Dallas Colleges: 2012 SEC postseason Top 25

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 1

February, 25, 2013
We've come to the end of our countdown of the SEC's best 25 players, and No. 1 should only surprise those who spent the 2012 season literally living under a rock:

No. 1: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M, RFr.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
AP Photo/Dave EinselQuarterback Johnny Manziel beat teams through the air and on the ground this past season.
2012 summary: The Heisman Trophy winner was also a consensus All-American and All-SEC performer after he broke the SEC record for total yards (5,116) in 2012. Manziel, who won the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's best quarterback, was third in the SEC in passing with 3,706 yards and threw 26 touchdowns to nine interceptions. He also led the SEC with 1,410 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. Manziel ended the year averaging a league-high 7 yards per carry and had a passer rating of 155.3.

Most recent ranking: Not ranked in the 2012 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Manziel: It was hard to find a more exciting and more dangerous player in the country. Despite not throwing a collegiate pass before the 2012 season, Manziel finished the year with the Heisman Trophy in hand and real celebrity status. He dazzled all year with both his arm and feet. While he had a tendency to improvise when he had the ball in his hands, he usually came out on top at the end of plays because of all the time he created with his feet. He was so slippery in the pocket that any window given to him usually resulted in a big play for Manziel and the Aggies. Teams had to completely change their game plans in order to defend him, because giving Manziel too much time in the pocket left secondaries vulnerable to his arm, but collapsing the pocket gave the elusive Manziel the opportunity to light defenses up with his speed and agility when he took off. Johnny Football finished the year with six games in which he threw for 200-plus yards and rushed for 100-plus yards. Naturally, the Aggies were undefeated when he did that, but when he rushed for 60 yards or less (twice) the Aggies failed to win. Manziel averaged 286.1 passing yards and 87.2 rushing yards against SEC defenses last fall. He was a rising star for most of the year, but he really threw his hat into the Heisman ring when he gashed No. 1 Alabama's top-ranked defense for 345 total yards and two passing touchdowns in A&M's 29-24 upset win in Tuscaloosa. What really showed in that game was his pocket presence, improved decision making and his accuracy, as he made some big-time throws against the Crimson's Tide defense, especially on a the Aggies' two-play 66-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter that ended up being the game-winning drive for A&M. Manziel capped his stellar first year on the field with a bowl-record 516 total yards in the Aggies' 41-13 thumping of No. 11 Oklahoma in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Manziel seemed to get better and better with each week, leading the Aggies to 11 wins in their first year in the SEC.

The Rundown

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 4

February, 21, 2013
We go from the top guard in college football at No. 5 in our countdown to the top tackle in college football at No. 4.

No. 4: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M, Jr.

2012 summary: Joeckel won the Outland Trophy as the most outstanding interior lineman in college football. He became the first Texas A&M player to win the award. He was also a unanimous first-team All-America selection and ended his career with 39 consecutive starts at left tackle. The Aggies finished third nationally this past season in total offense with an average of 558.5 yards per game.

Most recent ranking: No. 20 in the 2012 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Joeckel: The Aggies had the luxury this past season of having two of the best offensive tackles in college football on the same team. Jake Matthews did his thing at right tackle, and Joeckel for the third straight season was a force at left tackle. At 6-6 and 310 pounds, Joeckel owned the left side of the line for the Aggies. He was a devastating run-blocker and specialized in driving whoever was in front of him 4 or 5 yards down the field. He combined strength and quickness, along with powerful hands, to overwhelm opponents. He wasn't known as much for his pass-blocking, but was certainly good enough. Besides, Johnny Manziel was always scrambling. Texas A&M averaged 546.2 yards and 39.1 points against SEC defenses this past season. To put up those kind of numbers against the defensive front-sevens you face in this league, you have to be exceptional up front on offense. The Aggies had one of the best offensive lines in college football, and Joeckel was the anchor of that unit. Some analysts have projected him to go No. 1 overall in April's NFL draft. He only played one season in the SEC, but what a season it was.

The Rundown

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 6

February, 19, 2013
He might have been new to the league, but the next member of our countdown finished the year as one of the nation's best players overall:

No. 6: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M, Jr.

2012 summary: Moore enjoyed a very successful first -- and only -- year in the SEC. He earned All-SEC honors from both the Associated Press and the league's coaches and was also a second-team All-American after ranking seventh nationally in tackles for loss (21) and eighth in sacks (12.5). He was third in the SEC in both categories. He also led the Aggies with 85 total tackles (57 solo), becoming the first defensive lineman since Sam Adams in 1993 to lead Texas A&M in tackles.

Most recent ranking: Not ranked in the 2012 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Moore: Talk about a debut in your new conference. After switching from outside linebacker to defensive end in the Aggies' new 4-3 defensive scheme, Moore really took off and became one of the SEC's toughest defenders to either stop or contain in 2012. He had a solid sophomore campaign in 2011, but he was a much more complete player in 2012. He had a tendency to take plays off in 2011, but coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff made sure that wasn't a part of Moore's game last fall. He took conditioning more seriously during the offseason -- with help from his coaches pushing him even more -- and was able to stay on the field longer for the Aggies. He was an absolute force coming off the edge, and it was a real shame that he wasn't up for any of the top defensive awards in college football last season. Moore recorded at least two tackles for loss in each of the first seven games of the season and finished the year with three multi-sack games. Moore found himself making plays all over the field because of his high football IQ and because he could cover a lot of ground, despite coming off of the defensive line. With his enormous wingspan and his exceptional speed, he wasn't just important as a rush end, as he spent plenty of time chasing players all over the field. Moore was an extremely versatile player last fall and decided to take his talents to the NFL early. He's expected to be a top-5 pick in April's NFL draft.

The Rundown

The SEC's 25 best players: No. 16

February, 4, 2013
There was no shortage of outstanding offensive linemen in the SEC this past season, and this next guy was one of the top tackles in the country.

No. 16: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M, Jr.

2012 summary: Matthews was a first-team All-America selection by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and a second-team All-America selection by the Walter Camp Foundation and SI.com. He was a consensus first-team All-SEC selection. The Aggies led the SEC and were 11th nationally in rushing offense with an average of 242.1 yards per game.

Most recent ranking: Not ranked in the 2012 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Matthews: Even though Outland Trophy winner Luke Joeckel garnered most of the postseason love in terms of awards, Matthews was equally dominant from his right tackle spot and a big reason the Aggies were so explosive offensively. They became the first team in SEC history to rack up 7,000 yards of total offense and gained 400 or more yards in their final 11 games of the 2012 season. The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Matthews has started in 33 straight games and played some of his best football this past season against the stiffest competition. His leadership in the locker room was invaluable, and the best news for the Aggies is that he'll be back for his senior season after considering a jump to the NFL. Several analysts had Matthews projected as a first-round pick. He'll slide over to left tackle as a senior and protect the blind side of Heisman Trophy quarterback Johnny Manziel. The son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, the younger Matthews obviously has the right bloodlines, but he also has the right stuff physically, mentally and from a competitive spirit standpoint to be a stalwart on any offensive line.

The Rundown