If you want to have a little fun at my expense, go back and look at my Top 30 players in the SEC heading into last season.
Not that I was the only one, but I didn’t even have the Heisman Trophy winner anywhere on the list. Mark Ingram didn’t make the cut. Talk about coming from nowhere to win college football’s most prestigious individual award.
I also whiffed on Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez. I knew soon after completing that list that leaving Hernandez off was a bad mistake.
Others like Ole Miss’ Greg Hardy and Kentucky’s Trevard Lindley were injured and didn’t have big seasons, so I had them ranked too high.
In short, if we were doing a postseason Top 30 list in the SEC, it would look a lot different.
Let’s sketch one out and see.
Beginning today, I’ll unveil picks No. 30 through No. 26, and we’ll count it down to the top player in the SEC this season.
Keep in mind that this ranking is based on this season only, including the bowl games.
So here goes:
No. 30: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: He was a top-5 player on the preseason list and deserved every bit of it based on a fabulous freshman season. But this season, Jones suffered a knee injury in the second game that held him back during the first half of the season. He came on once he got healthier and made a huge play in the LSU game to turn that game around. He's still a great player with great upside. He just didn't have a great sophomore season.
No. 29: Brandon LaFell, WR, LSU: Consistency was the name of the game for LaFell, who was also a member of the preseason list. LaFell led the SEC with 11 touchdown catches. That's after catching eight touchdowns as a junior. In reality, he was about the only semblance of offense the Tigers had most of the season, and they probably should have gotten him the ball even more than they did.
No. 28: Terrence Cody, NG, Alabama: He had one of the plays of the year with his blocked field goal as time expired to save the Tennessee game, and he's unquestionably a load when it comes to stopping the run. But Cody wasn't an every-down player and was probably overrated when you consider all the first-team All-America honors he raked in. There's still no denying his presence in the middle.
No. 27: Mark Barron, S, Alabama: One of the breakthrough players of the season in the SEC, Barron led the league with seven interceptions on his way to first-team All-SEC honors. His emergence helped to solidify an Alabama secondary that proved to be one of the best in the country.
No. 26: Malcolm Sheppard, DT, Arkansas: One of the bright spots for the Hogs on defense, Sheppard was a force in the middle and finished second among SEC interior defensive linemen with 11 tackles for loss. He was also effective at pushing the pocket in pass-rushing situations. He had two of his best games against the two best teams Arkansas faced -- Alabama and Florida.