Power ranking the top players in the SEC after Week 10
Week 10 in the SEC brought rivalry revenge for Ole Miss and Alabama, rivalry redemption for Elijah Moore and Mac Jones, an epic comeback performance from Kyle Pitts, the final collegiate appearance of LSU great Terrace Marshall Jr. and last but certainly not least, a bit of history as Vanderbilt’s Sarah Fuller, already an SEC soccer champion in 2020, became the first woman to play in a Power 5 football game.
Of course, COVID-19 had its say in Week 10 too, forcing Tennessee and Arkansas to reschedule football games. It wouldn’t be a week in 2020 without COVID-19 influencing something.
By and large, however, Week 10 was about what happened between the lines, and while outside of the Egg Bowl there wasn’t much drama, the week delivered some special performances, some of which will shake up this list as the season heads down the home stretch. This will also be the final week the “honorable mention” section casts such a wide net. At most, 3 players from any given school are listed. It’s hard to crack the top 10, and while there are dozens of good football players in the SEC, the list of the best of the best is a select fraternity, and beginning with Week 11, we’ll cap the section at 2 per school max.
Here are the top 10 players in the SEC this season after Week 10, honorable mentions first. You can check last week’s rankings here.
Honorable Mentions: Alex Leatherwood, OT (Alabama); Christian Harris, LB (Alabama); Jaylen Waddle, WR (Alabama); Feleipe Franks, QB (Arkansas); Grant Morgan, LB (Arkansas); Jalen Catalon, S (Arkansas); Smoke Monday, S (Auburn); Zakoby McClain, LB (Auburn); Owen Pappoe, LB (Auburn); Stone Forsythe, OT (Florida); Kadarius Toney, WR (Florida); Richard LeCounte III, S (Georgia); Ben Cleveland, G (Georgia); Azeez Ojulari, Edge, (Georgia); Kelvin Joseph, CB (Kentucky); Jamar Watson, LB (Kentucky); Michael Maietti, C (Missouri); Larry Rountree III, RB (Missouri); Terrace Marshall Jr., WR (LSU); Derek Stingley, Jr., CB (LSU); Jerrion Ealy, RB (Ole Miss); Matt Corral, QB (Ole Miss); Erroll Thompson, LB (Miss State); Aaron Brule, LB (Miss State); Kevin Harris, RB (South Carolina); Kinglsey Enagbare, DE (South Carolina); Eric Gray, RB (Tennessee); Bryce Thompson, CB (Tennessee); Henry To’o To’o, LB (Tennessee); DeMarvin Leal, Edge (Texas A&M); Jalen Wydermyer, TE (Texas A&M); Dayo Odeyingbo, DE (Vanderbilt).
10. Jamin Davis, LB (Kentucky)
The junior Kentucky linebacker returned from a week away with COVID to play against the Gators, and while he wasn’t quite his dominant self, he still managed to pick up 6 tackles and recover a fumble.
Davis has captured SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors twice this season and ranks among the SEC leaders in tackles with 79. He’s also forced 2 fumbles, recovered 1, collected 2 interceptions, defended several passes and scored a touchdown. He continues to grade out as the best linebacker in the SEC, per Pro Football Focus, but as the Wildcats’ defense staggers a bit, we’ve moved him back in the top 10 a bit this week.
9. Patrick Surtain II, CB (Alabama)
The SEC’s top corner didn’t have a huge stat line against Auburn, but that’s kind of the point. When you are a dominant corner, you take away a huge swath of the field and force the defense to look elsewhere. The bigger impact? How about the fact that with Surtain on the field, Auburn’s best gamebreaker at receiver, Seth Williams, was limited to just 3 receptions for 17 yards on 8 targets. He even lit Williams up on simple bubble screens.
Patrick Surtain II is a stud.
Lights up Seth Williams here.
Surtain is CB2 on our board.pic.twitter.com/DLs7zERevn
— Boom or Bust: The Draft Show (@BoomOrBustDraft) November 28, 2020
He shouldn’t last more than 10 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft.
8. Isaiah Spiller, RB (Texas A & M)
It was tough sledding for Spiller at times Saturday night in rainy College Station, especially once LSU figured out they could cover the Aggies in man with Kellen Mond way off the mark from an accuracy standpoint.
Playing against cheating LSU safeties, Spiller still managed to grind out 141 grown man yards on 27 carries, handling the bulk of the Aggies’ offensive responsibilities on a night when Mond averaged 3.3 yards per pass attempt.
The biggest play? A tone-setting 52 yard touchdown run in the first half, which proved to be the winning score — and the Aggies’ lone offensive touchdown.
ISAIAH SPILLER HOME RUN HITTER
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 29, 2020
For the season, Spiler now slots in at 3rd in the SEC in rushing and yards per rush attempt, behind only the Harrises (Najee and Kevin) in yardage and Najee Harris and Kentucky’s Chris Rodriguez Jr. in yards per rush. Not bad for a sophomore.
7. Nick Bolton, LB (Missouri)
The unfortuante injury to Richard LeCounte III has really made the race for SEC Defensive Player of the Year wide open. Nick Bolton’s case is as good as anyone’s: a team-leading 76 tackles that places him in the top 10 in the SEC, 2 sacks, a fumble recovery, a team-high 5 passes defended (which shows how versatile he is) and the 2nd-highest grade of any SEC linebacker, behind only Jamin Davis.
