Power ranking the top 10 players in the SEC through Week 4
Week 4 has come and gone and while Alabama remains No. 1, it’s Georgia that looks the most complete. Arkansas, led by Sam Pittman, a former key Georgia lieutenant, gets its shot at the Dawgs this week in Athens. The Hogs are now Texas State champions (Texas Forever, Sevens) after pounding Texas A&M into the dirt last weekend. Georgia will be a different type of test, but Arkansas hasn’t acted like new money in these big games. They belong, and Saturday will be interesting.
If you told SDS before the season that College GameDay would be on campus in Athens this year, we’d have shrugged our shoulders and said “Of course.” If you told us they’d be Between the Hedges for the Arkansas game, we probably would have asked where we can get the moonshine you’ve been drinking. College football never fails to surprise — and that’s part of its charm.
The Top 10 list has also produced some surprises this season. For one, a year after 3 SEC wide receivers and tight ends were consensus All-Americans, 2 finished in the top 10 in the Heisman voting and 1 won the Heisman, this list has mostly been devoid of multiple wideouts. Defense has ruled the day — and a quarterback was not been No. 1 or 2 through the first 3 weeks. Meanwhile, preseason darlings like South Carolina’s Kevin Harris and LSU’s Derek Stingley have fallen off the list altogether, victims of either horrific offensive line play (Harris) or inconsistent play in big moments (Stingley vs. UCLA).
But even without those and other players destined for NFL riches, the list carries on, and here are the 10 best players in the SEC this season through Week 4. Yes, this is a list of the best players in the league over the course of the season based on productivity. It is not a mock draft list. Last week’s ranking is here.
As is custom here, we begin with honorable mentions (limit 2 per school). All we ask from y’all as you read the list is that you remember that ranking the top 10 players in the best conference in the country is quite easy and you can do better than me without leaving any great players out.
Honorable mentions: Phidarian Mathis, DL (Alabama); Jameson Williams, WR (Alabama); Jalen Catalon, S (Arkansas); Ricky Stromberg, C (Arkansas); Smoke Monday, S (Auburn); Zakoby McClain,LB (Auburn); Zachary Carter, DE (Florida); Gervon Dexter, DT (Florida); Nakobe Dean, LB (Georgia); JT Daniels, QB (Georgia); Darian Kinnard, OT (Kentucky); Luke Fortner, C (Kentucky); Damone Clark, LB (LSU); BJ Ojulari, Edge (LSU); Will Rogers, QB (Mississippi State); Jett Johnson, LB (Mississippi State); Tyler Badie, RB (Missouri); Blaze Alldredge, LB (Missouri); Dontario Drummond, WR (Ole Miss); Sam Williams, DE (Ole Miss); Kingsley Enagbare, DE (South Carolina); Jaylan Foster, DB (South Carolina); Matthew Butler, DT (Tennessee); Theo Jackson, DB (Tennessee); DeMarvin Leal, DL (Texas A & M); Leon O’Neal Jr., DB (Texas A & M); Ethan Barr, LB (Vanderbilt).
10. Grant Morgan, LB (Arkansas)
Morgan, a preseason All-American who made this list on occasion a season ago, returns after keying the Hogs herculean defensive effort against Texas A&M Saturday in the Lone Star State. Morgan registered 5 tackles and 2 quarterback pressures and helped Arkansas get critical stops throughout the second half when their offense stalled. On the season, Morgan has 25 tackles, a sack and 5 quarterback pressures and he grades out at 21st among all Division I linebackers, according to Pro Football Focus. More valuable, his leadership as one of the team’s captains has helped Arkansas to a No. 12 ranking in total defense entering the Georgia game. The Hogs also rank 9th nationally in yards allowed per play, doing a great job of limiting big plays and forcing offenses to execute for full drives. A big reason for that is Morgan, who calls the checks in the middle of the defense and is the team’s “primary communicator,” according to Sam Pittman.
9. Kaiir Elam, CB (Florida)
Elam missed last week’s Tennessee game with an injury, which means he drops out of the top 5 due to inactivity. His numbers this season are staggering though. Opponents have targeted him 7 times in 1-on-1 situations — and completed 2 passes. Elam has also played more press coverage than any corner in the SEC and well, here’s what happens when he plays press coverage:
Florida CB Kaiir Elam is ELITE
? Most press coverage snaps played among SEC CBs
? 0 completions allowed in press coverage pic.twitter.com/qO7nm1ERF6
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 23, 2021
There’s not a better corner in the sport and the Gators are fortunate he’s expected back Saturday to battle with another player on this list.
8. Kayshon Boutte, WR (LSU)
Boutte is the first of a trio of wide receivers to find their way into this week’s list. His 8 touchdowns lead the SEC — and at 2 per game — he’s just behind Kyle Pitts and DeVonta Smith’s absurd pace a season ago.
Kayshon Boutte should just line up in the end zone every play. He's going to end up there eventually anyway. Just eliminate the middle man.
— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) September 25, 2021
He also exploits defenses in a number of ways. He can outrun you:
Max Johnson ?? Kayshon Boutte
The recipe for success ?
— 247Sports (@247Sports) September 25, 2021
Or outwork you in the red zone:
Max Johnson to Kayshon Boutte for the LSU TOUCHDOWN pic.twitter.com/wP52x5k5Sz
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) September 25, 2021
His matchup this week with a solid Auburn secondary led by Roger McCreary and Smoke Monday will be appointment television.
7. Treylon Burks, WR (Arkansas)
Burks got off to a slow start this season, but wow did he come through in a huge way Saturday against an elite Texas A&M secondary. Here, he has multiple steps on a senior Texas A&M defensive back (why Mike Elko left him with no safety help is another conversation). That ends badly for the Aggies.
TREYLON BURKS IS GONE???#CFB
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 25, 2021
On the day, Burks roasted the Aggies for 187 yards on 6 receptions, by far the most productive player on either offense. Burks has blazing speed, NFL prototype size, and tremendous hands and he’ll get another chance to showcase his immense talent Saturday in Athens against an even better defense.
6. Wan’Dale Robinson, WR (Kentucky)
The SEC’s leading receiver, Robinson has been as good as advertised since transferring back home to the Bluegrass State from Nebraska. His 25 receptions lead the Wildcats and last week, he caught 3 critical passes on 3rd down to extend Kentucky drives — showing he’s just as valuable as the “go-to” possession receiver as he is a home run threat. I’m still surprised Liam Coen hasn’t used him more in the run game — he’s only run the ball 4 times after attempting over 125 rushes at Nebraska — but I’d expect Robinson to be involved in all aspects of Kentucky’s game plan Saturday night against Florida.
5. Evan Neal, OT (Alabama)
Neal remains in the top 10 of NFL Mock Draft boards and remains in the top 5 on this list after leading the Alabama offensive line to a big performance Saturday against Southern Miss. Neal is a generational force as a run blocker in particular, and almost unstoppable in goal-line situations like this one — where he helps collapse the inside of Florida’s front as Brian Robinson walks in for 6 points.
Didn't notice this while watching the first time, but Alabama used an interesting front here
From left to right: Jahleel Billingsley, Kendall Randolph, Chris Owens, Evan Neal, Javion Cohen, Darrian Dalcourt, Emil Ekiyor Jr., Cameron Latu. https://t.co/20AAjGUT22
— Tony Tsoukalas (@Tony_Tsoukalas) September 21, 2021
His side of the line has allowed 1 sack of Young this season — which is a huge reason the first-year starter appears next on this list.
4. Bryce Young, QB (Alabama)
Here’s the list of Alabama quarterbacks who have thrown 5 touchdown passes in a game with less than 5 incompletions:
That’s the list.
The Alabama starter now leads the SEC in passing touchdowns with 15 and trails only KJ Jefferson and Matt Corral in yards per attempt at 9.21. He’s also leading an offense that ranks 3rd in the SEC in yards per play (7.0) and doing a tremendous job of protecting the football, with only 1 turnover this season. Young was never going to be Mac Jones or Tua as a first-year starter. But what he’s doing with less proven starpower around him is just as impressive.
3. Will Anderson, DL (Alabama)
Like the top player on this list, Anderson is a guy whose contributions don’t always appear on the stat sheet. They did this week though, as Anderson, still playing with a bit of a knee injury, accumulated 5 tackles, a sack and 2 quarterback pressures in Alabama’s monster win over Southern Miss. This followed a “less than 100%” performance against Florida where Anderson tallied 7 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 4 quarterback hurries. Anderson pushed the Crimson Tide to a 31-29 victory in that game and earned SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week honors.
He’ll next face the No. 2 player on this list and the mighty Mississippi offense in a game that will give him the national spotlight he deserves.
2. Matt Corral, QB (Ole Miss)
Corral’s 9 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards passing through the Rebels’ first 3 games are sensational, but it’s his ability to protect the football this year that’s impressed the most. Last season, Corral threw 14 interceptions and lost multiple fumbles. This season? Zero turnovers. He’s also become a force with his legs, rushing for 5 touchdowns on 33 attempts. He isn’t Emory Jones. But he does enough with his legs — and is so much better with his arm — that he’s the perfect quarterback to challenge the Alabama defense.
A year ago, Corral’s magic was almost enough to lift the Rebels to an epic upset over a historically good Alabama team. Now he gets his shot in Tuscaloosa in a game that could have Heisman implications.
It’s hard not to like the gun-slinger’s chances.
1. Jordan Davis, DT (Georgia)
The best player on the best defense on the best team.
It will be a pleasure to see Davis in a big game against an elite center (Stromberg) and physical offensive line Saturday. A legitimate test for both teams, but one I’d wager the Dawgs All-American will be ready to dominate.