Power Ranking The Underrated Players Of The SEC
The Most Underrated Players in the SEC
The SEC is loaded with stars on both sides of the ball with plenty of Heisman contenders and a surplus of future high draft picks in the NFL. However, the conference has a number of players who are not getting enough credit or publicity for their work on Saturdays.
To be eligible for this list of the top underrated players you could not be voted to the coaches first team, because if you’re on the first team you’re clearly getting attention and notoriety for work on the football field and not underrated. Taking it one step further I didn’t want to give more attention to players who have been in the spotlight and are relative household names. Johnny Manziel and AJ McCarron did not make the first team, but this list is to identify the players who aren’t quite household names at present but should be based on their careers to this point.
For example, when I asked people via social media, “Who are the most underrated players in the SEC?” I got a number of votes for Donte Moncrief from Ole Miss and A.J. Johnson from Tennessee. My reasoning for their exclusion from this list is simple. They are both studs and, in the case of Johnson, are on the first team and didn’t meet the qualifications I established for the list. For Moncrief, it was just a case of a teammate of his being more underrated and wanting to showcase him.
I made it a point to include a player from each of the 14 teams in the conference because I wanted to keep it fair and balanced so no one can accuse me of giving one team too much attention or showing a bias toward one school over the other. Furthermore, if you have a player in mind you think deserved inclusion on this list over another player from his school you can leave your comment in the comments section below.
14. Jeoffrey Pagan-DE-Alabama
Jeoffrey Pagan has been one of Alabama's top reserve defensive linemen his first two seasons in Tuscaloosa, but now that Damion Square is gone the 6-foot-4, 290-pound defensive end will move into the starting lineup. Ends in a 3-4 defense don't rack up sacks, but where Pagan excels is in stuffing the run. He has the opportunity to do something special this season.
13. Wesley Johnson-LT-Vanderbilt
Wesley Johnson is one of the more versatile offensive linemen in the country having started at center, guard and tackle in his Vanderbilt career. He is on the Lombardi and Outland award watch lists this season after earning honorable mention All-SEC honors last season. The fifth-year senior will anchor the Commodores' line and be a team leader.
12. Trey Flowers-DE-Arkansas
Trey Flowers is coming off a six-sack season but is overshadowed by his teammate and fellow defensive end Chris Smith at Arkansas. The 6-foot-4, 262-pound junior had 3.5 sacks vs. Auburn and a 10-tackle game vs. LSU last year. With a strong junior campaign he could put himself in a good position for the NFL draft.
11. Bud Dupree-DE-Kentucky
Bud Dupree has made 15 consecutive starts for Kentucky but will now be at end after playing mostly linebacker for the Wildcats his first two seasons. He had 91 tackles and 6.5 sacks as a sophomore, and the move to end should see his sack numbers approach double-digits, especially under the tutelage of head coach Mike Stoops
10. James Franklin-QB-Missouri
Sure, the 2012 season didn't go the way Missouri or James Franklin had anticipated for their first season in the SEC, but you have to give Franklin the benefit of the doubt for playing injured the entire season. His 2011 season proved he can be one of the best dual-threats in the nation when healthy. I give him props for gutting his way through last season and playing through pain, but now that he is healthy he should return to his 2011 form and get Mizzou back to a bowl.
9. Antonio Morrison-LB-Florida
Even though he was a true freshman and a reserve for much of the season, Antonio Morrison looked to be a future star and made eye-popping plays on a defense littered with upper-classmen and future high draft picks. Just ask E.J. Manuel about his striking ability and the former Florida State quarterback will tell you the sophomore middle linebacker is a future pro.
8. Mike Marry-LB-Ole Miss
Mike Marry should have a special senior season at Ole Miss after winning the Chucky Mullins Courage Award this spring after starting at middle linebacker the past two seasons. He won the award for his leadership, determination and courage, and the three-year letterman is a tackling machine for the Rebels. He is overshadowed by some underclassmen on his defense, but make no mistake Marry is the face of the defense.
7. Michael Bennett-WR-Georgia
An ACL tear ended Michael Bennett's season in 2012, but before he went down he was Aaron Murray's favorite target. If he proves to be 100 percent healthy this season he should produce numbers close to 75 receptions for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.
6. Odell Beckham-WR-LSU
LSU wide receivers rarely seem to get the attention or notoriety they deserve, and Odell Beckham is no different. After averaging 16.6 yards per catch as a sophomore look for Beckham to be an even bigger threat in Cam Cameron's offense this year and see his touchdown production explode.
5. Nickoe Whitley-FS-Mississippi State
Injuries have dogged Nickoe Whitley at times during his Mississippi State career, but in my opinion when he's healthy he's as good as Craig Loston and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety in the SEC. His leadership skills will be on display this season as he will be surrounded by plenty of new faces in the secondary.
4. Ja'Wuan James-RT-Tennessee
Everyone knows about Tennessee's left tackle Antonio "Tiny" Richardson, but the Vols' right tackle is pretty darn good in his own right. Ja'Wuan James may not have the same high ceiling or NFL stock as his teammate, but James is a rock at right tackle and should have a good career at the next level. The Vols have the best offensive line in the conference, and James is a big reason for that.
3. Brandon Williams-RB-Texas A&M
The former five-star recruit and Oklahoma running back is finally eligible at Texas A&M where he has been a star in spring practices and a stud in the weight room. With Ben Malena starting at running back and Johnny Manziel coming off a season in which he led the conference in rushing Brandon Williams can be considered a luxury, but he's the back with the most upside on the team. With a team that can roll out four quality backs with Tra Carson and Trey Williams also fighting for carries, it's Williams who is the total package and should use 2013 as a springboard to what should be a monstrous 2014.
2. Tre Mason-RB-Auburn
In a season to forget on the Plains it was Tre Mason who gave Auburn fans something to remember after rushing for 1,002 yards on an otherwise anemic offense. With virtually zero threat of a passing game opposing defenses were able to stack the box with eight and nine defenders and Mason still managed to find running room. With Nick Marshall under center and Gus Malzahn calling the shots, a real life passing game will be present this year which means more room to run for Mason. In a conference loaded at the position with Todd Gurley, T.J. Yeldon, LaDarius Perkins and Jeremy Hill getting the headlines, Mason can find himself with just as many yards as this ensemble of talented SEC backs.
1. Connor Shaw-QB-South Carolina
The SEC is as loaded at quarterback as it's ever been, and if you were asked to name the signal-callers in the conference you may not even get to Connor Shaw until you've named eight or nine others. All he's done is win 17 of his 20 starts which includes two bowl wins. Shaw can run with the ball when the defense gives him room and he can sling it with the best of them. He's the epitome of a leader who makes his teammates better. Guys rally around him because of his toughness and willingness to play through pain. Yet as Jon Cooper from Saturday Down South told me via twitter, "He's 17-3 as a starter yet the only reason why most don't think South Carolina can win a championship is Shaw." Heck, he's even underrated by his head coach Steve Spurrier who may use a two-quarterback system with Dylan Thompson at times this season.