The question Bolton faces — and Davis, for that matter — is can you win SEC Defensive Player of the Year on a team that isn’t competing for a championship? Missouri has the look of a team that will finish with a winning record and a nice bowl berth. Is that enough? It will be for people who watch SEC football regularly. It might not for the legion of fans who tend to just watch their own team. No matter. I asked a scouting director from a 2019-20 NFL Playoff team their thoughts on Bolton. Here’s their endorsement:
“As tough a football player as there is in that league, and it is the best college football league. He’s not super fast, but he is one of the most instinctual guys we’ve seen on video in the last 5 years. People say he’s small — he doesn’t tackle like he’s small. We’ve counted two miss tackles and we’ve watched him enough to say he’s high on our board. There are guys that are bigger or play for bigger programs who were recruited harder and he’s just better than most all of them on video. Relentless.”
Hard to argue with any of that, really.
6. Najee Harris, RB (Alabama)
Harris falls out of the top 5 for the first time all season.
Look — maybe this is harsh, but there’s not any shame in being 1 of the 6 best football players in the SEC.
Harris’s numbers are marvelous: He’s 2nd in the SEC in rushing yard and yards per attempt and continues to lead the SEC in touchdowns with an astounding 17 in just 8 games. Throw in his value as a receiver — 24 receptions for 244 more yards, and you get a player who has produced well over 1,000 yards of total offense in just 8 games.
On most teams, he’d be the bona fide star with Heisman hype. At Alabama, he’s not even the best playmaker on his football team.
5. DeVonta Smith, WR (Alabama)
It’s agonizing ranking spots 3-5, but we begin the top 5 with Smith, the Alabama senior who just lit up the Iron Bowl for 171 yards on 7 catches and 2 touchdowns. On his first touchdown, the legendary Eli Gold pointed out that the active and living legend Smith was “so wide open he could have stopped and read War and Peace.”
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 28, 2020
Smith takes the top off of any defense, and is so fast he makes one wrong step look like a full-on coverage bust. His body of work, especially without his partner in production Jaylen Waddle out for the season, has been remarkable, a testament to his work ethic and commitment to getting better as a senior.
4. Kyle Pitts, TE (Florida)
Welcome back, Kyle Pitts!
Nothing like a 3-touchdown performance to announce you are healthy and ready to finish your Florida career strong. Like DeVonta Smith, I’m not exaclty sure what you do to defend Pitts, who is 1 behind DeVonta Smith for the SEC lead in touchdown receptions despite playing 2 1/2 less games. Florida’s offense, which remains in the top 5 nationally in S&P+ offensive efficiency and passing success rate isn’t quite what Alabama’s is — but with Pitts, it’s a force of nature that is just terribly difficult to defend. Here he is torching Kelvin Joseph, one of the best corners in the nation per Pro Football Focus, in a man situation in the first half. Joseph entered the game saying that he felt “Pitts should be concerned because he hasn’t faced anyone like me.” How did that work out?
Welcome back, Kyle Pitts. pic.twitter.com/1ZAmCwgUEL
— Neil W. Blackmon (@nwblackmon) November 28, 2020
Pitts is so good Urban Meyer called him the best non-QB in college football this weekend. You could certainly make that argument — but you could make it for Smith or the guy we have at No. 3 too, which is what makes this top 5 so difficult.
3. Elijah Moore, WR (Ole Miss)
Consider the Elijah Moore Redemption Tour complete.
A year after one of the worst nights of Moore’s life, when a touchdown celebration gone terribly wrong sent Ole Miss to a stunning Egg Bowl defeat, Moore vanquished whatever was left of those demons. Working against what has been a salty Miss State defense all year, Moore was unstoppable, catching 12 of 14 targets for 139 yards. He didn’t score Saturday, but the Rebels won the game, largely because Moore fought through double teams and constant safety help to free things up for his teammates elsewhere.
Moore heads into the season’s backstretch leading the SEC in receptions (86) and receiving yards (1,193) and by the way, neither category is close: Moore is 14 receptions and 109 yards ahead of DeVonta Smith, who ranks 2nd in each category.
2. Kyle Trask, QB (Florida)
Trask falls a spot this week, not because a 21-27 for 256 yards and 3-touchdown afternoon against Kentucky isn’t a stat line “most quarterbacks would give a whole lot up for,” as Dan Mullen put it after the game, but because he didn’t dominate the Iron Bowl on national television like Mac Jones did.
Nevertheless, with Justin Fields and Ohio State playing so few games, and Trevor Lawrence missing a month with COVID, it’s hard to see anyone but Trask or Alabama’s Mac Jones winning the Heisman Trophy come January. The fact that Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book, who is having a stupendous senior year, can’t even break into the top 3 in straw polls is a testament to how good this battle between Trask and Jones is.
On the season, Trask’s 34 touchdown passes through 8 SEC games is a conference-only record and makes him the 3rd-fastest player in NCAA history to 34 touchdown passes. A national television audience awaits at rival Tennessee this weekend, providing ample opportunity for the nation’s 4th-rated passer to continue to put his signature on his Heisman résumé.
1. Mac Jones, QB (Alabama)
Mac is back on top after a 5-touchdown Iron Bowl for the ages. Not only did Jones completely redeem his 2019 Iron Bowl, which saw 2 critical pick-6s mar an otherwise great performance, but he did it making absurd throws like this one:
This is basically a perfect throw from Mac Jones. pic.twitter.com/dFwTItyzZq
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 28, 2020
There’s no way to defend that stuff. It’s why Jones, who many Alabama fans thought would be sitting the bench for Bryce Young by the 2020 Iron Bowl, may become Alabama’s first Heisman winner at the quarterback position. More important to Tide fans? The fact he makes the Crimson Tide the prohibitive favorites to win their 2,748th national championship. (Or close to it.)