Pete Fiutak of CollegeFootballNews.com has an extraordinary breadth and depth of college football acumen which he presents in a variety of ways through the year. Particularly ambitious is a recent project in which he judges the nation’s top 20 players at each offensive and defensive position.
Here is a capsule of each position including where Alabama players were listed, which player was No. 1, where other Southeastern Conference players were ranked, and – because Bama opens the season against Florida State – the ratings of Seminoles.
It is no surprise that Alabama is well-represented, but there are a few positions where Crimson Tide players may have been unjustly snubbed. In fact, serious issue can be taken with three positions where a returning Bama starter is not in the top 20.
On offense, there are two offensive line positions where Alabama’s starters should have been included.
At tackle, Jonah Williams had at least as good a freshman year as future stars Andre Smith and Cam Robinson did as first year players. The top tackle is Connor Williams of Texas and SEC players listed were Martez Ivy of Florida sixth, Braden Smith of Auburn seventh, Greg Little of Ole Miss 14th, and Koda Martin of Texas A&M 19th.
At center, senior Bradley Bozeman is no step down from his predecessors, Rimington Award winners Barrett Jones and Ryan Kelly. Billy Price of Ohio State was No. 1, and the SEC players listed were 2. Martinas Rankin of Mississippi State, 4. Frank Ragnow of Arkansas, 8. William Clapp of LSU, and 13. Joshon Robertson of Tennessee.
On defense, the CFN top 20 cornerbacks did not include Alabama senior Anthony Averett. Last year teams went away from Averett to take their chances with Marlon Humphrey, who was an NFL first round draft choice. Tarvarus McFadden of FSU was ranked first, followed by LSU’s Donte Jackson second, and Duke Dawson of Florida was 12th.
As for positions in which Alabama players were included:
The Crimson Tide justifiably expects to have as fine a safety tandem as there is in college football with Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison returning as starters. But according to CFN, Bama will see the best pair of safeties on the other side when Alabama and FSU meet in Atlanta on Sept. 2. Fitzpatrick is ranked No. 3 and Harrison No. 6, but Florida State’s Derwin James is No. 1 and the Seminoles’s Nate Andrews is No. 4. The group also includes No. 7 Todd Kelly of Tennessee and No. 8 Armani Watts of Texas A&M.
Alabama annually has one of the best linebacker corps in the nation, but the Crimson Tide lost three starters to the NFL draft (including 2016 Butkus Award winner Reuben Foster) and one other starter, Shaun Dion Hamilton, will be coming back from a knee injury suffered late in the season last year. Bama may very well have another exceptional group of linebackers, but the only one making the CFN list is Rashaan Evans at No. 8. Micah Kiser of Virginia is No. 1 and the only other SEC representative is Roquan Smith of Georgia at No. 20.
The Tide returns its starting defensive tackle in DaRon Payne, probably underrated with a ranking at No. 12. Ed Oliver of Houston is No. 1 and Derrick Nnadi of FSU is No. 4. From the SEC, Jeffrey Simmons of Mississippi State is No. 10 and Benito Jones of Ole Miss No. 18.
Alabama lost both 2016 defensive ends to the NFL, headed by Jonathan Allen as the nation’s top defensive player and also including Dalvin Tomlinson. Although Da’Shawn Hand will be a first-year starter as a senior, he is ranked 14th. Arden Key of LSU got the top ranking with others from the SEC beingf Marcus Haynes of Ole Miss at No. 8, Denzil Ware of Kentucky No. 12, and CeCe Jefferson of Florida No. 19.
On offense, Alabama’s Calvin Ridley is listed as the nation’s sixth-best wide receiver. James Washington of Oklahoma State is considered best. Christian Kirk of Texas A&M at No. 3 and Antonio Callaway of Florida at No. 5 are SEC players ranked ahead of Ridley, while J’Mon Moore of Missouri is at No. 14. Florida State’s Auden Tate is ranked 19th.
The Tide lost an outstanding tight end with the graduation of O.J. Howard to the NFL, and it was a bit of a surprise to see Bama listed in the category. Miller Forristall, expected to fill Howard’s spot as primarily an H (slot) tight end, comes in at No. 20. No. 1 is Mark Andrews of Oklahoma. Sixth is Hayden Hurst of South Carolina, 12th Octavious Cooley of Ole Miss, and 15th Ethan Wolf of Tennessee.
Ross Pierschbacher, who will start for the third year at left guard for Bama, is listed No. 7. Quenton Nelson of Notre Dame is No. 1. SEC players listed are Bruno Reaganm of Vanderbilt at No. 12 and Javon Patterson of Ole Miss at No. 14.
There might be a few chuckles at a couple of players listed ahead of Bo Scarbrough in the running backs, but he came in at No. 6. Derrius Guice of LSU (last year vs. Bama 2 carries for 8 yards) was listed first. Kamryn Pettway of Auburn (last year vs. the Tide 12 runs for 17 yards) was No. 4, Nick Chubb of Georgia No. 5, and Sony Michel of Georgia No. 16.
The 2017 roster of quarterbacks appears to be outstanding, and upcoming Alab ama sophomore Jalen Hurts is in good company at No. 8. Sam Darnold of Southern Cal is named the top quarterback and he’s followed by No. 2 Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma, No. 3 Lamar Jackson (last year’s Heisman Trophy winner) of Louisville, No. 4 Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State, No. 5 Jake Browning of Washington, No. 6 J.T. Barnett of Ohio State, No. 7 Nick Fitzgerald of Mississippi State, No. 8 Hurts, and No. 9 Josh Rosen of UCLA. Other SEC quarterbacks in the top 20 are Jarrett Stidham of Auburn at No. 17 and Austin Allen of Arkansas at No. 19.
Punters and placekickers rankings may be coming later. Alabama’s JK Scott would be rated among the top punters, but the Tide doesn’t have a placekicker who has earned a spot in the top 20 in the nation.