For the fourth straight season on the SEC blog, we pay homage to the top seniors in the league.
We’ve selected the best 12 seniors in the league, period, and not one senior on each team. These guys all rose above and beyond in terms of on-the-field production, leadership and their overall impact on their teams.
There were a lot of tough calls and a lot of terrific seniors in the league again this season, meaning several deserving players were left off. We looked hard at how players fared against league competition, their consistency and whether or not they were able to make it through the whole season.
Here’s introducing our 2012 SEC Super Seniors. They’re listed in alphabetical order:
Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks: The 2012 Thorpe Award winner as the top defensive back in college football, Banks has four interceptions on the season and 16 for his career, which matches the school record. He's been a playmaker on that Mississippi State defense since he was a freshman.
Florida RB Mike Gillislee: Without Gillislee, who knows where the Gators would be right now? He was the heart and soul of their offense and became the first Florida player since Ciatrick Fason in 2004 to rush for 1,000 yards. He has 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns heading into the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Arkansas WR Cobi Hamilton: It wasn't a season to remember at Arkansas, but Hamilton helped keep things from completely unraveling on offense with a record-setting performance. He set school marks with 90 catches for 1,335 yards -- both tops among SEC players -- and caught five touchdown passes.
Alabama C Barrett Jones: One of the most decorated student-athletes in SEC history, Jones made the transition to center this season and earned All-America honors for the second straight year after playing left tackle in 2011. He's smart, tough and the kind of leader and player that makes everybody else around him better.
Vanderbilt RB Zac Stacy: One of the toughest runners in the league, Stacy rushed for 1,000 yards for the second straight season. He's one of only eight players in the SEC to do that over the past 10 years. He has 1,034 rushing yards entering the bowl game and is averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
Florida PK Caleb Sturgis: Florida coach Will Muschamp didn't shy away from calling Sturgis the best kicker in college football, and Sturgis' numbers certainly warrant that praise. He has great range, but is equally clutch on the pressure kicks. He's made 23-of-27 field goals this season and has six field goals of 50 yards or longer in the past two seasons.
South Carolina S D.J. Swearinger: One of the top safeties in the league, Swearinger is second on South Carolina's team with 70 total tackles. He's a big hitter and one of the main cogs in a South Carolina defense that collected an SEC-high 40 sacks and also forced 22 turnovers.
Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope: With Johnny Manziel playing his way to the Heisman Trophy, Swope was Mr. Dependable for the Aggies and led them with seven touchdown catches. He had 11 catches for 111 yards and a touchdown in the 29-24 win over Alabama.
Tennessee OG Dallas Thomas: The Vols' offensive line developed into one of the best in the league, and Thomas showcased his versatility by sliding inside to left guard after starting at left tackle in 2010 and 2011. He was a second-team All-SEC selection and is rated as one of the top guard prospects in the upcoming NFL draft.
Kentucky OG Larry Warford: A three-time All-SEC selection, Warford became the first Kentucky lineman to earn All-America honors in more than 20 years when he was named third team by the Associated Press this season. He didn't allow any sacks this season from his right guard spot and graded out at 90.3 percent.
Alabama OG Chance Warmack: Already one of the most dominant interior offensive linemen in the country, Warmack also emerged as one of the Crimson Tide's strongest leaders this season. He's a mauler inside at his left guard position and a big reason Alabama had two 1,000-yard rushers this season.
Georgia S Shawn Williams: In a season that saw Georgia's defense ravaged by injuries and suspensions, Williams has been a steadying force for the Bulldogs. He's second on the team with 87 total tackles and lit a much-needed fire under the defense with his comments prior to the win over Florida that propelled Georgia to the SEC championship game.