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Five best SEC linebackers of the past decade

As we continue our position-by-position look at the SEC’s best players over the past decade, it’s time to turn our attention to the defense. Second on the list is linebacker.

1. C.J. Mosley, Alabama (2010-13): The two-time All-American was one of the most talented and intimidating defenders Nick Saban has coached. Mosley had the speed and awareness to get to opposing quarterbacks and drop back in coverage. Mosley, who made plays from sideline to sideline, also had plenty of strength and confidence to stuff the run with ease. In four seasons with the Tide, Mosley amassed 311 career tackles, including 175 solo stops. He also accounted for 23 tackles for loss. Mosley won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker in 2013 and finished his career with three interceptions returned for touchdowns. He was an absolute specimen on the field and could do everything at the linebacker spot.

2. Dont'a Hightower, Alabama (2008-11): Another complete linebacker under Saban's watch, Hightower earned All-America honors in 2011. For his career, Hightower totaled 234 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and five sacks. That sack number might seem low for someone who was so active on Alabama's defense, but he was also credited for nearly 30 quarterback hurries. Hightower also had 42 starts. Hightower was a force on the field and a general in the locker room for the Tide. He directed plays for the defense and had a knack for finding the ball. The fast, rangy linebacker was an excellent quarterback for the Crimson Tide's defense and was a three-time All-SEC member.

3. Jarvis Jones, Georgia (2011-12): After transferring from USC following the 2009 season and sitting out all of 2010, Jones became a terror for SEC offenses. The two-time All-American with the Bulldogs set the SEC record for tackles for loss per game (2.04) in 2012. He finished the season with 24.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks. In his debut season, the ravenous pass-rusher totaled an SEC-high 13.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. Jones finished his Georgia career with 155 tackles, including 91 for loss, and was also a very solid player in coverage for the Dawgs.

4. Rolando McClain, Alabama (2007-09): The 2009 Butkus Award winner was named the SEC's defensive player of the year that season and registered 104 tackles with 14 tackles for loss. But his reign of terror on offensive players didn't start there. McClain debuted onto the SEC scene with 75 tackles, five tackles for loss, a sack and four pass breakups. The speedy, agile linebacker made plays all over the field for the Tide and had 26 tackles for loss in his last two seasons at Alabama. Couple that with his 204 career tackles and his ability to be such a dominant playmaker, and there's a reason why he was one of the most impressive players Saban has coached.

5. Brandon Spikes, Florida (2006-09): The defensive heart and soul of the Gators for much of his time in Gainesville, Spikes played in 47 games with 39 career starts, registering 307 total tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in four seasons. He led the Gators in tackles in back-to-back seasons -- 131 in 2007, 93 in 2008 -- and his 2007 total was the most by a Florida player since 2002. The middle linebacker was a two-time All-American and three-time, first-team All-SEC player.

Just missed the cut: Chris Marve, Vanderbilt (2008-11); Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State (2011-14); Kevin Minter, LSU (2009-12); Danny Trevathan, Kentucky (2008-11); Courtney Upshaw, Alabama (2008-11); K.J. Wright, Mississippi State (2007-10)