June 6, 2013
Birmingham, Ala. - The Southeastern Conference's 14 sports information directors have voted Vanderbilt senior cornerback Andre Hal as the league's most underrated player and Commodore senior Jordan Matthews as its best receiver.
The 67th annual sports information directors' ballot, published in the Birmingham News, is one of the SEC's longest continuous polls. It is traditionally among the first ballots that includes a preseason All-SEC squad and forecasts for the 14 conference teams.
The SIDs also selected a third Commodore, senior kicker Carey Spear, to join Hal and Matthews on the preseason All-SEC squad.
Vanderbilt was picked to finish fourth in the SEC Eastern Division, trailing Georgia, South Carolina and Florida and ahead of Tennessee, Missouri and Kentucky.
Hal, from Port Allen, La., was superb in 2012 as the first-year starting cornerback. Stepping in to replace All-SEC recipient and Green Bay draftee Casey Hayward, Hal ranked among the conference's best by breaking up 14 passes. He also posted 36 solo tackles and a pair of interceptions, both coming in Vanderbilt's 41-18 late-season victory over Tennessee.
Hal's role in the secondary was a big reason why the Commodore defense ranked among the NCAA leaders in pass defense. The unit's average of giving up just 191.8 yards through the air ranked third in the SEC and 14th nationally.
For Matthews, the SIDs' vote added to a long list of preseason accolades coming after the north Alabama product put together the finest campaign ever by a receiver in the conference. Matthews' stats were staggering in 2012: 94 receptions, 1,343 receiving yards, eight touchdowns. The receptions total is tied for the second most ever by an SEC player. The receiving yardage total is a new team standard, and No. 5 receiving yardage total in conference history.
Like Matthews, Spear's 2012 season as the Commodore placekicker was unmatched in team history. Spear's conversion of 20 field goals and accumulation of 87 points rank as new team records. He displayed both kicking accuracy and leg strength last year, making 20-of-24 field goal attempts, including two of 50 yards or more. He also made all 14 field goals tries inside of 44 yards.
James Franklin's Commodores are coming off one of the best seasons in program history, a 9-4 campaign and Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl victory. The 2013 season kicks off on Thursday, Aug. 29 with an important SEC game against Western Division rival Ole Miss. The game kicks off at 8:15 p.m., CT in Nashville on ESPN.
Season tickets remain available, either by phone at (615) 322-GOLD (4653) or online.