Four Vanderbilt standouts were among the 62 players selected for the 81st annual Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference football team on Monday.
Senior wide receiver Jordan Matthews and senior safety Kenny Ladler were named to the first team, while senior offensive tackle Wesley Johnson and senior cornerback Andre Hal were selected to the second team.
The first team selection was the second straight for Matthews following another record-setting season at Vanderbilt. The 6-foot-3 target caught a league single-season record 107 passes for 1,334 yards and five touchdowns. The Alabama native broke several other SEC career records during the season including most receiving yards, most receptions and most 100-yard games. The Biletnikoff Award semifinalist also set a new school-record for touchdown receptions in a career.
Matthews becomes just the second Commodore receiver to ever earn AP All-SEC honors in consecutive years, joining current Chicago Bears wide out Earl Bennett. A potential two-time All-American, Matthews has already accepted a invitation to the prestigious Reese's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama on January 25th.
Ladler enjoyed one of the best seasons for a Commodore safety in recent memory. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Georgia native lead the league in forced fumbles with five on the year, and finished second in interceptions with five as well. Ladler led the Commodores in both total tackles (87) and solo stops (61) as well. More importantly, Ladler made big plays in some of Vanderbilt's most important victories, posting interceptions in victories of Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, while making key tackles in a close victory over Kentucky. He also posted a career-high 14 tackles in the Commodores loss at South Carolina and tied that mark weeks later against Missouri.
Ladler's five interceptions were the most by a Commodore safety since Chris Donnelly's five in 1989. A SEC All-Freshman team selection in 2010, Ladler is expected to receive other postseason honors as the days go on. He is the first Commodore safety to receive first team AP All-SEC honors since Jeff Brothers in 1992.
Johnson finally earned a spot on the All-SEC team after receiving honorable mention distinction for the AP team last fall. The 6-foot-5, 295-pound fifth year senior anchored a Commodore offensive line that led Vanderbilt to another season of nearly 30 points per game and almost 235 yards through the air. His blocking consistency in both the passing and running game also allowed for the Commodores to make a few key comeback wins against Georgia and in-state rival Tennessee.
A Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award watch list candidate during the season, Johnson set a new school record with 50 career starts. The Nashville native has been on the field for all but two of the Commodores touchdowns during his four years as a starter. He has allowed just a pair of quarterback sacks over the last two seasons.
Hal joined Matthews in earning the AP honors in back-to-back seasons as the Louisiana native was also selected to the second team in 2012. The 6-foot athlete continued his reputation as one of the league's top shutdown corners as he tied for first in the SEC with 14 passes defended, including a pair of interceptions.
Hal also proved again to be one of the league's best run-stopping defensive backs, registering 40 total tackles, including 27 solo stops and 6.5 tackles for loss in 11 games. A watch list candidate for the Thorpe, Bednarik and Nagurski Awards, Hal becomes the sixth Commodore defensive back to ever earn AP honors in back-to-back seasons, but the fourth since 2007. D.J. Moore was named to the first team in 2007 and 2008, while Myron Lewis was named to the second team in 2008 and 2009 and Casey Hayward was named to the second team in 2010 and 2011.
The four AP selections mark the most for the Vanderbilt program since the 2007 season when Earl Bennett, DJ Moore and Chris Williams were named to the first team and Jonathan Goff was selected to the second team.
Vanderbilt will appear in its third straight bowl game on Saturday, January 4th at the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama. The Commodores will face the Houston Cougars of the new American Athletic Conference.