People have often told me that if I had to pay to watch college football, like most folks do, I would view the game differently. That may or may not be true. But I do know this: There are certain players that I would happily pay to see on a weekly basis. Here are just five from the SEC:
1. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida: Tebow’s numbers in his first three seasons are staggering. He has run for 43 touchdowns, a Florida record and only six shy of the SEC career record set by Georgia’s Herschel Walker (1980-82). He has thrown for 67 touchdown passes. He had 30 touchdown passes last season and 32 in 2007. If he throws 32 touchdown passes this season, Tebow will be tied with Peyton Manning for No. 2 on the all-time SEC list. (Florida’s Danny Wuerffel holds the SEC record with 114 career touchdown passes).
But here is the Tim Tebow stat that blows my mind: He has thrown 681 passes in his career with only 11 interceptions. That’s one interception for every 61.9 passes he has thrown. That is by far the best interception to pass attempt ratio in SEC history. Kentucky’s Andre Woodson is a distant second with one interception for every 51.1 passes thrown.
2. Eric Berry, S, Tennessee: I’ve been following SEC football for a long time and this guy could be the best defensive back in the history of this league. Consider this: It took Florida State’s Terrell Buckley three seasons (1989-91) and 36 games to set the NCAA career record for interception return yardage (501). If Berry picks off a pass and returns it 15 yards against Western Kentucky on Sept. 5, he will have broken Buckley’s record in just 27 games. He led the nation with 265 return yards on seven interceptions last season. In 2008 he was the first Tennessee player to be a unanimous All-America pick since 1990 (OL Antone Davis). He has started every single game of his college career. Not even Herschel Walker or Bo Jackson can make that claim. Enjoy him now because it’s a pretty good bet that he won’t be back for his senior season.
3. Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama: There are certain players who have a “presence” when they take the field. You know the first time you see them play that they are going to be special. When I saw Rolando McClain start his first game against Western Carolina two years ago, I knew he was one of those players. Playing middle linebacker in the SEC is a job for grown men and McClain has excelled at the position in his first two years with 169 total tackles. This season, with the departure of safety Rashad Johnson, McClain is going to have to take on an additional role as the leader of the Crimson Tide defense. I picked Alabama to win the SEC West because of its defense. McClain is the best player on that defense and one of the best in the country.
4. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia; Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: You may think that picking both these guys is a copout. I stand guilty as charged. But the comparisons started when they signed and both showed up wearing No. 8 as true freshmen starters. Last season Green had 56 catches for 963 yards and eight touchdowns. Jones had 58 catches for 924 yards and four touchdowns. Both are 6-4 and weigh right around 210 pounds. Both are strong enough to break away from a DB who is trying to muscle them out of position. Both catch everything in sight. Both have a chance, if they stay healthy, to be the best receiver in the history of their respective schools. We will still be making these comparisons when both are stars in the NFL. What Ali and Frazier were to boxing, these guys are to receiving in college football.
5. Trevard Lindley, CB, Kentucky: You really have to watch this guy closely to appreciate how really good he is. Lindley, from Hiram, arrived at the Kentucky campus three years ago and started in his very first college game. He has now started 39 games at corner for the Wildcats. He’s the best cover corner in the SEC (along with Florida’s Joe Haden). He has incredible instincts for the ball and has a knack for making big plays when the game is on the line. Six of his nine career interceptions have been key plays in Kentucky victories. An interception against No. 1 LSU in 2007 set up a tying field goal and sent the game into overtime. Kentucky upset the Tigers in three overtimes. “I’ve coached a long time and he’s the best I’ve ever been around,” said Kentucky coach Rich Brooks. “There is no doubt in my mind that he is the best cornerback in the country.”
Of course, there are a bunch of great players that I left out. Who would be on your list?
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