10 best returning SEC safeties in 2016
Evan Berry came to Tennessee as Eric Berry’s little brother, but he’s quickly made a name of his own.
The sophomore has blossomed into one of the nation’s best in the return game. Berry earned finished the 2015 season with 18 tackles and one interception at free safety, but earned All-American honors after leading the nation in kickoff returns with a robust 38.3-yard average. He was one of four players nationally to record three kickoff returns for touchdowns this season.
Berry, who figures to play prominently in UT’s bid for SEC supremacy next year, is among the many talented safeties throughout set to return to the conference next year.
Here’s a look at the top 10 returning safeties in the SEC for next year.
10. LSU FS Rickey Jefferson: It’s hard getting much run while playing behind the NFL-bound Jalen Mills, but NFL scouts already know who Jefferson is. He’ll assume the starting spot next year and the rest of the country will soon learn all he can do as well.
9. Tennessee SS Todd Kelly, Jr.: The sophomore registered a team-high three interceptions to go with 46 tackles and five passes defended.
8. Vanderbilt FS Oren Burks: The sophomore ranked third on the Commodores with 59 tackles and added three interceptions, one fumble recovery and a forced fumble to help make the Vandy defense a tough unit.
7. Tennessee FS Evan Berry: The sophomore made his biggest mark on special teams, leading the nation with a 38.3-yard kickoff return average. Berry figures to play a much bigger role in the secondary in 2016. He punctuated the Vols’ Outback Bowl win with a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown.
— tnsports (@tnsports) January 2, 2016
6. Florida SS Marcus Maye: Finished fourth on the team in tackles with 82, including 46 solo stops, and added six pass breakups and five forced fumbles.
5. Georgia SS Quincy Mauger: The junior registered 52 tackles to go with 10 tackles for losses and 15 quarterback hurries to help make the Dawgs the nation’s top pass defense.
4. Auburn FS Johnathan Ford: The junior ranked third in the conference with 118 tackles and added two interceptions and two forced fumbles to his efforts.
3. LSU SS Jamal Adams: The sophomore ranked third on the Tigers with 67 tackles and added a team-high four interceptions to 10 passes defended, six breakups, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
2. Georgia FS Dominick Sanders: Registered an SEC-best six interceptions to go with 48 tackles to earn first-team All-SEC honors and help make Georgia the nation’s top-ranked pass defense.
1. Alabama SS Eddie Jackson: The junior and converted cornerback excelled in his first season at safety, totaling a team-high five interceptions, seven passes defended, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery to earn first-team All-SEC and second-team All-American accolades.