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Friday, August 12, 2011
The SEC's best 25 players: No. 12

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Too much might have been expected during his sophomore season, but this next guy is one of the most talented cornerbacks in the country:

No. 12: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

2010 numbers: A starter in all 14 games, Gilmore led the Gamecocks with 79 total tackles, including six for loss. Three of those were quarterback sacks. Gilmore also intercepted three passes and began the season as South Carolina's primary punt returner. He was named first-team All-SEC by the league's coaches and second team by The Associated Press.

Most recent ranking: Not ranked in the 2010 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Gilmore: He's been a starter since he stepped foot on South Carolina's campus, all 27 games. The 6-1, 193-pound junior is versatile enough to lock down on the most elusive receiver and then come up and deliver the kind of blow on a running back that can change the complexion of a game. The Gamecocks had their struggles defending the pass last season, and Gilmore was a part of those struggles. He was burned on a couple of deep patterns, but South Carolina assistant head coach for the defense Ellis Johnson says it's off base to say that Gilmore had a bad season. There were times when Gilmore was trying to make up for somebody else's mistake. Either way, he's a difference-maker in the secondary and one of the SEC's premier athletes. The Gamecocks have used him some as a quarterback in the Wildcat package, and he's poised for his best season yet in 2011.

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