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Top 20 SEC Offensive Players The Last 20 Years

By Dave Holcomb
SouthernPigskin.com
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Dave Holcomb shares his top 20 offensive players from the SEC over the past 20 years.

College football celebrated its 150th anniversary last season. While the SEC is considerably younger (the conference will turn 87 years old this fall) than the game itself, it’s still one of the oldest football leagues in the country.

With the calendar switching to 2020 this year, the SEC has played 20 of its most memorable seasons during the 21st Century. From the BCS era to the playoff system, college football has transformed quite a bit over the last two decades, but one thing remains a constant -- SEC dominance. The southeast has produced a lot of the best teams and players during the last 20 years. 

First, here are the best 20 SEC offensive players since 2000:

20. Rex Grossman, Florida -- Grossman led the Gators to a pair of 10-win seasons, finishing as the No. 3 team in the nation during the 2003 season, and an eight-win campaign in 2002. He ended his career with more than 9,000 passing yards and 77 touchdown tosses. In 2001, he became a first-team All-American and finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting.

19. A.J. Green, Georgia -- From 2008-10, Green was Mr. Consistent for the Bulldogs with between 53-57 receptions and 808-963 receiving yards every season. He could have posted an even bigger senior season if not for missing the first four games due to a suspension connected with selling his jersey. Green finished third in Georgia history with 2,619 receiving yards and caught 166 passes for 23 touchdowns. He became the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

18. Andre Smith, Alabama -- After becoming just the fourth freshman offensive lineman to start in Crimson Tide history, Smith earned Freshman All-American honors from the Football Writers Association of America in 2006. The following season, he became a first-team All-SEC selection and then a unanimous All-American in 2008. Also in 2008, Smith won the Outland Trophy, which is awarded to the best interior lineman in college football. He became the first of three winners of that award under Nick Saban. The following spring, the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Smith sixth overall in the 2009 NFL Draft.

17. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt -- Surprisingly, Matthews is one of a few players on our list to stay four years, but he put together a still underappreciated career with the Commodores. As a junior and senior, he made first-team All-SEC and in 2013 (his senior year), Matthews earned first-team All-American honors at multiple publications. Matthews set records both at Vanderbilt and in the SEC with 262 receptions and 3,759 receiving yards. Each mark remains the most in conference history while his 24 career touchdowns tops all other Commodores pass catchers.

16. Marcus McNeil, Auburn -- Another four-year player on the list, McNeil became one of the greatest offensive linemen in Auburn history from 2002-05. As a junior, he earned first-team All-SEC and All-American honors while helping the Tigers to a 13-0 record. Then during his senior season, he received both honors again. At the end of the 2000s, McNeil was named to The Sporting News All-Decade team.

15. Leonard Fournette, LSU -- Even with a disappointing final college season because of injury, Fournette edged his name in SEC history with a 1,953-yard rushing season in 2015. In his final 19 college games, he averaged 6.5 yards per carry and posted 30 touchdowns. Fournette’s big 2015 campaign ranks him second all-time on the SEC single-season rushing list. He went on to go fourth overall in the 2017 NFL Draft to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

14. Nick Chubb, Georgia -- Injuries slowed down Chubb during his sophomore and junior seasons, but he still amassed nearly 4,800 rushing yards and 44 touchdowns while averaging 6.3 yards per carry during his career. Chubb burst onto the scene with 1,547 rushing yards as a freshman and then recorded two more 1,000-yard campaigns in 2016 and 2017. Chubb ranks second in SEC history with 4,769 rushing yards.

13. Barrett Jones, Alabama -- Following a redshirt season to begin his career, Jones started every game for Alabama in 2009 at right guard, helping the program win its first of eventually five championships under Nick Saban. Jones was part of three of them and started at a different position -- right guard, left tackle and center -- for each championship squad. In 2011, he became a first-team All-American at left tackle and won the Outland Trophy, and yet, Jones was still unselfish enough to move to center the next season. He made the All-American team again and won the Rimington Trophy during 2012.

12. Eli Manning, Ole Miss -- Despite the unrealistic expectations he faced due to his father and brother, Manning shined at Ole Miss, leading the Rebels to their first 10-win season during 2003 in more than 30 years. Manning won multiple awards and finished his career with more than 10,000 passing yards and 81 touchdowns passes. In SEC history, Manning remains in the top six in passing yards, touchdown passes and passer rating. He went first overall to the then San Diego Chargers in the 2004 NFL Draft.

11. Percy Harvin, Florida -- Arguably the second-most important Gators player from the late 2000s after Tim Tebow, Harvin became a dual-threat star immediately at Florida. He posted both 400 rushing yards and 400 receiving yards with five touchdowns as a freshman. In the next two seasons, he amassed a total of nearly 3,000 yards from scrimmage and reached the end zone 27 times. During his three seasons, Harvin helped the Gators finish 13-1 twice and win a pair of national championships.

