Power ranking the top 10 players in the SEC after Week 4
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic made it a light schedule in Week 4 of the SEC, as two games were postponed due to virus concerns. But please don’t confuse light with boring.
Week 4 was a very revealing, when we learned things about programs — and about players — that we either weren’t sure of or maybe convinced ourselves of too soon.
For instance, Matt Corral is human. Corral tossed 6 interceptions and averaged only 5.3 yards per attempt against Arkansas. The sophomore may still be a perfect fit for Lane Kiffin’s offense, but he’ll exit this list for the time being. In other news, Bo Nix might not be the only issue at Auburn, but a good South Carolina secondary made it look like he may be the most significant issue for that offense, which piled up yards but not points.
Miss State’s defense is legit, but the version of the Mike Leach Air Raid offense that shredded LSU opening night is nowhere to be found and the Bulldogs are fading fast. And Tennessee “back?” Don’t fire up that bus just yet. Jeremy Pruitt’s program was embarrassed on its homefield Saturday against Kentucky, a team that could very easily be 4-0 but will settle for halting the Big Orange momentum.
Am I forgetting anything? Oh, yes. It appears that all tests revealing Nick Saban’s reign over the SEC was over were false positives.
Alabama pushed what is still an outstanding Georgia defense around Saturday, compiling a silly 564 yards, 41 points, and 7.4 yards per play against Kirby Smart’s junkyard Dawgs. For perspective, that’s almost 100 yards and a full 0.9 yards per play more than Joe Burrow and LSU managed against Georgia last year. And I think this Georgia defense is better than that one. A marvelous performance from Mac Jones, Najee Harris and the fellas.
After a week that helped separate contenders from pretenders, here’s a fresh batch of player power rankings, honorable mentions first. You can read last week’s rankings here.
Honorable Mentions: Alabama OL; Dylan Moses, LB (Alabama); Daniel Wright, S, (Alabama); Jaylen Waddle, WR (Alabama); Hudson Clark, DB (Arkansas); Feleipe Franks, QB (Arkansas); Tank Bigsby, RB (Auburn); Owen Pappoe, LB (Auburn); Kadarius Toney, WR (Florida); Monty Rice, LB (Georgia); Richard LeCounte III, S (Georgia); Azeez Ojulari, LB (Georgia); Nakobe Dean, LB (Georgia); DeAndre Square, LB (Kentucky); Myles Brennan, QB (LSU); Terrace Marshall Jr., WR (LSU); Derek Stingley, CB (LSU); Larry Rountree III, RB (Missouri); Nick Bolton, LB (Missouri); Jerrion Ealy, RB (Ole Miss); Kenny Yeboah, TE (Ole Miss); Emmanuel Forbes, DB (Miss State); Kevin Harris, RB (South Carolina); Jaycee Horn, CB (South Carolina); Eric Gray, RB (Tennessee); Isaiah Spiller, RB (Texas A&M); Kellen Mond, QB (Texas A&M); Dayo Odeyingbo, DE (Vanderbilt).
10. Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
All the Kentucky linebacker did in the Wildcats 34-7 throttling of the Vols is collect double-digit tackles, including 3 3rd-down stops, and rumble and stumble his way to the endzone on a pick-6 — Kentucky’s second of the 2nd quarter.
Davis has 2 interceptions on the season and leads Kentucky’s defense with 35 tackles and 3 passes defended. If the Wildcats’ defense continues to play like they have the previous 2 weeks, Davis is cruising towards All-SEC honors and perhaps more.
9. Henry To’o To’o, LB, Tennessee
I’m not blaming To’o To’o for Jarrett Guarantano’s meltdown Saturday. Far better to give credit to Mark Stoops and the Kentucky defense for that. The Vols need more To’o To’o type players on offense. Aside from Eric Gray, that side of the football went AWOL Saturday at Neyland Stadium. Josh Palmer, who nearly made this list 2 weeks ago? One reception for 11 yards. Brandon Johnson? A senior who is still a possession receiver on a good day. It’s all a problem for Jeremy Pruitt.
