As final Saturday in October creeps closer, we are officially halfway home in conference play. I wanted to take a look at some of the very best performers thus far, so let’s take a look at the “All-SEC” performers at the midway point.
How does one qualify for this? It’s simple. Stats play a major factor, but big performances in big games certainly help one’s case. Let’s get started on offense with the quarterbacks.
*Any stat boldened means the player leads the conference, bold and italicized means they lead Power-5 qualifiers*
First Team - Hendon Hooker | Tennessee
Stats: 2093 yards, 18 pass TD, 1 INT, 70.6 COMP%, 12.4 AY/A, 0.41 EPA/Dropback
Well this was a pretty simple choice. The leading Heisman contender out of the SEC right now is Hendon Hooker, and he’s having a year for the ages right now. Hooker has Tennessee off to their hottest start since 1998 and engineered the Vols’ first win over Alabama since Saban took over in Tuscaloosa.
Hooker also on pace to break Peyton Manning’s school single season yards and touchdowns records by Tennessee’s bowl game, and could do it in over 100 fewer pass attempts. Hooker owns just about every efficiency record in the book in Knoxville as well, and this year, he’s got his sights set on not just New York, but hopefully Atlanta.
Hooker’s expected points added are the best in the SEC, and the only two Power Five gunslingers performing at a higher EPA/dropback clip right now with 150+ pass attempts are Ohio State’s CJ Stroud and North Carolina’s Drake Maye.
Second Team - Bryce Young | Alabama
Stats: 1906 yards, 18 pass TD, 3 INT, 66.1 COMP%, 9.6 AY/A, 0.24 EPA/dropback
Ho hum, the Heisman winner is having another great campaign.
Though Young’s metrics in the above graph show him behind both Stetson Bennett and KJ Jefferson in EPA/dropback, it’s important to note the schedule Alabama has faced has not exactly been the easiest.
Bryce has certainly looked more human this year, but outside of Hooker, no one is playing on the same level right now in the conference.
First Team - Raheim Sanders | Arkansas
Stats: 140 attempts, 892 yards, 8 tot. TD, 6.3 YPC, 1,059 scrimmage yards
No back in the SEC has more rushing yards or yards from scrimmage than Raheim ‘Rocket’ Sanders. Among backs in the SEC with 50+ carries, Sanders is tied for second in yards after contact with Quinshon Judkins, both trailing only Tank Bigsby for Auburn.
With the departure of Treylon Burks to the NFL and the running back room thinning out, Sanders has had to take on a much bigger role at Arkansas, and he’s flourished within it.
Sanders trails only Bijan Robinson (Texas), Chase Brown (Illinois), and Israel Abanikanda (Pitt) in total scrimmage yards among Power Five backs, he has the most carries of 10+ yards among running backs in the SEC (he trails only Jayden Daniels overall) and has played the most snaps per game of any back in the conference. His durability and versatility have matched his explosiveness, and he’s been the best back in the SEC thus far.
Second Team - Jahmyr Gibbs | Alabama
Stats: 98 attempts, 672 yards, 9 tot. TD, 6.9 YPC, 973 scrimmage yards
Gibbs has become Alabama’s resident Swiss Army Knife and is arguably the most versatile weapon in all of college football.
This was a tough call choosing between Gibbs and Judkins of Ole Miss, but Gibbs has more yards from scrimmage on fewer touches, and in his last four games, Gibbs has totaled 63.1% of his scrimmage yards, averaging 153.5 scrimmage yards per game and 6.8 yards per carry. His usage early on was certainly strange, but now he’s become a focal part of the offense and he’s thriving.
First Team - Jalin Hyatt | Tennessee
Stats: 40 receptions/52 targets, 769 yards, 12 TD, 19.2 YPR
I think it’s safe to say we can take Jalin Hyatt off of breakout watch. Through 17 career games over his freshman and sophomore campaigns, Hyatt had a combined 41 catches for 502 yards and 4 touchdowns. Over his last four games in 2022, Hyatt has 22 receptions for 502 yards and 9 touchdowns.
