In many ways, the start of SEC Media Days is the signal that the off-season has come to a close and that a brand new college football season has arrived. Following this week, programs will start fall camps and before you know it the season will officially kick off.
This week will be filled with terrible SEC takes by supposed expert media members, an absurd amount of coach speak, and a whole lot of guessing. Seeing as I too am excellent at firing off terrible takes and making random guesses disguised as supposed expert advice, I feel fully qualified to submit my own preseason All-SEC ballot and offer up some of my hottest takes for this fall.
Nerd’s Preseason All-SEC Offense
Gone are the days that elite defense reigned supreme in the SEC and scoring was just something that accidentally happened. High powered offenses are now king and the SEC has boasted some of the best in recent seasons. A big reason why is the amount of elite talent on offensive side of the ball in this conference. Here’s my take on who the best of the best are on offense heading into the 2021 SEC season.
Note, I am sticking with 11 spots on each side of the ball since you know that’s kind of how it works in football.
QB Matt Corral (Ole Miss)
This is reportedly the fewest amount of quarterbacks to travel to Hoover for Media Days in some time which isn’t a complete surprise given the amount of turnover at this position. However, Corral will be one of those 3 and enters the 2021 season as the undisputed top ranked QB in the conference. I am sure a few Dawg fans will be flea bitten by that but it’s the truth. Corral threw for over 3,000 yards while completing over 70% of his passes and throwing 29 touchdowns. He did throw 14 interceptions which kept the Rebels from winning a few more games last fall. I expect that TD number to rise and INT number to fall.
RB Tank Bigsby (Auburn)
Yes, Kevin Harris had an incredible season last fall leading the conference in rushing yards. Also yes, Isaiah Spiller was the engine of that A&M offense. And yes, SECStatCat, your man Chris Rodriguez at Kentucky is king of the advanced stats.
But Tank Bigsby is the best running back in the conference and possibly the country.
As a true freshman, Bigsby lead the country in broken tackles. He showed he had a 2nd gear to break home runs and flashed some excellent hands out of the backfield. We only saw a glimpse of what this kid can do. Assuming he’s healthy all season, I think he’s got a shot at 1,500+ yards this fall under Bryan Harsin and Mike Bobo.
WR Treylon Burks (Arkansas)
Hate Chad Morris all you want Arkansas fans but that dude got some stud skill players on campus, none better than Burks. After showing flashes of big time potential in 2019, Burks emerged as one of the top pass catchers in the conference last fall. He’s the perfect combination of size, speed, and hands you want in your #1 wide receiver. Per PFF, Burks ranks 10th among Power Five receivers over the past 2 seasons in 20-plus yard receptions with 17. Don’t be surprised if he’s an early draft pick next spring.
WR John Metchie (Alabama)
I will admit, I am surprised by how big of an impact Metchie has had for the Tide. I thought he was a solid prospect coming out of New Jersey but didn’t expect him to be more than a rotational piece for Saban’s offense. Last fall though he proved he has the potential to be a big time player. After Jaylen Waddle went down with a knee injury, Metchie took over as the #2 threat at wide receiver. When teams dedicated too many resources to not stopping Devonta Smith, Metchie would make them pay. Now it’s his job to be the top threat.
WR Kayshon Boutte (LSU)
You read it here first (probably not but whatever). The best wide receiver in the SEC this year will be Boutte. Sporting the perfect LSU WR name, Boutte exploded late last fall with three 100+ games including a monster performance against Ole Miss’s woeful defense. No matter who wins the QB battle for LSU, he’ll have one of the best weapons in the country out wide.
TE Jalen Wydermeyer (Texas A&M)
Jimbo’s offenses are at their best when he’s got an elite talent at tight end and boy howdy does he have one in Wydermeyer. Auburn fans are well aware of the Wydermeyer nightmare as the 6’5” 255 pound beast caught 8 passes for 89 yards and 2 touchdowns in Jordan-Hare last fall. Given the question marks at quarterback and wide receiver heading into this season, I expect Wydermeyer to be a focal point of this offense along with Isaiah Spiller.
OL Evan Neal (Alabama)
There won’t be a more physically impressive offensive tackle the Tigers see this fall than Neal. The gargantuan Neal stands 6’7” while weighing 360 lbs but can do absurd stuff like this.
There’s a very good chance he’ll be the #1 offensive tackle taken in the NFL Draft this spring.
