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Tuesday, January 22, 2013
The SEC's 25 best players: No. 25

By Chris Low

Before we start our countdown of the 2012 postseason list of the top 25 players in the SEC, a few reminders are in order.

This list is based solely on performance during the 2012 season, those players who the played the best -- particularly in key games -- and had the most profound impacts on their teams.

When it was close, we looked at how players performed against SEC competition. Other factors such as durability, versatility, consistency, leadership and a player’s ability to raise his teammates’ level of play were also considered.

This is not a list of the top NFL draft prospects. There will be some players who go in the top two or three rounds of April’s draft that are not in our countdown.

Again, our goal was to pick the SEC’s 25 best players from this past season, and we solicited input from coaches, players, analysts and media members from across the league.

Here goes with No. 25. As usual, we’re sure everybody will be in full agreement:

No. 25: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State, Sr.

2012 summary: The winner of the 2012 Jim Thorpe Award as the top defensive back in college football, Banks had four interceptions to tie for the second most in the SEC. He was fourth on Mississippi State's team with 63 total tackles and tied for the team lead with 11 passes defended. Banks was also the Bulldogs' top punt returner and averaged 8.8 yards per return. He was a second-team All-America selection by the Associated Press.

Most recent ranking: Ranked No. 11 in the 2012 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Banks: From the time he was a true freshman, Banks has been patrolling the Mississippi State secondary. He played safety and cornerback during his career and settled in as one of the SEC's top cornerbacks these past two seasons. His 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame makes him a difficult matchup for any receiver, and Banks used his athleticism and ball skills to make a ton of key plays for the Bulldogs. His instincts and field vision were what allowed him to be such a ball hawk even though he doesn't have elite speed. Like the entire Mississippi State team, Banks didn't play his best football down the stretch this past season and was involved in giving up a few long touchdown passes. Otherwise, he'd be higher on this list. That said, there's not a cornerback alive who doesn't get burned occasionally, and Banks once again proved his worth as one of the premier defensive backs in the country.