The talking season is here, folks.
Beginning on Tuesday, the Big 12 got the party started in Dallas by beginning their two-day media event. In just a few days, the SEC will get things kicked off with a four-day talkin’ ball marathon beginning on Monday.
KSR will have boots on the ground at The Wynfrey Hotel to provide coverage all four days in Hoover. While there, votes will be tabulated to determine who are the best players in the conference entering the 2021 season. However, there will be some mistakes made and a few snubs. Before we get to that point, it’s time to project what the all-conference teams in the sport’s best conference should look like.
After crunching the numbers, scouring depth charts, watching the film, and studying schemes, I have run some AnaLuckett algorithms to come up with the 2021 All-SEC teams. Here is what my ballot will look like next week while I’m guzzling Dr. Pepper while grinding away in a fancy hotel ballroom.
QB: Matt Corral (Ole Miss)
RB: Chris Rodriguez Jr. (Kentucky), Tank Bigsby (Auburn)
Kentucky’s redshirt tailback is RB1 — don’t let anyone tell you any different. Rodriguez posted an absurd 65.55 percent success rate in 119 carries in 2020 while carrying a bad Kentucky offense down the field. No other returning tailback in the SEC reached 53 percent. The 224-pound back has a great shot at setting the single-season rushing record in Lexington.
WR: Treylon Burks (Arkansas), Kayshon Boutte (LSU)
All-Purpose: Ainias Smith (Texas A&M)
Perhaps the most underrated player in the SEC, Smith is the ultimate multi-positional talent that can take snaps at numerous positions. Half running back and half slot receiver, the 5-foot-10 swiss army knife logged 857 yards from scrimmage last season on 92 touches with 10 touchdowns. Expect a monster year from the former mid three-star recruit.
TE: Jalen Wydermyer (Texas A&M)
T: Darian Kinnard (Kentucky), Evan Neal (Alabama)
The offensive line is thin at some spots throughout the league, but the tier one tackles are not one of them. Kinnard could be the best zone run blocking tackle in college football and has position versatility that will make NFL scouts drool. Meanwhile, Neal is a former top-10 recruit that is not being talked about enough. The large man is a freak athlete who could turn into the best offensive tackle in college football after two years of growth in Tuscaloosa.
— Evan Neal (@ENeal73) July 12, 2021
G: Justin Shaffer (Georgia), Emil Ekiyor Jr. (Alabama)
C: Michael Maietti (Missouri)
DL: Phidarian Mathis (Alabama), Jordan Davis (Georgia), DeMarvin Leal (Texas A&M)
If you don’t know who DeMarvin Leal is, you will soon. A five-star recruit in the class of 2019 per the 247 Sports Composite, the 290-pound line of scrimmage player should be an All-American this season. After collecting 12.5 tackles for loss in his first two seasons, expect a huge season from Leal.
Edge: Will Anderson Jr. (Alabama), Adam Anderson (Georgia)
LB: Grant Morgan (Arkansas), Nakobe Dean (Georgia)
Last season playing for new defensive coordinator Barry Odom, Morgan logged 110 tackles in just nine games for the Hogs. Expect more of the same for the former walk-on in 2021 as Morgan should be considered the favorite to bring home the Burlsworth Trophy.
CB: Martin Emerson (Mississippi State), Derek Stingley Jr. (LSU)
S: Jalen Catalon (Arkansas), Jordan Battle (Alabama)
Nickel: Malachi Moore (Alabama)
This isn’t a position listed, but it should be. Defenses are in subpackages more times than not, and nickel players log a ton of snaps. As a true freshman, Moore was one of Alabama’s best defensive players in 2020 recording 44 tackles and three interceptions. This is a future superstar.
QB: JT Daniels (Georgia)
The USC transfer got the edge over former USC commit Bryce Young, but just barely. Both quarterbacks played for powerhouse Mater Dei High School in Metro Los Angeles before becoming five-star recruits. I’m expecting them to face off in the SEC title game come December. Daniels had a 26 percent big-play rate — passes of 15-plus yards — in limited action last season and that gives the veteran the edge. However, give me Young long-term due to his off-platform playmaking ability combined with top-notch accuracy.
