The 10 scariest players in the SEC this century
Matchup nightmares, game breakers, monsters at the line of scrimmage. The SEC has no shortage of terrifying players who strike fear into the hearts and minds of fans, coaches and even the toughest players who share their field.
College football’s best conference features some of the best to ever play, many of whom will forever haunt the dreams of opposing fan bases. So, in light of the harrowing season, we highlight a few guys who send chills down the spines of those on the other side and terrorize the hopes and dreams of fans whose favorite teams have had a chance if it is not because of his domain.
Here are 10 of the scariest SEC players of this century. (Note: We know we’re leaving out some absolute beasts. Narrowing this list down to 10 was the scariest part of it all. Read our honorable mentions at the bottom.)
Will Anderson Jr., Alabama
Let’s start with the man they call “The Terminator” in Tuscaloosa. Think of all the defensive superstars Nick Saban has coached at Alabama, but Anderson might be the best ever. The Georgia native terrorizes offensive linemen and quarterbacks, even through double teams and game plans built entirely around containing him. Quick, strong and unblockable, the future first-round pick is as good as an edge rusher and an absolute terror for offensive coordinators looking for answers.
Eric Berry, Tennessee
A two-time unanimous All-American and future All-Pro safety, Berry put the wood on receivers and disrupted offensive schemes like one of the Volunteers’ best. While his Tennessee teams didn’t contend for conference wins, they made life difficult for some teams, especially when Berry and head coach Lane Kiffin nearly derailed Nick Saban and Alabama’s national title hopes in 2009 before Terrence Cody blocked a last-second field goal (a play that still haunts many dreams to this day). But Berry, a cancer survivor, was a dominant force in the secondary who flew all over the field.
Brock Bowers, Georgia
Is he the best player in college football right now? The Bulldogs tight end has a case. Calling him a matchup nightmare seems unfair to him. The guy is an absolute monster that you can only hope to contain, whether he’s making circus catches or delivering for chunks of yards into the end zone. Another player on this list became the most drafted at Bowers’ position, but watching him eliminate defenders every Sunday begs the question: Are we ready for a tight end to be the number one overall pick in the NFL draft ? We have at least one more season to find out how much more damage Bowers can do in the SEC.
Joe Burrow, LSU
Speaking of the number one overall pick, the LSU transfer quarterback confused the league when he pulled a trick from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 2018 and 2019, when over the last season he suddenly transformed into arguably the best college quarterback ever. play. In 15 games, the man threw for 5,671 yards, 60 touchdowns and only six interceptions. You read it right. Sixty TD. All the way to an undefeated season and a national championship. And yes, he had equally terrifying teammates in wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase. Most disturbing of all for opposing fan bases was Burrow’s coolness under pressure. He sliced and diced defenses with surgical precision as his face rarely, if ever, changed expression. A cold-blooded killer.
Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Ask Denard Robinson, a terrific college player in his own right, about how scary it looks to have Clowney unblocked in the backfield in less than a split second. That hit in the 2013 Outback Bowl, in which Clowney appeared to teleport behind the offensive line only to tackle Robinson before he could touch the ball, causing a fumble during which Clowney caught the pigskin with one paw, he has defined his legacy as a defensive demon. Arguably the greatest recruit in Gamecocks history, Clowney cemented his future as a top overall pick in his second season with 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss as he was named the Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC.
Nick Fairley, Auburn
fierce That’s the only way he knew how to play this Tiger defensive tackle. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year and Lombardi Trophy winner in 2010, he was the anchor of Gene Chizik’s national championship-winning defense. While Cam Newton (terrifying to opponents in his own right) deservedly earned much of the credit for Auburn’s incredible run, Fairley’s dominant play in the trenches was arguably just as important to the success of the Tigers.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
On the one hand, it was a privilege to watch Manziel, a quarterback like we’d never seen before, dazzle the nation with tackling and playmaking skills that no defensive scheme could contain or predict. But the stress he caused fans and opposing teams, especially Alabama, did a toll on everyone who witnessed his brilliance. A worthy Heisman Trophy winner and one of college football’s all-time greats, Manziel quickly and undeniably became a thorn in the Crimson Tide’s side. You could even see the relief creep across Saban’s face after Bama defeated the Aggies in College Station in 2013, a look that praised the gentleman they’d never have to face again. Johnny Football.
Kyle Pitts, Florida
Selected fourth overall in the NFL Draft, the highest ever by a tight end, Pitts in many ways redefined the way the position is played in college football. You hear Nick Saban often say that tight ends create so many matchup problems for linebackers and safeties, consider Pitts exhibit A. He had 12 touchdowns in 2020, one of which came in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama, along with 129 receiving yards and all the momentum he needed to turn pro. We’ve seen some all-time great TEs come through the SEC this century, but Pitts’ skill set was especially chilling.
DeVonta Smith, Alabama
Don’t discount a player named Slim Reaper, not when he won the Heisman Trophy in arguably the greatest season a wide receiver has ever had in college football. For defensive coordinators, there is nothing more petrifying than knowing exactly where the ball is going and that there is nothing you can do about it. Smith staying for his senior season didn’t seem like the scariest prospect at first, but combined with the masterful machinations of QB Mac Jones and Steve Sarkisian, he had 1,856 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns on his way to a championship national
Tim Tebow, Florida
Now an SEC Network analyst and long considered one of the nice guys in any sport, Tebow isn’t what many would consider “scary,” at least not on the surface. But when it was 4th-and-1 with the game at stake, only one guy would catch the ball and step up to convert, over and over again. Tebow still gets the nod as the greatest college quarterback ever. A special competitor who was built like a truck, Tebow knew how to win, and his Florida teams often got the win when he wasn’t running over defenders or throwing jump passes at the goal line. I had the Michael Jordan quality of your team is probably losing if Tebow comes around, especially during his 2008 national title run.
Honorable Mentions: John Henderson (Tennessee), Josh Reed (LSU), Carnell Williams (Auburn), Jaylen Waddle (Alabama), David Pollack (Georgia), Darren McFadden (Arkansas), DeMeco Ryans (Alabama), Glenn Dorsey (LSU) Rolando McClain ( Alabama), Patrick Willis (Ole Miss), LaRon Landry (LSU), Brandon Spikes (Florida), Percy Harvin (Florida), AJ Green (Georgia), Chance Warmack (Alabama), Mike and Maurkice Pouncey (Florida), Mark Barron (Alabama), Cam Newton (Auburn), Alshon Jeffrey (South Carolina), Jarvis Jones (Georgia), Tyrann Mathieu (LSU), Melvin Ingram (South Carolina), Caleb Sturgis (Florida), Kevin Minter (LSU), Matt Elam (Florida), Michael Sam (Missouri), Dak Prescott (Mississippi State), Amari Cooper (Alabama), Evan Engram (Ole Miss), Derrick Henry (Alabama), Myles Garrett (Texas A&M), A’Shawn Robinson ( Alabama), Daniel Carlson (Auburn), Devin White (LSU), Roquan Smith (Georgia), Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), Josh Allen (Kentucky), Bryce Young (Alabama)
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