Ranking the SEC's 30 best players: Nos. 25-21

May, 13, 2009
5/13/09
3:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

I've already heard from some of you (OK, a lot of you) regarding the first five selections in my countdown of the 30 best players in the SEC.

First of all, it's impossible to pick just 30 players in a conference as talent-laded as the SEC. But, then, that's what makes it so fun ... and makes for some interesting debate.

The same goes for where the players are ranked.

The Ole Miss fans aren't real thrilled that Dexter McCluster wasn't ranked higher. He's one of the more versatile players in the conference and a great competitor. But I also received feedback from others wondering why I would include a player who lost as many key fumbles as McCluster did last season among the top 30 players in the conference.

Again, we'll be debating these picks until the season begins.

I refuse to take any heat, though, for my selection of Vanderbilt cornerback Myron Lewis on this list. He doesn't do all the different things D.J. Moore did on offense, defense and special teams, but has a chance to be an even better cornerback than Moore -- and that's saying something.

Enough with the chit-chat. On to selections 25-21:

No. 25: Geno Atkins, DT, Georgia -- One of the best interior defensive linemen in the league, Atkins led the Bulldogs with 32 quarterback hurries in 2008 and has recorded 22 tackles for loss his last two seasons. Atkins, projected as a first-round pick had he come out this year, will team with Jeff Owens next season to give the Bulldogs' one of the best tackle tandems in the SEC.

No. 24: Chad Jones, FS, LSU -- The Tigers' experiment with moving Jones around to different positions last season backfired. Jones wasn't nearly as effective as he should have been. He's back at free safety to stay under new defensive coordinator John Chavis and is primed for a huge junior season. At 230 pounds, Jones runs like a cornerback and hits like a linebacker.

No. 23: John Jerry, OT, Ole Miss -- Jerry's brother, Peria, stole the family headlines last season and ended up being a first-round pick. John has a chance to make a similar impact in the fall. He moved to right tackle last season after starting at guard his first two years at Ole Miss. At 6-5 and 350 pounds, he's one of the more dominant run blockers in the league.

No. 22: Jeffery Demps, RB/WR, Florida -- If he gets one step on you, he's gone. Forget about it. Demps might be the fastest player in the country, and he'll also get first crack at the "Percy Position" in the fall. Demps scored eight touchdowns a year ago as a freshman, and six of the eight were 36 yards or longer. He averaged 7.8 yards per carry and also blocked two punts.

No. 21: Brandon LaFell, WR, LSU -- The 6-3, 205-pound LaFell has everything you want in a go-to receiver. He has great speed, great leaping ability and the size and strength to get open. He's led the Tigers in receiving yards each of the last two seasons and tied for the SEC lead last season with eight touchdown catches. What's more, he was able to increase his production in 2008 despite all of LSU's struggles at quarterback.

Here's the link to Nos. 30-26.

  • No. 30: Myron Lewis, CB, Vanderbilt
  • No. 29: Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Ole Miss
  • No. 28: Micah Johnson, LB, Kentucky
  • No. 27: Javier Arenas, CB/RS, Alabama

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