SEC: 2012 SEC Top 25 countdown

The SEC's 25 best players: No. 1

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
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There shouldn't be any surprises as to who's the No. 1 player in our countdown.

No. 1: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia, Sr.

2011 summary: The SEC's leader in tackles for loss (19.5) and sacks (13.5), Jones started all 14 games for the Bulldogs. He was a finalist for the Butkus Award as the country's top linebacker and a consensus first-team All-American. He recorded 70 total tackles, forced two fumbles and had 49 quarterback pressures.

Most recent ranking: Ranked No. 6 in the 2011 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Jones: Just as everyone expected, Jones was an instant hit for the Bulldogs in his first season in the SEC. He'd transferred from USC and had to sit out the year before, but was a perfect fit at outside linebacker in Todd Grantham's 3-4 defense. Now that he's been in the system for a while and gone through an entire season in the SEC, he should be even more disruptive in 2012. That's saying something, too, because he made a living in opposing backfields last season and established himself as the best pass-rusher in the SEC. The 6-foot-3, 241-pound Jones has a great first step, and when he gets his hands on you, it's over. He dominated the Florida game last season with four sacks and a forced fumble, and is one of those explosive game-changers on defense that everybody is looking for. Jones probably would have been a first-round NFL draft pick had he come out following last season, but he wanted another year of college football and will spend this fall terrorizing opposing quarterbacks as only he can.

The Rundown
  • No. 25: Matt Elam, S, Florida, Jr.
  • No. 24: Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 23: Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M, Sr.
  • No. 22: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama, Jr.
  • No. 21: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 20: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M, Jr.
  • No. 19: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 18: Jesse Williams, NG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 17: Bennie Logan, DT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 16: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 15: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas, Sr.
  • No. 14: Chris Faulk, OT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 13: Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn, Jr.
  • No. 12: Eric Reid, S, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 11: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State, Sr.
  • No. 10: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 9: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 8: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 7: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina, So.
  • No. 6: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 5: Barrett Jones, C, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 4: Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas, Jr.
  • No. 3: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas, Jr.
  • No. 2: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina, Jr.

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 2

August, 30, 2012
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Our next member missed half of last season with an ACL injury, but word on the street is that he might be even better this fall:

No. 2: Marcus Lattimore, RB, Jr., South Carolina

2011 summary: Before his season-ending ACL injury against Mississippi State on October 15, Lattimore carried the ball 163 times for 818 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also caught 19 passes for 182 yards and another score.

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

Making the case for Lattimore: At 100 percent, Lattimore is one of the nation's best players, regardless of position. We still need to see him during a game to see what his football legs look like after all that time off. But Lattimore has gone through contact, and coach Steve Spurrier has been very impressed with what he saw during fall camp. When he was healthy, the thing that made Lattimore stand out was how powerful he was. He resembled a bulldozer on the field, forcing teams to use multiple players to bring him down. He also added very good speed, making him tough to stop in the open field. The scary thing is that after Lattimore's more than successful rehab, his coaches think he might be even better this fall. Remember, Lattimore was the National Freshman of the Year after ranking second among SEC running backs in rushing yards (1,197) and rushing touchdowns (17). And before his injury last season, he was the SEC's top rusher. He has also proven that he can be extremely effective in the passing game, catching 48 career passes for 594 and three touchdowns. He's also the ultimate workhorse. In his 20 career games, Lattimore has carried the ball 412 times. That's 20.6 carries per game. He's carried the ball 37 times in a game twice, and carried the ball 40 times against Florida in 2010. Lattimore might not be used as much as he's been used in the past, but if his coaches are correct about his health, he should have another big season in Columbia.

The Rundown
  • No. 25: Matt Elam, S, Florida, Jr.
  • No. 24: Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 23: Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M, Sr.
  • No. 22: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama, Jr.
  • No. 21: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 20: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M, Jr.
  • No. 19: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 18: Jesse Williams, NG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 17: Bennie Logan, DT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 16: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 15: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas, Sr.
  • No. 14: Chris Faulk, OT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 13: Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn, Jr.
  • No. 12: Eric Reid, S, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 11: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State, Sr.
  • No. 10: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 9: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 8: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 7: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina, So.
  • No. 6: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 5: Barrett Jones, C, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 4: Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas, Jr.
  • No. 3: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas, Jr.

