ATHENS – The All-SEC teams and individual awards are coming out this week, and for those of us who have watched Georgia all year, there really aren’t that many familiar names. Alabama is dominating them, with good representation from other SEC West teams that Georgia didn’t face this year, and Georgia hasn’t yet had anybody honored – nobody even made the coaches first or second teams.
In fact, here’s another stat to add to the pile of weird ones this season: Of the 22 players on the coaches All-SEC first team, Georgia only faced six of them. And only one was on offense. (Auburn’s Kamryn Pettway sat out the Georgia game.)
So we thought we’d try something different: A look at the best players this reporter saw in person this year. We’re not including Georgia players, by the way, but note when we would.
Here’s the list:
Quarterback: Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
It wasn’t just the final pass, which was only partly luck. Or the diving touchdown run near the end of the first half, which wasn’t really a touchdown, but was still quite good. Throughout the game Dobbs was a weapon that Georgia just couldn’t deal with, running and passing. He should’ve been in the SEC championship game, or at least the Sugar Bowl, but everything around him fell apart.
Runner-up: Chad Kelly, Ole Miss.
Running back: Benny Snell, Kentucky
In a running back-oriented league, Georgia didn’t face too many, and held some most it faced to manageable yards: Vanderbilt’s Ralph Webb (40 yards) did his damage on a screen pass. Auburn’s leading rusher Kamryn Pettway was out for the game, North Carolina kind of held Elijah Hood by itself, only giving him 10 carries. But Snell made the biggest impression, especially in the fourth quarter, when Kentucky kept giving him the ball and Georgia knew it but couldn’t stop him. Snell finished with 114 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. He’s a freshman, so Georgia gets to deal with him at least two more times.
Note: Nick Chubb and Sony Michel were, for the record, the best running backs I saw this year.
Wide receiver: J’Mon Moore, Missouri
The Tigers ended up with one of the nation’s top offenses, and Moore benefitted from it, but he was also spectacular against Georgia – until the final play. It was Moore who was stripped at midfield, sealing Georgia’s one-point win. Prior to that, though, Moore racked up 196 yards on eight catches, including a 79-yarder where he took a short pass, evaded several defenders and out-ran the rest.
Runner-up: Al Riles, Louisiana-Lafayette. (Really.)
Note: Isaiah McKenzie was the best receiver I saw this year.
Tight end: Evan Engram, Ole Miss
Engram had a lot of good games this year, on the way to an expected All-SEC season. It was no different in the rout of Georgia, catching six passes for 95 yards, including a touchdown.
Runner-up: Hayden Hurst, South Carolina.
Note: Isaac Nauta was not better than Engram, but it was close.
Offensive line: North Carolina
This game seems long ago, doesn’t it? Well, a refresher: The Tar Heels had the best yards-per-rush against Georgia this year, 8.4, the next closest being 6.0 by Louisiana-Lafayette, though much of that was in garbage time. (Third-best was 5.8 by Ole Miss.) North Carolina’s line also only gave up one sack to Georgia. Now maybe the Tar Heels benefitted from facing a very young Georgia front seven that got much better as the season went on. And as you think back on Georgia’s season, there aren’t many O-lines that really stand out. That’s because the ones that would have (Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M and Arkansas) weren’t on the schedule.
Runners-up: Georgia Tech.
Defensive line: Florida
From the first play it was evident the Gators were overmatching the Bulldogs on the line of scrimmage. It was part of the reason Jim Chaney abandoned the running game, with Nick Chubb held to nine carries and Sony Michel to one. Georgia finished with a season-low 100 yards on 48 carries, and was sacked three times for a loss of 40 yards.
Runners-up: Tennessee (basically Derek Barnett by himself), Auburn and, weird to say it, but Nicholls State.
Note: Georgia’s defensive line would be in the runners-up category as well. It has been very good as the season went on.
Linebacker: Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt
Easiest pick here. Cunningham basically single-handedly caused Georgia’s most embarrassing loss of the season, stopping Isaiah McKenzie inches short on the ill-fated fourth down call. Cunningham could start for any other SEC team, including Alabama. That’s the best compliment one can give.
Defensive back: Jalen Tabor, Florida
The hype was deserved. Tabor anchored a secondary that held Jacob Eason to 143 yards and his second-worst completion percentage of the season. And Tabor also had an 11-yard sack on a cornerback blitz.
Kicker: Tucker McCann, Missouri.
It would have been Auburn’s Daniel Carlson, who’s the best kicker in the conference, but the only try he got against Georgia was an extra point. So instead the honor goes to McCann, who hit the longest field goal against Georgia this year, 46 yards. In fact he was the only kicker to even attempt more than one field goal this year against Georgia. That’s more a reflection on Georgia’s poor red-zone defense than anything.
Punter: Corey Fatony, Missouri
Fatony averaged an astounding 50.4 yards on five punts against Georgia, including a 60-yarder.
Runners-up: Sam Sheldon, North Carolina (42 yard average vs. Georgia), Will Gleeson (46.3 yards), Sean Kelly, South Carolina (49.4), Sam Loy, Vanderbilt (47.2), Johnny Townsend, Florida (47.8), Kevin Phillips (44.1) …. A lot of people punted well against Georgia, for some reason.