The SEC's 25 best players: No. 12

He was overshadowed at times by Auburn’s Nick Fairley, but the No. 12 guy in our countdown was dominant in his own right last season in the middle of that LSU defensive line:

No. 12: Drake Nevis, DT, Sr., LSU

2010 numbers/honors: Led LSU with 13 tackles for loss and was second on the team with six sacks and three forced fumbles. A second-team All-America selection by the Associated Press and Walter Camp. A consensus first-team All-SEC selection.

Preseason ranking: Not ranked in the 2010 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Nevis: The 6-2, 285-pound Nevis was the Tigers’ one-man wrecking ball in the middle of their defensive line last season. Defensive tackles don’t usually rack up big numbers. They’re there to stuff the run and take up blockers for other guys to make plays, but Nevis was one of the most active defensive tackles in the country. He finished with 56 total tackles, which was second only to Fairley’s 60 total tackles among interior defensive linemen in the SEC. Nevis was at his best in some of the Tigers’ biggest wins, and he also did most of his damage against SEC teams. He had 10 of his 13 tackles for loss in league play, including five of his six sacks. He had several key plays in the 24-21 win over Alabama and was dominant in the 33-29 win at Florida with 4.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis has coached a number of defensive tackles who’ve gone on to have stellar NFL careers, and he said Nevis compares favorably with any of them.

The rundown

No. 13: Auburn OT Lee Ziemba

No. 14: LSU LB Kelvin Sheppard

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