Five SEC Players I Would Pay To See

 

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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162 comments Add your comment

Spike

August 26th, 2009
6:49 am

First, boys. Tony.. Rennie Curran.

KidRay

August 26th, 2009
6:50 am

So…..then I guess it’s really 6 SEC players you would pay to see.

chris o bomb

August 26th, 2009
6:52 am

AL’s Cody is one too.
thwg

ATL

August 26th, 2009
7:10 am

Good job Tony. You managed to slip a UGA player in. Shocking. Julio is way better than AJ. We’ll see what AJ does without the #1 draft pick throwing to him. Also, I guess the SEC West, your East bias is so evident, doesn’t have anyone you would pay to see. You are a homer joke Tony.

George G.

August 26th, 2009
7:13 am

Antonio Coleman, DE, Auburn

VolsnGoBlue

August 26th, 2009
7:39 am

Jarrett Lee gets my vote…. but only against the Vols (so I could laugh while Eric Berry takes a pick to the house)

Fat Phil

August 26th, 2009
7:39 am

Tony….you are such a UGA homer. At least you did not slight UT this time as you usually do. Eric Berry is the BEST DB in the history of this league. Thank you for at least pointing that out. It saddens me that this will probably be his last season at UT. He will be a multi-millionaire this time next year without doubt. Here is to a 9-3 season for the Vols. Trust me, one of the 3 L’s will not be to the Bullpups. UT by 6 in Knoxville. Gooo Vols!!

gator mike sucks

August 26th, 2009
7:42 am

Homer tony. One sec west player and he had to share with an inferior counter part. Typical tony.

VolsnGoBlue

August 26th, 2009
7:44 am

also… in defense of tony, who else is there in the west to watch besides the coaches?? nobody has done anything worthy of any press besides Julio

Atlanta Gator

August 26th, 2009
8:03 am

Comments in response to Tony —-

(1) I think all SEC fans will be able to appreciate Tebow’s career statistics after the 2009 season is done and his days of playing other SEC fans’ favorite teams are over. As a two-year starter, his numbers are already staggering; if he stays healthy, his stats will be truly legendary, placing him in the company of Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson, Danny Wuerffel and Peyton Manning. Tough to compare across positions and eras, but I believe Tebow will be on everyone’s short list of truly great SEC players. Anything beyond that is a matter of conjecture and personal opinion.

(2) Given Tennessee’s nose dive last year, I can’t recall watching any Volunteer games other than the early season Florida-Tennessee match-up. I have read a LOT about Eric Berry since then. I’m ready to watch some Vols games just to see Berry play.

(3) The four-year university cycle of college football is one of the things that makes it a great sport. There is a built-in opportunity for every player to mature as a person, grow as a player, improve and become a leader. McClain has had all-everything potential since his first down in college ball. All-SEC freshman team, first-team All-SEC linebacker and honorable mention All-American as a sophomore . . . and he was in the running for the Butkus Award, too. With several Tide starting positions in flux, McClain has the potential to step up and become the anchor on his side of the ball. He will be fun to watch.

(4) Not sure why some folks are trying to run one of these talented young receivers down to the benefit of the other. Both were highly touted recruits and their freshman numbers are comparable. If they stay healthy, All-SEC and All-American honors will accrue to both. As a college football fan, you can’t help but appreciate their talent. The both had over 900 yards receiving as freshmen—-that’s outrageous!

(5) This is an example of why I love to read Tony’s column. As a Gators fan, I watch precisely one Kentucky game a year. Tony knows all 12 SEC teams like I know the Gators. (Better, in fact, but Tony gets paid to follow CFB. Am I jealous? You betcha.) I will now be watching for Lindley’s #32 in the UF-UK game . . you can’t fully appreciate your own team unless you know how good the opposition’s guys are. Thanks, TB.

jablonski

August 26th, 2009
8:06 am

ATL,
In what other regard is JJ “way better than AJ”. You had a crappy QB with a great line. UGA had a good QB with a depleted line. Their #s are almost identical, and this season we will see who the better one is. Good Luck this year, without Smith and Caldwell you are going to need it.

Bama fans never cease to amaze.

Atlanta Gator

August 26th, 2009
8:09 am

Fat Phil—-”Best ever?” That’s strong medicine, my friend. Until you have personally done the year-by-year comparison across the thousands of players, 76 seasons, and 15 teams of SEC football, you might want to dial back your criticism. I think you will find that there have been many great players, many of whom are largely forgotten because they didn’t play on a championship team. Accept Tony’s compliment to Berry, as it was intended, and go buy yourself a book about SEC football history. You’ll have more to add to the conversation.

Dink

August 26th, 2009
8:16 am

Pretty good Tony but I would also pay to see Snead at Mississippi. Spikes may be in the mix also.

Go Dawgs!

BIG UGLIES WIN GAMES!!!

August 26th, 2009
8:17 am

Tony!! can Rennie Curran get some love???

