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The SEC's 25 best players: No. 21

Breaking into our countdown at No. 21 is a guy who had 57 career carries coming into last season.

No. 21: Stevan Ridley, RB, Jr., LSU

2010 numbers/honors: Finished fourth in the SEC in rushing with 1,147 yards and also scored 15 touchdowns. A first-team All-SEC selection by the coaches and second-team All-SEC selection by the Associated Press.

Preseason ranking: Not ranked in the 2010 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Ridley: When you start talking about the impact a player has on his team, imagine the LSU offense last season without Ridley. He was the Tigers’ offense and carried the load over and over again with 249 carries, tying South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore for the most in the SEC among running backs. LSU went from 122.8 rushing yards per game in 2009 to an average of 185.7 yards last season, and a big part of that was Ridley’s bruising running style. One of those backs who’s constantly churning for extra yardage, the 6-foot, 223-pound Ridley helped keep the chains moving for the Tigers despite any real threat of a passing game for most of the season. He averaged 91.5 yards against SEC defenses and ended his LSU career with a 105-yard rushing effort against Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. His 1,147 yards marked the seventh highest single-season rushing total in LSU history. Ridley decided to bypass his senior season and enter his name into the upcoming NFL draft.

The rundown

No. 22: Mississippi State OT Derek Sherrod

No. 23: Alabama DE Marcell Dareus

No. 24: Kentucky LB Danny Trevathan

No. 25: Alabama LB Courtney Upshaw