Monday, August 29, 2011
Breaking down the SEC's top 25 players
By Chris Low
The countdown of the SEC's top 25 players for the 2011 season is in the books, and I'm sure nobody has any beefs with our list.
Actually, I have a few myself, and I put the list together along with my SEC blogging mate Edward Aschoff.
When you have to keep it to 25 players in a league like the SEC, you're always going to second-guess yourself.
We certainly wouldn't have included Tennessee safety Janzen Jackson at No. 25 had we known he would squander his last chance and get booted for continuing substance abuse issues.
And who knew Arkansas' Knile Davis would go down with a fractured ankle in the preseason? But I absolutely stand by our decision to pick him in the top 5, and I'm just as convinced that he deserved to remain on the list even though he's not going to be playing this season. Davis is a class act in every sense of the word and a terrific football player.
As I survey the list, I admit to wincing a bit at not seeing more LSU players included. The Tigers are loaded with talent, but much of it is concentrated in the freshman and sophomore classes. If we did a top 50, LSU would probably be right there at the top.
The other thing is that we genuinely tried to pick the 25 players we felt would have the best seasons in 2011 without trying to make sure every team was accounted for or that a team had more players on the list simply because it was picked high in the preseason polls.
The No. 1 choice was tough, but we went with Alshon Jeffery for a number of reasons.
First, there's no denying his production. The bigger the game, the better he played last season, and he's only going to be more polished as a receiver. You're talking about a guy who's 6-4 and weighs 230 pounds and has the leaping ability to go up and get passes, the hands to catch passes with people hanging onto him, and the strength to out-wrestle defenders for passes you simply don't see many receivers catching.
He's not going to wow anybody with his speed (or his physique), but how many times do you see him being run down when he breaks into the clear?
Simply, Jeffery's a football player, and he's poised for a monster junior season.
Before getting into the 10 players who just missed the cut, here's a breakdown of the list:
South Carolina: 4
Mississippi State: 1
Here are the 10 players (could have been 20) who just missed the cut. They're listed alphabetically:
LSU LB Ryan Baker: The Tigers are oozing with talent on defense, and Baker will be one of their leaders. He had seven sacks last season and played the first month with his mouth wired shut due to a broken jaw.
Ole Miss RB Brandon Bolden: He's got a chance to rush for 1,000 yards and also catch 30 passes. He just missed joining the 1,000-yard/30-catch club last season by 24 rushing yards.
Georgia CB Brandon Boykin: One of the SEC's top cover cornerbacks, Boykin is also one of the most dangerous return specialists in the league. Maybe we see him on offense this season, too.
Florida DE Sharrif Floyd: The Gators are going to play him at end because of his ability to both rush the passer and stop the run.
Georgia C Ben Jones: A stalwart in the middle of that Georgia offensive line, Jones ranks among the best centers in college football.
Vanderbilt LB Chris Marve: Everywhere you look in the SEC, there are great linebackers. Marve will be gunning for his fourth straight season of 80 or more tackles.
Ole Miss OT Bradley Sowell: The Rebels have two future NFL offensive tackles on their roster, and the 6-7, 315-pound Sowell is primed for a big senior season.
LSU RB Spencer Ware: The Tigers didn't really unveil Ware until the Cotton Bowl last season. He'll be the centerpiece of their offense in 2011.
Kentucky OG Larry Warford: Not many guys the size of the 6-3, 336-pound Warford can move the way he can. He's exactly what you're looking for at guard.
Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson: He gained a lot of mileage by the way he played against Auburn in relief a year ago. Don't be surprised if he leads the SEC in touchdown passes this season.