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 3

August, 29, 2012
8/29/12
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The top quarterback in the SEC checks in at No. 3 in our countdown.

No. 3: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas, Sr.

2011 summary: Wilson became the first Arkansas quarterback in history to be named first-team All-SEC quarterback. He was selected first team by both the Associated Press and the coaches after leading the SEC with 3,638 passing yards. He finished with 24 touchdown passes and only six interceptions. Wilson was a finalist for the Manning Award and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.

Most recent ranking: Ranked No. 17 in the 2011 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Wilson: One of the top quarterbacks in college football, Wilson thought about turning pro following last season. Some analysts had him going in the first round, but he felt like he needed another year of college football and also had unfinished business at Arkansas. Wilson has emerged as one of the unquestioned leaders for the Hogs, and was instrumental in keeping everybody focused following the Bobby Petrino scandal this spring. On the field, he's also the heartbeat of the team and should be even better during his second full season as the starter. He's extremely accurate and doesn't throw a lot of interceptions. Yet, he's also very good at squeezing the ball into tight spots and scrambling around and making plays. Wilson loses two of his top receivers this season in Jarius Wright and Joe Hamilton, but he's the kind of quarterback that makes everybody around him look better. The Hogs' passing game will be as potent as ever, and don't be surprised if Wilson makes a run at 4,000 yards.

The Rundown
  • No. 25: Matt Elam, S, Florida, Jr.
  • No. 24: Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 23: Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M, Sr.
  • No. 22: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama, Jr.
  • No. 21: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 20: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M, Jr.
  • No. 19: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 18: Jesse Williams, NG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 17: Bennie Logan, DT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 16: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 15: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas, Sr.
  • No. 14: Chris Faulk, OT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 13: Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn, Jr.
  • No. 12: Eric Reid, S, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 11: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State, Sr.
  • No. 10: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 9: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 8: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 7: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina, So.
  • No. 6: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 5: Barrett Jones, C, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 4: Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas, Jr.

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 4

August, 28, 2012
8/28/12
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He might have missed a year of football, but this next guy has all the tools to be great again:

No. 4: Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas, Jr.

2011 summary: He didn't play last year because of a broken ankle he suffered in preseason camp.

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

Making the case for Davis: OK, so Davis didn't play last year. Had he, we might be watching him go through the NFL preseason right now. Davis suffered a nasty ankle injury that cost him all of his 2011 season, but that doesn't mean that he shouldn't be on this list -- or this high. When Davis was healthy in 2010, he was the SEC's top statistical running back. And if he had played more to start the year, he would have generated more yards and received a ton more publicity nationally. Davis finally grabbed double-digit carries by the fifth game of the season and rushed for 1,201 yards and 12 touchdowns in the Razorbacks' last nine games. During that span he rushed for 100 or more yards six times, averaging 157.7 yards in each of those games. Davis is a home-run threat with his blazing speed, can shake his way past defenders and knows how to grind out the tough yards with his strength. He's not just one of the most complete backs in the SEC, he's one of the most complete backs in the country. He finally took his first contact in more than a year last week, and coach John L. Smith said he looked good. He has the makings of being a legit Heisman candidate, and if his football legs look like they did in 2010, he might run right up to New York.

The Rundown
  • No. 25: Matt Elam, S, Florida, Jr.
  • No. 24: Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 23: Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M, Sr.
  • No. 22: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama, Jr.
  • No. 21: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 20: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M, Jr.
  • No. 19: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 18: Jesse Williams, NG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 17: Bennie Logan, DT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 16: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 15: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas, Sr.
  • No. 14: Chris Faulk, OT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 13: Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn, Jr.
  • No. 12: Eric Reid, S, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 11: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State, Sr.
  • No. 10: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 9: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 8: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 7: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina, So.
  • No. 6: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 5: Barrett Jones, C, Alabama, Sr.

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 5

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
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This next guy can play anywhere on the offensive line and do so at a high level.

No. 5: Barrett Jones, C, Alabama, Sr.

