This week, SEC Country is counting down the “7 from ’17” for the 2017 Auburn football season — seven picks in seven categories from the Tigers’ 10-win campaign. Below, we kick off with the top players from 2017.
A team can’t get to double-digit wins and an SEC West title without several star players rising to the occasion. And although some of the names weren’t expected, Auburn got just that in 2017 from top performers on both sides of the ball.
Auburn had an SEC Offensive Player of the Year, an All-American defensive back, one of the league’s newcomers of the year, a new record-holder at an often-overlooked position in program history and several game-changers who made their mark behind the line of scrimmage.
Here are the picks for the top seven players from Auburn football’s 2017 season.
7. DB Stephen Roberts
Heading into his senior season, Stephen Roberts only had 1.5 tackles for loss to his name. In his final year at Auburn, he finished with 6 — and he got to that number fairly quickly. Roberts had one of the most impressive seasons for an Auburn safety in quite some time, making waves with his ability to hawk down ball carriers quickly and still be a force in pass coverage. His third-down stop of Bo Scarbrough in the Iron Bowl will be remembered for a long time.
6. LB Deshaun Davis
Deshaun Davis led Auburn in tackles by a huge margin — he recorded 82, and the next-closest was Tray Matthews at 59. Not bad for a linebacker who didn’t record a single tackle in the season opener. Davis was a force down the middle for the Tigers defense for the second straight season. He was the strategic and emotional leader for Kevin Steele’s elite unit, and he’ll be a huge asset to Auburn in his senior season in 2018.
5. QB Jarrett Stidham
Jarrett Stidham’s errors in the SEC Championship Game and the Peach Bowl took some shine off what was a strong debut campaign on the Plains. During Auburn’s five-game winning streak to clinch the SEC West title, Stidham was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country. He still finished with top-20 marks in yards per attempt, completion percentage and quarterback rating, and he became only the second 3,000-yard passer in Auburn history. Not bad for a sophomore who was away from competitive football for more than a year.
4. DE Jeff Holland
One of Auburn’s biggest question marks heading into 2017 was the pass-rushing production of its defensive line in the wake of Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams’ departures to the NFL. Jeff Holland answered that emphatically within the first few weeks of the season. He finished with 10 sacks, becoming the first Auburn player to hit double-digits in that category since Dee Ford in 2013. And when he wasn’t racking up sacks, he was changing games with his ability to pressure the quarterback on virtually any down.
3. CB Carlton Davis
While he missed the final three halves of the season, Carlton Davis still put together a memorable final year on the Plains. Davis became a second-team All-American for his lockdown coverage skills. After being on the wrong end of a couple of big plays against Clemson, Davis turned it around so much that quarterbacks rarely threw at his side of the field. He was 13th on the team in tackles — despite being on the field almost all the time — and had a team-high 11 pass breakups. Those are marks of an elite cornerback.
2. WR Ryan Davis
It’s fair to say Ryan Davis was overlooked heading into the season as a 5-foot-9 junior surrounded by taller and more highly-touted underclassmen at receiver. Davis quickly became Stidham’s favorite target, especially in the quick screen game, and he racked up the touches. Davis’ 84 receptions smashed Auburn’s single-season record, and he also tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns. The Florida native could turn small creases into big plays and had several memorable jukes of top-tier defensive backs in SEC play. His return will be huge for Stidham and Auburn’s offense in 2018.
1. RB Kerryon Johnson
Despite a few injuries — including one that knocked him out for a couple of games — Kerryon Johnson put together one of the best seasons in Auburn running back history. Johnson’s 1,391 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns made him the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year and a top-10 finisher in the Heisman Trophy race. Johnson took on a huge workload with Kamryn Pettway’s on- and off-field struggles, and he ran, caught and even passed his way into Tigers history. He was the clear MVP of Auburn’s 2017 season and will go down as one of the most beloved Auburn players in recent memory.