It’s July 4, and that means a bunch of things to a bunch of people. For this exercise, though, we want you to focus on what happens right when it gets dark – fireworks.
In honor of those Fourth of July fireworks, we’re looking at the SEC’s 10 most explosive players. (All long-yardage stats are from cfbstats.com.)
One guy not on our list is Georgia RB Nick Chubb, but that’s only because we’re not sure about his health. When healthy, Chubb is a top-four or -five player on this list. Last season, he played in just six games but averaged 8.1 yards per carry on 92 attempts; more than 20 percent of his carries (21 of 92) went for at least 10 years. As a true freshman in 2014, he averaged 7.1 yards per carry and almost 20 percent of his carries (41 of 219) covered at least 10 yards.
Here is the top 10.
10. LSU WR Malachi Dupre
The skinny: Dupre and fellow WR Travin Dural are underutilized in LSU’s offense – if you want to say they’re criminally underutilized, we won’t argue – but both are big-play guys. Dupre gets more chances, so we’re going with him. His six TD receptions averaged 23.3 yards per catch, and he had three catches of at least 50 yards, four of at least 40, seven of at least 30 and 14 of at least 20. Overall, he averaged 16.3 yards per reception.
9. Tennessee S Evan Berry
The skinny: The younger brother of Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro safety Eric Berry is one dangerous kick returner. Evan led the nation by averaging 38.3 yards on his 21 returns, and he took three back for touchdowns. Nine of his returns covered at least 30 yards, six were at least 40 and four were at least 50. He had only one interception – but he took it 100 yards for a TD in the Outback Bowl rout of Northwestern.
8. Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk
The skinny: Kirk averaged 12.6 yards per reception, and at first blush, maybe there’s a question as to why he is on here. Well, here’s why: He scored nine total TDs as a true freshman last season, and they averaged 39.1 yards. He was an incredibly dangerous punt returner, averaging 24.4 yards on his 14 returns (too few to be ranked nationally). He had five receptions of at least 40 yards, seven of at least 30 and 15 of at least 20.
7. Kentucky RB Stanley “Boom” Williams
The skinny: Hey, the guy is nicknamed “Boom,” which should tell you something. He led the SEC by averaging 7.1 yards per carry, which was sixth nationally among players with at least 100 carries. He had 14 carries of at least 20 yards, six of at least 30, four of at least 50 and three of at least 60. Maybe the revamped UK offensive coaching staff will get him more than 12 carries a game this season.
6. Ole Miss DE Marquis Haynes
The skinny: Haynes certainly doesn’t have the size of a prototypical defensive end – he’s listed at 6 feet 3 and 220 pounds – but he is not a welcome sight for opposing quarterbacks coming off the edge. He has been clocked in the high 4.5s in the 40 and uses that speed to wreak havoc. Haynes set a school freshman record with 7.5 sacks as a part-time starter in 2014. Haynes became a full-time starter last season and led the Rebels with 10 sacks, a figure that was tied for fourth in the league; he added 16.5 tackles for loss – also tied for fourth – and eight quarterback hurries.
5. Florida WR Antonio Callaway
The skinny: He had just 35 receptions – but he averaged 19.4 yards per catch, which led the SEC among receivers with at least 20 receptions. He scored six TDs last season and they averaged 59 yards per play. Two of his receptions covered at least 60 yards, three covered at least 50, six covered at least 40, eight covered at least 30 and 12 covered at least 20. Needless to say, he needs more touches this season.
4. Missouri DE Charles Harris
The skinny: He is one of the most dangerous edge rushers in the entire nation. Harris had seven sacks, which ranked tied for eighth in the league, and he also had 18.5 tackles for loss, which was second. He also had 10 quarterback hurries. He has a big-time spin move and is the marquee player on what should be one of the best defensive lines in the nation.
3. Alabama WR Calvin Ridley
The skinny: His seven TD receptions averaged 41 yards and he led the SEC with six receptions of at least 50 yards (three of those went for touchdowns). Ridley also had eight receptions covering at least 40 yards, nine covering at least 30 and 12 covering at least 20. He also was the only SEC player with a reception of at least 80 yards – an 81-yarder for a TD against Arkansas. He averaged 11.7 yards per catch, a solid number given that his first 17 receptions went for a total of 125 yards (7.4 yards per catch). Once the calendar turned to October, it’s as if offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin truly found out what he had.
2. Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett
The skinny: The nation’s best pass rusher? It would be hard to argue against this guy. He had 12.5 sacks last season, giving him 24 in his first two seasons at A&M. He also had 19.5 tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hurries and five forced fumbles last season, giving him 31 and 19, respectively, in his career. He also forced five fumbles last season. He is 6 feet 5 and weighs 262 pounds, yet he has been clocked in the high 4.4s in the 40 and his vertical jump has been measured at 40 inches. That kind of athleticism in a guy this big? That’s explosive.
1. LSU RB Leonard Fournette
The skinny: Fournette is a special back, able to run over, around and past defenders. He rushed for a school-record 1,953 yards and 22 TDs last season. Fournette is both fast and physical; he has the speed to turn the corner, but almost seems to relish running between the tackles and dishing out punishment. He carried it 300 times last season and averaged 6.5 yards per attempt. Fournette had three runs of at least 70 yards, four of at least 60, seven of at least 40, 10 of at least 30, 18 of at least 20 and 59 of at least 10; each of those was an SEC-leading number. His 22 TD runs covered 434 yards, an average of 19.7 yards per score. The yardage on those 22 TD runs alone would’ve ranked him 23rd in the league in rushing.
(You can follow Mike Huguenin on Twitter @Mike Huguenin)
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