2011 summary: A starter in 11 games at left tackle, Jones won the Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman in college football. He was also a consensus All-America selection and Jacobs Trophy winner as the top blocker in the SEC.

Most recent ranking: Ranked No. 7 in the 2011 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Jones: Really, not much of a case needs to be made for Jones. He returns as the most decorated offensive lineman in college football, not to mention the most versatile. He played four different positions on the line last season. The only spot he didn't play was right guard, which is where he made 25 starts during his freshman and sophomore seasons. Jones moves to center this season on what should be the most talented offensive line in the country. Jones is hardly the strongest player on the field, but good luck in finding somebody who blends smarts, technique, work ethic, preparation and competitive fire the way the 6-foot-5, 302-pound Jones does. Alabama coach Nick Saban said the only player he's been around that would compare to Jones in terms of versatility was Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews. Not only is Jones able to slide around and play different positions at a high level, but he's able to make the transition so easily. Jones ended last season by grading out at 90 percent or better in nine of his last 10 games. When you consider the caliber of players that Jones has gone against in the SEC during his career -- both tackles and ends -- it's nothing short of amazing that he's been as consistent as he's been when moving from guard to tackle and now to center.

The Rundown

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 6

August, 24, 2012
8/24/12
10:05
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It's almost unfair for LSU to have this many good defensive linemen.

No. 6: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU, Jr.

2011 summary: Coming back from a knee injury that shortened his season the year before, Montgomery finished sixth in the SEC with nine sacks. His 13.5 tackles for loss ranked him eighth in the league. Montgomery was a first-team All-America selection by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and a second-team selection by SI.com. He was a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award as the top defensive end in college football.

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

Making the case for Montgomery: The SEC is loaded with standout defensive ends, and Montgomery is right there at the top of the list. He's outstanding as a pass-rusher, but equally stout against the run. Teams that try to run right at him usually don't have much success. Montgomery has added nearly 30 pounds in the offseason to his 6-foot-4 frame and plans to play right around 260 pounds this season. The added bulk should make him even more effective at the point of attack. Montgomery insists he hasn't lost any of his speed, either, nor his lightning-quick first step off the ball. He also has incredibly strong hands, helping him to shed blockers and get to the ball. With Barkevious Mingo on the other side, opposing offenses are going to have to make some tough choices when they go up against the Tigers this season. Whatever they decide, Montgomery is sure to end up spending a considerable amount of time in the other team's backfield.

The Rundown
  • No. 25: Matt Elam, S, Florida, Jr.
  • No. 24: Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 23: Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M, Sr.
  • No. 22: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama, Jr.
  • No. 21: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 20: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M, Jr.
  • No. 19: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 18: Jesse Williams, NG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 17: Bennie Logan, DT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 16: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 15: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas, Sr.
  • No. 14: Chris Faulk, OT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 13: Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn, Jr.
  • No. 12: Eric Reid, S, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 11: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State, Sr.
  • No. 10: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 9: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 8: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 7: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina, So.

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 7

August, 23, 2012
8/23/12
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It's next to impossible to live up to the kind of hype this next guy in our countdown received coming out of high school, but he didn't disappoint as a freshman.

No. 7: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina, So.

2011 summary: After signing with the Gamecocks as the country's top-rated prospect, Clowney tied for seventh in the SEC with eight sacks as a freshman and tied for second with five forced fumbles. Clowney, who finished with 12 tackles for loss, was named the SEC Freshman of the Year by the league's coaches, and earned first-team Freshman All-America honors by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).

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

Making the case for Clowney: Last season was just a taste for the 6-foot-6, 256-pound Clowney. He'll be better, even more explosive and much more prepared mentally for how opposing offenses will try to block him in 2012. That's bad news for everybody else in the SEC. Physically, Clowney is as good as it gets, and the Gamecocks plan to take full advantage of his many talents. Coach Steve Spurrier said they would move Clowney around this season, from end, to tackle, even to a linebacker position, in an effort to get him matched up one-on-one. That's because few players can handle Clowney one-on-one. He's powerful enough to play inside on certain downs, but what sets him apart is his burst off the line of scrimmage and ability to get to the quarterback. Clowney was able to rack up his numbers last season in a part-time role. Two of his forced fumbles led directly to touchdowns by Melvin Ingram, who was drafted 18th overall in April's NFL draft. As good as Ingram was, Clowney has a chance to be even better.

