Best player for every SEC program in the last decade
During the offseason we’ve published two dozen or so ‘Best of the Era’ lists here at SDS, breaking down the Top 25s at each position in the SEC, a couple notable position groups at each program and even All-Decade teams to pass the time before the start of the 2015 season.
With that in mind, our next installment is the much-debated top player at each SEC school since 2005. Some are obvious, while others — even Heisman winners — have comparable competition behind them.
We’re interested in hearing your take on the SEC’s best individuals over the last decade. Here are our picks:
Best player at each SEC program since 2005
Alabama: Mark Ingram, RB
Take your pick, here. Nick Saban’s had countless four and five-stars who have developed into All-American — and NFL — talent since taking over 2007, but Ingram’s the only player who has taken home college football’s most prestigious award. Some have thrown shade on his spectacular 2009 campaign based on the offensive line he was blessed to run behind, but Ingram was a complete back who would’ve put up sizable numbers no matter where he played.
Arkansas: Darren McFadden, RB
Few would argue that No. 5 was the most electrifying running back the SEC has seen since Bo Jackson in the late 1980s. If McFadden had a crease and more importantly, a step on an approaching linebacker or defensive back, the battle was already won. Equipped with elite speed and near superhuman strength as a ballcarrier, the Razorbacks’ all-time leading rusher is one of the league’s best in the backfield over the last century.
Auburn: Cam Newton, QB
Newton registered the trifecta in 2010, winning the Heisman while leading his team to a national championship before being selected first overall by the Carolina Panthers. He was a franchise quarterback in every sense of the word, disemboweling opposing SEC defenses with a rocket arm and immense skill as a runner. His broken-tackle touchdown scamper against LSU is still one of the greatest plays in the history of the SEC.
Florida: Tim Tebow, QB
This two-time national champion and 2007 Heisman winner was recently voted the SEC’s top quarterback of all-time, and who could argue based on what he did during a brilliant four-year tenure in Gainesville. Not only were Tebow’s numbers league-record highs at the time, but his locker room leadership was nearly unprecedented. One of the SEC’s most decorated offensive players ever, Tebow’s legacy will last forever.
Georgia: Aaron Murray, QB
The SEC’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, Georgia’s four-year starter simply carried the offense from 2010-13, directing the Bulldogs to 35 wins, including consecutive Eastern Division titles over that span. Despite well-known passers at the position before him, Murray rewrote the career record books with four statistically-dominant seasons of at least 3,000 yards through the air and 24 touchdowns.
Kentucky: Randall Cobb, ATH
A playmaker who made it all work on offense in Lexington, Cobb also returned two punts for touchdowns with the Wildcats in addition to his 35 offensive touchdowns over three seasons. With the football in his hands, Cobb averaged 7.9 yards per touch and often made the first man miss. As a junior in 2010, Cobb spent much of the season at wide receiver where he recorded 1,017 yards on 84 catches. Drafted by the Packers in the second round in 2011, Cobb has already become one of the NFL’s brightest young wideouts.
LSU: Patrick Peterson, DB
Tyrann Mathieu may have engineered the greatest single-season over the last decade in Baton Rouge, but Peterson was a lock-down cornerback for three seasons, taking home All-American honors along with the Thorpe, Bednarik and SEC Special Teamer of the Year awards in 2010. He took two punts to the house during his final season in 2010, but the best was yet to come. As a rookie for the Arizona Cardinals, Peterson tied an NFL record with four punt return scores, all covering at least 80 yards.
Mississippi: Michael Oher, OL
One of the most dominant offensive linemen in the history of the SEC, Oher was a two-time all-league player in Oxford and earned All-American status in 2008. The Memphis native soon became one of the franchise players on offense for the Baltimore Ravens after being picked up in the first round, 23rd overall, in 2009.
Mississippi State: Dak Prescott, QB
Prescott’s storybook ending has yet to be told, but the impact he has already left on Mississippi State football speaks volumes on how he’s viewed as a player. The dual-threat quarterback led a spirited run to the program’s first No. 1 ranking in school history last fall after the Bulldogs knocked off three consecutive Top 10 SEC opponents. With 754 yards this season, Prescott will become Mississippi State’s all-time leading passer and needs just two touchdown passes to knock Tyler Russell off his perch as the program’s leader in that category.
Missouri: Chase Daniel, QB
One of the program’s all-time best winners, Daniel followed Brad Smith as a three-year starter under center, finishing with 101 career touchdown passes and nearly 13,500 yards of total offense. As a junior, Daniel finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting and led the Tigers to 12 victories, including a division title in the Big 12. Daniel holds nearly every major passing record at Mizzou including touchdown passes in a single game (5, four times).
South Carolina: Connor Shaw, QB
The Gamecocks’ all-time winningest quarterback, Shaw finished with a sparkling 27-5 record as a starter and never lost a home game during his three seasons as South Carolina’s leader on offense. Shaw was responsible for 74 touchdowns as a collegian, including 17 scores on the ground to go along with a school-record 1,683 yards rushing at the position. His career completion percentage of 65.5 is the fifth-best mark in the SEC since 1956.
Tennessee: Eric Berry, DB
One of college football’s best-ever safeties, this two-time All-American started all 39 games over a brilliant three-year career in Knoxville, accumulating 245 tackles including 17.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. Berry’s 14 career interceptions is fifth-best all-time at UT. His 494 interception return yards ranks No. 1 in SEC history.
Texas A&M: Johnny Manziel, QB
‘Johnny Football’ rewrote both single-season school and SEC record books during his 2012 Heisman redshirt freshman season, registering 5,116 yards of total offense and 47 touchdowns. Manziel orchestrated Kevin Sumlin’s Air Raid to extreme production in both years as the Aggies’ starting quarterback and beat five ranked teams during his tenure.
Vanderbilt: Jordan Matthews, WR
The league’s all-time leader in receptions and yards, Matthews was a member of two memorable nine-win teams in Nashville as the Commodores’ most prolific threat on offense. One of the SEC’s most underrated players of the decade, you knew what to expect out of Matthews in the passing game.