SEC players in the top 25

This summer, we'll unveil our annual preseason countdown of the top 25 players in the SEC.

That's always a tough call because projecting can be a dicey proposition. For instance, South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore was No. 3 and Arkansas' Knile Davis was No. 4 last year, and they both got hurt.

The Sporting News' Matt Hayes has come out with his post-spring ranking of the top 25 players in college football for the 2012 season. He used on-field performance and next-level potential as the basis for his list. Nine SEC players, which was more than any other conference in the country, made Hayes' list. That includes three players from LSU's defense -- cornerback Tyrann Mathieu at No. 8, defensive end Barkevious Mingo at No. 12 and defensive end Sam Montgomery at No. 23.

The top SEC player was Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones at No. 5. The top player overall was USC quarterback Matt Barkley.

Here's a rundown of all nine SEC players on the list with a comment from an NFL scout:

No. 5 Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

NFL scout says: “He's the prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker. A top five (overall) guy.”

No. 7 Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas

NFL scout says: “He would’ve been a low first-round guy had he come out. Great arm, plays in a pro system, can move up (draft boards) this year.”

No. 8 Tyrann Mathieu, CB/RS, LSU

NFL scout says: “He’ll get exposed a bit with bigger receivers, but he’s one of those guys who is always making a play when you need it.”

No. 11 Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina

NFL scout says: “You never know how guys respond to ACL surgery. It’s a big question — especially for a guy who some thought was better than (Alabama’s) Trent Richardson.”

No. 12 Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU

NFL scout says: “He has a chance to move into the top five (overall). In this league, it’s the quarterback first, and then guys that can affect the quarterback.”

No. 15 Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia

NFL scout says: “He still makes too many poor decisions, and his accuracy is a big question. But you love his moxie and intangibles.”

No. 18 Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee

NFL scout says: “Talent-wise, he’s top 15-20 pick, and maybe better. But there will definitely be some character questions he’ll have to answer.”

No. 21 D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

NFL scout says: “He has the most potential to move up of just about anyone — if he comes to camp in shape and continues to play well.”

No. 23 Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU

NFL scout says: “With his edge (rush) ability, he can play end in a 4-3, or outside linebacker in a 3-4. He’s so long, too. His wingspan makes him very difficult to engage and block.”