In Cedric Tillman’s absence, Hyatt has become another WR1 for an already loaded Vols offense. He leads the nation in touchdowns, largely fueled by his legendary record-setting five touchdown performance against Alabama. Hyatt also leads SEC receivers in, like, everything. He leads the conference in yards by nearly 200 yards and has four more touchdowns than the next closest player. He’s developing into more than just a ‘go route’ receiver.
Hyatt leads the SEC in yards per route run by a hilarious margin—only Emeka Egbuka at Ohio State and Trey Palmer at Nebraska have higher marks in the country—and is second in the conference in yards after catch. This pick is likely to stick through the end of the year.
Second Team - Jonathan Mingo | Ole Miss
Stats: 26 receptions/45 targets, 575 yards, 3 TD, 22.1 YPR
There’s a distinguishable drop from Hyatt to the next best receiver, so much so that I am leaving Hyatt by himself on first team. That being said, Jonathan Mingo has quietly had a very good year at Ole Miss.
Mingo is a deep ball specialist. Over 35% of his targets have been beyond 20 yards, the fourth highest mark in the SEC, and only Jalin Hyatt has more yards on deep balls than Mingo. He’s the perfect receiver for what Lane Kiffin’s offense schemes up, and he’s been good enough to land the second spot on the halfway home first team All-SEC.
Second Team - Will Sheppard | Vanderbilt
Stats: 41 rec/79 targets, 526 yards, 8 TD, 12.8 YPR
Will Sheppard has been one of the lone bright spots on a Vanderbilt team that frankly struggles to do much of anything right. AJ Swann has emerged as a competent passing threat at quarterback, and because of this, Sheppard has finally been able to shine. Sheppard has nearly matched his 2021 production because of this. He leads the SEC in first downs and is tied for fourth in the country in touchdowns.
First Team - Brock Bowers | Georgia
Stats: 26 rec/35 targets, 393 yards, 2 TD, 15.1 YPR
Brock Bowers is the best tight end in the country. There may be others at the position in the country with better stats this year, but none of them strike fear into opposing defenses the way Bowers does.
He leads all SEC tight ends in receptions and yards and is the prominent fixture in Georgia’s passing attack.
Second Team - Darnell Washington | Georgia
Stats: 16 rec/21 targets, 285 yards, 0 TD, 17.8 YPR
Admittedly, this is a pretty sparse position in college football, but Georgia has the market cornered in the SEC. Washington trails only Bowers in receiving yards and leads all SEC tight ends in yards per reception on top of being one of the elite blockers in the country.
First Team - JC Latham | Alabama
It’s a crapshoot trying to choose linemen, but Latham is among the premier linemen in the SEC and a surefire first rounder in 2024. Latham has been in for 316 passing downs this season, and he has yet to allow a sack or QB hit, per PFF, and among SEC tackles with at least 100 passing snaps played, he’s allowed two hurries, the fewest in the conference. Though he’s been a bit penalty prone, he’s the anchor of one of the better pass protecting lines in the conference.
First Team - Warren McClendon | Georgia
While his counterpart on the left side has garnered a lot of draft buzz, Warren McClendon has quietly been Georgia’s most underrated player. It’s been an all-around very good year for the junior out of Brunswick, Georgia, as he and Broderick Jones anchor the ends of one of the country’s best offensive lines.
McClendon has not allowed a sack and has only surrendered four pressures all season. As for the run game, Georgia is very efficient running behind McClendon and their excellent tight ends off the right side as they average over 5.6 yards per carry when they do so.
Second Team - Darnell Wright | Tennessee
One of the lesser talked about aspects of Tennessee’s major leap in 2022 has been their line play. Darnell Wright’s ascension as one of the SEC’s best pass protectors has been a big reason why. Per PFF, Tennessee’s main three offensive tackles (Wright, Gerald Mincey, Jeremiah Crawford) have not allowed a sack this season. Wright has allowed just six pressures and has yet to be flagged this season.