The Rundown
  • No. 25: Matt Elam, S, Florida, Jr.
  • No. 24: Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 23: Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M, Sr.
  • No. 22: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama, Jr.
  • No. 21: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 20: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M, Jr.
  • No. 19: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 18: Jesse Williams, NG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 17: Bennie Logan, DT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 16: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 15: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas, Sr.
  • No. 14: Chris Faulk, OT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 13: Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn, Jr.
  • No. 12: Eric Reid, S, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 11: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State, Sr.
  • No. 10: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 9: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 8: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU, Jr.

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 8

August, 22, 2012
8/22/12
10:00
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Pass-rushers are both feared and loved in this league, and the next player on our countdown could be one of the best out there in 2012.

No. 8: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU, Jr.

2011 summary: He registered 46 total tackles, including a team-high 15 tackles for loss. He also collected eight sacks and led the Tigers with 11 quarterback hurries.

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

Making the case for Mingo: He might have been overshadowed by some of his other more high-profiled defensive teammates, but Mingo had an exceptional sophomore campaign in 2011. One thing that made him so disruptive up front was his immense speed and quickness. Mingo might be on the slender side, but he makes up for it with his ability to blow by linemen. It also helps that he has tremendous length. Mingo made a living as LSU's third-down pass rush specialist for most of last season, but he will see his role increase this fall. In two of LSU's biggest games last season -- against two of the league's top quarterbacks -- Mingo had two of his best games. He registered a career-high three tackles for a loss and two sacks against Arkansas and set a career high with five quarterback hurries in the SEC championship game against Georgia. He was a second-team All-SEC member last year, but has the potential to be a first-team member this fall.

The Rundown
  • No. 25: Matt Elam, S, Florida, Jr.
  • No. 24: Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 23: Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M, Sr.
  • No. 22: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama, Jr.
  • No. 21: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 20: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M, Jr.
  • No. 19: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 18: Jesse Williams, NG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 17: Bennie Logan, DT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 16: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 15: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas, Sr.
  • No. 14: Chris Faulk, OT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 13: Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn, Jr.
  • No. 12: Eric Reid, S, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 11: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State, Sr.
  • No. 10: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 9: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama, Sr.

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 9

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
10:00
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It's safe to say that Alabama should be pretty stout in its offensive line this season, and this next guy is an absolute road-grader for the Crimson Tide.

No. 9: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama, Sr.

2011 summary: A starter in all 13 games at left guard, Warmack was part of an offensive line that paved the way for the Crimson Tide to finish 16th nationally in rushing offense with an average of 214.5 yards per game. He was a second-team All-SEC selection by the coaches.

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

Making the case for Warmack: The preseason accolades have come pouring in for the 6-foot-3, 320-pound Warmack, and the NFL scouts also have their eyes on one of the most polished interior offensive linemen in college football. Warmack has made 26 consecutive starts and blocked for 16 100-yard rushers in his career. He doesn't just push opposing defensive linemen off the ball. He sends them reeling. Even with all of the preseason hype, Warmack has remained very level-headed and says the only thing that matters is how he and the Alabama offensive line perform this season. His leadership qualities are every bit as valuable as his blocking skills. And as a blocker, he has few peers. He mashes people in the running game and rarely gives up anything up the middle when people come after Alabama's quarterback. Championships are built up front, and it's no coincidence that Warmack will be gunning for his third national championship ring in 2012.

The Rundown
  • No. 25: Matt Elam, S, Florida, Jr.
  • No. 24: Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 23: Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M, Sr.
  • No. 22: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama, Jr.
  • No. 21: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 20: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M, Jr.
  • No. 19: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 18: Jesse Williams, NG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 17: Bennie Logan, DT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 16: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 15: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas, Sr.
  • No. 14: Chris Faulk, OT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 13: Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn, Jr.
  • No. 12: Eric Reid, S, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 11: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State, Sr.
  • No. 10: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia, Jr.

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 10

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
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Our next member outdid everyone when it came to finding the end zone with his arm:

No. 10: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia, Jr.

