The SEC's best 25 players: No. 22

July, 29, 2011
7/29/11
9:00
AM ET
When you're good up front defensively, you've always got a chance. That said, the No. 22 guy in our countdown is one of the SEC's most talented interior defensive linemen:

No. 22: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

2010 numbers: Cox started in 11 games and collected 29 total tackles, including 6.5 for loss. He finished with 2.5 sacks and also had four quarterback hurries. He blocked two kicks, giving him three blocked kicks in his first two seasons.

Most recent ranking: Not ranked in the 2010 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Cox: The 6-4, 295-pound junior has yet to put up monster numbers, but this may be the season he does that. He has the size, strength and explosiveness to be a dominant interior lineman in this league and showed flashes of greatness last season as a sophomore. Even though he plays inside, he's a natural pass-rusher and has an exceptionally quick first step for a player his size. The Bulldogs will lean heavily on Cox and his cohort at tackle, Josh Boyd, this season. They form one of the more talented tackle tandems in the league. And with some question marks at end, Mississippi State will need Cox and Boyd to be even more active in the middle of that defensive line. Cox is also ready to take on a leadership role this season and has been pushing his teammates this summer. Nobody's comparing Cox to Nick Fairley. At least, not yet. But don't be surprised if Cox emerges from the shadows much the same way as Fairley did a year ago and establishes himself as one of the SEC's premier defensive players.

Previously
  • No. 23: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
  • No. 24: Jaye Howard, DT, Florida
  • No. 25: Janzen Jackson, S, Tennessee

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