Gators Earn All-SEC, Freshman of the Year

University of Florida senior linebacker Earl Everett (Webster, Fla.), junior free safety Reggie Nelson (Melbourne, Fla.), junior linebacker Brandon Siler (Orlando, Fla.) and junior cornerback Ryan Smith (Diamond Bar, Calif.) have received All-Southeastern Conference honors from the Associated Press, the organization announced Monday.

The AP also announced that wide receiver Percy Harvin (Virginia Beach, Va.) has been named the SEC Freshman of the Year.

The Gators’ leading tackler in 2006, Everett has amassed 78 total tackles (45 solo), six tackles for loss, a sack and two passes defended on the season. He was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 18 after tallying 11 tackles against Tennessee to lead a defense that limited the Volunteers to minus-11 yards rushing on the night. This year’s selection marks Everett’s first AP All-SEC nod, though he took home all-conference honors in 2004 from the league’s coaches.

Nelson’s first career All-SEC selection adds to a season that has already seen him earn Nagurski Trophy (Outstanding Defensive Player) and Jim Thorpe Award (Top Defensive Back) finalist honors. He stands sixth among UF players with 50 tackles, including 34 solo efforts, and his six interceptions rank third in the SEC; he has also returned 12 punts for 93 yards (7.8 yards per return), in addition to blocking a pair of opponent punt attempts. Nelson collected the SEC Defensive Player of the Week award after Florida’s win over Alabama on Sept. 30, during which he made five tackles, returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown, recovered a fumble and broke up a pass. In October, the Melbourne, Fla., native took captured the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Defensive Player of the Half-Year honors, in addition to receiving a nod to CBS Sportsline’s Halfway All-America team.

Siler, a second-team All-SEC selection who made a season-high 12 tackles against Arkansas in Florida’s 38-28 SEC Championship Game win, ranks second on the team with 73 tackles, including 46 solo efforts. He was a semifinalist for the 2006 Chuck Bednarik Award, given annually to college football’s Outstanding Defensive Player. Siler has also excelled in the classroom this season, collecting first-team Academic All-District III honors for the second-consecutive year.

Smith, who leads the SEC and stands in a tie for third nationally with eight interceptions, earned first-team all-conference honors from the AP after totaling 52 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 15 passes defended this season. Each of his eight picks have come since Sept. 30, giving him the national lead over that time span. After entering the season with just two career interceptions, Smith currently ranks second on Florida’s single-season interceptions chart, and needs just one to tie Keiwan Ratliff for the school record. He turned in one of his finest games in Florida’s road win over SEC East foe Vanderbilt, registering a career-high 11 tackles, intercepting a pass and blocking a punt; his 10 solo tackles versus the Commodores are a single-game high for a UF player this season.

Nelson and Smith have combined to intercept 14 passes this season, a figure that ranks first nationally among defensive-back duos. The pair has also produced 95 tackles, 23 passes defended, four blocked punts and a fumble recovery for the Gators in 2006.

After running for a career-high 105 yards and a touchdown on six carries (17.5 yards per rush) and catching five passes for 62 yards and another score in the SEC Championship Game to become just the second rookie in the contest’s history to take home MVP honors, Harvin was awarded SEC Freshman of the Year accolades by the AP. He has collected 25 catches for 367 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while also running for 406 yards and two scores on just 36 carries (11.3 avg.) this season; his 773 yards of total offense on just 61 touches give him an average of 12.7 yards per touch that ranks first nationally among freshmen. He earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors on Sept. 11, after torching UCF for 99 yards and a TD on for catches and gaining 11 yards on two carries. Harvin was recently named The Sporting News’ SEC Offensive Freshman of the Year.

Second-ranked Florida will take to the field again on Jan. 8, 2007, when it will meet Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game in Glendale, Ariz. UF’s appearance in the BCS National Championship Game will mark the third time in school history that it has entered a bowl game with a chance to win the national title. The Gators claimed the 1996 NCAA crown with a 52-20 victory over top-ranked Florida State in the Sugar Bowl behind a three-touchdown, 306-yard performance from Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel. The Gators also played for the national championship in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl after posting a 12-0 regular-season record.