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Friday, July 8, 2011
SEC's top home-run hitters

By Chris Low

We’re obviously in the middle of baseball season with the All-Star Game coming up next Tuesday in Phoenix at Chase Field.

One of my favorite parts of the All-Star festivities is the Home Run Derby. I watch it every year with my middle son, Adam.

In anticipation of that great event, I give you my top 10 home-run hitters in the SEC for this coming season. That is, the football version.

Onterio McCalebb
Onterio McCalebb is always dangerous with the ball in his hands.
These are guys who are a threat to score every time they touch the ball, and when they do, it’s often times from long distance:

1. Onterio McCalebb, RB, Auburn: His 70-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against LSU last season was the difference in that game. McCalebb has bulked up some and hopes to play at more than 180 pounds this season. He rushed for 810 yards last season and averaged 8.5 yards a pop.

2. Jeff Demps, RB, Florida: The only holdup with Demps is being able to stay healthy. But he’s the fastest player in the SEC and has four runs during his career of 60-plus yards. He was also one of nine players nationally a year ago with a run of 70 yards or longer and a kick return of 50 yards or longer.

3. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: Even though he’s packing 225 pounds, Richardson is as dangerous a breakaway threat as you’re going to find. He led Alabama last season with 36 plays of 15 yards or more and can turn on the jets as a receiver and kickoff returner, too.

4. Chris Rainey, RB/WR, Florida: Once he came off suspension last season, he was a blur. The Gators plan to use him as a runner and a receiver in Charlie Weis’ new pro-style offense. He had five touchdowns in eight games a year ago.

5. Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas: He’s one of four Arkansas receivers on the preseason watch list for the 2011 Biletnikoff Award. Adams ranked second in the SEC last season with an average of 15.2 yards per play. He’s one of the best in the league after the catch and equally explosive on punt returns.

6. Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas: The Hogs throw great receivers at defenses in waves, and Wright is the fastest of the bunch. He had a great offseason in the weight room and was clocked at 4.27 in the 40-yard dash in March. Wright had nine catches of at least 25 yards last season.

7. Marquis Maze, WR, Alabama: As good as Julio Jones was at Alabama, Maze was an even better deep threat for the Crimson Tide. He’s averaged 15.2 yards per catch during his career and is another player who can strike from long distance in the return game.

8. Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina: The book on Jeffery is that he’s not supposed to have great speed. Yet, you never see anybody running him down from behind. He had three touchdown catches of 69 yards or longer last season. And when you miss a tackle on him (and a lot of defenders do), he’s always a threat to take it the distance.

9. Russell Shepard, WR, LSU: This will be Shepard’s second full season as a receiver. He has a better feel for the position now and will be better equipped to put his tremendous speed and quickness to use. Shepard is electric in the open field. Don’t be surprised if he’s the Tigers’ top big-play performer in 2011.

10. Branden Smith, RB/WR, Georgia: Go back and watch his 61-yard touchdown run against South Carolina two years ago. Smith wasn't completely healthy after the first few games last season and spent most of his time at cornerback. He was already going to see his touches on offense increase. But with Caleb King gone, Smith's speed will be more important than ever whether he's carrying the ball, catching it or returning it.