But To’o To’o was masterful again Saturday, collecting 8 tackles, adding 2 stops for loss and a sack. On the season, the sophomore linebacker has a team-high 31 tackles, a sack, an interception, a defensive touchdown and ranks 3rd on the team in pressures. The kid can flat play and brings his lunch pail even when the Vols offense implodes as it did Saturday.
8. Shi Smith, WR, South Carolina
Call Shi Smith 7-11 because the guy is always open. He knows it, too, judging from his Instagram after Carolina’s 30-22 win over Auburn on Saturday.
There’s really not much Smith can’t do. He can play the role of possession guy and handle high volume, low yard targets. He can run the clean route over the middle and hit the chunk play downfield. He has great speed and just look at these hands …
Will Muschamp hasn’t had a pass game weapon this consistently reliable since Jordan Reed in 2012. That’s saying something, and it earns Smith a spot on this list.
7. Jalen Catalon, DB, Arkansas
Another week, another huge game. This time, the redshirt freshman made a huge play at the goal line, recovering a fumble to halt an Ole Miss drive and quell any Rebels momentum. He also made 9 tackles, including a thunderous hit on Elijah Moore in the 1st quarter that set the tone for the game. Catalon has 29 tackles on the young season, has forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, defensed a team-high 5 passes, and as a thank you very much, added this pick-6 Saturday.
Catalon has been really good for Arkansas. One of the best players on the team already. https://t.co/FGmt8CvvaY
— Clint Brewster (@clintbrew247) October 19, 2020
If last year was the year of Derek Stingley’s breakout, this season looks like it may be the year of Catalon, as the former blue-chip recruit has been even better than advertised.
6 and 5. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida and Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
A bye week, so we leave the Kyles on the list on account of their being the most productive players on one of the nation’s 5 most efficient offenses.
4. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
I wrote in this space a week ago it would be difficult to keep an Alabama receiver out of this list every week. This week, Smith gets the nod over Waddle for the first time all season. Why? How about 11 receptions for 167 yards and 2 touchdowns against the SEC’s best defense? How about plays like this one?
DEVONTA SMITH CAN'T BE STOPPED 😳
10 REC, 160 YDS, 2 TDS
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 18, 2020
The dude is just on a different planet. So is Alabama right now.
3. Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
Elijah Moore took a bone-jarring hit from Catalon this week and appeared hurt, but he came back in and continued to play spectacular football. For the 4th consecutive game, Moore caught over 10 passes, this time hauling in 11 on 16 targets for a total of 113 yards and a touchdown. The junior leads the SEC in receiving yards and receptions and has been a model of consistency on a team that is still cultivating a new culture under new leadership. What more could you ask for in a football player?
2. Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Don’t say you weren’t warned that Mac Jones was the real deal. If you watched the Iron Bowl or Alabama’s bowl game, you saw a glimpse of what this young man could do as the heir to Tua.
Jones wasn’t ever supposed to be this good, at least if you only look at recruiting services. But this is a conference with multiple wonderful stories at the QB position, and Jones, a 3-star recruit, is currently playing better than all of them. Jones just flat roasted a great defense this past weekend: He had the most passing yards (417), most yards per attempt (13.0), highest completion percentage (75.0) and best overall passer rating (219.5) of any opposing QB with more than 10 attempts against Georgia since Tim Tebow conquered the Dawgs in 2009. He was better than Tua in either of his outings against UGA and better than Joe Burrow in last year’s SEC Championship Game.
Yes, Jones is surrounded by elite weapons. But as Alabama climbed back into the football game Saturday night and eventually seized control, it was Jones who constantly made plays, bought time, dropped the ball onto the back shoulder of receivers, just took what a great defense and scheme gave him. It was a sight to see — and Mac Jones is now must-see television while the guy many Bama folks told me would start, 5-star Bryce Young, holds the clipboard.
1. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
If you think it is boring that Harris is ranked No. 1 again, show me video of a defense stopping him.
Harris didn’t just pile up 152 yards on a bellcow’s 31 carries Saturday vs. Georgia; he scored a rushing touchdown as well, something Kirby Smart’s defense doesn’t let him more than once a season or so of late.
For the campaign, Harris continues to lead the SEC in rushing (499 yards) and touchdowns (11) and Tom Rinaldi GameDay features that have made us all misty-eyed.
Mac has been marvelous, but it helps to have the nation’s best running back.