What happens when you have the two best players that season in a conference the caliber of the SEC?
You win a national championship.
It’s no coincidence that Alabama ended up leading the way with seven players in our postseason countdown of the 30 best players in the SEC. The Crimson Tide were perfect in 2009 -- 14-0 on their way to their first national title in 17 years.
And how fitting that the No. 1 guy didn’t even make my preseason countdown of the 30 best players in this league. Geez!
Here’s the breakdown by school: Alabama 7, Florida 6, Tennessee 3, Arkansas 2, Auburn 2, LSU 2, Georgia 2, Mississippi State 2, Ole Miss 2, Kentucky 1 and South Carolina 1.
It wasn’t by design, but there were 15 offensive players and 15 defensive players, although 10 of the top 16 were defensive players.
My offer still stands. Let’s see some of your lists of the best 30 players from this past season. If you’re willing to include your name and where you live, I’ll post some of them.
Enough of the buildup. I present to you the top two players (and teammates) from the SEC in 2009:
No. 1: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: To really appreciate Ingram and his greatness, you had to see him live a couple of different times. He’s a fabulous after-contact runner and never goes down on the first hit. He’s so strong and has such great balance and footwork that he’s also one of those running backs you rarely see taking a direct hit from a defender. Consider this: Ingram carried the ball 271 times this past season, but only had 20 negative yards all season. On his way to becoming Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy winner in school history, he finished with 1,658 yards rushing while scoring 20 touchdowns and catching 32 passes. Ingram averaged 6.1 yards per carry, and more than 1,000 of his rushing yards came after contact. More than adequate in pass protection, Ingram blossomed into not only the best overall player in the league in 2009, but one of the most complete running backs the SEC has seen over the last decade.
No. 2: Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama: There are some in and around the Alabama program who will tell you that McClain was even more valuable to the Crimson Tide in their drive to the national championship than Ingram. That’s an argument that could last a while. The bottom line is that they both had fantastic seasons and made one key play after another to pave the way to Pasadena. The 6-foot-4, 258-pound McClain finished among the tackle leaders in the SEC with 105 total tackles, including 14.5 for loss. He was second on Alabama’s team with 14 quarterback hurries and was always around the ball. Go back and look at how many times he got a hand on a ball, knocked a ball loose or made a key tackle on third down to change the complexion of a game. He was also an extension of Nick Saban on the field and knew every position on that defense like it was his own. McClain made all the calls, got guys lined up and often times corrected mistakes before they occurred. Having declared early for the NFL draft, he’s projected to go in the top half of the first round in April.
No. 3: Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Ole Miss
No. 4: Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
No. 5: Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
No. 6: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
No. 7: Anthony Dixon, RB, Mississippi State
No. 8: Javier Arenas, CB, Alabama
No. 9: Joe Haden, CB, Florida
No. 10: Antonio Coleman, DE, Auburn
No. 11: Aaron Hernandez, TE, Florida
No. 12: Eric Norwood, OLB, South Carolina
No. 13: Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida
No. 14: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
No. 15: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida
No. 16: Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee
No. 17: Ben Tate, RB, Auburn
No. 18: Montario Hardesty, RB, Tennessee
No. 19: Mike Johnson, OG, Alabama
No. 20: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida
No. 21: Rennie Curran, LB, Georgia
No. 22: Randall Cobb, QB/WR, Kentucky
No. 23: Shay Hodge, WR, Ole Miss
No. 24: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
No. 25: Pernell McPhee, DE, Mississippi State
No. 26: Malcolm Sheppard, DT, Arkansas
No. 27: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
No. 28: Terrence Cody, NG, Alabama
No. 29: Brandon LaFell, WR, LSU
No. 30: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama