Top 50 SEC Players Every College Football Conference Would Love to Steal

Dan VastaSenior Writer IIIJune 3, 2012

Top 50 SEC Players Every College Football Conference Would Love to Steal

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    The countdown is on for all of college football nation.

    There are only 87 days remaining until South Carolina-Vanderbilt get rolling, but that still leaves us some time to breakdown and rank every single list imaginable.

    Coming off the recent article of 50 Players the SEC Wishes It Had (even though the SEC still has the best), we follow this up with the top 50 SEC players that every conference in college football would love to steal.

    In other words, these are your rankings for the best 50 players in the SEC and let it be known that any team would die for landing any one of these 50 current and future stars.

No. 50: Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri Wide Receiver

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    Let us start the debate right away. Does he or does he not deserve to be on the list?

    Dorial Green-Beckham was ranked number one in everything coming out of high school by many experts, including Rivals

    However, DGB is looking to become just the fourth freshman in the history of the sport to make the All-American squad (Sammy Watkins, Adrian Peterson, Hershel Walker). Unfortunately, those are the lofty expectations that we live in these days, but this kid has the potential to become nearly as accomplished as those last two names became.

    Watkins is a decent comparison, but this future Mizzou star is listed at 6’6”, and he has range for days. James Franklin can just throw it up for grabs and there is a good chance the frosh will come down with it.

    Going up against the best competition in the country certainly will be one of the top things to watch for in 2012, but the size, strength, speed and overall skills makes him a must have on this list as well as many future ones to come.

No. 49: Isaiah Crowell, Georgia Running Back

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    Isaiah Crowell was nicked up at times in his freshman campaign (did not play in two games), but he still managed to tote the rock 185 times for 850 yards and five TD's.

    Despite the backfield being even more talented and explosive, bank on Crowell on being the starter against Missouri in that second game of the season.

    When healthy and with his mind set (freshman season is never easy), Crowell could surprise a few and easily become an All-SEC back.

No. 48: Brad Wing, LSU Punter

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    Special teams and field position are one of the true hidden stats in football, regardless of the level of play.

    Having a stud kicker and/or punter may elevate your defense from very good to excellent. In LSU’s case it lifts them from one of the elites to arguably the best in the game.

    The Ray Guy was not won by Brad Wing last season (Ryan Allen), but it certainly may be hoisted by him in 2012.

    Entering his sophomore season and coming off a No. 11 ranking in average yards per punt (44.37), Wing is one of those special punters that can change the game (he can punt the ball with either foot).

    In LSU’s 9-6 overtime victory over Alabama, Wing booted a punt 73 yards, which ultimately pinned Alabama back, even though it was the Tigers that were originally backed up near their own goal line.

    Voted as an AP All-SEC first-teamer (second by coaches), he was also voted a first-team All-American (AP, CBSSports.com, FoxSportsNext.com, SI.com) and freshman All-American (CBSsports.com, Sporting News).

No. 47: Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt Wide Receiver

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    Arkansas, Florida and Kentucky all saw Jordan Matthews perform as if he was the best wide receiver in the SEC and beyond.

    An athletic guy who can go up and get it, Matthews is also a solid route runner that is clearly known for grabbing the jump ball at its highest point while in the air.

    Jordan Rodgers should avoid seeing his production dip continually in his second full season of starting, so we should look for Matthews alongside Chris Boyd to improve.

No. 46: Eddie Lacy, Alabama Running Back

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    Eddie Lacy had some solid playing time in the BCS National Championship when Trent Richardson was not used on every play imaginable, but obviously there was a reason for that.

    Lacy is a capable back that may be among the conference leaders in rushing thanks to having the best offensive line in the nation blocking for him.

    T.J. Yeldon is a stud that could have easily made this list, but there are way too many stars in the SEC who are guaranteed significant playing time whereas Yeldon is still a bit of a question mark in terms of touching the bacon more than 10 times a game.

    Still, Lacy should have no issues eclipsing 1,000 yards if he can stay and or remain healthy enough thanks to one of the more talented offenses in the country.

No. 45: Emory Blake, Auburn Wide Receiver

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    Many will always know Emory as the son of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jeff Blake, but he is really starting to make a name for himself in the SEC.

    Not only is he Auburn’s top target that can stretch the field with such ease, but he makes life enjoyable for whoever is spinning it.

    We should not only count on him becoming an All-SEC performer, but he could end up being one of the better and more productive receivers in the country. He is not just SEC good, but any and every team should want the best playmakers possible.

No. 44: Dee Milliner, Alabama Defensive Back

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    One season ago, the entire nation had to stay away from Dre Kirkpatrick as he became one of the better corners in the country.

    Milliner had nine pass breakups and 12 deflections to go along with his three interceptions. Primed and ready to finally burst onto the national scene, Milliner should live up to the expectations thanks to solid size, ball skills and athleticism.

    Oh yeah, the Crimson Tide are absolutely loaded with playmakers once again in the secondary, so there will be plenty of opportunities to shine even brighter than before. 

