July 4 weekend which down south means three things: meat on the grill, feet in the water somewhere, and talking season.

That whisper you hear in the office break room: Talking season. They are wondering if Georgia can win its second national championship in 12 months come January.

That laughter you hear in the back of the gas station: they aren’t chuckling about gas prices, but they are laughing about the over/under on questions about Saban vs. Jimbogate we’ll get at SEC Media Days later this month.

That Finebaum caller you’ve muted since February? He’s convinced Brian Kelly’s deep Louisiana roots will propel him to multiple championships on the Bayou.

That collective groaning you hear if you face south? That’s Florida fans wondering if Billy Napier will be more Butch Jones than Dabo Swinney as he embarks on his journey as the latest Gators coach to try to turn things around in The Swamp.

That’s right. It’s talking season.

And for your Fourth of July celebrations, why not discuss the players who will bring the most fireworks to SEC Football in 2022?

Here’s a Saturday Down South list of every SEC team’s most explosive playmaker entering the 2022 season.

Alabama: Bryce Young, QB 

Boring and obvious? Sure!

Disrespectful to Will Anderson? Maybe!

Forgetting about Jahmyr Gibbs? Not at all!

But there was no other answer than Young, who threw for 4,872 yards and 47 touchdowns (no, really) in 2021.

The 2021 Heisman winner will now try to do what Tim Tebow of Florida tried to do twice but couldn’t quite accomplish: return to school and join Archie Griffin in the 2 Heismans club.

Arkansas: Jalan Catalon, S

We typically think of offense when we identify explosive players, but just take a moment and watch Catalon play in 2022.

Even in an injury-shortened 2021, Catalon had 46 tackles, 6 passes defended and 2 interceptions. A modern safety with elite speed, physicality, and the ability to deliver the big hit — without getting targeting calls — he can also cover exceptionally well in space. PFF had him for a 21.7 passer rating allowed in coverage in his injury-shortened season.

On his career, Catalon has 8 pass deflections, 5 interceptions, a pick-6, and, per Stats Solutions, 15 “big hits.” He’ll be a consensus preseason All-SEC pick and was recently named to the First Team of Phil Steele’s 2022 preseason All-American list.

Auburn: Derick Hall, DE 

Sticking with defense, Hall had 53 tackles and 9 sacks in 2021, along with 13 tackles for loss. Auburn hasn’t had a defender with double-digit sacks since Jeff Holland pulled it off in 2017, Hall, who only became a starter last season, is just beginning to tap into his true potential. He had 2 strip-sacks a season ago as well, meaning he forces turnovers when he lowers the boom. Hall saved his best football for last in a prelude to 2022 when he collected 3 sacks of Bryce Young in the Iron Bowl, nearly enough to give Auburn the stunning victory.

With Auburn’s front expected to be the team’s strength, why not choose the line’s best player and leader as the team’s most explosive player?

Florida: Anthony Richardson, QB

Richardson has some skill you just can’t teach. He can leap over you. He can run over you. He can run by an entire defense.


He can light you up with his cannon of an arm, which wowed everyone at the Manning Passing Academy last week, and delivered balls like this one last year against LSU.


Finding consistency is what remains and stands between Richardson and the first round of the NFL Draft. Enjoy while you can, Gators fans.

Georgia: Brock Bowers, TE

The people’s John Mackey Award winner (seriously, how did he not win?), Bowers had 56 catches for 882 yards and 13 receiving touchdowns for the national champions. His 938 yards of total offense led a Georgia offense that very quietly led the SEC in yards per play, a statistic which, by its very definition, defines what is and isn’t explosive on a fall Saturday.

A tight end can be explosive in multiple ways. They can be hard to take down, which Bowers is, meaning he’s a chunk play threat every time he catches the ball. They can be fast and physical, which Bowers also is, because he’s quick enough to be too much for a good coverage linebacker and physical enough to bother anyone playing nickel. And they can also be explosive by how they open things up for their teammates. That was what made Kyle Pitts so generationally special, and Bowers will benefit his teammates in a similar manner in 2022. Teams will need to know where Bowers is on every offensive snap. That means more for Kenny McIntosh, Ladd McConkey, and other Georgia players to eat.

Kentucky: Tayvion Robinson, WR

Chris Rodriguez is going to Chris Rodriguez, OK? (Well, assuming he’s allowed to play after his offseason issues.) But it’s Robinson, the All-ACC transfer from Virginia Tech, who will bring the fireworks to Kroger Field this fall. The former high 4-star prospect has 113 career receptions for 1,555 yards and 9 touchdowns, and he brings the type of speed and route-running ability that the Wildcats lost when Wan’Dale Robinson headed to the NFL after the 2021 season. Will Robinson replicate his fellow Robinson’s 1,300-yard, 1st-down-per-touch production? Probably not, but he’ll give Will Levis a vertical target who can take the top off the defense while the Wildcats wait for young talent like Dane Key and blue-chip freshman Barion Brown to grow into their roles.

