- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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We've come to the end of our countdown, and the No. 1 player on our list should come as no surprise to anyone. He spent all season running over and by defenders, and was up for college football's most prestigious award. Without him manning Alabama's backfield, the Crimson Tide might not have won its second national championship in three years. He's also expected to be the first running back taken in April's NFL draft.
No. 1: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama, Jr.
Preseason rank: No. 2 in the 2011 preseason countdown.
2011 summary: Richardson led the SEC and was fifth nationally with 1,679 rushing yards on 283 carries (5.93 yards per carry), and became the third player in SEC history to rush for 20 or more rushing touchdowns (21) in a season. He also caught 29 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Richardson was a unanimous first team All-American and All-SEC member. He also won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back, and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
Why he's here: In his first season as Alabama's starting running back, Richardson made sure the loss of Mark Ingram wasn't much of a concern for the Crimson Tide. He was the ultimate workhorse for Alabama, and had no problem being the focal point in the Tide's offense. What made him so special was his ability to pack power and speed into his game. He could sprint with track stars, but wasn't afraid to bulldoze his opponents if necessary ... of if he just felt like it. And Richardson certainly wasn't afraid of contact, as 49.7 percent of his rushing yards came after contact during the regular season. Richardson also showcased tremendous agility, and his elusiveness made him even more dangerous when he had the ball in his hands. Just ask Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson about his moves, because he's sure to be on Richardson's permanent highlight reel after getting shaken to the ground on a ridiculous cutback Richardson made on him last fall. His 2,017 yards from scrimmage accounted for more than 36 percent of Alabama's offense in 2011, and he did that while facing eight teams (LSU twice) that ranked among the top 51 nationally in total defense. No other Heisman contender had played more than five. In his two games against LSU (No. 2 in total defense), Richardson combined for 276 yards from scrimmage and recorded the only touchdown for either team in the series. Richardson registered nine games with at least 100 rushing yards, which tied a school record, and is expected to be a top-1o draft pick in April.
No. 2: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
No. 3: Tyrann Mathieu, CB/RS, LSU
No. 4: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
No. 5: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
No. 6: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
No. 7: Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
No. 8: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
No. 9: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
No. 10: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
No. 11: Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky
No. 12: William Vlachos, C, Alabama
No. 13: Joe Adams, WR/RS, Arkansas
No. 14: Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia
No. 15: Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas
No. 16: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
No. 17: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
No. 18: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
No. 19: Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia
No. 20: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
No. 21: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
No. 22: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU
No. 23: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
No. 24: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
No. 25: Michael Dyer, RB, Auburn
We've come to the end of our countdown, and the No. 1 player on our list should come as no surprise to anyone. He spent all season running over and by defenders, and was up for college football's most prestigious award.