Ranking the SEC kick/punt returners

July, 23, 2012
7/23/12
1:30
PM ET
The SEC's top kickers and punters have been ranked, so now it's time to rank some of the most exciting players in the league.

Past rankings:
Here are our top return men in the SEC:

[+] EnlargeTyrann Mathieu
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireTyrann Mathieu was a big-play machine for LSU last season.
1. Tyrann Mathieu, Jr., LSU: When he got the ball in his hands on punt returns you never knew what might happen. He showed excellent vision and movement and really drew more praise as a returner with his three game-changing returns against Arkansas and Georgia, with two going for scores. He finished the year averaging 15.6 yards on 27 returns, with a long of 92 yards and two touchdowns.

2. Dennis Johnson, Sr., Arkansas: He was one of the top returners out there before an injury cut his 2010 season short. He returned in 2011 to average 25.6 yards on 18 returns and had a 98-yard touchdown. Johnson will have even more energy on returns with Knile Davis returning to the backfield. For his career, Johnson enters the fall as the SEC’s active leader in career kickoff return yards and total return yards with 2,475.

3. Dustin Harris, Sr., Texas A&M: He was one of the country's best punt returners last year, with a nation-leading 18.6 average per return. He had a long return of 72 yards that went for a touchdown and set a school record with 162 punt return yards against Kansas.

4. Andre Debose, Jr., Florida: Two years ago he was one of the nation's best when it came to returning kicks because of his speed and vision, but inconsistency has held him back at times. Last year, he returned 19 kicks for an average of 26.1 yards per return and had a long of 99 yards that went for a touchdown.

5. Onterio McCalebb, Sr., Auburn: He's one of the league's best home run threats and all that space on kickoffs makes him even more dangerous. He only returned 11 kicks, but averaged 30.1 yards per return, had a long of 83 yards and registered one touchdown. The Tigers rotated a few players in the kick return game, so McCalebb will continue to get his chances to make big plays back there.

6. Warren Norman, Jr., Vanderbilt: As a freshman, he put up historic numbers as a return man. He set the SEC record for kickoff return yards for a freshman (1,050) and tied a league record with three touchdowns on kickoff returns and averaged 26.3 yards along the way. An injury cut his sophomore season short and he missed all of last season, but if he's totally healthy he's one of the best out there returning kicks.

7. Tre Mason, Soph., Auburn: He returns as the league's top statisitical kickoff returner, averaging 26.4 yards per return last year. He had a long of 97 yards that went for a touchdown. After a very successful start to the year, Mason saw his production decrease as the season went on and eventually lost his spot because of injuries and fumbling issues. Mason has the talent to be a special returner, but he has to get his job back first.

8. Jeff Scott, Jr., Ole Miss: Two years ago, he averaged 27.7 yards per return on kickoffs. Last year he spent time on both kickoffs and punts, registering a touchdown on one of his eight punt returns. He is Ole Miss' top all-purpose weapon and will be expected to do more in the return game to get Ole Miss in better field position, as it brings in a new offense.

9. Andre Hal, Jr., Vanderbilt: He'll share time with Norman now, but Hal did a solid job in his place last season, averaging 23.8 yards per return with a long of 96 yards that went for a touchdown. Having Norman alongside him might make him that much more productive because kickers might want to direct kicks away from Norman.

10. Johnthan Banks, Sr., Mississippi State: He averaged 10.4 yards on his 16 punt returns and had one go for a score last year. He might have been even more successful in the return game if fellow Bulldog Chad Bumphis didn't have eight returns of his own last season. Banks has great vision and elusiveness to be a top return man again if he gets enough touches.

Chris Low | email

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