Yesterday, we began our annual preseason preview of the SEC’s top 25 players with an emphasis on the offensive line and a nice mix of representatives across the conference.
But as luck would have it, today we’re going all-in on the West, including a pair of stars at Arkansas.
16. Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn
Is he a star yet? Of course not. You have to start more than a couple of games to earn that title. But Johnson certainly seems destined for stardom at Auburn. Playing behind Nick Marshall the past two seasons, he’s learned the playbook while getting enough game reps to not be your typical wide-eyed first-time starter. In other words, he’s not some newbie we know nothing about. A bigger, more polished passer than Marshall, Johnson has the tools to be the most complete quarterback coach Gus Malzahn has had since Cam Newton in 2010.
17. Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas
Imagine, if you will, what Williams could accomplish as a feature back. The shifty, 6-foot, 223-pound Texas native already has 2,321 rushing yards in three seasons at Arkansas, even though he’s never been the sole focus of the ground game. If Alex Collins weren’t there to steal his carries, there’s no telling how many more yards Williams would have. But, if anything, Williams’ willingness to share the load is a testament to his ability to see the big picture. By playing tag-team with Collins, Williams is able to be that much more fresh and explosive, as evidenced by his 5.57 yards-per-carry average and 16 rushing touchdowns.
18. Tony Conner, S, Ole Miss
Like Allen at Alabama, Conner isn’t necessarily the face of Ole Miss. That honor would belong to its many potential first-round picks: Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil. But with a solid junior campaign, Conner could easily find his way into that mix. The former No. 1 player in the state of Mississippi is a Jim Thorpe Watch List selection after a 2014 season that saw him lead all defensive backs in the conference in tackles for loss (nine) on his way to earning All-SEC second-team honors.
19. Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
When people think of Alabama’s defensive line, they naturally think of A'Shawn Robinson. His massive frame, intense stare and scraggly beard are downright menacing, personifying a unit that could be downright scary this season. But don’t sleep on Robinson’s running mate, Allen. The junior might wear a smile most days, but he’s quietly become one of the most complete defensive ends in the SEC with his ability to rush the passer and play the run. The 6-foot-3, 272-pound Virginia native was only getting started when he tallied 5.5 sacks last season.
20. Sebastian Tretola, OG, Arkansas
His touchdown pass on a fake field goal "launched a Heisman Trophy campaign" last season, according to his official biography on Arkansas’ website. But Tretola's 15 minutes of fame aren’t up just yet. If anything, they’re only beginning as the rest of the college football world begins to notice that the 6-foot-5, 334-pound offensive guard is more than a surprisingly accurate right arm. After blocking for two 1,000-yard backs, allowing no sacks and committing only four penalties last season, he might be the best guard in the SEC.