Power ranking the top 10 players in the SEC after Week 7
There were only 4 SEC games on the Week 7 schedule, but there were certainly some impactful results despite the limited slate.
Florida vanquished its recent Cocktail Party demons, dominating Kirby Smart’s Georgia 44-28 behind 474 yards passing from senior quarterback Kyle Trask. Florida’s win may not represent a shift of power in the SEC long-term, but it does signal that Georgia’s big edge in talent is no longer prohibitive to Dan Mullen and the Gators.
Meanwhile, Texas A&M keeps getting better. I don’t care if South Carolina is mediocre and if Will Muschamp is on the hot seat. The Gamecocks had been competitive all season until Saturday night but were dominated so thoroughly by the Aggies that the 48-3 final scoreline seems almost flattering to South Carolina.
Mike Leach and Miss State managed to get back in the win column, leading to a very pleasing Leach lecture on chickens, pigs and fandom, which included an invitation to State fans frustrated with Leach’s first campaign in Starkville to “select another team.”
And finally, there’s Arkansas, the team that wasn’t supposed to win a game that is now 3-3 after physically manhandling Tennessee. There’s not a better story in the SEC right now than what Sam Pittman is doing with Arkansas, and in at least my view, the race for SEC Coach of the Year is over. The Gators better be careful this Saturday when Arkansas visits The Swamp, even if COVID sidelines Pittman.
As for individual performances, Trask’s maestro merits Heisman discussions, there’s not a better freshman in the SEC than redshirt freshman Jalen Catalon (with due respect to the marvelous Tank Bigsby), Georgia’s Richard LeCounte III became even more valuable without playing a down, and it’s time we included Arkansas’ Treylon Burks in the group of incredible SEC wide receivers in 2020. It’s incredible the talent the league has at that position, even with the best of the group, Ja’Marr Chase, electing to opt out.
Here are your top 10 players in the SEC after Week 7. Last week’s list is here.
As always, a reminder that this list (1) isn’t a list of top 10 draft prospects; (2) is fluid, meaning recency will be rewarded; (3) has a long honorable mention list because 10 players out of a whole league isn’t a big list and selecting 10 is difficult.
Honorable Mentions: Alex Leatherwood, OT (Alabama); Evan Neal, OT (Alabama); Dylan Moses, LB (Alabama); Jaylen Waddle, WR (Alabama); Treylon Burks, WR (Arkansas); Feleipe Franks, QB (Arkansas); Bumper Pool, DB (Arkansas); Grant Morgan, LB (Arkansas); Smoke Monday, DB (Auburn); Zakoby McClain, LB (Auburn); Owen Pappoe, LB (Auburn); Tank Bigsby, RB (Auburn); Kadarius Toney, WR (Florida); Stone Forsythe, OT (Florida); Nakobe Dean, LB (Georgia); Ben Cleveland, G (Georgia); Azeez Ojulari, Edge (Georgia); Kelvin Joseph, CB (Kentucky); Darian Kinnard, T (Kentucky); Jamar Watson, LB (Kentucky); DeAndre Square, LB (Kentucky); Larry Rountree III, RB (Missouri); Nick Bolton, LB (Missouri); Terrace Marshall Jr., WR (LSU); Jerrion Ealy, RB (Ole Miss); Matt Corral, QB (Ole Miss); Erroll Thompson, LB (Miss State); Marquiss Spencer, DE (Miss State); Ernest Jones, LB (South Carolina); Jaycee Horn, DB (South Carolina); Shi Smith, WR (South Carolina); Eric Gray, RB (Tennessee); Henry To’o To’o, LB (Tennessee); Michael Clemons, DE (Texas A&M); Ryan McCollum, C (Texas A&M); Kellen Mond, QB (Texas A&M); Ainias Smith, RB (Texas A&M); Cam Johnson, WR (Vanderbilt).
10. Isaiah Spiller, RB (Texas A&M)
Spiller moves from a season-long spot in the Honorable Mention section into the top 10 after a massive game against South Carolina: 177 yards on only 20 touches. Spiller leads the SEC in yards per rush by nearly a half yard (6.24! with Najee Harris second at 5.76). He’s also getting increasingly involved in the passing game for Jimbo Fisher, whose offense tends to work best when he can involve dangerous running backs in all phases (see, Cook, Dalvin). The Aggies are well-positioned to make a run at the Playoff and Spiller is a huge reason.
9. Jamin Davis, LB (Kentucky)
The Wildcats LB had an off week but remains the top linebacker in the SEC, at least per the Pro Football Focus rankings. It’s not terribly difficult to see why: Davis is 2nd on an excellent SEC defense in tackles, interceptions and forced fumbles and he’s added a block field goal because the junior impacts the game on special teams, too.
