LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and senior linebacker Josh Allen were named Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, respectively, by the league’s coaches, it was announced Wednesday. The duo also earned those honors from the Associated Press, making it a clean sweep for the Wildcats.
Stoops becomes the first UK coach to earn Coach of the Year honors since Jerry Claiborne in 1983. The Wildcats won nine regular-season games for the first time in 41 years, including six over bowl-eligible teams and four over squads that won eight or more. UK’s 5-3 mark in SEC play also was the team’s first winning league record since 1977. The Cats won at Florida, ending a three-decade-old dry spell against the Gators, and the recorded the most-lopsided win in the history of the Governor’s Cup series against Louisville.
Allen, a senior from Montclair, New Jersey, has been a pass rush terror so far this season. With 28.5 career sacks and 14 sacks in 2018, he now holds UK’s career and single-season records. His 11 career forced fumbles tie former Wildcat and current Chicago Bear linebacker Danny Trevathan for UK’s career mark (forced fumbles stats available since 1988). He leads the team with 84 tackles and paces the SEC in sacks, tackles for loss (18.5) and forced fumbles (5). Twelve of his 14 sacks have come in the second half of games, including eight in the fourth quarter. In five of UK’s nine wins this season, Allen had a sack late in the fourth quarter that was crucial to the Wildcat victory.
In addition to his first-team All-SEC accolades, Allen received the Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Monday, signifying the National Defensive Player of the Year. He also is a finalist for the Walter Camp National Player of the Year, the Butkus Award (nation’s best linebacker), the Chuck Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year), the Lott IMPACT Trophy (defensive player of the year) and Ted Hendricks Award (defensive end of the year).
Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa was named SEC Offensive Player of the Year. Texas A&M’s Braden Mann was voted Special Teams Player of the Year, Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle was voted SEC Freshman of the Year and the Crimson Tide’s Hale Hentges was selected as Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Alabama’s Jonah Williams was named winner of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy.
Tagovailoa has thrown for 3,353 yards this season and set a school record with 37 touchdown passes. He has thrown for 300 or more yards in five of Alabama’s games, and he also set a school record with a combined 42 passing and rushing touchdowns. Tagovailoa is tied for second on Alabama’s all-time career touchdown pass list with 48. He is one of three finalists for the Heisman Trophy.
Mann is the first Aggie to be named SEC Special Teams Player of the Year. He is the current FBS leader with a 51.15 punting average. He has set a pair of NCAA records in 2018 with a 60.8 gross punt average on five punts against Alabama and 14 60-yard punts for the season. Mann is a finalist for the Ray Guy Award presented to the nation’s top punter.