It’s not Chad Kelly, it’s not Josh Dobbs, it’s not a hobbled Leonard Fournette or even Myles Garrett. Right now, Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett is the best player in the Southeastern Conference.

VFL Insider - Derek Barnett
Barnett will try to sack Trevor Knight this weekend in College Station (Photo by Robin Rudd)

As the game of football has evolved, two positions have been regarded in a higher ilk than the others: the quarterback and premier pass rusher.

This year, the quarterback performance in the SEC has been down. Chad Kelly and Josh Dobbs came into 2016 as the best at their respective spots, both surrounded with offensive weapons. As the first five weeks have come and gone, Kelly has turned the ball over six times and Dobbs, though a threat on the ground as a runner, still struggles completing passes through the air on a consistent basis.

Both LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett have been dealing with injuries throughout the course of this year.

What Derek Barnett has been able to do off of the edge this season has been unbelievable.

The last two weeks Barnett has made game-changing plays to alter the outcome for his team. 

Let’s take a look at two plays Barnett had against Florida.

The second half of the Florida game was completely dominated by one man. Everyone looks to the 38 unanswered points that Tennessee scored and thinks about the offense getting back on track. What should be recognized is the authoritative play of Derek Barnett.

Let’s now look back at the Georgia game.

Mark down another game changing moment.

In the last two weeks Barnett has been named SEC player of the week for total defense and defensive line, and he doesn’t look like he’s slowing down anytime soon. Heading into the Vols’ game against Texas A&M, Barnett is tied for fourth in the SEC in sacks with four and is second in tackles for loss with 8.5.

Even Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin realizes how dominant Barnett really is.

The junior from Nashville has progressively gotten better year after year to be where he is at in his collegiate career.


The thing that makes Barnett the best is he’s able elevate his game against the toughest competition. With the Vols undefeated heading into another huge game, this time against the Aggies of Texas A&M, watch Barnett and see how he plays. You’ll then understand why he’s the best player in the best football conference in the country.