SEC: 2011 SEC top 25

Breaking down the SEC's top 25 players

August, 29, 2011
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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:

BY TEAM

Alabama: 5
Arkansas: 5
South Carolina: 4
Georgia: 3
Tennessee: 2
Auburn: 1
Florida: 1
Kentucky: 1
LSU: 1
Mississippi State: 1
Vanderbilt: 1

BY POSITION

RB: 4
LB: 4
WR: 3
DT: 3
CB: 3
OL: 2
DE: 2
S: 2
QB: 1
TE: 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.

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 1

August, 29, 2011
8/29/11
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It's the moment you've all been waiting for. The countdown has come to an end and we are finally down to numero uno. The fat cat. The big cheese. He's No. 1 in all of our hearts and coincidentally (or maybe not) he wears No. 1 for his respective team. He had a breakout season last year, proving to be a bear to cover one-on-one. He made defenders look silly and he truly is a catch for the Gamecocks.

No. 1: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

[+] EnlargeAlshon Jeffery
Jeremy Brevard/Icon SMIAlshon Jeffery's combination of size, speed and great hands makes him the total package.
2010 numbers: He was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, presented to nation's top receiver and a first-team All-America as selected by AFCA, FWAA, Phil Steele and ESPN.com. Jeffery was also named a second-team All-American by Walter Camp, Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and CollegeFootballNews.com, and was a unanimous first-team All-SEC selection. Jeffery set the single-season school records in both receptions (88) and receiving yards (1,517) and led the SEC in receiving yards per game (108.4). He was second in receptions per game (6.29) and had eight games with 100-plus receiving yards.

Most recent ranking: No. 4 in the 2010 postseason rankings.

Making the case for Jeffery: At 6-foot-4, 229 pounds, Jeffery looks more like a linebacker out on the field than a wide receiver. But don't let his bulk confuse you, he has some nice speed. If he gets past a defensive back, chances are he isn't going to be caught. And if a defender manages to get his arms around Jeffery, it's no sure thing he'll actually get the receiver to the ground. In one-on-one situations, Jeffery proved that he was arguably the toughest player in America to guard. He's just too big and physical for corners and safeties, and with his height, it's nearly impossible to beat him for passes thrown high in his direction. Quarterback Stephen Garcia said that having Jeffery on the field makes his job that much easier because he can sling the ball in his direction at any speed or height and chances are Jeffery is coming down with it. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who has to face Jeffery in practice every day, said Jeffery is the toughest receiver he's seen or covered in the SEC -- and he's gone up against Julio Jones and A.J. Green. While Jeffery can outmuscle defenders with relative ease, the thing that coach Steve Spurrier said makes him so special is his ability to catch the ball. He has tremendous hands and he's gone from tipping passes to himself to bringing them down one-handed. Jeffery looks like he's physically ready to play at the next level, so get a good look at him now because he could be gone before you know it.

  • No. 2: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
  • No. 3: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
  • No. 4: Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas
  • No. 5: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
  • No. 6: Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
  • No. 7: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
  • No. 8: Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama
  • No. 9: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
  • No. 10: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
  • No. 11: Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 12: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
  • No. 13: Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas
  • No. 14: Mike Dyer, RB, Auburn
  • No. 15: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
  • No. 16: Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 17: Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky
  • No. 18: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
  • No. 19: Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas
  • No. 20: Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee
  • No. 21: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
  • No. 22: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
  • No. 23: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
  • No. 24: Jaye Howard, DT, Florida
  • No. 25: Janzen Jackson, S, Tennessee

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 2

August, 26, 2011
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We're almost to the finish line and if you were in a foot race with our next player, you'd probably lose. He is finally getting his shot to be the guy in the backfield with national championship implications on the line:

No. 2: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

Trent Richardson
Icon SMITrent Richardson is finally getting his chance to be the No. 1 guy in Alabama's backfield.
2010 numbers: Richardson was a second-team All-SEC selection as both an all-purpose back and a return specialist. Behind starter Mark Ingram, he rushed for 700 yards with six touchdowns, and averaged a team-high 6.2 yards per carry. He also averaged 63.6 yards per game, which ranked 11th in the SEC. Richardson also hauled in 23 passes for 266 yards and four more scores. He recorded 32 first-down carries and had nine first-down receptions. Richardson also averaged 26.42 yards on kickoff returns (24 for 634 yards).

