People like to talk about people, and here, on this college football blogosphere, the former people are usually "fans" and the latter, naturally, "football players." But, a lot of times, said fans are un- or ill-informed regarding players.
We blame this on ESPN.
Because of this, people hear a lot of talk about so-and-so being something awesome, while someone far more football capable and deserving of praise is tirelessly working and succeeding relatively outside of the spotlight. This will be my attempt to take a look at both, because both readily exist in the SEC. No, an overrated player isn't bad, and an underrated player isn't necessarily an all-SEC caliber guy. My arguments here will be that the media coverage and praise received by some players are disproportionate to what they deserve as a result of their on-field performances.
Got it? Great. First, who is underrated?
- Derrick Locke, Halfback, Kentucky- In a conference dominated by Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, and Marcus Lattimore, would it surprise you to know that Kentucky's Derrick Locke is actually the leading halfback statistically? Locke has 475 yards and five touchdowns so far, putting him at 118.8 yards a game and just a hair behind Auburn's Cameron newton for the conference's leading rusher title (Yes, the leading rusher in the SEC is a quarterback. No, this isn't the 1940's.). He is also second in the conference with rushing touchdowns, sitting one score behind Lattimore and tied with Newton. Even against Florida, Locke eclipsed the 100 yard mark, so the guy can move the ball even when the 'Cats struggle.
- Josh Jasper, Kicker, LSU- Bla bla bla, Blair Walsh this and Blair Walsh that. Sure, Walsh can kick, but Jasper may be the nation's finest kicker. He averages just under 10 points a game for the Tigers and is currently 9-10 on field goals and has a perfect mark at PAT's. At this rate, he will be in serious Lou Groza contention come the end of the season.
- Jonathan Cornell, Linebacker, Ole Miss- Cornell leads the conference in tackles (39), is 2nd in tackles for loss (8) and 3rd in sacks (3.0). Those are excellent numbers for a middle linebacker, especially one who gets great support from his defensive line.
- Patrick Peterson, Cornerback, LSU- Look, I know Peterson is talked about a lot, but when you ask the majority of SEC fans who the best player in the conference is, you'll get Mark Ingram, Ryan Mallett, Marcell Dareus, or something even stupider. They're all wrong answers. Patrick Peterson is the damned best player in SEC football and, frankly, should be a Heisman candidate were Heisman voters not a body of people whose heads are stuck up the assholes of quarterbacks and halfbacks.
- Warren Norman, Halfback, Vanderbilt - Last season's SEC Freshman of the Year has been off to a slow start, with only 225 yards and two touchdowns so far. He also has not been as dangerous a return man as many speculated he would have been, sitting at sixth in the conference in kick return average, tied with the aforementioned Derrick Locke and just below the Rebel Jesse Grandy.
- Ryan Mallett, Quarterback, Arkansas - Before the season, everyone including yours truly called Ryan Mallett the best quarterback in the Southeastern conference. And if yards and touchdowns were the sole indicators, than he takes the crown running away. But he is only the conference's third most efficient quarterback behind Cameron Newton and Greg McElroy, and really hurts himself here and elsewhere by tossing three back-breaking interceptions in last weekend's four-point loss to the Crimson Tide. No, Ryan Mallett isn't the conference's best quarterback; Cameron Newton is. With 14 total touchdowns (9 passing, 5 running), Newton is undeniably the most complete player in the Southeast.
- Julio Jones, Wide Receiver, Alabama - Let me re-iterate, becuase someone is on the "underrated" portion of this doesn't mean they're bad at football. They, like everyone on this list, are quite good at football, yet receive what I and many perceive to be undue praise. Capiche? Jones is a great wideout, but even some (read: very few) Alabama fans will concede that he has a problem with dropped passes. He is fourth in the conference in receiving yards a game, behind Georgia's Kris Durham (?) and just before Arkansas' Greg Childs. His two touchdown grabs on the year are also hardly impressive in that such a number matched by many, many guys in this conference (Markeith Summers and Melvin Harris, to name a pair). Yet, when the casual college football fan or Gary Danielson is asked who the best receiver in the SEC is, they'll rush right away to exclaim Julio Jones or AJ Green*, while neither have performed quite to the standard set by South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery.
*Of course, that isn't so much his fault. I mean, it is his fault, but not in that kind of way. You know what I mean.