2011 summary: Murray was second in the SEC with 3,149 passing yards and led the league with 35 touchdown passes, after completing 59.1 percent of his passes. His 35 touchdown passes set the Georgia single-season record. Murray did throw 14 interceptions, but finished the season fourth in the league with a quarterback rating of 146.41. He also carried the ball 87 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns.

Most recent ranking: Ranked No. 18 in the 2011 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Murray: He's enjoyed a record-setting career during his two years on the field for the Bulldogs, and enters his redshirt junior year as a possible Heisman Trophy candidate. Murray possesses some of the best throwing technique out there, and has the skill to make the tough throws. He set the Georgia single-season school record for touchdown responsibility in 2011 with his 37 scores. While he hasn't piled up the rushing yards during his career, Murray isn't afraid to use his feet to get out of tough situations. He can scramble to make plays or just buy himself more time in the pocket with his footwork. Murray isn't afraid to throw his body around, and is one of the grittiest quarterbacks in this league. Before last season, only four quarterbacks -- Tim Couch, Peyton Manning, Danny Wuerffel and Andre Woodson -- had thrown for more than 3,000 yards and 35 touchdowns in a season.With his 59 career touchdown passes, if Murray stays healthy and finishes out his eligibility, he will break Wuerffel's SEC touchdown record of 114. Where Murray is looking to improve is with his mental game. He admits to pressing too much in bigger games, and used the spring to develop better chemistry with his receivers. Murray has the talent to make all the plays, but he doesn't have to try and do it every moment he's on the field.

The Rundown
  • No. 25: Matt Elam, S, Florida, Jr.
  • No. 24: Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 23: Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M, Sr.
  • No. 22: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama, Jr.
  • No. 21: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 20: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M, Jr.
  • No. 19: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 18: Jesse Williams, NG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 17: Bennie Logan, DT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 16: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 15: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas, Sr.
  • No. 14: Chris Faulk, OT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 13: Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn, Jr.
  • No. 12: Eric Reid, S, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 11: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State, Sr.

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 11

August, 17, 2012
8/17/12
10:38
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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
  • No. 25: Matt Elam, S, Florida, Jr.
  • No. 24: Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 23: Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M, Sr.
  • No. 22: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama, Jr.
  • No. 21: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 20: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M, Jr.
  • No. 19: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 18: Jesse Williams, NG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 17: Bennie Logan, DT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 16: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 15: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas, Sr.
  • No. 14: Chris Faulk, OT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 13: Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn, Jr.
  • No. 12: Eric Reid, S, LSU, Jr.

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 12

August, 16, 2012
8/16/12
11:20
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This next guy in our countdown is one of the top safeties in college football.

No. 12: Eric Reid, S, LSU, Jr.

2011 summary: In his first season as a starter at free safety, Reid tied for the team lead in tackles with 76. He also had two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Reid was named a second-team All-American by Rivals.com 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 Reid: His spectacular interception in the 9-6 overtime win at Alabama was the play of the game and introduced Reid to the college football world once and for all. He's a big hitter from his safety position and also covers well. In his last two outings of the 2011 season in the SEC championship game and BCS National Championship Game, he combined for 18 tackles. The 6-foot-2, 212-pound Reid has ideal size to play the safety position, but he also has terrific instincts. With Tyrann Mathieu no longer back there, Reid is now the unquestioned leader in the Tigers' secondary and the kind of player who helps cover up others' mistakes. There's not a better safety in college football.

The rundown
  • No. 25: Matt Elam, S, Florida, Jr.
  • No. 24: Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 23: Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M, Sr.
  • No. 22: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama, Jr.
  • No. 21: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 20: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M, Jr.
  • No. 19: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 18: Jesse Williams, NG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 17: Bennie Logan, DT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 16: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 15: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas, Sr.
  • No. 14: Chris Faulk, OT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 13: Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn, Jr.

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 13

August, 15, 2012
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There's no shortage of marquee pass-rushers in the SEC, and several of those guys will pop up as we finish our countdown of the league's top players for the 2012 season:

No. 13: Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn, Jr.