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

Making the case for Richardson: The 5-foot-11, 224-pound tank of an athlete is finally getting his shot to run Alabama's backfield. In his third year with the Tide, he's gaining a ton of national recognition -- and he's been a career backup to this point. The feeling in Tuscaloosa is that he could be a more complete back than Ingram, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2009. When talking to opposing players around the league, Richardson's name consistently came up as one of the toughest players to take down. He's not afraid to run straight through defenders, but he also has the quickness and agility to shake defenders out of their shoes. He might be built like a downhill runner, but he has the speed of a track star. He battled some nagging injuries last season, but plans to fix that by running even harder. Defenders beware. Richardson isn't just a terror in the backfield, he's also a dynamic returner. He registered 634 yards on 25 kick returns with a touchdown in 2010. Richardson has more responsibility this season, but he's embraced that and the lofty expectations. His name has been associated with the Heisman this season and he's poised to make a run at it.

  • No. 3: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
  • No. 4: Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas
  • No. 5: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
  • No. 6: Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
  • No. 7: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
  • No. 8: Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama
  • No. 9: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
  • No. 10: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
  • No. 11: Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 12: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
  • No. 13: Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas
  • No. 14: Mike Dyer, RB, Auburn
  • No. 15: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
  • No. 16: Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 17: Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky
  • No. 18: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
  • No. 19: Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas
  • No. 20: Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee
  • No. 21: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
  • No. 22: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
  • No. 23: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
  • No. 24: Jaye Howard, DT, Florida
  • No. 25: Janzen Jackson, S, Tennessee

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 3

August, 25, 2011
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One of the toughest, most difficult running backs to bring down comes in at No. 3. He had a fantastic freshman season and after bulking up even more this year, he'll be able to deliver more of a punch to defenders this fall:

No. 3: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina

[+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
Jeremy Brevard/Icon SMIMarcus Lattimore broke South Carolina's freshman rushing record last season, gaining 1,197 yards.
2010 numbers: Lattimore was the unanimous choice for National Freshman of the Year and SEC Freshman of the Year. He was also a first-team All-SEC choice by both the league's coaches and the Associated Press. Lattimore led the Gamecocks with 1,197 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns on 249 carries, while also grabbing 29 receptions for 412 yards and two more scores. He became the school's freshman record-holder in rushing yardage and recorded the third-best single-season rushing total in South Carolina history.

Most recent ranking: No. 8 in the 2010 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Lattimore: You'd be hard-pressed to find a more powerful runner in the SEC, if not the nation. If the end zone was in sight last season, Lattimore was more than likely going to find it. Lattimore is more than a load to bring down. He seemed to shake/throw defenders off of him with ease last year. Before the spring, Lattimore bulked up to more than 230 pounds in order to give more than he takes from defenders. Lattimore was banged up at times last year, but with his increased size and strength, he's hoping to eliminate some of those nicks. Lattimore might have added some mass, but he didn't cut into his speed. Lattimore said he actually shaved time off of his 40, getting into the low 4.5 range. The sophomore won't sneak up on anyone this time around, but he's built to push through any sort of sophomore slump. Mentally, he's ready for more attention and he's got the body to endure a second round of SEC punishment.

  • No. 4: Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas
  • No. 5: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
  • No. 6: Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
  • No. 7: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
  • No. 8: Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama
  • No. 9: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
  • No. 10: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
  • No. 11: Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 12: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
  • No. 13: Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas
  • No. 14: Mike Dyer, RB, Auburn
  • No. 15: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
  • No. 16: Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 17: Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky
  • No. 18: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
  • No. 19: Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas
  • No. 20: Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee
  • No. 21: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
  • No. 22: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
  • No. 23: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
  • No. 24: Jaye Howard, DT, Florida
  • No. 25: Janzen Jackson, S, Tennessee

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 4

August, 24, 2011
8/24/11
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Unfortunately, the next guy in our countdown won't be playing this season. Arkansas' Knile Davis injured his ankle in the preseason, underwent surgery and will be sidelined for all of 2011. But he deserves to be on this list, and we didn't think it was fair to go in and rearrange the order and add players halfway into the countdown:

No. 4: Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas

[+] EnlargeKnile Davis
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireKnile Davis was one of the best all-around running backs in the SEC last season.
2010 numbers: He led all SEC running backs last season with 1,322 rushing yards and scored 14 touchdowns. His 6.48 yards per rushing attempt was the highest in the NCAA among running backs that carried the ball at least 200 times. Davis was a first-team All-SEC selection by the Associated Press and second-team All-SEC selection by the coaches.

