Power ranking the top 10 players in the SEC after Week 2
Week 2 of the college football season has come and gone, and despite a wild week nationally, the SEC stayed above the fray and away from the chaos.
The SEC avoided big upsets and even delivered a few pleasant surprises.
Miss State dominated NC State in Starkville, a statement win by Mike Leach’s team a week after they nearly hit the panic button in a 1-point escape against Louisiana Tech in their opener.
Texas A&M staved off a College Football Playoff derailing loss to Colorado, riding a brilliant defense to a narrow 10-7 win in Denver. By nook and crook, the Aggies have now won 10 games in a row, the nation’s second-longest winning streak.
Kentucky and Missouri opened SEC league play with an old-fashioned head-knocker in Lexington. The Wildcats piled up over 500 yards of offense and needed every yard to survive 2 turnovers and escape with a 35-28 victory over a game Mizzou squad. The Wildcats have difference-makers on both sides of the football and should be 4-0 when Florida rolls into Lexington on the first Saturday in October.
Finally, Arkansas welcomed No. 15 Texas to the SEC by dominating the Horns in Fayetteville. It was a special college football environment in Fayetteville on Saturday night, and a treat to see a wonderful fan base so long starved for a winner celebrate deep into the night on the edge of the Ozarks. The Hogs led 33-7 before Texas scored garbage-time touchdowns to make things more respectable, but make no mistake: Texas isn’t ready for the SEC and Sam Pittman is building something in Arkansas.
As for the list, there’s naturally some movement between Week 1 and Week 2. Here’s the Week 1 list, if you’re interested in such things. Weekly reminder that this list is about productivity at the college level — not NFL Draft ceiling — though often the two do end up in lockstep. Please also remember that if your favorite player didn’t make the list of 10 players, it is because it’s really easy to include every great player except your favorite player on a list of the 10 best players in the best college football conference in America. You could obviously make a better list than me easily, and I probably left your favorite player out because I can’t stand your favorite team.
Honorable mentions will return after Week 3, when we have enough of a sample size to know who is knocking on the door of this list. Until then, here is SDS’ list of the top 10 players in the SEC after Week 2.
10. Will Rogers, QB, Mississippi State
It was to NC State’s folly that they didn’t try to bring much pressure on Will Rogers, who made timely play after timely play in Saturday night’s 24-10 Bulldogs win over the Wolfpack. Rogers threw for 294 yards and 2 touchdowns, staking the Bulldogs to a 24-3 lead and protecting the football and letting his defense do the rest late.
Rogers was offered by two Power 5 programs — Joe Moorhead and Miss State and Mike Leach at Washington State. He’s now delivered 5 outstanding performances in his past 6 starts for State, coming into his own in an offense that seems tailor-made for his talents. Dating to last year’s Georgia game, Rogers has 2,114 yards passing (6.5 yards per attempt), with 14 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. State has won the past 4 of those games and was within a touchdown in 2 of the others.
9. DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
Leal has 10 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and a sack early in the season in 2021 despite facing constant double and even triple teams from opposing fronts. The preseason All-American grades out in the top 100 of collegiate edge defenders on the young season, per Pro Football Focus, and keyed a big 4th-down stop of the Buffaloes in the second quarter Saturday that helped turn the tide of the football game. Other players around the league have gaudier numbers through 2 games, but Leal’s value to this Aggies defense is about more than stats.
8. Tyler Badie, RB, Missouri
Missouri lost Saturday night, but it had a chance to win in the fourth quarter thanks to Badie, who accounted for 150 total yards and a touchdown on 24 touches against a stout Kentucky defense. Badie now ranks 3rd in the SEC in rushing through 2 games with 264 yards rushing and also leads the Tigers in receptions (13), receiving touchdowns (2) and receiving yards (128). He’s the jack of all trades playmaker the Tigers have lacked the past few seasons and defenses are going to need to account for where he is on the field at all times as they prepare to play Missouri this season.
7. Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Young made his debut on this list after just 1 career start and did nothing against Mercer that warrants his removal. Nick Saban was irritated about route running by Alabama’s youthful wideouts and blitz pickups by their running backs Saturday afternoon in his halftime interview and postgame press conference.
But Saban, a perfectionist who demands excellence from young quarterbacks, was pleased with Young’s performance. There was no reason not to be, as Young passed for 227 yards, completed 70% of his passes and threw 3 touchdowns. On the season, Young ranks 3rd in the SEC in passing yards and passing efficiency and 1st in passing touchdowns as he prepares for his first career start on the road Saturday afternoon at Florida.
