Now that most of the SEC has made it through six games, it’s time to take a look back at the outstanding performers through the first half of the season.
Texas A&M has been the most surprising team in the SEC, so it should come as little surprise that the Aggies have the most standout performers on our list. Even though LSU has struggled from a team perspective, the Tigers added three defensive representatives and a lineman to the list.
Playing for a good team can either be a blessing or a curse. Even though elite players like Alabama LB Tim Williams or DE Johnathan Allen are some of the best in the conference, their effect might be mitigated by how talented their teammates are. Conversely, players such as Texas A&M DB Justin Evans or Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham pile up statistics with limited production from teammates.
But while this list is intended to honor the standout performers, it’s difficult to do so without noticing how significant injuries have been to this season. LSU RB Leonard Fournette, arguably the most talented player in the conference, has left a talent void at running back in his absence. Tennessee linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin was also a mainstay on this list that has left a void because of injury. Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett will be back by the end of the year.
Without further ado, here’s SEC Country’s 2016 midseason All-SEC team:
QB: Austin Allen, Arkansas
Stats: 119 of 187 for 1,632 yards, 15 TDs, 5 INTs
This was easily the most difficult pick of the group. Despite plenty of turnover at the position across the conference, several players have emerged. Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly was the presumptive pick, while Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight, Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs and Alabama’s Jalen Hurts have all overachieved. However, the nod goes to Allen, who has been an efficient and productive passer despite inconsistent performance from the rest of his offense. There’s been virtually no letdown after Arkansas lost his more experienced brother, Brandon Allen.
RB: Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M
Stats: 82 carries for 704 yards, 5 TDs; 13 catches for 71 yards
The SEC is a running back league, but a true freshman leads the conference in rushing yards. Injuries to Leonard Fournette and Alabama’s Damien Harris have played a part, but Williams ranked No. 3 with 8.6 yards per carry and five touchdowns. Williams has been one of the biggest catalysts behind the Aggies’ offensive resurgence. He’s on pace to break Johnny Manziel’s freshman rushing record.
RB: Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt
Stats: 136 carries for 682 yards, 5 TDs; 11 catches for 64 yards
Vanderbilt has been dreadful on offense this season, but Webb has continued to be a one of the most underrated players in the conference. He ranks behind just Williams in rushing and has managed to maintain a consistent 5.0 yards per carry despite being the focus of opposing defenses.
WR: Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M
Stats: 25 catches for 488 yards, 4 TDs
Reynolds has quietly become the SEC’s most productive receiver through six games, building a strong relationship with graduate transfer quarterback Trevor Knight. The senior has been a big-play specialist, averaging almost 20 yards per reception, including a 92-yarder against Arkansas that broke the game open.
WR: Calvin Ridley, Alabama
Stats: 34 catches for 412 yards, 4 TDs; 5 carries for 21 yards, TD
Ridley hasn’t been as impressive as he was last season, but he still continues to be one of the best receivers in the SEC. Even when he’s not targeted, Ridley remains the primary offensive player that opposing defenses have to account for in their secondary. Ridley helps open things up for other offensive players.
TE: Evan Engram, Ole Miss
Stats: 30 catches for 479 yards, 4 TDs
Engram has played a game less than many other SEC players, but he still ranks No. 2 in the conference in receiving yards and leads the Rebels overall. Ole Miss has been inconsistent, but Engram remains one of the most reliable players on the roster.
OL: Ethan Pocic, LSU
On a team full of stars, Pocic might be the most underappreciated. He has been a major part of the reason LSU has been able to average 6.3 yards per carry and continue producing despite losing Leonard Fournette to injury.
OL: Cam Robinson, Alabama
Robinson has been somewhat underwhelming, but his underwhelming still puts him among the better linemen in the conference. He leads an Alabama attack that ranks No. 20 nationally in rushing yards and No. 24 in total offense.
OL: Alex Kozan, Auburn
Auburn’s offense has been somewhat inconsistent, but the line play has been steadily improving. Kozan specifically has been jerked around at times by offensive line coach Herb Hand, but has still managed to stand out for a Tigers offense that hasn’t missed a beat despite losing running backs Jovon Robinson and Roc Thomas during the offseason.
OL: Avery Gennesy, Texas A&M
Texas A&M’s offensive line was unproven coming into the year, but has held up surprisingly well against a bevy of strong defensive lines in the early part of the schedule. The Aggies have played five Power Five teams and four SEC teams already, but rank No. 2 in sacks allowed among SEC teams behind only Missouri.
OL: Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
His teammate Dan Skipper was more heralded coming into the year, but Ragnow has emerged as a star, despite playing in a disappointing unit. Ragnow has built a solid relationship with QB Austin Allen and been a consistent blocker in Bret Bielema’s scheme.
DL: Derek Barnett, Tennessee
Stats: 20 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 5 sacks, 5 QB hurries, forced fumble, 2 pass breakups
Barnett has a case as the best defensive player in college football this season. His tackles for loss and sack marks rank among the top five SEC players, while the pressure he’s put on quarterbacks rank among the best. Even with LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin and CB Cameron Suton out, Barnett has kept the Vols among the best defenses in the conference. His signature moment came against Georgia, when he sacked Jacob Eason and forced a fumble that was recovered for a vital touchdown.
