Building the SEC super team for 2019
A hot topic of discussion lately has been “Position U.” That is, which school cranks out the most amount of talent at each position.
ESPN came out with a piece on the subject that got a lot of criticism. It probably didn’t help that it didn’t have Georgia in the top 10 for “RBU” of the BCS/Playoff era.
That got me thinking about a different discussion.
If you could create the perfect SEC team for 2019 by simply picking SEC position groups, what would that team look like? Well, it would be really good. That’s for sure. A lot of these groups are the best in the country, in my position.
And just so we’re clear, it’s the entire position group we’re talking about here. Depth matters. That’s what makes the conversation interesting.
Yeah, Tua Tagovailoa is the best quarterback in the SEC. Sorry, Kellen Mond.
But if Justin Fields was still on Georgia’s roster, the Dawgs would get my vote. He’s not, though.
(I realize you could say the same thing about Jalen Hurts still being at Alabama.)
Alabama, on the other hand, has one of the league’s most capable backups in Mac Jones. Dare I say there wouldn’t be a massive panic of Tagovailoa were to take one of his frequent trips to the medical tent this year. (Who am I kidding? Of course there would be.) The additions of true freshmen Taulia Tagovailoa and Paul Tyson will be fun to watch as they get extremely limited reps to keep their 4-game redshirts.
Other interesting ones? LSU with Joe Burrow and Myles Brennan, Florida with Feleipe Franks and Emory Jones and what about Mississippi State with Keytaon Thompson and Tommy Stevens? All of those are candidates, but Alabama takes the cake.
Running backs: Georgia
Tell me something I don’t know. Part of this is D’Andre Swift, obviously. The man many consider to be the top returning back in the SEC will have some help, though. The highly-anticipated debut of Zamir White will add some depth, and don’t forget about promising underclassman James Cook and the ageless Brian Herrien.
The Dawgs have basically owned this title for the majority of the Playoff era. Last year was probably the only time during that stretch when Alabama had a clear advantage. The Crimson Tide are definitely a candidate here, especially if true freshman Trey Sanders comes anywhere near the Heisman Trophy bar he set for himself. But Najee Harris isn’t as proven as someone like Swift.
Florida with Lamical Perine, Malik Davis and Dameon Pierce is also an intriguing one to include here, though I’d still give Georgia a leg up in that department. And as much as I like guys like Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Kylin Hill, I’m not sure the backfield depth warrants a spot in this discussion.
Give me Georgia, AKA the current “RBU.”
Alabama claims both the receivers and quarterbacks. What a time to be alive. There really is no discussion as far as I’m concerned. Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, Henry Ruggs AND Devonta Smith make up the best group of receivers in America. There’s a reason that 3 of those 4 guys were either first- or second-team All-SEC selections by the media.
Here’s the interesting thing. Even if you took Jeudy off Alabama’s roster and pretended he wasn’t in the SEC, I think Alabama still wins this one. That’s how loaded the Crimson Tide are.
Who are the other candidates, you ask? LSU with Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase is interesting, though I’d argue Texas A&M has more depth at the position with Quartney Davis, Kendrick Rogers and Camron Buckley. And Florida has a lot of depth and potential with Van Jefferson, Trevon Grimes, Tyrie Cleveland, Kadarius Toney and Freddie Swain.
But yeah, if anybody tells you that there’s a better group of receivers than Alabama’s, remind them that opinions can be wrong.
Tight ends: Mizzou
Albert Okwuegbunam is the headliner here for obvious reasons. The guy already has 17 touchdowns in 2 active seasons at Mizzou. Well, that’s more like 1.5 seasons because he only played in 9 games (18 total) in each of his first 2 years.
Outside of the prolific preseason All-American is the promising second-year tight end Daniel Parker, who made the switch to tight end in the middle of last season and shined as a pass-catcher and blocker down the stretch as a true freshman.
Arkansas has some potential on this list, as well. C.J. O’Grady is one the SEC’s top pass-catching tight ends, and former blue chip recruit Hudson Henry has some big expectations to become a star in Fayetteville.