2011 summary: In his first season as a full-time starter, Lemonier tied for fourth in the SEC with 9.5 sacks and tied for eighth with 13.5 tackles for loss. He was a first-team All-SEC selection by the coaches and a second-team All-SEC selection by the Associated Press.

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

Making the case for Lemonier: Even though he was only a sophomore last season, Lemonier emerged as one of the best big-play defenders in the SEC. He recorded at least one sack in four straight games, and in addition to his big sack numbers, he also forced five fumbles, which tied him for second in the league. The 6-4, 246-pound Lemonier should be even better in his second full season as a starter. He has a deeper understanding of how opposing offensive linemen will try to block him and should also be better against the run. The other thing that sticks out about Lemonier is that he played some of his best football a year ago in some of the Tigers' biggest games. Whoever has to block him in 2012 will be in for a long day.

The Rundown
  • No. 25: Matt Elam, S, Florida, Jr.
  • No. 24: Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 23: Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M, Sr.
  • No. 22: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama, Jr.
  • No. 21: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 20: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M, Jr.
  • No. 19: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 18: Jesse Williams, NG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 17: Bennie Logan, DT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 16: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 15: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas, Sr.
  • No. 14: Chris Faulk, OT, LSU, Jr.

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 14

August, 14, 2012
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It's a good year for offensive linemen in the SEC, and this next guy figures to be one of the best:

No. 14: Chris Faulk, OT, LSU, Jr.

2011 summary: After playing right tackle as a redshirt freshman, Faulk shifted to left tackle last season and started in 13 games. He was a second-team All-SEC selection by The Associated Press and a big part of an offensive line that allowed just 18 sacks in 14 games and paved the way for a running game that finished second in the SEC with an average of 202.6 yards per game.

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

Making the case for Faulk: If you're looking for a big, athletic left tackle who can deal with the most explosive pass-rushers and also mash people in the run game, Faulk is your guy. At 6-foot-6 and 323 pounds, he's a massive individual who has unbelievable quickness for someone his size. Faulk also has the power to drive people off the ball and was third on LSU's team last season with 73.5 knockdown blocks. A former basketball player in high school, Faulk goes against Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo every day in practice, so he's accustomed to seeing top-flight pass-rushers. Last season was only Faulk's first as a full-time starter. He has everything it takes to emerge as the SEC's premier left tackle in 2012.

The Rundown
  • No. 25: Matt Elam, S, Florida, Jr.
  • No. 24: Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 23: Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M, Sr.
  • No. 22: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama, Jr.
  • No. 21: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 20: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M, Jr.
  • No. 19: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 18: Jesse Williams, NG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 17: Bennie Logan, DT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 16: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 15: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas, Sr.

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 15

August, 13, 2012
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This next guy might have been overshadowed last season as part of Arkansas' receiving corps, but not in 2012:

No. 15: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas, Sr.

2011 summary: Starting in 12 of the Hogs' 13 games, Hamilton caught a career-high 34 passes for 542 yards and four touchdowns. His average of 15.9 yards per catch ranked fifth in the SEC.

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

Making the case for Hamilton: For much of his career, Hamilton has played in the shadows of Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs. They're all gone now, which means Hamilton moves to the front of the line as the go-to guy in the Hogs' explosive passing game. He's an ideal target at 6-3 and 209 pounds and also has excellent speed. Former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said a couple of years ago that Hamilton was as physically gifted as any receiver on Arkansas' roster. The thing he's done consistently since coming to Arkansas is make big plays. He's averaging 17.9 yards per catch during his career and has posted four 100-yard receiving games. He's also caught at least one pass in 22 straight games. It's no secret that the Hogs love to throw the football, and with a quarterback as talented as Tyler Wilson pulling the trigger, Hamilton's poised for a big senior season.

The rundown
  • No. 25: Matt Elam, S, Florida, Jr.
  • No. 24: Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 23: Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M, Sr.
  • No. 22: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama, Jr.
  • No. 21: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia, Jr.
  • No. 20: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M, Jr.
  • No. 19: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee, Jr.
  • No. 18: Jesse Williams, NG, Alabama, Sr.
  • No. 17: Bennie Logan, DT, LSU, Jr.
  • No. 16: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee, Jr.

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