The SEC's 25 best players: No. 23

The season started ominously enough for the No. 23 guy on our countdown, but he was still one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the league.

No. 23: Marcell Dareus, DE, Jr., Alabama

2010 numbers/honors: Led Alabama with 10 quarterback hurries and was second on the team with 11 tackles for loss, including 4.5 sacks. A first-team All-SEC selection by the coaches and third-team All-America selection by the Associated Press.

Preseason ranking: Ranked No. 5 on 2010 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Dareus: It wasn’t the best start for Dareus, who was suspended the first two games by the NCAA for a pair of trips he took to Miami in the offseason that were funded by agents. In his second game back against Arkansas, Dareus hurt his ankle, and that also hindered him. So while he didn’t have that breakout season statistically like most were expecting, he was still a force up front for the Crimson Tide, frequently taking on double teams and opening up opportunities for teammates to make big plays or pressuring the quarterback into poor throws. The 6-foot-4, 306-pound Dareus ranked among the SEC leaders in tackles for loss in league games (8) and also had all but one of his sacks against SEC competition. An explosive player for such a big guy, Dareus played end in Alabama’s 3-4 scheme. He’ll be a tackle in the NFL and decided to give up his senior season to enter April’s draft. Most projections have him going among the top 10 picks overall.

The rundown