Sun’s Top 25 SEC Players

Alabama, Washington
Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick turns it up against Washington in the Peach Bowl College Football Playoff semifinal in Atlanta, Ga., on Dec. 31, 2016. Fitzpatrick leads our Top 25 SEC players list. [Erin Nelson/GateHouse Media Services]

A preseason list of the SEC Top 25 players would not be complete without a caveat.

Not only is it difficult to narrow down America’s most talented college football conference to 25 dudes, but we never know how injuries, girlfriends, police reports or coaching changes are going to affect the performances of these players.

Still, Sun staff writers Pat Dooley and Robbie Andreu whittled down the field to come up with The Sun’s annual Top 25:

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama defensive back: He can play any position in the secondary and has. Led the league in interceptions a year ago. Don’t throw his way.

2. Christian Kirk, Texas A&M wide receiver: It will be interesting to see if Kirk becomes a superstar with a new quarterback and the departure of so much talent at wide receiver. But with his return game, he could be a darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate.

3. Arden Key, LSU defensive end: If not for the strange personal leave and shoulder surgery in the offseason, he might be the No. 1 guy. He likely will be a top-five pick if his head is on straight.

4. Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss DE: It will be fascinating to see if he becomes the dominant player that he can be and was at times last year.

5. Frank Ragnow, Arkansas offensive line: Ragnow is going to make a lot of money at the next level and will get plenty of attention in a run-first offense.

6. Derrius Guice, LSU running back: Perhaps Guice should be higher, but we want to see how he does being the guy the whole season. The talent is there.

7. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State quarterback: If he improves his accuracy, watch out. The guy is a faster version of Tim Tebow running the ball.

8. Calvin Ridley, Alabama WR: Ridley can get behind defenses like nobody else in the conference, but we’re not sure what this Alabama offense is going to look like.

9. Will Clapp, LSU OL: Dominant, physical specimen who is also one of the leaders of this LSU team.

10. Antonio Callaway, UF WR: If he ever realizes how much money he’s already blown and straightens himself out, Callaway can be as good as anyone in this league.

11. Trayveon Williams,Texas A&M RB: As A&M went into its annual swoon, Williams was quietly putting up All-SEC numbers.

12. Nick Chubb, Georgia RB: He came back, but where is he? That’s what we’re eager to find out in the fall.

13. Ronnie Harrison, Alabama DB: Physical defensive back who can cover anyone on the field.

14. Jordan Jones, Kentucky linebacker: Maybe the best pure tackler in the league.

15. Jalen Hurts, Alabama QB: SEC offensive player of the year gets tested right away.

16. Kamryn Pettway, Auburn RB: If Auburn’s quarterback situation is OK, Pettway could have a monster year.

17. Da’Ron Payne, Alabama defensive tackle: It’s like these giants grow on trees for Nick Saban. Really big trees.

18. Deebo Samuel, South Carolina WR: A year ago we wondered why he was at SEC Media Days. Then, he went out and showed us.

19. Roquan Smith, Georgia LB: If Georgia is going to take a step up defensively, Smith is going to have to be an All-SEC player.

20. Jauan Jennings, Tennessee WR: Needs more consistency, but he has shown his big-play capability. Ask Florida and Georgia.

21. Bo Scarbrough, Alabama RB: If he doesn’t get hurt in the national title game, Clemson isn’t celebrating.

22. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn QB: Let’s see what ya got, big boy. If he’s as good as advertised, Auburn’s in the NC mix.

23. Duke Dawson, Florida DB: Dawson gets his chance to shine and the Gators need him to because of the secondary losses.

24. Braden Smith, Auburn OL: The rock of a pretty good offensive line has first-round potential.

25. Armani Watts, Texas A&M DB: You have to love watching this guy fly around hitting people. Needs to improve coverage skills.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at