With Week 1 officially in the books, let’s take a look at the best performances of the weekend in this week’s All-SEC team.
QB Brandon Allen: Brandon Allen was by far the top quarterback in the SEC during Week 1. The Arkansas senior, the lone signal caller in the SEC to throw for more than 300 yards, exited the season’s opening weekend as the conference’s leader in passing yards, yards per pass attempt (17.1), touchdowns (4) and quarterback rating (294.8).
RB Derrick Henry: What happens when you open the season with a 147-yard, 3-touchdown performance over a team that finished No. 23 in the nation in rush defense last season? People start whispering the word “Heisman.” Henry will have to continue at such a pace for people to start saying it louder, but he clearly has the size and speed to do so. The 6-foot-3 Henry averaged 11.3 yards per his 13 carries against the Badgers, second-best in the SEC behind Kentucky’s Stanley Williams (13.5).
RB Jalen Hurd: Jalen Hurd bulked up to about 240 pounds this offseason and the results showed immediately in Week 1 against Bowling Green as the Tennessee running back barreled his way to 123 yards and 3 touchdowns — the latter tying him with Alabama’s Derrick Henry for conference lead. The sophomore from Hendersonville, Tenn., paired up with teammate Alvin Kamara (144 yards, 2 TDs) for 267 yards on the ground and 5 touchdowns. With 38 combined rushing attempts, it’s clear the two sophomores will be work horses this season for Tennessee. That is remarkable when you consider that Volunteers quarterback Joshua Dobbs sits ninth in the conference with 89 rushing yards on 12 carries — ranking him higher than the leading running backs on seven SEC teams.
WR Keon Hatcher: Allen-to-Hatcher. Get used to it because you’ll likely hear it a few more times. Hatcher hauled in 106 yards and 2 touchdowns to spark the Arkansas offense to a 48-13 rout of Texas-El Paso. The sophomore scored on a 20-yard scamper and an over-the-shoulder grab in the back of the end zone on a 38-yard strike from Brandon Allen.
WR Christian Kirk: If we put Keon Hatcher on this list, then we have to include Christian Kirk, also. The Texas A&M wide receiver matched Hatcher’s 106 yards, as well as his 6 receptions and, naturally, his 17.7 yards per catch. Kirk scored on a 66-yard reception and a 79-yard punt return, both runs virtually untouched by Arizona State defenders.
Arkansas OL: A big reason why Brandon Allen and Keon Hatcher are on this list is because of the Arkansas offensive line, which man-handled Texas-El Paso. With the line opening holes and buying time, quarterback Brandon Allen had 308 yards in essentially three quarters of play, while Alex Collins ran for 127 yards and a touchdown. The unit had relatively low penalties, getting flagged three times for 35 yards. The Arkansas offense thrives on making defenses miss after the catch. That begins with the one of the biggest offensive lines in the SEC, which helped rack up 490 yards off offense, about 100 yards higher than the national average.
DL Robert Nkemdiche: It’s strange seeing a guy with 3 tackles and a quarterback hurry listed here, but Robert Nkemdiche’s presence was felt everywhere during Week 1 as Ole Miss beat down Tennessee-Martin 76-3. The junior defensive lineman blocked a punt on special teams and even spent some time on the opposite side of the ball, scoring on a 31-yard screen pass out of the backfield.
DL Daeshon Hall: The Sun Devils will have nightmares about Texas A&M’s Daeshon Hall chasing them down every time they close their eyes. The junior terrorized No. 15 Arizona State to the tune of 7 tackles and 4 sacks — two more than the next closest player on the SEC’s sack leaderboard — including teammates Myles Garrett and Donovan Wilson with two sacks apiece. Only Temple had more team sacks (10) than Texas A&M (9) in Week 1.
LB Josh Forrest: Kentucky linebacker Josh Forrest picked up where he left off last season as one of the SEC’s top tacklers at a little more than 9 per game, third-best in the SEC in 2014. The Wildcats senior finished second in the conference in tackles (15) in Week 1 behind Kentrell Brothers (16 tackles) of Missouri. Forrest also added a sack as well as an interception as Kentucky held on for a 40-33 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. Not bad for a guy who arrived in Lexington as a wide receiver.
LB Skai Moore: South Carolina linebacker Skai Moore leads the SEC with 2 interceptions, both of which proved clutch for the Gamecocks. South Carolina eked out a 17-13 win over North Carolina, thanks to the junior, who picked off Marquise Williams passes in the end zone on both the first and last drives of the game. Moore finished with 11 tackles, tied with Richie Brown of Mississippi State for fourth-best in the SEC in Week 1. He appears to be asserting himself as the leader of the Gamecocks revised defense.
DB Donovan Wilson: Texas A&M tied Colorado State for most solo tackles for loss in the nation with 13 during the Aggies Week 1 win over Arizona State — thanks in large part to Donovan Wilson, who tallied 3.0 of them. The sophomore filled the stat sheet with 2 sacks for minus-15 yards, 8 tackles, a pass breakup, a quarterback hurry and 2 forced fumbles.
DB Johnathan Ford: Johnathan Ford’s 12 tackles were an SEC high for defensive backs — edging out Texas A&M’s Armani Watts (10) and Justin Evans (9). The big man from Big Cove, Ala., also forced a fumble in Auburn’s 31-24 season-opening win over Louisville. The junior led the Tigers in tackles last year and appears poised to step up his game even further in his second full season. Having Will Muschamp as your architect on defense doesn’t hurt, either.