8. Elijah Moore, WR (Ole Miss)
Moore didn’t play, which in a fluid list means he drops a bit. The Ole Miss junior still leads the SEC in receptions and receiving yards on the 2020 season, and his 13.59 yards per reception rank ahead of players like DeVonta Smith of Alabama, who shares a spot on this list. A date with South Carolina this week is intriguing, as it should include plenty of 1-on-1 battles with the excellent Gamecocks corner Jaycee Horn. You can bet NFL scouts will be watching closely.
7. Jalen Catalon, S (Arkansas)
Sam Pittman says there is “not a player he’s coached that studies more film” than the redshirt freshman Catalon, who should win SEC Freshman of the Year honors by season’s end. Catalon’s 12-tackle performance in the Hogs’ win over Tennessee helped him capture SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors, as did his game-sealing interception.
On the season, Catalon paces an Arkansas secondary with a league-leading 12 interceptions. He also ranks 3rd on the Hogs in tackles and passes defended and leads the team in forced fumbles and fumble recoveries. Catalon was a big recruiting win for former coach Chad Morris when he signed with the Razorbacks in 2019 and has proven his merit as the anchor of Barry Odom’s tenacious, opportunistic defense in 2020.
6. Kyle Pitts, TE (Florida)
The Gators junior played only a quarter and a half against Georgia, but he made his mark on the Cocktail Party, making 2 huge catches, including this one where he simply dominated Georgia defensive back Tyson Campbell.
50/50 balls don’t exist with Kyle Pitts
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 7, 2020
Florida’s 38 first-half points were the most allowed by a Kirby Smart defense (at Alabama or Georgia). A big reason? The lethal Florida tight end. An illegal hit by Lewis Cine knocked Pitts out of the game, but even with only 2 catches, the way Georgia had to follow him around the field opened things up for other Gators, allowing Florida to score at will in the opening half.
5. DeVonta Smith, WR (Alabama)
The Alabama receiver slots in at 2nd in the SEC in receiving yards, receptions and touchdowns through the Tide’s first 6 games and, with the unfortunate injury to Jaylen Waddle, his numbers should only increase with the added volume and targets. An argument could be made that Smith should be higher on this list and it’s hard to disagree — along with Waddle and Pitts, he’s in the small conversation about who is the most explosive player in the league.
4. Richard LeCounte III, S (Georgia)
The rare instance where an injured player actually improves his ranking. Why? Look at what became of Smart’s mighty Georgia defense without him. The single-high safety is what makes Smart’s scheme work, and without LeCounte, all aspects of Georgia’s defensive operation were diminished.
Without better coverage downfield, Georgia’s pass rush was suddenly a step or two behind. Without LeCounte to communicate, Florida receivers ran wide open on rather simple concepts like this one, to Kemore Gamble in the first half:
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) November 7, 2020
Georgia’s linebackers were also abused repeatedly by Florida’s running backs in the passing game, and with Cine ejected, the Georgia safeties often struggled to clean things up. Georgia missed 12 tackles against Florida, their 2nd-most of the season. With LeCounte, you can bet that number — and Florida’s 44 point total — would have been lower.
3. Najee Harris, RB (Alabama)
Harris took a week off and still leads the SEC in rushing yards and touchdowns. The Alabama senior probably hasn’t even had his “big Heisman game” yet either, though if the LSU game is played, it’s frightening to consider what a player averaging over 2 touchdowns a game will do to a depleted Tigers defense. In most leagues, he’d be the runaway favorite for conference player of the year. The SEC isn’t most leagues.
2. Kyle Trask, QB (Florida)
Trask’s Cocktail Party performance was one for the ages, cementing his name in rivalry lore with 474 yards passing and 4 TDs. Trask is now 1 of 3 Gators quarterbacks to have multiple 400-yard passing games in a season. The others — Rex Grossman and Danny Wuerffel — both attended the Heisman ceremony and of course, Wuerffel won. Trask leads the SEC with 22 TD passes — a conference record through 5 games. He ranks 2nd in the SEC in passing efficiency (5th nationally), 2nd in yards per completion. Even PFF is coming around — they now rank Trask the 12th-best QB in college football; you’ll recall he started the season ranked 61st by PFF, which mystifyingly characterized the future All-American as “average.”
1. Mac Jones, QB (Alabama)
Jones edges out Trask for the top spot on account of numbers, mainly. The Tide junior leads the country in passing efficiency, leads in the SEC in yards per completion and is 3rd in the league in touchdown passes (16). His offense ranks 1st nationally in success rate (Florida is 3rd) and S&P+ efficiency. That means Jones leads the most lethal offense in America.
And how about this for the “it’s really about Mac’s weapons” crowd: According to PFF, Jones is the most successful and lethal quarterback in the sport, grading out at an absurd 93.8 on the 2020 season to date. Those numbers are just going to improve as Alabama hits a soft spot in the schedule with a COVID-plagued LSU looming (assuming the game is played).