10. Mark Ingram, Alabama -- Ingram made history as the first Crimson Tide player to win the Heisman Trophy in 2009, leading Alabama to a 14-0 season with a then school-record 1,658 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. It was his only 1,000-yard campaign in college, but his record-setting year and Heisman Trophy win combined with two other solid seasons was enough to land Ingram in the Top 10 of our list. He finished his career with 3,261 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns.

9. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama -- Perhaps the greatest Alabama quarterback in history, Tagovailoa was a difficult player to place on this list. While he won a national championship and led the Crimson Tide to another title game appearance, Tagovailoa did not win a championship during a season in which he started over the entire year. Furthermore, he didn’t win the Heisman like the other top quarterbacks on this list, and he finished the last two seasons hurt. Still, Tagovailoa brought in a plethora of accolades (All-American, first-team All-SEC and the Maxwell to name a few) during his career and ended his tenure at Alabama with some incredible stats. He completed more than 69 percent of his passes for an average of almost 11 yards per attempt with 87 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. In two years as a starter, Tagovailoa recorded 83 total scores.

8. Shawn Andrews, Arkansas -- A two-time All-American, Andrews starred at Arkansas before becoming a first-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. He shined immediately, earning a spot on the Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-America team and then two All-American nominations the next two seasons. Andrews also won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy twice for being the best blocker in the SEC. In 2003, he was a finalist for both the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy.

7. Todd Gurley, Georgia -- Injuries and a suspension over autographed memorabilia prevented Gurley from climbing higher on this list, but Gurley displayed so much talent, he still landed in our top 10. He rushed for at least 900 yards in all three of his seasons, and during his junior season, he did that despite only playing in six games. Gurley rushed for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns as a freshman. The new Atlanta Falcons back ended his college career with 3,285 rushing yards and 42 total touchdowns in just 30 games.

6. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M -- Thanks to Manziel, Texas A&M was an immediate contender in the SEC West upon entering the conference. In his two seasons, the Aggies won 20 games, including 11 in 2012, which is a win total it has matched just once since the start of the BCS era. In two seasons, Manziel posted 7,820 passing yards with 63 touchdowns through the air along with 2,169 more yards on the ground. In total, he accounted for 93 touchdowns in just 26 games. In 2012, Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

5. Derrick Henry, Alabama -- While Ingram became the first Crimson Tide player to win the Heisman Trophy, Henry followed suit six years later and broke all of Ingram’s rushing marks. Henry eclipsed Herschel Walker too for most rushing yards in a single season in SEC history with 2,219 rushing yards during 2015. That was the only season he surpassed the 1,000-yard mark on the ground, but his historic 2015 campaign remains one of the best a running back has ever experienced, and it came while leading Alabama to another championship. Henry finished his career with 3,591 rushing yards and 45 touchdowns.

4. Cam Newton, Auburn -- Talk about one-hit wonders, Newton played just one season at Auburn and didn’t dress much for Florida over two years, but his 2010 season was so historic, Newton finds himself ranked in the Top 5. In 2010, he averaged 10.2 yards per pass with 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions. In total, he accounted for 4,369 yards and 51 touchdowns on his way to the Heisman Trophy. Additionally, Newton led Auburn to a perfect season and a national championship. There arguably had never been a more important transfer in the history of the SEC until LSU landed some guy named Joe Burrow.

3. Darren McFadden, Arkansas -- He fell short in the Heisman voting, but McFadden was the best running back of his era, winning multiple running back awards and finishing as the Heisman Trophy runner-up twice. In 2006 and 2007, McFadden won the Doak Walker Award twice, the Jim Brown trophy, and Walter Camp Award while making the All-American team twice. He rushed for 1,000 yards in all three of his seasons. McFadden ran for 1,647 yards as a sophomore and then 1,830 yards during his junior year. Overall, McFadden finished with 4,590 rushing yards and 41 touchdowns.

2. Joe Burrow, LSU -- The most difficult aspect of ranking players for this list was comparing guys who put together great careers against other players who posted one historic season. In those situations, we usually favored the “one-hit” wonders due in large part because the careers of college players are shortening naturally anyway. Burrow’s 2019 season was too hard to ignore to have him anywhere else but No. 2. He set NCAA records with 5,671 passing yards and 60 touchdowns and only six interceptions last year. He averaged a ridiculous 12.5 yards per pass. Burrow captured practically every college award there is to win in 2019 and led LSU to a 15-0 record and a national championship.

1. Tim Tebow, Florida -- There’s plenty of places where fans can be critical of my rankings, but the No. 1 spot is not one of them. Tebow is arguably the greatest college football player since 2000 let alone the best in the SEC.In four seasons, he amassed 9,285 passing yards and 88 touchdowns versus only 16 interceptions. He also chipped in nearly another 3,000 yards and 57 scores on the ground. Overall, Tebow posted 12,232 total yards and 145 touchdowns. No one is responsible for more touchdowns in SEC history.Tebow won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and then led Florida to a national championship in 2008. He contributed as a backup to Florida’s 2006 title as well. In three seasons as a starter, Tebow went 48-7.