Five Aggies earned All-SEC honors from Phil Steele Publications earlier this week, highlighted by a trio of first team recognitions. Senior safety Armani Watts, senior punter Shane Tripucka and junior kickoff returner Christian Kirk were named as the league’s best at their positions.
Additionally, Kirk was named to the second-team at wide receiver and sophomore linebacker Tyrel Dodson earned the second team nod. Junior defensive end Landis Durham was listed on the third team defense, as Kirk landed on the third team at punt returner.
Watts, from Forney, Texas, was recognized for a strong senior season that included 87 tackles, including 10.0 tackles for loss, four interceptions, two forced fumbles, two recovered fumbles and two blocked kicks in 12 regular season games. Watts posted double-digit tackles in four games, including a season-high 13 vs. UCLA. Perhaps his biggest play of the season was his pickoff in the end zone that clinched the Aggies' 50-43 overtime win over Arkansas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Tripucka, from Allen High School, helped the Aggies lead the SEC in net punting at 43.4 yards per kick. His overall punting average was 46.1 with 30 kicks of 50-plus yards. Tripucka killed 23 of his kicks inside the 20 and forced 33 fair catches. The senior ranks second in the NCAA in net punting, behind only Ray Guy award winner Michael Dickson of Texas. Additionally, Tripucka ranks fifth in the country in gross punting average at 46.1 yards per punt. Tripucka's season average ranks fifth on the all-time Texas A&M list, while his career average of 44.6 yards per punts stands third in the record books.
Kirk, a junior from Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Arizona, is the active FBS career leader in punt return average with 22.8 yards per return. He is the only SEC player to have both a punt return for a touchdown and a kickoff return for a touchdown in 2017. Kirk holds the Texas A&M school record for career punt returns for a touchdown (six) as well as the most punt returns for touchdowns in a single season (three in 2016). As a wide receiver, Kirk has had at least two receptions in every game he has played for Texas A&M (38 straight entering the 2017 Belk Bowl).
Dodson, a sophomore from Centennial High School in Franklin, Tennessee, filled up the stat sheet unlike any other linebacker in the SEC as a first year starter. Dodson ranked 7th in total tackles (97), tied for 6th in interceptions (3), tied for 10th in tackles for loss (11.0), and tied for 16th in quarterback sacks (5.5). The sophomore tallied double digit tackles in four games and clinched the Aggie’s win at Florida with an interception on the Gators’ final possession of the game.
Durham, from Plano East High School in Plano, Texas, was the team’s biggest surprise in 2017 after registering six career tackles entering the season. The junior exploded onto the scene after starting nine games and pacing the Maroon & White defense with 8.5 quarterback sacks, to rank 4th in the league, with an impressive 7.0 sacks coming against league foes. Durham finished the year fourth on the team with 50 tackles, including a team best 12.0 tackles for loss.