Vanderbilt is another candidate here with Jared Pinkney returning for his senior season, though there are extremely limited pass-catching tight ends behind him on the depth chart. Florida doesn’t have any proven guys, but the young duo of Kyle Pitts and Keon Zipperer could make them a candidate in a year or two.
Offensive line: Georgia
There’s a case to be made that Georgia has the best offensive line in the country. Andrew Thomas is certainly getting love as the best tackle in the country. Based on how well his career has gone so far, it’s not hard to see why. But just look across the board with Georgia. Between Thomas, Solomon Kindley and Isaiah Wilson, that’s 3 full-time starters from last year while Cade Mays and Ben Cleveland both started part-time.
Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses said at SEC Media Days that besides Alabama, Georgia was the only group that he watched just completely push people off the line of scrimmage. That was with virtually the same group that you saw mentioned above.
Alabama also had 4 preseason All-SEC selections on the offensive line, but it still has to replace its top 2 guys with Ross Pierschbacher and Jonah Williams off to the NFL. LSU and Kentucky are the sleepers here, but the depth, skill and experience argument goes to Georgia.
Defensive line: Auburn
Again, I think we’re talking about arguably the best unit in the country. Derrick Brown is the headliner here, but it’s the trio up front that makes Auburn special. Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson have a combined 34.5 tackles for loss and 17 sacks in their careers.
Auburn’s inability to move the ball last year often gassed what should’ve been a special unit up front. If the Tigers control the clock better this year, that group should perform at an all-world level.
Alabama is an obvious consideration for this list, and some would even argue that with Raekwon Davis and LaBryan Ray, that’s got the most potential in the SEC. There are teams who have great individuals like LSU (Rashard Lawrence), Florida (Jabari Zuniga) and Texas A&M (Justin Madubuike), but not the proven depth.
It’s Auburn and I’m not sure it’s that close.
I went with Alabama despite the fact that I’m in wait-and-see mode with Terrell Lewis (let’s see it over the course of an entire season). Dylan Moses and Anfernee Jennings should be a fun duo to watch this year with how they can operate from sideline to sideline. Go figure that Eyabi Anoma won’t even be part of this conversation and Alabama still gets the nod in 2019.
For a brief second, I actually had Mississippi State in this spot. That’s because Erroll Thompson is as good in coverage as any linebacker in America, and guys like Willie Gay and Leo Lewis have shown All-SEC potential. But I didn’t just because I didn’t want to let my appreciation for Thompson get in the way of that.
Outside of that, Florida is a candidate with David Reese back, but the Gators are still young in that area. I wouldn’t put it past Mark Stoops or Dave Aranda to develop a bevy of All-SEC linebackers by season’s end, either.
Defensive backs: LSU
The school that gets called “DBU” is indeed that in the SEC in 2019. In my opinion, LSU has the best secondary in the country. That starts with Grant Delpit, who has “2019 Jim Thorpe Award winner” written all over him. But it’s much more than just the do-it-all safety that makes LSU a worthy winner here.
When teams avoided Greedy Williams last year, they attempted to pick on Kristian Fulton … to no avail. Fulton’s return was huge because he’s absolutely a shutdown corner. He’ll start opposite of true freshman Derek Stingley Jr., who has the makings of becoming a special, special player in college football. The hype for his future grows by the day, and understandably so. He already has the size, recovery speed and mindset to be a starter — and a good one — in this league.
There are no shortage of other schools who believe they have the best secondary in the SEC. Alabama, Florida and Georgia have the best cases, in my opinion.
Xavier McKinney, Trevon Diggs and Patrick Surtain should improve an Nick Saban-led secondary that uncharacteristically struggled at times last year. Florida’s C.J. Henderson has a good argument to make as the top cover corner in the SEC while J.R. Reed, Richard LeCounte and Tyson Campbell will certainly make a bid to have one of the top units by season’s end.
In the meantime, though, “DBU” in the SEC this year is LSU.