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College Football 2022: Offensive and defensive spotlights for all SEC teams

Pasadena, California, USA; Louisiana State Tigers wide receiver Kayshon Boutte (1) runs the ball for a touchdown against the UCLA Bruins during the second half the at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The SEC has long been dubbed as the premier football hub in the entire FBS. This upcoming season doesn't seem to be much different, with the reigning national champion Georgia Bulldogs headlining the conference alongside the Alabama Crimson Tide.

The SEC presents a mixture of All-American and NFL-caliber talent that makes pro scouts salivate at the mouth over. Here are the spotlighted offensive and defensive standouts from every SEC program who have a chance to elevate their teams to the top of the conference.

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All analysis below is credited to PFF's 2022 College Football Preview Magazine.

Editor's note: This analysis focuses on non-quarterbacks. 

Alabama Crimson Tide

Offensive Player Spotlight: RB JAHMYR GIBBS

Gibbs was the most valuable running back in the ACC as a part of Georgia Tech‘s backfield in 2021 and is now going to try to accomplish the same feat in the SEC with Alabama. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound back earned that honor last season thanks to his elite pass-catching ability — his 91.5 receiving grade was the highest among all FBS running backs this past season. Gibbs was no slouch in the run game, either, earning a solid 86.2 rushing grade. In addition, Gibbs also produced a top-10 return grade. It goes without saying that he is a dynamic weapon who is destined for stardom with the Crimson Tide.

Defensive Player Spotlight: EDGE WILL ANDERSON JR

There’s no more dominant player returning to college football than Anderson, as the 6-foot4, 243-pound edge rusher is a high-level playmaker who ranked top-five at his position in tackles for loss or no gain against the run (15) and positively-graded run play rate this past season. Additionally, his 81 quarterback pressures also led all players regardless of position. The former five-star recruit earned a 79.1 PFF grade as a true freshman (2020) and 89.8 as a sophomore (2021), which is rare to see at that age, especially in the SEC. He has checked all the boxes, but Anderson's dominance comes down to his technical superiority over his opponents. Opposing offenses will be doing everything they can to scheme away from him in 2022.


Offensive Player Spotlight: C RICKY STROMBERG

Stromberg — a three-year starter — is coming off his highest-graded season (76.3) at Arkansas, as he was one of nine Power Five centers who finished with double-digit bigtime run blocks in 2021. Consistency, however, has been an issue. In 2021, he finished in the middle of the pack among Power Five centers in negatively graded run-block rate, recorded eight penalties overall and finished with a good-not-great 72.3 pass-blocking grade despite not being used a ton of true pass sets. That being said, Stromberg has the traits to take the jump to the top tier at the position in 2022 with the help of his all-around athleticism and killer instinct in the run game.

Defensive Player Spotlight: S JALEN CATALON

Catalon is back for one more year after a sluggish start and a season-ending injury midway through 2021, which ended with a lackluster 61.7 PFF grade in six games. Nonetheless, in 2020, the Arkansas safety was one of the biggest breakouts at the position, as the 2019 four-star recruit displayed excellent vision and impressive tacking power. Catalon finished with a 79.4 PFF grade for that season, ranking second in the SEC and 10th in the Power Five. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound defensive back will be eyeing a bounce-back campaign in 2022.



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