Here’s a look at the top three individual performances by SEC players from the first weekend of the season.
3. Tennessee RB John Kelly
The skinny: In his first game as the Vols’ unquestioned feature back, Kelly rushed for 128 yards and four touchdowns on 19 carries in Tennessee’s double-overtime win over Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets’ offensive success — they had the ball for 41:27 in regulation — limited UT’s possessions and Kelly had just 14 carries in the first four quarters. But he made them count, going for 106 yards and two TDs. He scored both of the Vols’ touchdowns in the extra periods, and had a 18-yard run in the first OT to set up his 1-yard scoring run. Kelly also was the Vols’ leading receiver, with five receptions (for 35 yards).
2. South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel
The skinny: Samuel’s season got off to a rousing start, as he returned the opening kickoff against NC State for a 97-yard TD. That was the first of three touchdowns on the day as Samuel sparked the Gamecocks to a 35-28 win over the Wolfpack. Samuel had five receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns – one a 6-yarder early in the second quarter, the other a beautiful one-handed grab for a 39-yarder early in the third period. The Gamecocks finished with just 246 total yards, but the kickoff return provided a huge boost that propelled South Carolina to the win.
1. Alabama LB Shaun Dion Hamilton
The skinny: Hamilton suffered a torn ACL in last season’s SEC championship game, but he showed zero ill-effects in the Tide’s season-opening victory over Florida State. Alabama’s defense was dominant in holding FSU to 250 total yards, and Hamilton led the way with eight tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack. The sack came on FSU’s first drive and set a tone for the game: Despite having five new starters, Alabama’s front seven was going to be in Deondre Francois’ face all night. In addition, FSU’s first play of the second half went backward because of Hamilton’s stop of RB Cam Akers. The Tide limited the Seminoles to 40 rushing yards and 1.5 yards per carry.
(You can follow Mike Huguenin on Twitter @MikeHuguenin)
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