Holding SEC countdown to 25 is never easy

March, 21, 2011
3/21/11
6:46
PM ET
The 2010 postseason countdown of the SEC’s 25 best players is in the books, and as usual, I’m sure everybody is completely onboard with all of my selections.

[+] EnlargeMark Ingram
Marvin Gentry/US PresswireAlabama's Mark Ingram missed the first two games of the season after having knee surgery.
I know the big debate will be about Alabama’s Mark Ingram, a great player who didn’t necessarily have a great season for a number of different reasons.

Ingram finished tied for seventh in the SEC in rushing, averaging 79.5 yards per game. Missing the first two games after having knee surgery didn’t help him, and there were points during the season where he was having to get his knee drained. So, no, he wasn’t 100 percent healthy.

What’s more, the Crimson Tide weren’t as good in the offensive line as they were during their national championship season, and Ingram didn’t have near the impact he did during his Heisman Trophy sophomore season.

After his 157-yard game against Arkansas in his second game back, he never rushed for 100 yards again. Granted, he was sharing time with Trent Richardson, who was also less than 100 percent, but Ingram averaged just 63 rushing yards per game in his last nine contests.

And if you take Georgia State out of the equation, Ingram finished the season by averaging just 4.2 yards per carry in his last eight games.

I realize Ingram’s impact extends well beyond his rushing totals, and he’s one of those guys who will play 10 years in the NFL and be a great pro. But he simply didn’t have the kind of season that warrants his being included among the top 25 players in the league.

As a trusted colleague of mine said, “If Ingram’s name were John Jones and he put up those same numbers, would you even be considering him as a top 25 player based on the 2010 season?”

My honest answer: No.

In addition to Ingram, there were five others who just missed the cut. These are guys who probably deserve to be in there. But, again, there are only 25 spots. They’re listed alphabetically:

Mike Dyer, RB, Fr., Auburn: He really didn’t get started until midway through the season, but Dyer was the league’s fifth leading rusher against SEC defenses, and his 5.9 yards-per-carry average topped the leaders. He wasn’t shabby in the BCS National Championship Game, either.

Casey Hayward, CB, Jr., Vanderbilt: The Commodores have had some premier cornerbacks over the past few years, and Hayward might end up being the best yet. He led the league with 17 passes defended and was second with six interceptions.

Robert Lester, S, So., Alabama: He led the SEC with eight interceptions, and five of those came in league play. Lester also tied for second with 12 passes defended and provided some stability in an inexperienced Alabama secondary.

Denarius Moore, WR, Sr., Tennessee: His nine touchdown catches tied for the SEC lead, and he proved to be one of the best big-play receivers in the league, averaging 20.9 yards per catch. Moore had a pair of 200-yard receiving games last season.

Mike Pouncey, C, Sr., Florida: His problems snapping the ball, particularly early, were well-documented. But from a physical standpoint, Pouncey was still one of the more dominant interior offensive linemen in the league.

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