Second Team - Broderick Jones | Georgia
Jones is the more talked about tackle for the Bulldogs, and rightfully so. Set to be a first-rounder in 2023, Jones has not allowed a sack this season, and his four pressures allowed in 233 passing snaps make him one of the more efficient linemen in the conference.
First Team - O’Cyrus Torrence | Florida
O’Cyrus Torrence is a dude.
Torrence is the highest graded guard in the country per PFF, and the tape matches it. He’s an absolute road grater, paving the way for the SEC’s best rushing attack in terms of team yards per carry.
Florida runs primarily behind him for a reason, and that reason is that they’re averaging almost six yards per carry when following Torrence. He’s not just the best guard in the SEC, he’s the best guard in the country for that exact reason.
First Team - Beaux Limmer | Arkansas
Limmer is the primary hog up front for the Razorbacks, leading the way for his first-team teammate, Rocket Sanders. When Arkansas runs behind Limmer, they do so at a 5.5 yards per carry clip. Sanders himself runs at 6.4 YPC when following Limmer.
Limmer has also been very solid in pass-pro, allowing just six pressures and two sacks in 236 pass blocking snaps, per PFF. Arkansas has certainly had their issues this year, but none of them have been on offense and certainly not with guard play.
First Team - Ricky Stromberg | Arkansas
Stromberg is building off of a strong 2021 and bolstering his draft stock in 2022. The senior from Tulsa, Oklahoma, was good last year at a position of strength in the SEC, and this year, with guys like Michael Maietti and Luke Fortner gone, Stromberg is the cream of the crop.
Stromberg has played the most snaps of any center in the SEC, and he’s the other half of the equation that makes Arkansas’ run game off the right side so lethal.
Second Team - Sedrick Van Pran - Georgia
Van Pran has been the big man in the middle holding down Georgia’s stout rushing attack for two seasons now, and now he’s getting his due.
Georgia is averaging 6.1 yards per carry running behind Van Pran.
DEFENSIVE INTERIOR (TACKLES & ENDS)
First Team - Byron Young | Alabama
The “other” Byron Young has become one of the best interior defenders in the country this year, and while the Tide’s “cheetah package” has taken many of the headlines surrounding this defense, it’s been Young mucking it up on the interior, making life difficult for opposing rushing attacks and quarterbacks.
Young has the highest stop rate of any SEC interior lineman at 9.7%, and though he’s yet to record a sack this year, his 16 pressures are the third most among defensive ends and tackles in the conference, and his five QB hits lead in that category.
First Team - Mekhi Wingo | LSU
The sophomore transfer from Missouri has made an immediate impact in the middle of LSU’s rush defense and was a key contributor in slowing down Ole Miss’s high powered rushing attack in their upset win. He has played the most snaps among all interior linemen in the conference, and his 90.9 run defense grade is the second highest among all Power Five interior linemen.
Second Team - Colby Wooden | Auburn
Wooden leads all interior linemen in the SEC with 6.5 tackles for loss this season, and his 12 defensive stops rank within the top four in the conference as well.
Second Team - Omari Thomas | Tennessee
Perhaps this is because I watch Tennessee much closer than any other team in the conference or this is just a thin position with many good interior linemen either hurt or not living up to the hype in the SEC, but Omari Thomas is an absolute game wrecker against the run on a defense that has stymied apposing ground attacks all season.
Thomas has the third highest stop rate among interior linemen with 90 snaps played against the run, and his average depth of tackle is 0.9 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He’s in the backfield...a lot. Perhaps it would behoove Tennessee to play him a bit more.
First Team - Will Anderson Jr. | Alabama
Stats: 6.0 sacks, 12.0 TFL, 18.8% pass rush win rate
Will Anderson is a complete and total game breaker in every facet of the game.
Anderson is second in the SEC in sacks with six and leads in tackles for loss with 12. He’s second in the country behind Tuli Tuipulotu who has 12.5. He’s the star of an Alabama run defense that leads the conference in TFLs and allows a conference low 2.7 yards per carry. He leads a team in sacks that also leads the SEC in that same category.
