Power ranking the Top 10 players in the SEC through Week 6
Was Week 6 the best weekend of college football in recent memory?
There’s a really good argument that’s the case.
One of the last non-SEC Red River Rivalry games ever saw No. 21 Texas blow a 28-7 lead against No. 6 Oklahoma. Three top-10 teams lost. Multiple games involving ranked teams came down to the final play, including No. 3 Iowa’s win over No. 4 Penn State, No. 17 Ole Miss’s win over No. 13 Arkansas, and of course, No. 1 Alabama’s visit to Texas A&M and Kyle Field, where Alabama lost to an unranked opponent for the first time in over 100 games and Nick Saban finally fell to a former assistant.
The games were terrific, the environments were better. A year after we were robbed of full stadiums, family, friends and the rhythm of our southern autumn lives during the pandemic, it’s been amazing to see split rivalry games like OU-Texas and even better to see home-field pandemonium like we saw at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City or College Station on Saturday night. Family, friends, full stadiums, fantastic football. It’s why we love this sport and it was tough to top Week 6.
The top 10 list looks a bit different this week as we reach the midway point of the “going too fast” 2021 season. As you know, it is very simple to rank only 10 players from the nation’s best conference, so obviously if I left your favorite player off or the SEC’s leading rusher didn’t quite make the list, it is because I have no idea what I’m talking about, not because I only get 10 spots.
As an aside, it’s awful to see players like Kayshon Boutte lost for the season. While Boutte will remain in the list (honorable mention) for this week, he’ll join players like Jaylen Waddle and Richard LeCounte from seasons past that might merit a spot in the top 10 if healthy but sadly are left on the sidelines as time moves forward. Here’s wishing Kayshon a speedy recovery.
Last week’s list is here.
Honorable mentions first, limit 2 per school.
Honorable mentions: Evan Neal, OT (Alabama); Jameson Williams, WR (Alabama); Jalen Catalon, S (Arkansas); Grant Morgan, LB (Arkansas); Zakoby McClain, LB (Auburn); Smoke Monday, S (Auburn); Zachary Carter, DE (Florida); Brenton Cox, DE (Florida); Brock Bowers, TE (Georgia); Lewis Cine, S (Georgia); DeAndre Square, LB (Kentucky); Chris Rodriguez Jr., RB (Kentucky); Damone Clark, LB (LSU); Kayshon Boutte, WR (LSU); Will Rogers, QB (Mississippi State); Jett Johnson, LB (Mississippi State); Tyler Badie, RB (Missouri); Dontario Drummond, WR (Ole Miss); Chance Campbell, LB (Ole Miss); Kingsley Enagbare, DE (South Carolina); Jaylan Foster, DB (South Carolina); Tiyon Evans, RB (Tennessee); Theo Jackson, DB (Tennessee); DeMarvin Leal, DL (Texas A&M); Kenyon Green, OL (Texas A&M).
10. Leon O’Neal Jr., S (Texas A&M)
As good as Mike Elko’s defensive line is, it is O’Neal Jr. who makes the big plays that win games for this team. In Saturday night’s win over No. 1 Alabama, O’Neal Jr. recovered a fumble, broke up 2 passes and led the team with 9 tackles, including 1 for a loss. On the season, he grades out as 1 of the nation’s top 25 players at the safety position, per Pro Football Focus. O’Neal Jr. leads the team with 6 pass breakups — and he’s added 2 interceptions, a touchdown, a sack and multiple tackles for loss to his statistical tally while calling the coverages and checks for one of the nation’s best defenses.
9. Treylon Burks, WR (Arkansas)
Burks was a monster Saturday in Oxford, hauling in 7 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown. It helps that he also has a flair for the spectacular, as evidenced by the catches below.
TWO INSANE TREYLON BURKS CATCHES
— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 9, 2021
On the season, Burks ranks 2nd in the SEC in receiving yards with 519 yards and 5th in yards per reception, ahead of stars like Jameson Williams, Dontario Drummond and Ainias Smith. NFL teams are already salivating at his freakish athleticism and great hands, and as Arkansas hits a softer portion of their schedule over the next month, his numbers should only improve.
8. Hendon Hooker, QB (Tennessee)
You knew the quarterbacks would make a run this season, didn’t you?
Hooker has been a revelation for the Vols since taking over for an injured Joe Milton against Pitt. In SEC play, he’s been almost perfect: 45-65, 671 yards, 7 TD and 0 interceptions. That’s over a first down per attempt and those numbers are just his passing numbers — he’s added 169 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns on the ground in those games.
Florida did a terrific job of containing him, but South Carolina and Missouri didn’t come close, allowing Hooker to pile up massive numbers and build huge Tennessee leads in games decided by halftime. Along with Josh Heupel, he’s made football fun again in Knoxville — and the SEC is better for it.