DL: Arden Key, LSU
Stats: 24 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 7 sacks, 6 QB hurries, 3 forced fumbles
LSU has struggled this season, but Key hasn’t been part of the problem. Key leads the SEC with seven sacks and has consistently gotten pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He is an important piece on a defensive unit that has struggled at times to be consistently disruptive.
DL: Carl Lawson, Auburn
Stats: 15 tackles, 7 TFLs, 6 sacks, 11 QB hurries, forced fumble
Lawson has struggled with injuries the past few seasons, but finally has been able to stay on the field and live up to expectations. The junior is among the conference leaders in sacks and QB hurries and has generally helped revitalize the Tigers defense and terrorize quarterbacks. He’s a big part of the reason Auburn seems to be much improved from last season.
LB: Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt
Stats: 62 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, QB hurry, forced fumble
Derek Mason gave Cunningham a chance three games into the 2015 season and he responded by ranking among the league leaders in tackles and tackles for loss per game. Now that he’s the full-time starter, Cunningham has broken out into maybe the best linebacker in the entire conference. He leads the conference in both tackles and tackles for loss – and it’s not even really that close.
LB: Kendell Beckwith, LSU
Stats: 45 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, sack, pass breakup, QB hurry
Beckwith leads the Tigers in tackles by a wide margin, with 18 more tackles than second-leading tackler Jamal Adams. He was a semifinalist for the Bednarik and Butkus Awards last season and has an excellent chance to be back.
LB: Shaan Washington, Texas A&M
Stats: 45 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, 2 sacks, 5 pass breakups, 4 QB hurries, 2 forced fumbles
Texas A&M’s linebackers were expected to be a negative, but Washington has quietly become one of the breakout stars of the season. He has taken advantage of the coverage that a dominant defensive line has provided and become one of the best-graded linebackers in the conference. He’s a big part of the reason for Texas A&M’s resurgence this season, even though Myles Garrett has been hampered with injuries.
LB: Jarrad Davis, Florida
Stats: 40 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 pass breakups, 2 QB hurries
Florida might have the best overall defensive unit in the nation, making it tremendously difficult to sort through all the standouts in the front seven. However, the senior Davis has set himself apart as a dynamic playmaker. He’s a big part of why the Gators are allowing an absurd 3.87 yards per play, No. 2 in the nation.
DB: Tre’Davious White, LSU
Stats: 14 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 2 INTs, 4 pass breakups, fumble recovery; 8 punt returns for 75 yards, TD
White is one of the most complete cornerbacks in the conference and maybe the nation. The senior leader could have left early for the NFL, but opted to stick around and dominate the SEC. White ranks among the best cover corners in the nation and also adds to the team as a dynamic punt returner.
DB: Jalen Tabor, Florida
Stats: 8 tackles, 3 INTs
Tabor was expected to be the successor to Vernon Hargreaves at Florida, and he has pretty much done just that. He has managed to lock down his side and force opposing quarterbacks to go to other parts of the field.
DB: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Stats: 27 tackles, 2.0 TFLs, 5 pass breakups, 3 interceptions
Picking between Fitzpatrick and Eddie Jackson was difficult, but the former clinched it with his dominant performance against Arkansas. The sophomore nabbed three interceptions to tie a school record, including a 100-yard return for a touchdown. It’s hard to believe Fitzpatrick is a true sophomore.
DB: Justin Evans, Texas A&M
Stats: 48 tackles, 3 INTs, 6 pass breakups
Evans has quietly become a star in Texas A&M’s secondary. The safety leads the team in tackles, ranking No. 4 in the SEC, and is tied for the league lead in interceptions. His six pass breakups from the safety position rank No. 2 on Texas A&M.
K: Daniel Carlson, Auburn
Stats: 13 of 14 field goals, 21 of 21 extra points, rushing TD
Carlson is not only the best kicker in the SEC, but might be among the conference’s best players. He’s hit field goals of 53 and 51 yards this season, while only missing a 56-yarder that was blocked against Louisiana-Monroe. Carlson should be a favorite to win the Lou Groza Award now that Roberto Aguayo is in the NFL. He even scored a touchdown on a fake field goal.
P: Johnny Townsend, Florida
Stats: 24 punts for 1,205 yards, 50.2-yard average
Townsend is one of only two punters nationally to average over 50 yards per punt, behind only Utah’s Mitch Wishnowsky. More than 60 percent of his punts have traveled 50 yards, nine were downed inside the 20-yard line, five were fair caught and only two went for touchbacks.
KR: Darrius Sims, Vanderbilt
Stats: 12 returns for 330 yards
Sims has quietly led the conference in average yards per punt return, averaging a solid 27.5 yards. The wide receiver has also collected more kickoff returns than any other player in the conference this season.
PR: Charles Walker, Kentucky
Stats: 8 returns for 109 yards, TD
The Kentucky defense hasn’t forced many punts, but Walker has taken advantage whenever they do. The wide receiver ranks No. 2 in total punt return yards despite ranking fifth in total punt returns. He even took one back for a touchdown against New Mexico State.