He’s a future top five pick for a reason.
First Team - BJ Ojulari | LSU
Stats: 4.0 sacks, 5.0 tackles for loss, 19.7% pass rush win rate
Ojulari makes up one half of LSU’s pass rush tandem that opposing offensive coordinators lose sleep over, the other being freshman sensation Harold Perkins. On a rate basis, Ojulari has been the best edge rusher at creating pressure in the conference.
PFF has a stat they call PRP. It is “A formula that combines sacks, hits and hurries relative to how many times they rush the passer”. Ojulari’s 10.4 PRP is the highest in the conference. He has generated five or more pressures in four of the six games he’s played in, and among just the seven edge rushers in the SEC that have played 200+ passing downs, only Derick Hall has a higher win rate than Ojulari.
Second Team - Isaiah McGuire | Missouri
Stats: 2.0 sacks, 6.5 TFL, 17.8 pass rush win rate
If interior lineman was a thin position, the depth of edge defenders in the SEC more than makes up for it. It’s by far the deepest pool of talent I’ve evaluated when trying to come up with the first and second teams, so it’s time to show some love to a player on a team that just doesn’t get talked about positively hardly at all.
Missouri a year ago was among the worst run defenses in the country. They allowed 5.3 yards per carry and 227.8 yards per game, the worst in the SEC by over 30 yards. This year, that was rectified in a major way. Missouri is allowing 126.7 yards per game on the ground in 2022 and 3.8 yards per carry, both astronomical improvements, and McGuire has been a huge reason why.
McGuire has the highest stop rate of any edge defender against the run at 10.5%, he’s even forced a couple fumbles in there to boot. I wouldn’t call McGuire a top flight pass rusher, but he’s more than serviceable, ranking in the top 10 in win rate in the conference. He’s vastly underrated and has earned this spot.
Second Team - Nolan Smith | Georgia
Stats: 3.0 sacks, 6.0 TFL, 23.7 pass rush win rate
It was hard to gauge where to slot Smith in for this. He’s played in every game for the Dawgs, but because they’ve been so dominant, he’s not playing the same number of snaps compared to his contemporaries at the position. That being said, he’s a beast, and come the end of the year, he likely will be first team.
First Team - Drew Sanders | Arkansas
Stats: 26 solo tackles, 37 assisted, 6.5 sacks, 7.5 TFL, 3 forced fumbles
Sanders is a unicorn. He plays the vast majority of his snaps at inside linebacker, has taken reps in the slot at corner, and has played some edge while being the leader in the SEC clubhouse in sacks.
The former Alabama player transferred to Arkansas and leads the SEC in pass rush win rate, winning 32.1% of his pass rush snaps. He also leads the conference in forced fumbles, has three pass break-ups, and is an elite closer on the ball carrier. He’s a jack of all trades and one of the very few highlights on a struggling Arkansas defense.
First Team - Anfernee Orji | Vanderbilt
Stats: 38 solo tackles, 45 assisted, 1.0 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 1 forced fumble, 1 INT
Anfernee Orji is the SEC’s leading tackler and one of my favorite players whose tape I reviewed for this. He’s one of two players in the SEC to log over 500 snaps, the other being Henry To’oTo’o and one of the highest graded run defenders in the country.
His Missouri tape was phenomenal, tallying 12 tackles, a sack, 2.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and an interception. A stat sheet stuffer delight.
Vandy may still be the gutter of the SEC, but every so often they’ll have a player burst onto the scene the way Orji has this year.
Second Team - Aaron Beasley | Tennessee
Stats: 17 solo tackles, 22 assisted, 0 sacks, 4.0 TFL, 1 fumble recovery
Despite the struggles Tennessee has against the pass, they have a great pass rush and their greatest strength is their ability to stop the run. Both Beasley and Jeremy Banks are good at it as interior linebackers, but Beasley has really flashed in a big way this year. He’s decisive and explosive to the hole, leading inside linebackers in the SEC in stop rate at 16.7%.