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

August 26th, 2009
8:25 am

I pay to see every SEC player that I get to see. That said, Spikes and Curran, AJ and JJ, Tebow and Snead. I get to pick six also. No, I’ll pick seven…Berry

Gen Neyland

August 26th, 2009
8:26 am

This should disspell the theory that TB is a UGA Homer…On another note, Tennessee Sr. center Josh McNeil (from Mississippi) is under the knife today with a possible career ending bum knee. Extent of injury ranges from what’s left of cartilage to fracture.

Ole Missus

August 26th, 2009
8:26 am

Where’s Snead? Did you omit him because he plays in the West and isn’t on your beloved Dogs schedule ???

FactuAll

August 26th, 2009
8:30 am

what SEC East bias? I count two of six from Alabama.

but….I think I’d squeeze Jevan Snead in there somewhere

FactuAll

August 26th, 2009
8:31 am

Enter your comments here

Gator Growl

August 26th, 2009
8:34 am

Just to add to the list: Jevon Snead, Ole Miss>>>Can he perform under the spotlight??…Trindon Holliday, LSU>>>Is he the fastest of the fast??…Terrence Cody, Bama>>>Leaner and meaner??…Ryan Mallet, Arky>>>Hog wildcard???…Brandon Spikes, Carlos Dunlap, Florida>>>Monsters of the gridiron??…Jonathan Crompton, Tennessee>>>Yes, but just to see him crushed at the Swamp.

Required Reading | Hard Knox Sports

August 26th, 2009
8:36 am

[...] Barnhart’s 5 SEC players he’d pay to see. [AJC] [...]

Bill in Sandy Springs

August 26th, 2009
8:37 am

Returning players- Tim Tebow, AJ Green, Eric Berry, Terrance Cody, Jevan Snead, Richard Samuel, and Caleb King.

New players- Marlon Brown, Trent Richardson(Bama), Rantavious Wooten, Russell Sheppard(LSU), Andre Debose(UF), Matt Barkley(SC)

G

August 26th, 2009
8:40 am

Orson Charles #7 will be one you’ll want to watch aftet this year.

KR

August 26th, 2009
8:41 am

I can’t really argue with the picks and you can probably name a half dozen more as well.

Does anyone else think Urban Meyer is going to do everything he can to make sure Tebow takes down Walker’s touchdown record? Possibly even at the GA-FL game…

Just over a week to kickoff. WAR EAGLE!

G

August 26th, 2009
8:42 am

Barkley plays in Cali

G

August 26th, 2009
8:44 am

Auburn going to wish they had Tub for years bad call he’s a good coach.

Tide4u2c

August 26th, 2009
8:45 am

Not only was Julio Jones awesome last year as a true freshmen but it must also be pointed out that for almost the whole season he played with a sports hernia,sprained wrist and a sprained shoulder and yet still made an impact, in big games too where you would think nerves would kinda get to a true freshman.I will not forget how he dragged about 4-5 LSU defenders on his back gaining first downs and even more.Just imagine this year if he remains injury free.

Roll Tide!

G

August 26th, 2009
8:47 am

Enter your comments here

CharlotteGator

August 26th, 2009
8:56 am

1. Went to the SECCG last year and out of the entire Bama defense, I’d specifically pay to watch Hightower again. He was absolutely incredible. McClain is similar to watching Spikes, Johnson was talented but not special, and Mt. Cody is well, a 300 lb DT, not necessarily a position or style I want to watch. Hightower was that hybrid kind of combo player you rarely see and had a big impact on the game as a freshman. If he’s not on the field, I don’t think the Bama defense would have held up as well as it did. He’s Bama’s personal matchup nightmare on defense that negates a lot of the advantages an offense would have.

2. Curran is another defender I really enjoy watching. From the throwback no wristbands/glove look to the way he flies around the field, he’s the one linebacker on the UGA defense I hate seeing get into a play. Dent and Ellerbe are specimens, but I feel good about Demps, Rainey, Dubose, etc. in space with them. With Curran, it’s like ‘dang, get what you can get and let’s go run another play).

3. I’d pay to see Dunlap at UF this year. Last year he showed flashes from time to time but never consistently put it together. All reports out of Gainesville are that he’s kicked the lazy practice habits and improved his work ethic/desire. He’s been coasting on talent and physical traits for 2 years now, so I’m excited to see what happens when you throw in the key football player ingredients of effort, hustle, and desire.

4. I’d pay to not have to see McCluster again. He reminded me of a Harvin type player and really brought home how opposing defenses/fans felt when Percy was running wild. When McCluster’s on and getting the ball in the right spot, it’s tough to feel like there’s an answer to stopping him.

5. Russell Sheppard/Andre Debose round out my top 5/6 on sheer potential and hype. So much has been said about these guys that I’d pay to see them play out of pure curiosity.

TommyJack

August 26th, 2009
8:57 am

Sounds about right. Why would Barnhart NOT be a homer?
Richt will continue to get less out of more.

Denver Dog

August 26th, 2009
8:58 am

I don’t know why you guys won’t just read and say yeah he is a great player. All of these young men are super players. I don’t think that Tony put them in to compare with others. AJ and Julio, are two great recievers and they should continue to grow.

I’ve seen all these guys play, and they are all worth watching.

I’d like to watch Curran, Garcia at USC, The VAndy O line, Moody at UF is fun to watch, and so is MT Cody. This year it will be good to see Sturdivant at left tackle again from UGA.

I really know that there will be some fun players to watch in this conference whom we have never heard of, that is indeed one of the great things about the SEC and all of college football.

dawgjammin

August 26th, 2009
8:58 am

Tide4u2c read the news and get educated AJ had a severely pulled groin muscle for 70% of the season last year and could barely run full speed much less cut with the ball in his hands or in his route running. I’ll take AJ’s higher yd per catch and 4 more touchdowns per year any day of the week.

Gen Neyland

August 26th, 2009
9:00 am

Funny header : Five SEC Players I Would Pay To See…Lucky you GETS PAID to see them play…

Phoneguy71

August 26th, 2009
9:08 am

Fat Phil: Berry, best DB ever… Haha. He’s not even the best Safety ever, much less DB. Champ Bailey is definitely in the conversation.

Pulpwood Smith

August 26th, 2009
9:17 am

No players from Mississipi State or Auburn? Man, those are two of the finest programs in the nation!!!! What a homer you are, Tony. G.A.T.A.!!!!!!!!!!!

Da truth

August 26th, 2009
9:28 am

I vote for Javy Arenas – Alabama. His punt returns often set the tempo for Bama.

Corrine Brown

August 26th, 2009
9:29 am

Crompton’s bounce pass?

LIR

August 26th, 2009
9:31 am

SecIsFootball

August 26th, 2009
9:35 am

I think this is a pretty good look at some of the players in the league. I am glad you didnt list any freshman as I would find it hard “pay” to see them play when they have yet to prove anything as college football players.

For the whole Julio vs AJ thing…BAMA fans and UGA fans need to let it go. Both are great receivers bring something a little different to the table. Had AJ gone to BAMA and Julio to UGA, we all know BAMA fans would think AJ was better and UGA fans would think Julio was better.

rebelrebel

August 26th, 2009
9:37 am

Tony:

I always enjoy your work and like the list — but no Dexter McCluster? He is entertaining to watch at four different positions — runningback, wide receiver, Wild Rebel and kick returner.

Miles

August 26th, 2009
9:39 am

Trevard Lindley…the most underrated player in the country!

Chamblee Dawg

August 26th, 2009
9:43 am

all of you hacks saying that TB is a homer amaze me. If he really is or isn’t…. YOU ARE READING AN ATLANTA NEWSPAPER!!!!! Don’t you think the majority of the readers are UGA or Tech fans? Shouldn’t a business try to appease their customers? Its not like he said to watch out for Caleb King… I think its safe to say that on 90% of major blogs (espn, si.com, rivals) would put AJ and Julio on this same list

The Ole Miss Blog

August 26th, 2009
9:47 am

If Dexter McCluster isn’t exciting I don’t know who is. I’d pay to watch him. Every time he gets in the Wild Rebel formation you can bet that something is going to happen. http://www.theolemissblog.com

Will

August 26th, 2009
9:48 am

Denver Dog,

The only thing I would pay to see Steve Garcia do is steal hubcaps. Which normally you can see for free if you hang out on the USC campus every Sat night. But C’Mon man, you can’t be serious about wanting to see this guy play football. That’s hilarious. Are you really serious?

As far as me, the only player I would pay to see is Marcus Washington. That’s right I said it. I have been to several practices and he is the standout player above all others on the UGA D. UGA fans are going to be shocked at this kids play-making ability in a few short weeks. MW main job against Okie State will be simple….put the qb on his ass as much as possible! Which will happen early and often. UGA 34-10.

Dawg Dominance

August 26th, 2009
9:49 am

Here’s a riddle. What happens when Jeff Owens gets his hands on Tim Tebow? Boom! Thud! Then a cloud of dust! WOOF!!!!

Bravo

August 26th, 2009
9:50 am

Mini and Mickey Mouse get my vote! With those big lips, they can catch just about anything. I, also, dig their uniforms.

Mac

August 26th, 2009
10:05 am

You had me at Tebow. You lost me at Lindley. You would pay money … every week … to watch a cornerback … at Kentucky? Yeah, I don’t think so.

JaxDawg

August 26th, 2009
10:11 am

ATL

August 26th, 2009
7:10 am
Good job Tony. You managed to slip a UGA player in. Shocking. Julio is way better than AJ. We’ll see what AJ does without the #1 draft pick throwing to him. Also, I guess the SEC West, your East bias is so evident, doesn’t have anyone you would pay to see. You are a homer joke Tony.
Pot meet kettle! ATL- for you to say Tony is biased because he is stating what everyone else can see in that AJ and Julio are both spectacular players with similar numbers and that Julio is “way better” is a bit biased on your part don’t you think?

Also, way to throw JPW under the bus. I guess what you’re really saying is JPW was a horrible QB vs Stafford, which is why J.Jones is “way better” than AJ.

AJ will smoke Jones in the stat book this season, mark it down!

ATL Steve

August 26th, 2009
10:24 am

Folks…Tony said that these are the players that HE would pay to see. It pays to read!

Stephen

August 26th, 2009
10:26 am

thats 6 players dude.