Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Flying under the radar in the SEC
By Chris Low
Hard to believe there are only two weeks left in the regular season.
So before we get to the end of the year and everybody starts talking about All-SEC selections and Player of the Year candidates, let’s take a moment to recognize some of the most underrated players in the SEC this season.
Here’s our look at 10 guys who’ve had outstanding seasons and have maybe flown under the radar to some degree:
Wesley Johnson, OT, Vanderbilt: Throughout his career, Johnson has been Mr. Versatile for the Commodores on their offensive line. He settled in at left tackle this season, but moved over to right tackle last week against Ole Miss and also played a few snaps at center.
Patrick Lewis, C, Texas A&M: The Aggies have the best offensive tackle tandem in the country in Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, but everybody on that offense will tell you that it all starts with Lewis in the middle of that offensive line. He makes all the calls and is as smart as he is tough.
Craig Loston, S, LSU: A fourth-year junior, Loston has avoided the injuries that plagued him earlier in his career and been an integral part of an LSU defense ranked third nationally in total defense. He’s fourth on the team in tackles with 41 and has two interceptions, including a 100-yard return for a touchdown last week in the 37-17 win over Mississippi State.
Denzel Nkemdiche, LB, Ole Miss: While the recruiting spotlight has been on his younger brother, Robert Nkemdiche, Denzel Nkemdiche has emerged as one of the most productive freshman defenders in the country. He’s second on the team with 66 total tackles, including a team-leading 11.5 tackles for loss, and has also forced four fumbles.
Ross Rasner, S, Arkansas: It hasn’t been a season to remember for the Hogs, and they’ve taken their lumps on defense. But Rasner has played his heart out. He leads the Hogs with 74 total tackles, including 6.5 for loss, and also has a team-leading three interceptions to go along with two forced fumbles.
Mychal Rivera, TE, Tennessee: One of the more polished pass-catching tight ends in the league. Rivera is third on Tennessee’s team with 30 catches for 485 yards and four touchdowns. He’s averaging 16.2 yards per catch and has proven to be a tough matchup for defenses.
Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida: Everybody talks about Alabama’s Dee Milliner and Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks when the subject of the league’s best cornerback comes up, but don’t forget about Roberson. He’s tied for second in the league with 11 passes defended.
Ace Sanders, WR, South Carolina: Even though he doesn’t have big numbers in terms of catches (25), Sanders is still tied for the team lead with five touchdown receptions. He also returned a punt for a touchdown against Georgia and is third in the SEC in punt returns with a 13.9-yard average.
Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M: While he’s not the Aggies’ leading receiver, Swope is the guy who makes the tough catches and makes the clutch catches. He does lead the team with six touchdown receptions and put on a show last week in the win over Alabama with 11 catches for 111 yards and a touchdown.
Shawn Williams, S, Georgia: He might not have the name recognition of a Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree or Bacarri Rambo, but Williams is the enforcer on that Georgia defense and leads the team with 66 total tackles. His words obviously mean something, too, when you consider how this defense has played ever since he spoke up just prior to the Florida game.