Second Team - Ventrell Miller | Florida
Stats: 24 solo tackles, 25 assisted, 0 sacks, 4.5 TFL 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
Miller is a very good run defender, possibly the best in the SEC. His pass defense leaves a lot to be desireed, but his 15.0% stop rate is the best among inside linebackers with at least 125 rush downs played in the conference.
First Team - Jordan Battle | Alabama
Stats: 38 tackles, 1 pass break-up
Battle has been the best all-around safety in the SEC this year. He’s been very versatile for a defense that asks for it in spades. He’s played in the box, the slot, and deep and even returns punts for the Tide.
First Team - Malaki Starks | Georgia
Stats: 25 tackles, 2 INT, 4 pass break-ups
Starks has been great in coverage for Georgia’s elite pass defense. He’s picked off two passes and broken up four, allowing just a 45.0 passer rating against this season.
Second Team - Christopher Smith | Georgia
Stats: 21 tackles, 2 INT, 3 pass break-ups
Smith is the highest graded safety in the SEC, though he’s faced some struggles lately. He largely excels in pass coverage as he’s allowed just 6 receptions in the 12 times he’s been targeted for 51 yards. He’s allowed just one touchdown and picked off a pair of passes.
Second Team - DeMarcco Hellams | Alabama
Stats: 59 tackles, 1 INT, 1.0 sacks, 6 pass break-ups, 1 forced fumble
Don’t let the Tennessee game fool you. DeMarcco Hellams is actually really solid in coverage. Just maybe don’t put him on an island with Jalin Hyatt? Seems like bad coaching. Hellams in many ways is one of the most necessary cogs that makes the Alabama clock turn, and his ability to both stop the run and defend the pass makes Alabama’s ‘small ball’ lineup work.
First Team - Emmanuel Forbes | Mississippi State
Stats: 24 tackles, 5 INT, 2 defensive TDs, 7 pass break-ups
Forbes has pretty easily been the best corner in the SEC. He’s allowed just 17 receptions on 36 targets (47.2%) and two touchdowns. Forbes has scored as many touchdowns as he’s allowed and is the highest graded corner in the conference.
Forbes has been great in coverage in general, but when you look at his scheme specific numbers, his man coverage stats really jump out. Per PFF, Forbes has allowed one reception in 11 targets.
First Team - Brian Branch | Alabama
Stats: 45 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 0 INT, 5 pass break-ups
Brian Branch might just be the best slot corner in the nation. He’s well versed in coverage and an elite run defender and tackler. The way he attacks ball carriers is almost jarring to see from a cornerback, and his closing speed is special.
Per PFF, he’s allowed 16 receptions on 28 targets (57.1%) and has two sacks on corner blitzes. The junior from Fayetteville, Georgia, is going to find himself taken in the first round at the rate he’s played this season.
Second Team - Kool-Aid McKinstry | Alabama
Stats: 23 tackles, 1.0 sacks, 0 INT, 11 pass break-ups
McKinstry narrowly missed out on a first team slot here. Nick Saban does not shy away from letting him play on an island, and he has excelled at it for the most part. McKinstry has been targeted 14 times in man coverage but has only allowed 4 receptions for 61 yards.
Second Team - Keidron Smith | Kentucky
Stats: 19 tackles, 1 INT, 1 defensive TD, 4 pass break-ups
Smith has starred as Kentucky’s best corner on the team’s best overall unit. Kentucky primarily runs zone defense and allows just 178.3 yards through the air per game, the third best mark in the conference. A lot of that is due to their corners, especially Smith, being able to lock down their sections, hardly ever allowing a coverage bust.
First Team - Harrison Mevis | Missouri
Stats: 18-18 PAT, 12-16 FG M/A, 3-5 from 30-39, 4-4 from 40-49, 3-4 from 50+
Second Team - Jonathan Cruz | Ole Miss
Stats: 38-38 PAT, 8-9 FG M/A, 2-2 from 30-39, 3-3 from 40-49, 1-2 from 50+