The SEC Defensive Player of the Week honor is one for playmakers.
Interceptions, sacks, and other big-play categories rule the day, as evidenced by this week's co-winner, Mississippi State safety Nickoe Whitley, winning on the strength of a key forced fumble and an interception. So how does one garner the honor with six tackles and zeroes across the rest of the stat chart?
In the case of Missouri cornerback E.J. Gaines, who shared this week's title with Whitley, the stats that matter belong to Mike Evans. The star Texas A&M receiver was held to season lows of just four catches and 8 receiving yards as Missouri topped the Aggies to win the SEC East division and a berth in the SEC title game. Evans entered the game as the league's leader in receiving yards per game at 119.5, and as a third-year sophomore, he is considering an early jump to the NFL.
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Gaines, a senior, added an extra opportunity to impress NFL scouts with Missouri's qualification for the SEC title game. He'll likely be matched up against Auburn's Sammie Coates, a dangerous athlete who leads the Tigers in every receiving category. Coates is averaging a whopping 23.3 yards per catch, barely more than a yard shy of the NCAA record. Evans had threatened the record earlier this season, but his average has since fallen to 20.3.
Gaines has a team-high four interceptions this season, and ranks third on the team in tackles with 59. He is one of several NFL prospects on the Missouri defense, along with pass rushers Kony Ealy and Michael Sam.