RB: Jerrion Ealy (Ole Miss), Isaiah Spiller (Texas A&M)
WR: John Metchie III (Alabama), Kearis Jackson (Georgia)
All-Purpose: Wan’Dale Robinson (Kentucky)
The all-purpose spot can be used in a wide variety of areas, but I choose to focus on slot receivers. Every offense utilizes these players quite often and Kentucky has a potential star. Robinson — a former top-100 recruit and Nebraska transfer — was rock solid in two seasons in Scott Frost’s offense while being used all over the field. New Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen has an intriguing chess piece to use as a counter to Rodriguez runs behind the Big Blue Wall.
TE: Jahleel Billingsley (Alabama)
T: Dare Rosenthal (Kentucky), Warren McClendon (Georgia)
G: Kenyon Green (Texas A&M), Jamaree Salyer (Georgia)
C: Liam Shanahan (LSU)
DL: Josh Paschal (Kentucky), Jonathan Marshall (Arkansas), Jalen Carter (Georgia)
Edge: Brenton Cox Jr. (Florida), Ali Gaye (LSU)
LB: Zakoby McClain (Auburn), Christian Harris (Alabama)
CB: Roger McCreary (Auburn), Eli Ricks (LSU)
In the most loaded position in the conference, slotting the cornerbacks was very difficult. The four picked could be the top-five corners in college football this season. Meanwhile, Florida’s Kaiir Elam is elite and had to be left off. Clemson transfer Derion Kendrick has moved to Georgia after being one of the ACC’s best cover players in 2020. Last year the wide receivers stole the show in the conference, and this year it will be the cornerbacks who could lock up a ton of receivers in man coverage.
S: Yusuf Corker (Kentucky), Smoke Monday (Auburn)
Nickel: Tykee Smith (Georgia)
Kentucky made some major moves in the transfer portal adding two preseason All-SEC caliber players, but so did Georgia. Kendrick and LSU WR/TE transfer Arik Gilbert have gotten most of the attention, but Smith might be the best player. The West Virginia transfer was an All-American performer on a really good defense in Morgantown and will be a versatile piece for Kirby Smart to use in 2021.
— Yes, it is Alabama and Georgia vs. everyone else. The two national signing day juggernauts combined for 18 all-conference selections. However, the Crimson Tide is retooling everywhere and breaking in a ton of new coaches on the offensive side of the ball. Meanwhile, there is staff continuity and some major talent entering the Georgia program via the portal. The Bulldogs might have the most talented roster in college football this season. It’s time for Kirby Smart to win another SEC title and make the College Football Playoff.
— Heading into year four, Jimbo Fisher’s recruiting is beginning to pay off in College Station. Former five-stars Kenyon Green and DeMarvin Leal are two of the top draft prospects in the conference while Ainias Smith is a tremendous development story for the program. Isaiah Spiller is ready to be a workhorse back as the Aggies are Alabama’s top competition in the West.
— There is no real denying Kentucky’s star power. The Wildcats have some dudes and sure-fire NFL Draft picks on both sides of the ball. Mark Stoops enters his ninth season in Lexington with a very old football team to go along with a favorable schedule. If the passing game is fixed, the path is there for a top 25 finish.
— Two positions that seemed to be lacking during this exercise were linebacker and wide receiver. The league lost a ton of star power on the perimeter last season and that includes the Heisman Trophy winner. Some high-level recruits are waiting in the fold, but for now, it is a wait-and-see approach. At linebacker, there are some big names but the consistent results on the field have not shown up yet. Therefore, finding players to plug these holes was a bit difficult.
— If you’re looking for a long shot at the defensive player of the year award, take a look at Georgia’s Adam Anderson. The edge rusher logged under 200 snaps last season but was still able to record 5.5 sacks. The former five-star recruit has game-breaking potential as an edge rusher and can be the league’s first double-digit sack player since 2018.