OL Kenyon Green (Texas A&M)
Green is the last man standing from the Aggies 2020 offensive line. The former 5-star is expected to slide out to left tackle as A&M breaks in a brand new line this fall. He had to learn on the job quickly starting as a true freshman in 2019 where he was at times the weak point up front before morphing into the top performer up front. Very interested to see how he holds up on the outside against SEC pass rushers this season.
OL Charles Cross (Mississippi State)
Another former 5-star (noticing a trend here?), Cross needed a redshirt season to put weight on his lean frame. That time in the weight room paid off in 2020 when the big man emerged as one of the top tackles in the conference. Man it must be nice to sign and develop a 5-star offensive tackle…
OL Darrian Kinnard (Kentucky)
Auburn cracked the Big Blue Wall in the 2nd half last fall but that unit is still one of the strongest in the conference. Even more so now that Dare Rosenthal has arrived but the best player on that front is Kinnard. Per PFF he’s one of the most dominant run blockers in the country which meshes nicely with the Cats run heavy scheme.
OL Michael Maietti (Missouri)
The Rutgers transfer is one of the more experienced lineman in the conference and had a stellar debut for Mizzou last fall. Per PFF, he has the longest streak of pass rep snaps without surrendering a sack at center. He’s one of the top interior OL in the country.
- QB JT Daniels (Georgia)
- RB Kevin Harris (South Carolina)
- RB Isaiah Spiller (Texas A&M)
- WR George Pickens (Georgia)
- WR Kearis Jackson (Georgia)
- WR Ainas Smith (Texas A&M)
- TE Arik Gilbert (Georgia)
- TE Jahleel Billingsley (Alabama)
- OL Jamaree Salyer (Georgia)
- OL Austin Deculus (LSU)
- OL Emil Ekilyor (Alabama)
- OL Justin Schaffer (Georgia)
- OL Ricky Stromberg (Arkansas)
- OL Nick Broeker (Ole Miss)
Nerd’s Preseason All-SEC Defense
Yes offense has started to take over the conference but that doesn’t mean elite defense doesn’t still exist. There’s still plenty of elite athletes on this side of the ball and plenty of future 1st round draft picks. Just like offense, I am sticking with 11 players on the field.
DL Kobie Whiteside (Missouri)
It seems Missouri always has an NFL talent on its defensive line and this year is no different. Whiteside missed 2020 with an injury but was dominant enough in 2019 that I am willing to bet he emerges as one of the top lineman in the conference once again this fall. Eli Drinkwitz has this Missouri team poised to play spoiler this year.
DL Jordan Davis (Georgia)
The big nose tackle elected to return to Athens this fall which was massive news for Kirby Smart. You just don’t see many 6’6” 340 pound dudes move like he can. Due to his position, you don’t see him stuff the stat sheet but if you watch any UGA game it’s clear that everything they do starts with the big man up front eating space.
DL DeMarvin Leal (Texas A&M)
Leal is one of the more complete defensive lineman in the conference. He can set the edge one snap and the next get the edge to sack the quarterback. His stats aren’t necessary gaudy but he’s unquestionably one of the strong defensive lineman in this conference.
EDGE Will Anderson (Alabama)
There was a time I thought Anderson was going to Auburn. He was a 3-star who Rodney Garner identified early as a big time player. But per usual, Alabama late swooped in and snatched the pass rusher who eventually ended up a 5-star and is now one of the most feared pass rushers in the country. Anderson has a chance to be a #1 overall draft pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
EDGE Adam Anderson (Georgia)
In order to be an elite pass rusher in the SEC, you must have the last name Anderson… The former 5-star doesn’t see a ton of snaps as Smart tends to sub heavily situationally but he’s one of the most productive players in the country when he’s on the field. Given the proliferation of pass first offenses now in the conference, I think Anderson has a chance to put up some monster numbers this fall.
LB Zakoby McClain (Auburn)
McClain was snubbed of any All-Conference honors last fall despite finishing 2nd nationally in tackles. This publication will make no such horrid mistakes. In Derek Mason’s scheme, McClain has a chance to build on those numbers as lot of the run game will be filtered his way. The undersized but electric athlete is one of the hardest hitting backers in the conference and is poised to have another big fall.
LB Christian Harris (Alabama)
The Louisiana native has blossomed into one of the top linebackers in the country. The consensus top LB prospect heading into the 2021 season, Harris will captain a defense that has a chance to be one of the best in the conference this fall. He’ll team up now with Tennessee transfer Henry To’ot’o to make up one of the most fearsome duos in the country.
