Who are the SEC's 10 most unsung players?
One of the high points of the college football preseason comes when the coaches and media honor the league’s best players … unless your name happens to be one of those not on the list. Sure, it’s a league of stars, but some guys, for better or worse, get overlooked. With that in mind, we wanted to single out 10 of the league’s most unsung players — the ones who make plays, but didn’t get all-SEC accolades. And here’s a thought — we’d bet half or more of these guys end up getting postseason All-SEC accolades.
Feleipe Franks, Florida
OK, so third-team honors went to Kellen Mond (57% completions, 135 QB rating) and to Joe Burrow (58% completions, 133 QB rating), but not to Franks (58% completions, 143 QB rating, 24 touchdowns to 6 interceptions)? Sure, he’s had some down moments, but his past production alone (not to mention his bevy of excellent receivers) makes the lack of love for Franks a bit of a head-scratcher.
Scottie Phillips, Ole Miss
All Phillips did last year for the Rebels was rush for 928 yards and a dozen touchdowns. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry, and his most staunch foe was his own injury issues. Lamical Perine and JaTarvious Whitlow are both fine backs, but neither has a better case than Phillips, who along with Snoop Conner will make a heck of a running back tandem in Oxford this fall.
Quartney Davis, Texas A&M
It’s odd that the preseason voters bought in on Mond, but not on his best target, the 6-2 junior receiver who had 45 grabs for 585 yards and 7 scores in 2019. Given Jimbo Fisher’s growing confidence in Mond, and the loss of all-world tight end Jace Sternberger, Davis will be among the league’s top receivers — just not it’s All-SEC selections in the preseason.
Cheyenne O’Grady, Arkansas
The All-SEC picks included Georgia’s Charlie Woerner (11 catches, 148 yards, 0 TDs), despite the Bulldogs’ adding former Tennessee tight end Eli Wolf, but they didn’t include O’Grady, a 6-4, 251-pound rock of a receiver who grabbed 30 balls for 400 yards and 6 scores last year. Given Arkansas’ overall talent issues, look for the Arkansas offense to run and hit O’Grady as often as possible as soon as he returns from a knee sprain.
Trystan Colon-Castillo, Missouri
The 6-4, 315-pound junior center has started each game of the Tigers’ past 2 seasons. It’s not coincidental that Mizzou has allowed just 26 sacks in those games — that’s over 2 full seasons. To give some perspective, the Tigers defense has tallied 60 sacks during the same span. Missouri’s offense is as daunting as any in the SEC, and Colon-Castillo is a big part of that success.
D.J. Wonnum, South Carolina
Sure, Wonnum was injured for most of the 2018 season, and some will sleep on him for that reason. But don’t forget that in 2017, he flashed All-SEC form with 57 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, including 6 sacks. Probably not coincidental that with his missing much of the season, Carolina allowed almost a touchdown more per game in scoring defense, and 57 more yards per game in total defense. If South Carolina gets back to its 2017 form, Wonnum will be at the heart of that effort.
Monty Rice, Georgia
Sure, UGA lost a ton of talent at linebacker. But you could have said the same thing the previous year. UGA has plenty of talent and depth, but don’t be surprised if Rice ends up being a leader of the defense. At 6-1 and 235 pounds, he’s strong enough to hit hard and speedy enough to drop and cover. In a part-time role, he had 59 tackles last season, which was 3rd-best on the team.
Monty Rice was the surest tackler in the SEC last season by only missing two tackles the entire season. pic.twitter.com/V3SbwJR15g
— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 9, 2019
Bryce Thompson, Tennessee
Much of the 2018 season was a baptism by fire for some young players on old Rocky Top. The good news is that for guys like Thompson, a promising 2018 campaign should yield immediate dividends this fall. The true freshman started 10 games last year, making 34 tackles, broke up 7 passes and had 3 interceptions.
Bryce Thompson had a stellar freshman season for the Vols. pic.twitter.com/I6XbRG01a2
— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 16, 2019
UT’s secondary could be a strength, and Thompson will likely continue to impress in coverage.
Max Duffy, Kentucky
Sure, punters aren’t often heralded at all. And there’s no doubt that Texas A&M’s Braden Mann is a star. But Duffy, who in his first year in American football, punted for 44.8 yards per kick, and dropped 30 of his 60 punts inside the 20, should get some attention.
DeVonta Smith, Alabama
Sure, it’s easy to say that you can’t just name a ton of Alabama guys All-SEC every year. But we’re seeing experts sleeping on the guy who made the big play of all big plays in 2017, and then came back to snag 42 balls for 693 yards and 6 scores last year? Yes, it’d be hard to jump him over Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle and Henry Ruggs. But what about vs. South Carolina’s Bryan Edwards or LSU’s Justin Jefferson?