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Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Ranking the SEC's 30 best players: Nos. 30-26

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

All right SEC diehards: You want something to keep you stirred up while we thirst for the start of preseason practice in August?

I'm going to give you something over the next week or so.

Starting today, I will count down the 30 best players in the SEC.

Before I say anything else, I realize this is extremely subjective, and we can agree to disagree for the next year on my selections.

But in general, I endeavored to pick who I feel are truly the 30 best football players in this conference based on several factors: Their production to this point, how they've played in key games, how they project heading into next season, how they're viewed around the league by the coaches and how they impact the players around them.

This is not a mock NFL draft for next year or a rating of how I think they might fare at the next level, although several of the players on this list are no doubt destined for greatness in pro football.

Only players who've played in an SEC game are eligible. That eliminates incoming freshmen and transfers, and this is also a list that may change some once we get to August.

So sit back and second guess away.

We'll kick it off with selections 30-26:

No. 30: Myron Lewis, CB, Vanderbilt -- He was overshadowed by D.J. Moore, but the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Lewis is a big, physical cornerback who makes big plays every time you turn around. He can cover, and he can also hit. Lewis was the only defensive back in the SEC last season with at least five interceptions and five sacks.

No. 29: Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Ole Miss -- If it's versatility you're looking for, then McCluster's your man. He and Percy Harvin were the only players in the league last season with more than 600 yards rushing and more than 600 yards receiving. McCluster has gained some weight and should be even more effective in the "Wild Rebel" formation next season.

No. 28: Micah Johnson, LB, Kentucky -- The SEC will be loaded with great linebackers next season, and the 6-2, 250-pound Johnson belongs right near the top. He led all SEC inside linebackers with 13 tackles for loss in 2008 despite a high ankle sprain that cost him two games and plagued him all season. His decision to return for his senior season was a coup for the Wildcats.

No. 27: Javier Arenas, CB/RS, Alabama -- Because he's such a dangerous punt returner, Arenas probably doesn't get the credit he deserves as a cornerback. He was fifth on Alabama's team in tackles last season and is an absolute terror as a return specialist. He returned three punts for touchdowns in 2008 and has taken six back for touchdowns during his career.

No. 26: Anthony Dixon, RB, Mississippi State -- Having trimmed down to 235 pounds and moving better than he has in some time, Dixon figures to be a busy man for the Bulldogs next season. He's a bruising runner between the tackles and needs just 610 yards to pass Jerious Norwood as Mississippi State's all-time rushing leader.