Top 10 single-game performances from SEC players in 2016
This week at PFF, with the college regular season over, and bowl games beginning later this week, we are highlighting the best individual performances in each conference. Not surprisingly, the SEC’s top performances heavily feature players on the defensive side of the ball, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t some offensive performances that stood out. So, what were the best single games in the SEC this year?
1. DE Jonathan Allen (Alabama) vs. Texas A&M, 94.7 grade
Allen’s Week 8 performance against Texas A&M is up there with the best single-game performances from any player in college football this year, and was a game where he was frankly unblockable for much of the afternoon. He stood out against the run, with three tackles resulting in a defensive stop, but it was as a pass-rusher where his dominance was evident, finishing the game with a sack and 10 hurries on 33 pass-rushing snaps. For an interior defensive lineman to average a pressure once every three pass-rushing snaps is ridiculous, and it was highlighted by what has become known as the “Superman Sack” shown below.
2. CB Joshua Holsey (Auburn) vs. Ole Miss, 94.9
It was an up and down season for Holsey overall, but his Week 9 showing against Ole Miss was one of the best games in coverage of any cornerback we saw all year. Ole Miss went after him, with 10 passes thrown his way, but he allowed just two receptions for 34 yards on those passes. Holsey also finished the game with an interception and four pass breakups, good for an NFL passer rating of 1.7 on throws into his coverage.
3. RB Derrius Guice (LSU) vs. Arkansas, 85.6
While the top offensive performances in the SEC were few and far between, Guice had two performances which at least merited consideration, and his Week 11 performance against Arkansas was the best by an offensive player in the SEC this season. Carrying the ball 21 times, Guice averaged 5.7 yards after contact per carry to go along with his 12.0 yards per carry average, and forced a missed tackle once every three rushing attempts.
4. LB Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt) vs. Georgia, 91.5
Cunningham flashed some big moments throughout the year, and his memorable field goal block against Auburn certainly got some attention. That being said, his best game of the year came against Georgia in Week 7, and was ultimately one of the top performances we saw from the linebacker all year. Against the Bulldogs, Cunningham played 31 snaps in run defense, with all eight of his solo tackles resulting in a defensive stop, helping him to a run-stop percentage of 25.8. The highlight of his performance came on Georgia’s final offensive snap of the game, with Cunningham coming up with the tackle on fourth down to seal the win for the Commodores.
5. C Frank Ragnow (Arkansas) vs. Florida, 89.9
It’s not easy for offensive linemen to stand out in a single showing, but in a season where Ragnow was by far our highest-graded center, the high point was a dominant outing against Florida in Week 10. As was the case for most of the year, he didn’t allow a single sack, hit, or hurry in pass protection, but it was his work as a run blocker that earns him this honor. Outstanding at the second level and on the move, he stopped linebackers in their tracks when he got to them.
6. CB Tre’Davious White (LSU) vs. Florida, 93.4
Florida fans won’t be thrilled to see three straight performances against them make the list, but White’s play in a losing effort to the Gators in Week 12 more than made up for all the controversy surrounding this game. White was targeted six times in coverage, allowing just one catch for 15 yards, but it was the fact that four of those incompletions came by the way of pass breakups that really stood out. With the ability to play on the outside or in the slot, White has been an asset to the LSU defense this year.
7. WR Calvin Ridley (Alabama) vs. Kentucky, 87.8
The third and final offensive performance to make the list is Ridley’s Week 5 receiving masterclass against Kentucky. Seeing 17 passes thrown his way, four more than any other game this year, he racked up 174 receiving yards on 11 catches, and found the end zone twice. The focal point of the Alabama offense in the game, he finished the day having averaged 2.89 yards per route run.
8. DE Myles Garrett (Texas A&M) vs. UTSA, 90.0
While it came against non Power-5 competition, there’s only so much you can lessen the value of Garrett’s Week 12 dominance due to level of competition. Garrett rushed the passer just 31 times against UTSA, but still managed to finish the game with five sacks and three hurries. One of his sacks included a forced fumble, while another he recorded one-handed; ultimately, the fact that he averaged a sack once every 6.2 pass-rushing attempts is a testament to just how dominant a player Garrett can be in any given game.
9. LB Reuben Foster (Alabama) vs. Florida, 89.5
Obviously some of the standout single games in the SEC are going to feature players from the top team in the conference, and while Foster had several impressive games, it was his performance against Florida in the conference championship game that gets him on this list. Highlighting the sideline-to-sideline ability that will make him a high draft pick this spring, he graded well both in coverage and against the run. Seven of his nine tackles resulted in a defensive stop, and he chipped in with a sack and a hurry as a blitzer.
10. S Jamal Adams (LSU) vs. Ole Miss, 87.7
Adams emerged as the top safety in the nation with some incredible performances this year, but it was his Week 8 performance against Ole Miss that highlighted the heights he has risen too as a complete safety. In the game, two of his four tackles resulted in a defensive stop, with Adams providing run support as well as coming up against receivers on short receptions; more importantly, he was absolutely key in shutting down Ole Miss’ talented tight end, Evan Engram, and came away with a pass breakup in coverage.