6. Will Anderson, LB, Alabama
Anderson left the Mercer game with a knee injury after a very questionable block by a Mercer Bear (it fortunately isn’t believed to be serious, as of this writing) but made his presence known when he was on the field. Like Leal, Anderson faces constant double teams and uses an insane first step and football smarts to overwhelm the opponent, as seen below against Miami during Week 1.
That snap anticipation by Will Anderson tho ? pic.twitter.com/QCgCa16tEE
— Clint Lamb (@ClintRLamb) September 8, 2021
Anderson has 12 tackles on the year, 2 tackles for loss and a sack, but Anderson is another player where numbers don’t tell the whole story. With Alabama already without their other star outside linebacker Christopher Allen Harris for the remainder of this season, Anderson is vital to this Crimson Tide defense, and his status for Saturday’s trip to The Swamp will be a point of focus all week.
5. Kaiir Elam, DB, Florida
Like Florida Atlantic the week before, USF avoided Elam as much as it could, targeting the Gators All-American corner only once Saturday. The result of that play? It wasn’t good for the Bulls.
Kaiir Elam's ball skills = wow pic.twitter.com/DjTItwN1Sl
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) September 11, 2021
Elam continues to climb draft boards for his ball skills, cracking the top 10 in a pair of Mock Drafts last week. But more important for the purpose of this list, Elam narrows the field for the rest of the defense, a fact that is immensely helpful to a team still trying to figure out answers at the other boundary corner position and safety spots.
Elam gets a showcase game against Alabama on Saturday, and should have 1-on-1 opportunities defending John Metchie III, JoJo Earle and Jameson Williams.
4. Jalen Catalon, DB, Arkansas
In Week 1, Catalon helped Arkansas overcome two targeting ejections to weather an upset bid from a talented Rice team. In Week 2, Catalon brought the thunder to Texas, delivering 8 tackles and adding a pass breakup in the Hogs’ 40-21 rout of the Longhorns. Catalon remains tied for the SEC lead in interceptions and is 1 of only 8 SEC players averaging 10 tackles a game. He’s just really good at tackle football.
3. Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky
Told y’all last week that Robinson being deployed in the run game was inevitable, and it took Liam Coen all of one additional week to add that wrinkle for Kentucky’s marvelous new weapon. After a 125-yard, 2-touchdown review, he cruised 64 yards on a jet sweep on Kentucky’s second drive Saturday night.
Wan’Dale Robinson worth all the hype for Kentucky pic.twitter.com/dgiqfI3ehT
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) September 11, 2021
That was just the beginning of what would be a 174-yard performance running and receiving, all of which Robinson did on a tidy 8 touches (21.75 yards per touch, for those scoring at home). Even better, he takes care of the football — on a night when Chris Rodriguez seemed determined to cough the ball up to Mizzou with a pair of fumbles; Robinson simply delivered 6 first downs on his 8 touches without any ball security issues.
UT-Chattanooga presents yet another opportunity for the former Mr. Football in the Bluegrass state to shine.
2. Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
Shout out to UAB. They elected to double and triple Davis throughout Saturday’s game, limiting the Dawgs’ junior defensive tackle to just 3 tackles and a quarterback pressure. Of course, every time you throw multiple bodies at Davis, you open the floodgates for the big-time talents Kirby Smart has placed around him. This week’s beneficiaries? Channing Tindall, a senior who tallied 7 tackles and a sack, right through the Davis gap, and Adam Anderson, who quite enjoyed the lack of help and focus on him with the defense obsessed with limiting Davis.
UAB managed just 11 first downs on the afternoon, and Georgia still hasn’t given up a defensive touchdown through 8 quarters. That level of dominance has Davis threatening for the top spot on this list entering Week 3.
1. Evan Neal, OL, Alabama
Do you like pancakes?
Would absolutely hate to be the on the receiving end of an Evan Neal-Javion Cohen combo block. https://t.co/1L9EZ3LRrV
— Clint Lamb (@ClintRLamb) September 8, 2021
Do you think having a 6-7, 350-pound offensive tackle with a fluid frame is a bit unfair, even in the year of our Lord 2021?
Do you wonder how a farm boy kid from a small rural town in Florida ended up in Tuscaloosa, and not in Gainesville, Coral Gables or Tallahassee? Do hot takes like this make you grimace and wonder if the fan is just trolling or actually watches college football games?
Evan Neal just sent a formal request to alll 32 NFL scouts to ignore his week 3 film vs Zach Carter
— The Napier Foundation™ (@JusGettinBetter) September 7, 2021
Neal did struggle against Carter in Atlanta last December, and if he has one weakness, it is edge rushers with an NFL-type first step (see, Carter or his teammate, Brenton Cox). Florida will be a great test for him. For now, his film says he’s the best player in the SEC, and the biggest reason, literally, that Bryce Young should feel supremely confident heading into his first collegiate road game.