LSU: Kayshon Boutte, WR 

Before he was lost for the season in 2021, Boutte had a staggering 9 touchdowns on just 38 catches in 6 games. He averaged 14 yards per touch, and looked every bit as much of a budding star as the player who torched Ole Miss with 308 yards and three touchdowns on 14 catches in 2020. Is a Ja’Marr Chase 2019 season possible for Boutte? That might be a stretch, but not because Boutte isn’t capable of those numbers if LSU gets right at the quarterback position. Boutte is grading out in Chase and Kyle Pitts territory already:

It’s just about what his ceiling is in this new offense. If the ceiling is the roof, as his Airness used to say, Boutte might be the most explosive player in the SEC.

Mississippi State: Will Rogers, QB

As was the case with Alabama and Florida, it’s tempting to get cute here, but sometimes the right answer is the obvious answer.

Rogers broke Dak Prescott’s school records for passing yards in a season (4,739) and passing touchdowns (36), but he did it, of course, on a team that threw the ball over 700 times in 2021. With Makai Polk, who broke school records with 105 receptions and 1,046 receiving yards last year, off early to the NFL (undrafted free agent), Rogers loses his best weapon. But it’s safe to say Mike Leach’s offense will go as Will Rogers goes.

Missouri: Luther Burden, WR 

The No. 1 wide receiver in the 2021 class, Burden looked the part all spring, closing it out by dominating the spring game with 101 yards receiving and 15 yards rushing. A physical mismatch for most corners at 210 pounds, Burden is a “looks different getting off the bus guy,” much like former SEC freshman receiving phenom Julio Jones was at Alabama. His catch radius, speed, strength and ahead of his time ability as a route runner give Mizzou a true difference-maker on the edge. An 800-yard, 5-touchdown freshman campaign, filled with a handful of highlight-reel moments, wouldn’t surprise anyone.

Ole Miss: Zach Evans, RB

Lane Kiffin tends to manufacture a 1,000-yard receiving threat from nothing, and as a result, it’s tempting to go Jonathan Mingo here. But Evans, the TCU transfer, has all the ingredients to be special in Kiffin’s offense. The former 5-star recruit has averaged over 7 yards per carry in his young college career to go along with 13 per reception, in 2021 for the Horned Frogs.

Lethal in space and powerful between the tackles, Evans will step in nicely for the departed Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner and with Jaxson Dart coming in to fill the huge shoes of Matt Corral, the Rebs may rely a bit more on the ground game than they did a season ago. All of that spells big numbers for Evans, who is a game breaker in space but will finally get to show he’s dominant as the lead back as well.

South Carolina: Josh Vann, WR

No one is more excited about the arrival of Spencer Rattler than Vann, who returns for his “super senior” campaign looking to build off a 2021 where he led the team in receptions (43) and yardage (679). If you are scoring at home, that makes for a 15.8-yard average per reception which for perspective is 1.4 yards better than Georgia’s Ladd McConkey, 2.5 yards per catch better than LSU’s Kayshon Boutte, and a full 5 yards per reception better than Texas A&M’s Ainias Smith.

In other words, Vann was already one of the most explosive players in the SEC in 2021, and that was with Walk-On God Zeb Noland and the likes of St. Francis transfer Jason Brown playing quarterback. That’s a bit different than Rattler, a NY6 bowl-winner at Oklahoma who should elevate South Carolina’s offense back to universal respectability, if nothing else.

That means a big year for Vann, who should eclipse 50 receptions for the first time in his career and threaten the 1,000-yard mark from a yardage perspective.

Tennessee: Cedric Tillman, WR

Speaking of underrated … Tillman averaged a staggering 16.9 per reception in 2021, with a high volume of 64 receptions. In his final 4 games, including the Music City Bowl against Purdue, Tillman eclipsed the 100-yard mark receiving, including a 10-reception, 200-yard performance against eventual national champion Georgia. Talk about impressive!

Tillman wasn’t highly recruited out of Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, usually considered a basketball school. But he was Pro Football Focus’s 2nd-most efficient receiver in the country in 2021, behind only Alabama’s Jameson Williams, and he has the speed to challenge elite corners and the physicality and frame to win battles against help.


If there’s a more complete receiver in the SEC East, we haven’t seen him do it on the field yet.

Texas A&M: Ainias Smith, WR/RB/returner

Smith is explosive in the running and passing game, and a true playmaking, game-planning weapon because Jimbo Fisher can — and does — move him all over the field.  With 4.5 speed, he’s also a bottle of lightning in the return game, as he demonstrated last year against special teams guru Shane Beamer’s Gamecocks.


That isn’t even the best Smith clip, either. That would be the balance on this touchdown against Alabama, which demonstrates how Smith can hurt you in all aspects of football.

Smith wasn’t used as much in the run game in 2021 as 2020, collecting only 26 yards as a back a season ago. Those numbers should improve in 2022, even if Fisher primarily keeps Smith in the slot. The double-threat of run and catch, with the special teams triple threat, gives the Aggies one of the league’s most electric players.

Vanderbilt: Jayden McGowan, WR/returner

McGowan, a high school champion in the 100 and 200 meters, has track star credentials and SEC/world-class speed in the 200 (20.6).

How he progresses as a football player will matter, but what he will do is give the Commodores a game-breaker to replace departed talents Chris Pierce and Cam Johnson. If McGowan plays like the star-in-the-making he flashed in the spring, he’ll outperform his recruiting ranking and give the ‘Dores their most explosive talent at receiver since Jordan Matthews lit up SEC defenses a decade ago.