When you play in the Southeastern Conference you come across future NFL players every single Saturday. From Tim Tebow to Cam Newton to Johnny Manziel to Joe Burrow, Nick Saban has seen them all, and he is always eager to face a challenging opponent. This year, the Crimson Tide faces multiple top-10 teams, former assistant coaches and programs that are eager for a chance to dethrone the defending SEC Champs.
For the 2022 season, the Tide has the privilege of traveling to Austin, Texas to take on the Texas Longhorns and former Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian; the Longhorns ultimately repay the favor by a visit to Tuscaloosa in 2023. While Texas may have been 5-7 in 2021, the program still has one of the most talented rosters in college football.
Between a great season of conference play and their trip to Texas, the Tide will have plenty of opportunities to face some of the best players across the entire country. So who is the best player from every opponent on Alabama’s schedule?
Utah State - Logan Bonner
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Logan Bonner is the hot news in Logan, Utah as the Aggies landed their starting quarterback for the 2022 season through the transfer portal. Bonner comes from Arkansas State where, in 2021, he posted 3,628 yards 61.2% completion and 36 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions.
Texas - Bijan Robinson
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Bijan Robinson is not only one of the best running backs at the collegiate levels, but he may be one of the best players. Robinson has a flash of speed and great strength for his frame which makes him a hot pick for the Heisman race. Robinson and former Alabama offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, look to pull off the upset of the year.
LA Monroe - Boogie Knight
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Boogie Knight was the lone bright spot in a struggling Warhawks offense in 2021. Knight accounted for 588 yards receiving, which was nearly half of the team’s receiving yards, as well as finding the end zone four times on 45 receptions.
Vanderbilt - Ethan Barr
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Ethan Barr had an outstanding campaign for the Commodores in 2021 as a true sophomore. He led all SEC linebackers in interceptions with three as well as four passes deflected and 85 total tackles.
Arkansas - K.J. Jefferson
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The Razorbacks head into the 2022 season ranked at No. 19 with an outside shot of competing for the SEC west. Arkansas comes and goes with star quarterback K.J. Jefferson and they will go as far as he takes them. In 2021, Jefferson posted 67.3% completion, 2,676 yards and 21 passing touchdowns to only four interceptions.
Texas A&M - Jaylon Jones
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Texas A&M is one of the hottest trending teams in college football under Jimbo Fisher, and like Arkansas, they also want to compete with the Tide for the SEC west. The Aggies are led by a defensive leader, Jaylon Jones, who is one of the best defensive backs in the entire country. Through two seasons and 22 games, Jones has been good for 65 tackles three interceptions and 15 passes deflected.
Tennessee - Hendon Hooker
After getting some playing time for the Volunteers in 2019 and 2020, Hooker took the starting quarterback role for Tennessee in 2021 and he did not disappoint. Hooker was remarkably efficient going for 68.2% completion for 2,945 yards and 31 touchdowns to only 3 picks. In the team’s bowl game, Hooker threw for nearly 400 yards and five touchdowns, so he looks to pick up right where he left off in 2021.
Mississippi State - Will Rogers
(AP Photo/John Amis)
There are not many players more important than a quarterback in Mike Leach’s system where he will turn the keys over and let you rip it 50-60 times a game. Rogers has been outstanding for Leach and was arguably the second best quarterback in the SEC in 2021. Rogers posted 73.9% completion 4,739 yards and 36 touchdowns to nine interceptions.
LSU - Kayshon Boutte
AP Photo/Matthew Hinton
LSU is under a new regime with first-year head coach, Brian Kelly, who is trying to rebuild a national champion brand from the ground up after going 6-7 in 2021. To do so, Kelly will lean heavily on transfer quarterback Jayden Daniels and his superstar wide receiver, Kayshon Boutte. Boutte will wear the Tigers’ honorary No. 7 after a stellar 2021 campaign that boasted 38 catches for 509 yards and nine touchdowns,
Ole Miss - Zach Evans
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Ole Miss landed one of the best players in the transfer portal this offseason in former TCU running back, Zach Evans. Evans was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and has produced incredibly well through two collegiate seasons. With the Horned Frogs in 2021, Evans posted 92 carries for 648 yards and 5 touchdowns as well as tacking on 10 catches for 130 yards and a score through the air.
Austin Peay - Drae McCray
Austin Peay’s DeAngelo Wilson (11) and Austin Peay’s CJ Evans Jr. (23) bump helmets to celebrate a touchdown by Evans in an Ohio Valley Conference football game between the Austin Peay Govs and Murray State Racers at Fortera Stadium in Clarksville, Tenn., on Saturday, April 3, 2021.
Hpt Austin Peay V Murray State 26
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Austin Peay would pull off arguably the biggest upset in college football history if they were to come to Tuscaloosa and win, but for that to happen they would need an all-world performance from star receiver Drae McCray. As a true freshman in 2021, McCray posted 52 catches for 872 yards and eight touchdowns.
Auburn - Tank Bigsby
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Arguably the best running back in the SEC, Tank Bigsby is a problem no matter who he faces on Saturday. Bigsby was the lone bright spot in a struggling Auburn offense in 2021 where he was good for 223 carries 1,099 yards and found the end zone ten times.