As we approach the midpoint of the season, it’s time to hand out some early honors.
Rather than jot down a list of midseason All-SEC players, I’ve decided to create the “All-Tape” team: A look at the players I most enjoy watching and re-watching on tape. These aren’t necessarily the best players in the conference, they’re ones who are intriguing schematically, consistently make “wow” plays or are just fun to watch.
We start with the offense:
Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
Missouri’s new passing offense has been one of the most intriguing schematic changes this season.
It’s a system that has allowed Drew Lock’s physical tools to shine and mitigated the impact of an offensive line that lacks top-end talent.
Beyond the obvious, his great arm talent and quick release, I have been most impressed by Lock’s ability to throw with anticipation. He’s consistently getting the ball out before receivers break. Playing in a system that focuses less on his decision-making — it features mostly half-field reads and predetermined throws — has limited some of the mental errors that plagued his freshman year. That’s allowed him to command a passing attack that currently ranks 26th in the nation.
The SEC has a number of talented young quarterbacks, but Lock has been the most impressive at playing within the structure of his offense.
Lock’s own play, coupled with the new offensive system, has made Mizzou’s games must-watch TV.
Joshua Jacobs, RB, Alabama
It’s eerie how similar Jacobs looks to former Alabama great Mark Ingram with the low pad level, small strike zone and nuanced movements that create space.
Jacobs has been the Tide’s best running back despite being a 3-star recruit on a depth chart littered with 5-star players.
It helps running behind a line that consistently gets him untouched to the second level, but Jacobs has the ability to accelerate while cutting and gain yards after contact, an area in which the likes of Bo Scarbrough have struggled.
Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
Callaway is a matchup nightmare for defenses. When he’s healthy, he’s as good as any receiver in the nation.
Against press coverage, he’s close to unstoppable. He does a great job of using his hands to keep cornerbacks off his pads and can accelerate past bracket coverage at the stem of his route.
This play against Kentucky is a great example — though for some reason he was left 1-on-1 in press coverage (top of the picture).
Callaway lowers his strike zone (dipping his shoulders) as he releases, preventing the cornerback from getting a clean shot on his pads and using his hands to create instant separation. He then turns on the jets and blows past the corner, with the safety having no hope of recovering on the play.
That forces defenses to choose one of two options: either double-team him and leave the other receivers 1–on-1 or play with off-man coverage and gift him the underneath.
With cornerbacks sitting in off-coverage, the Gators have two ways in which they can isolate and attack that specific corner.
First, they can get the ball to Callaway in space. He has elite stop-and-go quickness and is outstanding on quick screens. Getting the ball out on screens forces the secondary to do the most difficult thing in football: tackle in space. If there’s one missed tackle, it becomes an explosive play.
It also allows them to attack with double-moves, where Callaway is at his best. With corners playing with a cushion, anticipating Callaway getting the ball underneath, they are susceptible to biting on double-moves and fakes.
Callaway is such a smooth athlete in and out of breaks that he’s able to accelerate beyond defenders while they look to take away the underneath.
Florida’s sputtering offense needs Callaway to be fully healthy and at his best.
Jeremy Sprinkle, TE, Arkansas
No tight end has a bigger impact on multiple phases of the game than Sprinkle. Ole Miss’ Evan Engram might be the best pure receiver, but Sprinkle is the most complete tight end in the conference.
He plays as a traditional in-line tight end who stretches the seams in the passing game and acts as an extension of the offensive line when Arkansas runs the ball. It’s a testament to his ability as a run blocker that he is regularly asked to hold the point as linemen pull and move in the Razorbacks’ gap scheme.
His performance against Texas A&M was exceptional. On one play, he buried an Aggies defensive lineman on a delayed release before running a smooth double-move that created a big third-down completion.
With his physical tools he challenges defenses pre-snap: Do they play with base personnel or in the nickel? In base, they run the risk of him getting matched up against a linebacker in coverage. However, in nickel Sprinkle can run over smaller defensive backs when he stays in to block.
Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia
On a line that has struggled this year, Isaiah Wynn has stood out in the run game. He is a mauling guard with great power at the point of attack. While the Bulldogs running game hasn’t been as good as it was a year ago, Wynn has provided a weekly dose of jarring blocks.
When he’s moving or pulling in space he is a technician. Watch here, as he pulls around the corner and is able to flip his hips to drive the linebacker toward the goalposts, opening up a big hole for Nick Chubb. If Wynn had not got turned around, Chubb likely is swallowed by the contain defender on the edge. Instead, he’s able to get an explosive play, thanks to Wynn’s ability to move and play in space.
But the fun really starts when Wynn lines up directly in front of a defensive player and Georgia uses zone concepts. The line as a whole lacks power and has struggled to push defensive fronts off the ball. However, Wynn has been an exception to that rule, regularly bullying lineman 1-on-1 and collapsing the left side of the line.
While he has been shaky in pass protection, there is little in life more fun than a pulling guard crushing a linebacker.
Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas
Arkansas now runs the most intriguing gap scheme in the conference. That starts up front with Ragnow, who has been as impressive as any center in the country. In the Week 6 contest against Alabama, he was as good as any lineman on the field, preventing interior pressure against the best defensive front in the SEC.
Where he stands out most is his ability to identify the correct defender at the second level. He consistently helps turn small gains into big ones by moving well in space and playing with great leverage. The Razorbacks rushing attack is at its best when it’s running directly behind Ragnow.
Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
As a freshman, Williams has been just as impressive through six weeks as his teammate (and projected first-round pick) Cam Robinson. Williams has shown the ability to anchor vs. power as well as being explosive when countering speed rushes.
He is a rare athlete for the position, and while he hasn’t been asked to move or do a great deal in space, it will be intriguing to see how Lane Kiffin builds his athleticism into the offense moving forward.
How he fairs in the coming weeks against the elite pass rushers from Tennessee and Texas A&M will be fascinating.
Make sure to check back Friday for the All-Tape defense.