Most recent ranking: No. 10 in the 2010 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Davis: In a league full of great running backs, Davis was one of the best. He'd bulked up to more than 225 pounds and hadn't lost a step this offseason. Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said Davis had set the tone in the conditioning program, and all signs pointed to Davis coming back and having another sensational season. The thing that made him so good last season is that he was that rare back who could get the tough yards on one series and then come back the next series and break a 75-yard touchdown. Davis is no stranger to fighting back from injuries. He did so in high school and again when he first arrived at Arkansas. He'll be back from this one, too. I may not speak for opposing defensive coordinators, but I speak for all SEC fans when I say we'll miss watching him play this season.

Previously

  • No. 5: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
  • No. 6: Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
  • No. 7: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
  • No. 8: Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama
  • No. 9: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
  • No. 10: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
  • No. 11: Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 12: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
  • No. 13: Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas
  • No. 14: Mike Dyer, RB, Auburn
  • No. 15: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
  • No. 16: Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 17: Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky
  • No. 18: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
  • No. 19: Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas
  • No. 20: Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee
  • No. 21: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
  • No. 22: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
  • No. 23: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
  • No. 24: Jaye Howard, DT, Florida
  • No. 25: Janzen Jackson, S, Tennessee

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 5

August, 23, 2011
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Yep, another Alabama player in our countdown. It's safe to say the Crimson Tide have some serious talent ... again:

No. 5: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama

[+] EnlargeDont'a Hightower
Marvin Gentry/US PresswireDont'a Hightower will try and give the Crimson Tide consistent presure at the linebacker position.
2010 numbers: Hightower started all 13 games, the first three at middle linebacker and the last 10 at weak side linebacker. He finished second on the team with 69 total tackles, including 3.5 for loss. He had nine quarterback hurries and broke up three passes. He was named second-team All-SEC by both the Associated Press and coaches.

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

Making the case for Hightower: From the time he started the season opener as a true freshman in 2008, Hightower has had greatness written all over him. He tore the ACL in his left knee during the fourth game of his sophomore season and was able to get that year of eligibility back. Now fully recovered, the 6-4, 260-pound Hightower says he's back to his old self with the same explosiveness, same speed and same nose for the ball. He will again move around this season depending on down and distance, and one of his most important roles will be rushing the passer off the edge. The Crimson Tide didn't get the kind of consistent pressure they wanted last season, and the combination of Hightower on one side and Courtney Upshaw on the other side should fix that. Hightower is an excellent tackler and a true game-changer with his ability to make the big defensive play. Look for him to make a bunch of them this season.

Previously

  • No. 6: Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
  • No. 7: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
  • No. 8: Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama
  • No. 9: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
  • No. 10: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
  • No. 11: Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 12: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
  • No. 13: Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas
  • No. 14: Mike Dyer, RB, Auburn
  • No. 15: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
  • No. 16: Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 17: Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky
  • No. 18: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
  • No. 19: Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas
  • No. 20: Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee
  • No. 21: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
  • No. 22: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
  • No. 23: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
  • No. 24: Jaye Howard, DT, Florida
  • No. 25: Janzen Jackson, S, Tennessee

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 6

August, 22, 2011
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One of the league's best at getting to and frustrating quarterbacks makes our top 10 and he's expected to be even more of a chore for offensive linemen to handle this fall:

No. 6: Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina

[+] EnlargeDevin Taylor
Dale Zanine/US PresswireDevin Taylor was a disruptive force last season, recording 13 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks.
2010 numbers: Taylor was named a first-team All-SEC member by the Associated Press and was a second-team All-SEC selection by the league's coaches after recording 46 tackles to lead the Gamecocks' defensive linemen. He also led the team and ranked eighth in the SEC with 13 tackles for loss. His 7.5 sacks ranked second on the team and fourth in the SEC and Taylor led South Carolina with eight pass breakups and 11 quarterback hurries.