7. Darian Kinnard, OT (Kentucky)
Kinnard, a consensus preseason All-American, is the rock of a Kentucky offensive line that has now stood its ground against the Gators and bullied LSU in back-to-back weeks. Kentucky rushed for 330 yards on 45 carries against LSU’s front, with a 71.2% success rate on runs to Kinnard’s left side. Kinnard grades out as the top offensive tackle in the SEC and the 2nd-best in the Power 5, per Pro Football Focus. He’ll get his biggest test yet working against Georgia this weekend. If the SEC’s leading rusher, Chris Rodriguez, has any luck at all against the Dawgs, you can bet Kinnard will be a vital reason.
6. Bryce Young, QB (Alabama)
If you keep waiting for Young to look like a freshman, well, you’ll be sorely disappointed (and still waiting) when the season ends. I don’t think Young is quite as good as his Heisman front-runner status suggests, but the freshman didn’t hurt his chances against Texas A&M. Playing a splendid Aggies defense, Young threw for 369 yards and 3 touchdowns in leading Alabama back from a double-digit deficit to a 4th-quarter lead. Yes, Alabama lost the game — but that wasn’t about Young. The better question is how badly Alabama would have lost without Young making plays like this one:
How did Bryce Young turn this into a first down?? pic.twitter.com/q53fZ5HB1q
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) October 10, 2021
Young now hits the season’s halfway point ranked 2nd in the SEC in passing yards and 3rd in the country in touchdown passes (20). A Heisman remains a real possibility given a watered down field and he’s getting better every week.
5. Will Anderson, LB (Alabama)
Last week, Anderson made his maiden trip to No. 1 on this list. He came up with 6 tackles, including 1 for loss, in the Texas A&M game. But for the first time all season, he was frequently blocked — with A&M consistently helping even as Anderson was moved around. You can have an off-night and stay in this list. But given the quality of the players ahead of him, a drop is warranted. The Alabama defense, by and large, goes as Anderson goes — and if he isn’t active for 4 quarters, the Tide have some issues getting stops.
4. Matt Corral, QB (Ole Miss)
Corral shredded an outstanding Arkansas’ secondary Saturday to the tune of 287 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also added 94 yards and 2 more touchdowns with his legs, increasing his overall season TD production to 20 (12 passing, 8 rushing). Saturday’s game was sweet redemption for Corral after his disastrous performance against Arkansas a season ago, and a sign of just how far he’s grown in his second year playing for Lane Kiffin.
Young is the Heisman front-runner in Vegas, but it is these 2 plays on a key Ole Miss touchdown drive that make Corral the best quarterback in the SEC for me. First, Corral uses his legs:
Then, he uses his arm:
Hotty Toddy, indeed.
3. Wan’Dale Robinson, WR (Kentucky)
Like the defensive players in our top 10, it isn’t just numbers that make Robinson so special. It’s the fact that defenses have to scheme around him and account for him on every snap. Robinson is that impactful. Without even being the focus of the offense, as he was at Nebraska, Robinson has made this Kentucky offense multiple for the first time in recent memory. And he’s done that despite Will Levis struggles with accuracy. How impactful? How about this statistic — which shows he’s the most valuable receiver in college football per route?
Robinson leads the SEC in receiving yards with 527 and ranks 4th in receptions with 37. He’ll get another national spotlight Saturday in Athens.
2. Nakobe Dean, LB (Georgia)
Auburn had momentum for a moment Saturday on The Plains and then Nakobe Dean did this:
Dean is a world-class athlete playing college football — he’s a sideline to sideline terror who contributes in every possible way. He ranks 2nd on the best defense in America in tackles (26), sacks (3.5) and hurries (8). He grades out as the best linebacker in the Power 5, per Pro Football Focus, and he’s the 2nd-best football player on the best team in the country.
1. Jordan Davis, DT (Georgia)
Davis might be the poster child for how to influence a football game without filling up the stat sheet. If you play Georgia, you have to double team him. In some situations, you may need even more help. If you run zone-read stuff, like Auburn, it doesn’t matter how you defend him because he’ll find a way to fit a gap and get involved in the tackle. If you don’t double team, bad things man, bad things.
Jordan Davis continues to ascend draft boards. pic.twitter.com/IpToRNQi1n
— Tyler Browning (@DiabeticTyler) October 3, 2021
This Georgia defense has dudes everywhere. For example, Devonte Wyatt and Jalen Carter, who also play inside, would merit “honorable mentions” on this list if we didn’t limit it to 2 per squad. But there’s no player more important than Davis — and if Heisman voters cared about awarding the trophy to the best player in college football, he’s who they should vote for.