10 best SEC safeties after spring practice 2016
With footballs flying around the field like never before in the SEC, the league’s safeties have never been more valuable. Here’s a look at the best safeties in the SEC following the recently completed spring practice.
1. Florida SS Marcus Maye: Choosing to return to the Gators for the 2016 season was among the biggest positives in the offseason.
“Marcus Maye coming back, that was huge,” UF coach Jim McElwain told the Orlando Sentinel.
The ball hawk forced five fumbles, tied for the SEC lead last season with Texas A&M bone crusher Myles Garrett. Maye compiled 82 tackles (46 solo), broke up six passes and intercepted two.
2. Georgia SS Dominick Sanders: With six interceptions last season, returning one for a touchdown, Sanders tied for the SEC lead with Alabama’s Eddie Jackson. He played two fewer games than Jackson did. In addition, Sanders was a First-Team All-SEC selection with 48 tackles, five tackles for loss, a sack and six pass breakups for the nation’s top pass defense (156.5 YPG).
3. Alabama SS Eddie Jackson: Another excellent talent returning for his senior season, Jackson will only get better in his second season at safety. The converted cornerback earned Second-Team All-America honors in 2015 as he was tied for an SEC-high six interceptions, returning two for touchdowns. He recorded 46 tackles, including three for loss. He will be called upon to be a leader on the Alabama defense.
4. LSU SS Jamal Adams: Already a veteran in his junior season, Adams will be the leader in the Tigers’ secondary. The 6-foot-1, 211-pounder is a hard-hitting tackler who registered 67 stops last season, including five for loss, in addition to hauling in four interceptions. He broke up six passes, forced a fumble and also recovered one.
5. Auburn FS Johnathan Ford: In addition to being a top kick returner, Ford piled up 118 tackles last season, third-most in the SEC. Ford intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and recorded three tackles for loss, including a sack. He also forced a pair of fumbles. He has all the athleticism and hard-nosed ability to be the best at his position in the SEC.
6. Texas A&M FS Armani Watts: With a nose for the football, Watts recorded a whopping 126 tackles last season, second in the SEC to Missouri tackling machine Kentrell Brothers. His 83 solo tackles were the most in the conference and tied for third in the nation behind Houston linebacker Elandon Roberts (88) and Kansas DB Fish Smithson (87). However, as the Aggies continue to improve defensively, his pass coverage abilities will become increasingly important.
7. Vanderbilt FS Oren Burks: The Commodores’ ever-improving leader in the secondary, Burks recorded 59 tackles last season to go along with three interceptions, returning one of those for a touchdown. He came up with six pass breakups as a sophomore last season and forced a fumble for a tough defensive unit. He will be among the leaders this season as Vanderbilt opens the SEC season on Thursday, Sept. 1, when it hosts South Carolina.
8. Georgia FS Quincy Mauger: Georgia led the nation in pass defense a year ago (156.5 YPG), and Mauger was one of the reasons why. In his junior season, Mauger did it all, piling up 58 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, recorded five pass breakups and forced five QB hurries. He’ll be on patrol again in 2016 to help lead a defense that looks to put up similar numbers to the 2015 version.
9. Mississippi State FS Kivon Coman: A leader in an area of strength last season, Coman returns to the Bulldogs’ secondary for his senior season with even more experience. His 76 tackles last year (four for a loss) were third-most on the team, and his seven pass breakups are the most among returning Bulldogs in 2016.
10. Missouri SS Anthony Sherrils: In a disappointing season, Sherrils was a bright spot. Even brighter, he returns after blossoming in his sophomore season. He was the Tigers’ leader in the secondary with 64 tackles (41 solo), four tackles for loss and six pass breakups to go with an interception for a unit that ranked third in the SEC against the pass in 2015 (169.3 YPG).