Most recent ranking: No. 15 in the 2010 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Taylor: Taylor can be a very soft-spoken individual, but his play is far from quiet. He's extremely explosive off the edge and has the ability to make plays all over the field with the speed he possesses. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound athlete matches his enormous wingspan with tremendous athleticism and power. Taylor was one of the most consistent pass-rushers in the league last season and spent the spring and offseason getting even faster. He's become one of the main leaders of South Carolina's defense and isn't worried about the pressure of improving on a great sophomore season. He's only concentrating on making the lives of quarterbacks around the league even more miserable this fall.

  • No. 7: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
  • No. 8: Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama
  • No. 9: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
  • No. 10: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
  • No. 11: Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 12: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
  • No. 13: Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas
  • No. 14: Mike Dyer, RB, Auburn
  • No. 15: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
  • No. 16: Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 17: Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky
  • No. 18: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
  • No. 19: Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas
  • No. 20: Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee
  • No. 21: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
  • No. 22: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
  • No. 23: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
  • No. 24: Jaye Howard, DT, Florida
  • No. 25: Janzen Jackson, S, Tennessee

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 7

August, 19, 2011
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For the second straight day in our countdown, we feature somebody from Alabama's team, this time on defense in what should be a deep and talented secondary for the Crimson Tide:

No. 7: Mark Barron, S, Alabama

[+] EnlargeMark Barron
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireMark Barron was named a first-team All-American last season.
2010 numbers: Barron made 12 starts at safety last season and is a two-time first-team All-SEC selection. He earned first-team All-America honors last season from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) after leading the Crimson Tide with 75 total tackles. He also had three interceptions and has 10 for his career.

Most recent ranking: No. 18 in the 2010 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Barron: When you start listing the best safeties in college football, Barron is right there at the top. He probably would have turned pro following last season had he not suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the regular-season finale against Auburn. Barron still thought long and hard about it and would have been one of the top handful of safeties taken, but he decided to come back for his senior season. At 6-foot-2 and 218 pounds, he's one of the best all-around athletes in the SEC. He has great size, speed and hitting ability and is a human wrecking ball in that Alabama secondary. He's the guy who makes things go back there, and with the talent and added experience the Tide will have in their defensive backfield this season, Barron is poised for a monster season. He and Robert Lester will form one of the top safety duos in the country.

Previously

  • No. 8: Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama
  • No. 9: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
  • No. 10: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
  • No. 11: Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 12: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
  • No. 13: Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas
  • No. 14: Mike Dyer, RB, Auburn
  • No. 15: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
  • No. 16: Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 17: Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky
  • No. 18: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
  • No. 19: Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas
  • No. 20: Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee
  • No. 21: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
  • No. 22: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
  • No. 23: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
  • No. 24: Jaye Howard, DT, Florida
  • No. 25: Janzen Jackson, S, Tennessee

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 8

August, 18, 2011
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This next guy was an All-SEC guard last season. He could end up playing a number of different spots on Alabama's offensive line this season:

No. 8: Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama

[+] EnlargeBarrett Jones
Sean Meyers/Icon SMIBarrett Jones is the centerpiece of the Alabama offensive line.
2010 numbers: Jones is set to begin his third season as a starter on Alabama's offensive line. As the Crimson Tide's right guard last season, he was a big part of an Alabama offense that ranked 22nd nationally in total offense. Jones earned consensus first-team All-SEC honors and was a third-team All-America selection by the Associated Press. He was also a first-team Academic All-American.

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

Making the case for Jones: He's been a starter since his redshirt freshman season and enters his junior season as one of the most complete offensive linemen in college football. Jones has worked some at left tackle this preseason and even took a few snaps at center. The Crimson Tide are looking for their best combination up front, which means they might need the 6-foot-5, 311-pound Jones at left tackle. Jones is everything you're looking for in a premier offensive lineman. He's strong, tough, smart and has great feet. One of Alabama's best leaders, Jones is equally valuable in the locker room. Wherever Jones lines up this season, you can bet the Crimson Tide will run behind him in key situations. He's also excellent as a pass protector and is one of the most technically sound offensive linemen you're going to find anywhere in the college game.

