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Thursday, July 29, 2010
Best position in the SEC?

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Now that we’ve whipped through the position rankings, what position is the strongest in the SEC?

Everybody says this is a defensive league, which it is. But it might surprise some people that two of the top three positions entering the 2010 season are on offense.

Here are my top three:

1. Receivers/tight ends: Go count the number of legitimate first-day NFL draft prospects at receiver in the SEC. Georgia’s A.J. Green, Alabama’s Julio Jones, LSU’s Terrance Toliver, Arkansas’ Greg Childs and Auburn’s Darvin Adams are the juniors and seniors who all fall into that category. Kentucky’s Randall Cobb might be the best all-around player of the group. The younger crop of receivers in this league are not exactly shabby either: South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery, Mississippi State’s Chad Bumphis, Arkansas’ Cobi Hamilton and LSU’s Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard. Throw in tight ends D.J. Williams of Arkansas, Luke Stocker of Tennessee and Orson Charles of Georgia, and this is easily the strongest position in the league.

2. Defensive backs: Just imagine how loaded this position would be if so many underclassmen hadn’t turned pro. Florida has what could be three future NFL players slated to start in its secondary. LSU has great speed and perhaps the best cornerback tandem in the SEC in Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne. South Carolina has the best young talent in the league, led by sophomore cornerback Stephon Gilmore, and just about everybody has one or two guys returning who could play anywhere in the country. Even Alabama, which was depleted, returns the top safety in the league in Mark Barron, who had seven interceptions last season, and the Mississippi State tandem of Corey Broomfield and Johnthan Banks combined for 10 interceptions last season as freshmen.

3. Offensive line: Just in experience alone, you’ve got to like several of the offensive lines this season in the SEC. Auburn brings back four senior starters. Georgia has all five starters returning and eight lettermen. Any reason to believe Alabama won’t be extremely strong up front again? Florida has experience, skill and tremendous size in its line, not to mention an anchor in the middle in senior center Mike Pouncey. Arkansas and Mississippi State might not rank among the top four lines in the league, but both bring back a surplus of experience and talent -- which only reinforces how strong offensive line play should be in the SEC this season.