Power ranking the top 10 players in the SEC after Week 2
Week 2 in the SEC confirmed a lot of things we thought we knew entering the season.
Georgia’s defense is filthy. The Dawgs have the best secondary in the country and the pass rush, which underperformed at times in 2019, has 5 sacks and ranks 3rd in the SEC in quarterback pressures through 2 weeks, per Stats Solutions. After trailing Arkansas 7-5 at halftime Week 1 (which looks much better now, what a difference a week makes!), the Dawgs have outscored their SEC brethren 59-9 since, surrendering only 3 field goals. That’s a mean machine in red and black, as it was supposed to be.
Mike Leach’s Air Raid is well, Mike Leach’s Air Raid. Defenses that keep things in front of them are going to at least slow them down. That was good enough for Arkansas, which also rode a strong performance from Feleipe Franks to their first conference victory in 3 years.
Other things were confirmed as well. Lane Kiffin’s offense is going to light it up. Kellen Mond is still going to make confounding mistakes, even as a senior. Florida’s Kyles are very good at football, and now have combined for 6 touchdowns in 2 games. Gus Malzahn’s scheme at Auburn hasn’t evolved the way Rhett Lashlee’s has at Miami. LSU is going to be just fine on offense. And with Tua gone, Alabama is still Alabama, the SEC’s frightening gold standard.
In this space, we cover individual performances, and power rank the top 10 players in the SEC after each week. Yes, players who have consistently performed for multiple years get a bit of a “bump” early in the season. Yes, we heavily factor in past week performances into this ranking. But the idea is that by season’s end we have a fair, no hype ranking of the SEC’s best 10 players or a power ranking that, at a minimum, makes fertile fodder for debate.
Here are your best 10 players in the SEC after Week 2, with honorable mentions first. Check out last week’s ranking here.
Honorable Mentions: Mac Jones, QB (Alabama), Christian Harris, LB (Alabama), John Metchie III, WR (Alabama) Dylan Moses, LB (Alabama), Daniel Wright, DB (Alabama), Feleipe Franks, QB (Arkansas), Bumper Pool, LB — the greatest name in the SEC — (Arkansas), Kadarius Toney, WR (Florida), Brenton Cox Jr., DE (Florida), Kearis Jackson, WR (Georgia), Nolan Smith, LB (Georgia), Richard LeCounte III, S (Georgia), Zamir White, RB (Georgia), Myles Brennan, QB (LSU), Derek Stingley Jr., CB (LSU), Terry Wilson, QB (Kentucky), Ainias Smith, RB (Texas A&M), Tennessee RB unit, Tennessee OL, Henry To’o To’o, LB (Tennessee), Deandre Johnson, LB (Tennessee), Shi Smith, WR (South Carolina), Dayo Odeyingbo, DE (Vanderbilt).
10. Jalen Catalon, DB, Arkansas
A big-time top 300 recruit out of Mansfield, Texas, Catalon was limited by injuries in 2019. It’s been fun to watch him blossom early in the 2020 season. First, he helped frustrate Georgia’s new-look pass attack in Week 1, adding 9 tackles and a pass breakup along the way. In Week 2, he was involved in 2 pass breakups and added 13 tackles in helping Arkansas upset then-No. 16 Miss State 21-14 in Starkville on Saturday night. On the year, he leads a vastly improved Hogs defense with 3 pass breakups, is 3rd in tackles with 22, and has forced a big fumble. Does the SEC have better prospects in the secondary? Yes. But they aren’t playing as well as Catalon right now.
9. Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
Marshall Jr. only had 2 catches against Vanderbilt. He made the most of both opportunities, scoring touchdowns on both.
I probably should be more respectful of his privacy but I found this incredible photo of where Terrace Marshall lives and I had to share it. pic.twitter.com/4NSb6PhFIz
— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) October 5, 2020
That’s par for the course for a guy who has 14 red-zone targets in the past 2 seasons and has scored 11 touchdowns on those targets. That’s a staggering efficiency rate, but it’s what we’ve come to expect from one of the best receivers in the country.
8. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
All the preseason All-American has done is average 21.2 yards per catch through Alabama’s first 2 games. His 87-yard touchdown catch early in the 3rd quarter turned out the lights on Texas A&M this past weekend, part of his 142-yard day.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 3, 2020
It’s difficult to imagine him falling out of this top 10 this season, unless Alabama is frustrated by the fact there’s only one football.
7. Stetson Bennett IV, QB, Georgia
Bennett is 1 of 2 quarterbacks in this top 10 who was ranked in the 2000s in the 247 composite coming out of high school.
Think about how ridiculous a story this is. Bennett grew up a Dawgs fan going to games between the hedges. He walks on, is so determined to play he leaves for junior college, comes back, and, when a guy the entire fan base anointed a Heisman finalist opts out, is thrust into the job in Week 1 despite taking 3rd-team reps in practice most of fall camp. If you pitched it to a Disney agent, they’d run you out of the building.
All the law firm of Stetson Bennett IV has done is build on Georgia’s great tradition of high performing game manager quarterbacks named for law firms.
The numbers don’t “wow” you: 37-57, 451 yards, 3 touchdowns. But they don’t have to with that defense. And before someone suggests he’s just “average,” consider the pocket presence he has to make plays like the one below in his first Power 5 start.
There were two things that made me sit up in my seat early with Stetson Bennet. This one …. pic.twitter.com/wIlWid23f9
— Richard🇬🇾Johnson (@RJ_Writes) October 4, 2020
He’s just going to get better. Georgia is just going to get scarier.
6. Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
All Elijah Moore has done in 2 games in Lane Kiffin’s offense is catch 20 passes — yes 20 — for 319 yards and a game-winning touchdown.
Ole Miss' final touchdown was a thing of beauty pic.twitter.com/3fg8PAIu5R
— Ben Garrett (@SpiritBen) October 3, 2020
For those who don’t know, Moore was persona non gratis around Oxford when a poorly thought out Egg Bowl celebration and infamous unsportsmanlike conduct penalty ultimately cost Ole Miss the football game — and sent Matt Luke packing — a season ago. That moment overshadowed an outstanding sophomore season for Moore, but it has proven a valuable lesson.
Moore has shown maturity in his approach to 2020, and responding to that kind of mistake shows character. (Notice his demeanor after scoring the TD in OT.) He’s proving himself to be one of the elite receivers in all of college football early in 2020.
5. Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
What a difference a Lane makes.
Last year, Corral struggled reading defenses and forced too many throws before an injury eventually saw him replaced by John Rhys Plumlee. Most — including me — figured Kiffin would roll with the insanely fast Plumlee as the starter. But Corral was, according to Kiffin, “just better” in camp and won the job.
Now, we’ve seen what the hype was around the former 4-star quarterback. He’s been marvelous in the first 2 games, throwing for 715 yards with an astonishing 76.7 completion percentage and 7 touchdown passes. It’s not a fluke, either. Corral has done it against defenses that finished in the top 20 in S&P+ and total defense a season ago.
The Rebels play Alabama on Saturday, but then the schedule softens, with Arkansas, a mediocre Auburn and Vanderbilt following the Tide. That’s a big-time opportunity for Corral to stay in this power ranking.
4. Georgia OL
If you are going to roll with a game manager (scroll up, y’all), you better establish the run. Georgia did that first Saturday night in Athens, pounding the rock until it softened Auburn up for play-action. When you establish the ability to run the football, it becomes much tougher for defenses to generate pressure. I’m not sure that method traditionally results in pockets as clean as this one (this is more of a man purse than a pocket), but it did for Georgia on Saturday night.
Georgia lost 4 starters up front, but you couldn’t tell at all Saturday evening. That’s one way to protect a new quarterback.
3. Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
If you thought Trask’s 416-yard opening week performance against Ole Miss was just a guy facing a horrible defense, well, think again. Trask and the Florida offense didn’t run nearly as many plays Saturday against South Carolina, but facing a defense with two of the best cover corners in the SEC in Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu, Trask went to work anyway, completing 21-of-29 passes, averaging 9.2 yards per attempt, and tossing 4 more touchdowns. He leads the SEC with 10.
Trask’s big size, better than advertised arm and outstanding pocket presence and footwork have drawn comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger. Maybe a comparison to a Super Bowl winner is a bridge too far, but what’s clear is a guy once ranked in the 2000s in the 247 composite out of high school is now the best QB in the SEC.
2. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
A criticism of Harris’s being ranked No. 1 last week was that the senior running back “only” had 106 total yards. His 3 touchdowns weren’t impressive enough, I suppose.
This week, Harris “only” had 69 yards. He added 3 more touchdowns anyway, bringing his season total to 5, good for 2nd in the SEC in that category.
Eventually, the clear Alabama No. 1 is going to bust out. For now, he’ll settle for being the guy Nick Saban calls on when it’s touchdown time on the capstone. That’s usually a sign you are the best player on your team, and when your team is Alabama, that means you are one of the best players in the SEC.
1. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
These rankings are fluid, of course, but it’s hard to argue with the other half of Florida’s “Kyles” topping this list right now.
I don’t think, as some have suggested, he’s a Heisman contender, because he’s a tight end, after all.
What he is, though, is a problem that no one has an answer to. It’s not just about the opponents Florida’s faced. Pitts whipped up on Derek Stingley Jr. and Grant Delpit and about any defense in front of him a season ago.
He’s just too big and too fast and too strong, and right now that means he’s reached 6 touchdown receptions in 2 games. For some perspective, Ja’Marr Chase, LSU’s Biletnikoff winning receiver in 2019, needed 4 games to get to 6 TDs in 2019, and 2 of those games were against non-SEC competition. Chase finished with 20 (with 4 coming against non-SEC competition) and then opted out of the 2020 season.
I don’t know if Pitts gets to 20 touchdowns in a COVID-shortened season. But for now, he’s the best football player in America’s best football conference.
Until next week …