Previously

  • No. 9: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
  • No. 10: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
  • No. 11: Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 12: Stephon Gilmore, DB, South Carolina
  • No. 13: Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas
  • No. 14: Mike Dyer, RB, Auburn
  • No. 15: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
  • No. 16: Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 17: Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky
  • No. 18: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
  • No. 19: Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas
  • No. 20: Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee
  • No. 21: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
  • No. 22: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
  • No. 23: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
  • No. 24: Jaye Howard, DT, Florida
  • No. 25: Janzen Jackson, S, Tennessee

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 10

August, 16, 2011
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We're down to the top 10 in our countdown. This next guy finished last season on fire, and here's betting he picks up where he left off:

No. 10: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama

[+] EnlargeCourtney Upshaw
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireCourtney Upshaw amassed 52 tackles and seven sacks during the 2010 season.
2010 numbers: Upshaw made 11 starts last season at "jack" linebacker and finished with 52 total tackles. He was fifth in the SEC in tackles for loss (14.5) and tied for fifth in sacks (7). His four forced fumbles tied him for second in the SEC.

Most recent ranking: Ranked No. 25 in the 2010 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Upshaw: An ankle injury slowed Upshaw during the first part of last season, but he came on to be the Crimson Tide's most feared pass-rusher off the edge. The 6-2, 265-pound senior finally got healthy toward the end of the season and was virtually unblockable in the last two games against Auburn and Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl. Upshaw had six tackles for loss, including five sacks, and forced three fumbles in those last two games. His coaches feel like that's just a glimpse of the kind of finisher he'll be off the edge this season. He's incredibly strong and has great quickness for a guy pushing 270 pounds. He's not just a pass-rusher, either, and plays the run equally well. Other defenders around the country will go into the season with more acclaim, but Upshaw has everything it takes to put together an All-America season.

Previously

  • No. 11: Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 12: Stephon Gilmore, DB, South Carolina
  • No. 13: Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas
  • No. 14: Mike Dyer, RB, Auburn
  • No. 15: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
  • No. 16: Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 17: Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky
  • No. 18: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
  • No. 19: Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas
  • No. 20: Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee
  • No. 21: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
  • No. 22: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
  • No. 23: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
  • No. 24: Jaye Howard, DT, Florida
  • No. 25: Janzen Jackson, S, Tennessee

The SEC's best players: No. 11

August, 15, 2011
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He might not have finished his 2010 season, but this wide receiver has the talent to be one of the most productive wideouts in the league this fall:

Childs
Childs
No. 11: Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas

2010 numbers: He appeared in eight games with seven starts before suffering a season-ending injury against Vanderbilt this past fall. At the time of his injury, Childs led the team with 659 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 46 receptions. When the season ended, he was tied for the team lead in touchdowns and ranked third in receiving yards.

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

Making the case for Childs: He is coming off a devastating knee injury, but all indications are that he'll be at 100 percent for the season and back to his dangerous ways on the field. He's a big target for quarterback Tyler Wilson (6-foot-3, 217 pounds). And with Bobby Petrino's pass-friendly offense, Childs will have opportunities to make play after play this fall. Even though he'll be one of the bigger receivers out on the field, that doesn't mean he lacks speed. Childs is dynamic in space and is a deep threat on the outside. He will be able to snatch passes over defenders, or he'll make it even easier on himself by sprinting past his defensive counterparts to make plays.
  • No. 12: Stephon Gilmore, DB, South Carolina
  • No. 13: Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas
  • No. 14: Mike Dyer, RB, Auburn
  • No. 15: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
  • No. 16: Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 17: Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky
  • No. 18: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
  • No. 19: Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas
  • No. 20: Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee
  • No. 21: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
  • No. 22: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
  • No. 23: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
  • No. 24: Jaye Howard, DT, Florida
  • No. 25: Janzen Jackson, S, Tennessee

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 12

August, 12, 2011
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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.

Previously
  • No. 13: Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas
  • No. 14: Mike Dyer, RB, Auburn
  • No. 15: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
  • No. 16: Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 17: Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky
  • No. 18: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
  • No. 19: Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas
  • No. 20: Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee
  • No. 21: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
  • No. 22: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
  • No. 23: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
  • No. 24: Jaye Howard, DT, Florida
  • No. 25: Janzen Jackson, S, Tennessee

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 13

August, 11, 2011
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Today one of the most unheralded players makes our list. He's one of the best at the defensive end position, but might not get the respect he's owed:

No. 13: Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas

[+] EnlargeArkansas' Jake Bequette
Matthew Emmons/US PRESSWIREJake Bequette finished with seven sacks for Arkansas last season.
2010 Numbers: He started all 13 games last season and was a second-team All-SEC selection. Bequette finished with 32 tackles, including 8.5 for loss and a career-high seven sacks, and tied for the team lead with five quarterback hurries. His sack total tied for fifth in the SEC. He also had a streak of recording a sack in four straight games last fall.

