedule the Penguins for Washington's home opener. But it does seem odd that the NHL is going to make the defending Stanley Cup champions play a back-to-back right out of the gate with the second end coming against their archrivals in Pittsburgh.

Hey Caps, it's the NHL here. Congrats again. Vegas is a hell of a city, am I right? So, listen...we thought about it and decided you won't get to raise your banner against your rivals. Sorry about that. We tried and we couldn't get them for your first game. Good news though, we moved it all the way up to the second game, we just couldn't get it any sooner than that. You'll be playing them the second game of the season...the night after your home opener...in Pittsburgh...for their home opener. Anyway, good luck on the repeat.

Makes sense.

Look, if Washington can't have Pittsburgh for the home opener fine. It would have been nice, but it's really not a big deal. Raising the banner will be special regardless of who the opponent will be. But don't turn around and make the Caps play in the Penguins' home opener the very next day.

The schedule makers did the Caps no favors with this one.

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