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Friday, August 17, 2012
The SEC's best 25 players: No. 11

By Chris Low

There was a big sigh of relief coming out of Starkville, Miss., when this next guy in our countdown decided to stay in school for his senior season.

No. 11: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State, Sr.

2011 summary: A starter in all 13 games, Banks tied for fourth in the SEC with five interceptions and was third with 14 passes defended. He finished second among all SEC cornerbacks with 71 total tackles, including eight tackles for loss. Banks was named a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the top defensive back in the country and was a second-team All-SEC selection by the Associated Press.

Most recent ranking: Not ranked in the 2011 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Banks: Even had Tyrann Mathieu played this season, Banks would have gone into the season as the SEC's best true cornerback in a lot of people's eyes. He's excellent in coverage, and his ball skills rate up there with anybody's. He has 12 career interceptions, and he's taken three of those back for touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Banks has also shown a penchant for mixing it up and was fourth in tackles on Mississippi State's team last season with 71. On special teams, he's equally valuable and was fifth in the SEC last season on punt returns with a 10.4-yard average. He returned one 65 yards for a touchdown. Banks made the switch from safety following a stellar freshman season and has established himself as one of the most versatile players in the league.

The Rundown