Today, we’re looking at 10 of the best all-around players in the SEC, and we’re doing it in honor of Mother’s Day.
That may seem a bit bizarre, but think about it for a second: What is a mom if not an all-around player? She does everything for everybody, and does so willingly (well, some things more willingly than others; I don’t think any mom likes changing diapers or serving as a chauffeur for each of her kids, but …) and with aplomb.
These players serve in a variety of roles for their team, and each handles the different roles willingly and with aplomb.
We’ve listed the players alphabetically; hey, just like moms everywhere, we don’t want to play favorites.
Florida WR Antonio Callaway
The skinny: Callaway emerged as the Gators’ top playmaker as a true freshman last season. He became Florida’s top deep threat, averaging 19.4 yards per catch, and tied for the team lead with four TD receptions. He also was one of the nation’s top punt returners, averaging 15.5 yards per return and taking two back for touchdowns – one against LSU and the other against Alabama in the SEC championship game. He seemed to play his best in big games; he had TD receptions in wins over Tennessee, Ole Miss and Georgia, as well as in UF’s OT escape against Florida Atlantic.
Arkansas WR Jared Cornelius
The skinny: Cornelius, a junior with big-time elusiveness, should be one of the Hogs’ leading receivers this season. He also was used on jet sweeps and as a punt returner and kick returner last season. Look for his role to grow this season.
Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham
The skinny: Cunningham, a junior, led the Commodores in tackles (103) and sacks (4.5) last season. He’s a good bet to lead in both categories again. Cunningham runs well, has some pop against the run (four forced fumbles) and can get after the quarterback. He also is competent in pass coverage (three pass breakups last season).
Alabama LB Rashaan Evans
The skinny: Evans (6-3, 230), a junior who went to Auburn (Ala.) High, is a big-time athlete who should emerge as a key player for the Tide this season. Evans showed his speed off the edge with two sacks in the national title game against Clemson and will be used in that role at times this season. But he also saw a lot of time as an inside linebacker during the spring and had 17 tackles in the Tide’s spring game. (And if you’re an Auburn fan, this has to make you sick, given the Tigers’ paucity of linebackers: It’s possible that both Alabama starting inside ‘backers could be Auburn High grads – Evans and Reuben Foster.) Evans also is a key member of the Tide’s special teams.
Mississippi State RB Brandon Holloway
The skinny: Holloway is a little guy (5-8, 165) who frequently makes a big impact. He was the Bulldogs’ No. 2 rusher, the No. 4 receiver and the main kick returner last season. Holloway has excellent quickness and makes a living making people miss in space. With QB Dak Prescott gone, expect Bulldogs coaches to lean on him even more this fall.
LSU CB Donte Jackson
The skinny: The dude is a flat speed merchant; he has run the 100 meters in 10.3 seconds. He returned kickoffs and punts last season, and might be the main guy in both roles this fall. He plays cornerback and nickelback, and there likely will be some special packages for him at wide receiver this season so he can use that world-class speed.
Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk
The skinny: Kirk scored two TDs in his first game at A&M, last season’s opening win over Arizona State, and ended up leading the Aggies in receptions, receiving yards and TD receptions. He also had two punt-return TDs, returned kickoffs and had some success on jet sweeps. He had 125 touches last season, and it would behoove the rebuilt Aggies offensive coaching staff to increase that to 135 or 140 this fall.
Georgia WR Isaiah McKenzie
The skinny: McKenzie, a junior, earned the nickname “The Human Joystick” while in high school at powerhouse Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage for his incredible quickness and big-play ability. He has four punt-return TDs in his two seasons at Georgia, and he also has flashed at times on jet sweeps and as a receiver. Look for him to play an even bigger offensive role this season while remaining a dangerous return man.
South Carolina LB Skai Moore
The skinny: Moore, a senior, is undersized (6-2, 218), but he runs well, has a high football IQ, is stout against the run and also adept in coverage. He was fourth in the league in tackles with 111 and tied for fourth with four interceptions. Moore will do even more this season in Will Muschamp’s defense; he had 6.5 tackles for loss last season, and it won’t be a surprise if he is in double-digits in that category this season.
Tennessee CB Cam Sutton
The skinny: Sutton, a senior, will be one of the top corners in the SEC – and the nation. He also is a big-time punt returner; he led the nation by averaging 18.7 yards per return last season, and he took two back for touchdowns.
(You can follow Mike Huguenin on Twitter @MikeHuguenin)
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