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

Making the case for Bequette: The senior is one of the more unheralded players in the league, but he was one of the most consistent defensive ends around last season. His 6-5, 271-pound frame makes him a bear to handle and he has the strength and speed to get around and past opposing offensive tackles. Bequette is the wise old veteran on an Arkansas front that should be one of the most exciting to watch this season, especially when it comes to chasing down quarterbacks. But the versatile Bequette doesn't just spend all of his time harassing quarterbacks; he has the speed to drop back into coverage and can stand up like a linebacker at times. Bequette is the ultimate team player and should be leaned upon greatly by players this fall.

No. 14: Mike Dyer, RB, Auburn

No. 15: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

No. 16: Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas

No. 17: Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky

No. 18: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia

No. 19: Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas

No. 20: Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee

No. 21: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia

No. 22: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

No. 23: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt

No. 24: Jaye Howard, DT, Florida

No. 25: Janzen Jackson, S, Tennessee

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 14

August, 10, 2011
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This league is extremely strong in the running back department and we finally get to our first one on the list:

No. 14: Mike Dyer, RB, Auburn

2010 Numbers: Dyer appeared in 14 games, starting eight, and set an Auburn freshman record with 1,093 yards, passing the 829 yards by Bo Jackson in 1982. He also produced four 100-yard rushing performances last season and finished the season with five rushing touchdowns. One of the most impressive stats was that Dyer had only six carries (minus-13 yards) for negative yardage in 182 rushing attempts.

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

Making the case for Dyer: The Offensive MVP of the BCS National Championship Game might get a little overshadowed by a few other running backs in the league, but he had a tremendous first year of football in the SEC. He was ninth in the league in rushing a year ago and probably would have been the leading rusher on his own team if Cam Newton hadn't carried so much of the rushing weight. He stands just 5-foot-9, but he unloads every bit of his 207 pounds on defenders. And he's quite the athlete as well. He can be very dynamic in the open field, and everyone remembers his acrobatic play in the national championship when he rolled over an Oregon defender to extend his run late and help seal the game for the Tigers. Dyer, who teams up with home run threat Onterio McCalebb in Auburn's backfield, will have even more on his plate this season as the Tigers unleash a new and inexperienced quarterback and deal with replacing four offensive linemen from last season's championship team.

No. 15: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

No. 16: Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas

No. 17: Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky

No. 18: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia

No. 19: Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas

No. 20: Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee

No. 21: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia

No. 22: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

No. 23: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt

No. 24: Jaye Howard, DT, Florida

No. 25: Janzen Jackson, S, Tennessee
Every team needs a solid cover corner and our next member of our preseason top 25 could be one of the most athletic ones around:

No. 15: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

[+] EnlargeMorris Claiborne
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireMorris Claiborne says he's ready to be the next shutdown corner for the Tigers.
2010 numbers: He started 12 games last season and was a second-team All-SEC selection. Claiborne led LSU and ranked fourth in the SEC with 11 passes defended. He also finished the season with a team-high five interceptions, which ranked third in the league, and he became the first LSU player since LaRon Landry in 2006 to post back-to-back games with an interception when he picked off a pass against Florida and McNeese State. Claiborne also had 37 tackles, including one for loss.

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

Making the case for Claiborne: He'll start the season in Patrick Peterson's spot, after starting opposite him in 2010, and he should more than hold his own this fall. Claiborne, who stands 6 feet, 180 pounds, is very rangy and extremely athletic. He also has tremendous cover skills and is expected to be a true shutdown corner in the league this year. Like Peterson, Claiborne has the ability to take an entire side of the field away, meaning opposing quarterbacks will try their hardest not to throw near him this fall. He has what it takes to become a Thorpe Award candidate this season.

No. 16: Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas

No. 17: Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky

No. 18: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia

No. 19: Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas

No. 20: Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee

No. 21: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia

No. 22: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

No. 23: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt

No. 24: Jaye Howard, DT, Florida

No. 25: Janzen Jackson, S, Tennessee

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