CB Derek Stingley Jr. (LSU)
Without question, Derek Stingley is the best cornerback in the country. Teams gave him the Carlos Rogers treatment last fall by just ignoring his side of the field. That’s hard to do with Elias Ricks on the other side but better than the certainty that you are throwing into trouble. There’s a chance Stingley could see some offensive snaps this fall too.
CB Roger McCreary (Auburn)
Look this conference is loaded with cornerbacks. Kaiir Elam, Josh Jobe, Elias Ricks, and Derion Kendrick all would have been great choices. But I am a homer ok and when everything else is pretty much even I am picking the Tiger.
McCreary was a low rated 3-star out of Mobile who like seemingly most low rated defensive 3-stars from Mobile has become one of the Tigers top players. His decision to return bolstered an already strong defensive backfield for Auburn. He’s trying to break into the first round and has all the tools to do so this fall.
S Jalen Catalon (Arkansas)
Look from an advanced statistics perspective, Jordan Battle is probably the better pick but sometimes it ain’t about numbers you nerds. It’s about who is the most fun to watch and there might not be a more entertaining player on the defensive side of the ball than Catalon. A blue chip prospect out of Texas, Catalon does a little of everything for the Hogs defense and his versatility is the lynchpin of Barry Odom’s defense.
S Tykee Smith (Georgia)
The Dawgs were very efficient in their use of the portal landing a former 5-star tight end in Arik Gilbert, one of the top corners in the country in Derion Kendrick and the highest rated returning safety in Tykee Smith. Auburn thought they had a legit shot at landing Smith but as it usually seems to go in the world of recruiting, Kirby Smart won out. Smith could play safety or the nickel for Smart. Either way, he fills one of the biggest holes in that Dawg defense heading into the 2021 season.
- DL Phidarian Mathis (Alabama)
- DL Jayden Peevy (Texas A&M)
- DL Colby Wooden (Auburn)
- EDGE BJ Ojulari (LSU)
- EDGE Brenton Cox (Florida)
- LB Owen Pappoe (Auburn)
- LB Mike Jones Jr. (LSU)
- LB Nakobe Dean (Georgia)
- CB Josh Jobe (Alabama)
- CB Elias Ricks (LSU)
- CB Derion Kendrick (Georgia)
- CB Kaiir Elam (Florida)
- S Smoke Monday (Auburn)
- S Jordan Battle (Alabama)
- S Yusuf Corker (Kentucky)
- S Lewis Cine (Georgia)
SEC Hot Takes
There will be lots of terrible takes fired off over this next week as extremely biased media members attempt to go against the grain or excite their subs. Seeing as I am a totally impartial voice and one with a renowned track record of never getting anything wrong, I thought I’d offer my hottest of takes for this season.
Mizzou Spoils Florida’s Season
I foresee this scenario playing out this fall:
- UGA loses their primetime opener to Clemson
- UF falls week 3 to Alabama
- Both teams go on a run leading up to the formerly named World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party
- Dan Mullen once again gets the best of Kirby Smart and Gator fans start dreaming of Atlanta
- On November 20th, Mullen does what Mullen does and chokes away a championship opportunity losing to the Missouri Tigers
- UGA ends up back in Atlanta where Smart finds a new and unique way to lose to Saban
You read it here first folks.
LSU Barely Becomes Bowl Eligible
One of the sexier takes this off-season has been the return of the LSU Tigers. There seems to be a belief that given the high level of talent on that roster paired with Bo Pelini no longer coaching and a new offensive braintrust comprised of 2 dudes that have sat close to Joe Brady, that LSU will return to prominence.
I am skeptical.
Yes, LSU has tons of talent. Yes, I think their defense won’t be straight trash again this fall. Yes, they were national champs not that long ago. But I think 2020 will end up proving to be a more likely representation of Ed O the head coach than 2019. Losing Dave Aranda was a bigger blow than anyone in Baton Rouge wanted to admit. He struck out on his first 3 DC candidates this past off-season before settling for Daronte Jones. I think they end up choosing the wrong QB to start the season in Max Johnson before pivoting back to Myles Brennan.
Don’t be surprised if that UCLA game ends up being tighter than anyone expected. My guess is LSU ends up 7-5 this fall.
Bo Nix Will Be Top 5 Quarterback In SEC
This is the year. Bo Nix has improved so much under this new offense. He’s focused. He’s having fun. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a dark horse for the Heisman.