As middle linebackers go, this next guy in our countdown was pretty much the prototype:
No. 14: Kelvin Sheppard, LB, Sr., LSU
2010 numbers/honors: Led LSU with 116 total tackles, tying for second on the team with 11 tackles for loss. Included were four sacks. A consensus first-team All-SEC selection.
Preseason ranking: Ranked No. 13 on the 2010 preseason countdown.
Making the case for Sheppard: For the second year in a row, Sheppard collected 110-plus tackles and wound up third in the SEC last season in total tackles. He’s been a tackling machine for the Tigers from the time he entered the starting lineup and is versatile enough to chase the ball from sideline to sideline and also drop back into coverage when needed. But to truly appreciate what the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Sheppard meant to the LSU defense last season, you have to look beyond the numbers. He was the Tigers’ emotional leader, the guy who made sure the right tone was set every day on the practice field and the guy who made sure everybody was ready on game day. He was also the brains of that defense, knowing exactly what defensive coordinator John Chavis wanted and able to make checks and get everybody in the right places. Sheppard didn’t pile up a bunch of his numbers against teams that didn’t matter, either. All four of his sacks came against SEC competition as did eight of his 11 tackles for loss. In the win over Alabama, he had his only interception of the season and recovered a fumble. In the win at Florida, he had two of his four sacks. Every great defense needs a rock at middle linebacker, and Sheppard was that rock for the Tigers.
No. 15: South Carolina DE Devin Taylor
No. 16: Florida S Ahmad Black
No. 17: Arkansas TE D.J. Williams
No. 18: Alabama S Mark Barron
No. 19: Florida CB Janoris Jenkins
No. 20: Mississippi State LB Chris White
No. 21: LSU RB Stevan Ridley
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