No. 43: AJ Johnson, Tennessee Linebacker

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    Tennessee’s defense has failed to return to national relevancy mainly because of the lack of a pass rusher. There is no chance they can compete for the SEC East by registering only 16 sacks as a defense.

    Johnson was second on the team in tackles (80), but he did lead the team in recovered fumbles (two) and has the making of garnering some national attention with nine returnees back on defense for the Vols.

    Most non-SEC fans have never heard of this linebacker, but he certainly could line up for essentially any defense.

No. 42: Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt Running Back

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    The Vanderbilt Commodores appeared in their fifth bowl game in its program's history last season. Although they lost and ended up having a losing season at 6-7, James Franklin’s squad were in so many close games that they normally would have been blown away in.

    Tough losses against Georgia, Florida and Arkansas looked like a learning experience for an up-and-coming program in the SEC that is constantly looked at as the doormat. Zac Stacy at running back is one of the biggest reasons why this offense no longer is a pushover.

    Stacy can flat out scoot for a scat back, as his absurd 7.2 YPC at home back up the type of skills that any conference would love to have. 

No. 41: Alonzo Highsmith, Arkansas Linebacker

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    Arkansas has not been known for their defense, since under Petrino they have ranked among the more explosive offenses in America.

    Alonzo Highsmith is arguably the best defensive players for the Razorbacks by a decent amount and the junior college transfer is primed for another solid campaign if he can get healthy (he has been dealing with his pectoral muscle all spring).

    Now entering his senior season, we may be looking at one of the better linebackers in the SEC. A bully of a linebacker, Highsmith should easily top his 12.5 tackles-for-losses thanks to a non-stop motor that has become relentless. 

No. 40: Justin Hunter, Tennessee Wide Receiver

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    After tearing his ACL, most are writing off this talented Vol receiver that can stretch the field for what should be one of the more entertaining offenses in the entire SEC.

    Alongside Da’Rick Rogers with Tyler Bray throwing the ball all over the place, Hunter is the type that can become an impact player with single coverage.

    A solid target (6’4”, 200 pounds), this legit weapon will demand double coverage or else the opposition will be torched more times than you can count.

    It would help if the Vols develop a running game, but the NFL-caliber players they have in the passing game should only help out the entire offense as a whole. 

No. 39: Tavarres King, Georgia Wide Receiver

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    Georgia’s leading receiver from a season ago in terms of yards (705), touchdowns (eight) and receptions (47) is ready for one final All-SEC caliber of a season.

    King is a special player because he can kick into high gear. He looks as if he is gliding on the gridiron and then you blink and he is in the end zone after torching you for a deep pass.

    King has the ability to beat you deep, and with Aaron Murray threading the needle he may reach double-digit touchdowns with ease in 2012.

No. 38: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M Offensive Lineman

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    Texas A&M may not have too many sexy offensive playmakers other than Ryan Swope, but they sure have the offensive line to compete with the big boys in the SEC.

    Jake Matthews and Luke Joeckel form the best pair of offensive tackles out there, but Joekel is projected by some experts to be a high draft pick next season.

    Joeckel may not be mentioned for the First Team All-SEC, but he certainly should be in the running since stud tackles do not grow on trees.

No. 37: John Jenkins, Georgia Defensive Tackle

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    This Georgia defense is loaded with speed, but John Jenkins gives them some girth up front that not every SEC squad has.

    Jenkins is a constant double team due to his size (6’3”, 351 pounds), but he can eat quite a few running backs alive with an explosive first step past blockers.

    Georgia’s defense can swarm around Jenkins’ ability to eat up blockers and certainly their linebackers are some of the more entertaining and talented units in the nation because of this big nose tackle. 

    Note: Phil Steele First Team All-SEC

No. 36: Jesse Williams, Alabama Defensive Tackle

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    A First Team Pre-Season All-SEC by Phil Steele gives the Alabama defensive tackle some hype heading into the season, but Jesse truly could play for any team.

    An athletic interior lineman can line up at defensive end in passing situations, but he is so solid against the run that he gives enough production Saban’s defense more times than not.

    Despite losing a few All-American linebackers, Williams has the looks of becoming the next dominant lineman in the SEC.

No. 35: Chris Faulk, LSU Offensive Lineman

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    Chris Faulk was arguably the best sophomore in all of college football last season as he made the AP Second Team All-American squad.

    Faulk is your typical mammoth star tackle that can absolutely pancake lineman in his sleep.

    Standing wide (6’6, 325 pounds), this Bayou Bengal has all the makings of becoming a stud if he remains consistent each and every week for a Les Miles team that loves to run it.

No. 34: Matt Elam, Florida Safety

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    Phil Steele ranks the Gators safety as a Fourth Team All-American, but the sophomore should avoid such a slump because he is far too talented and has way too much talent around him to fall off the map.

    Elam can really lay the lumber, but he can cover and make up so much ground in a matter of a blink of an eye. 

No. 33: Larry Warford, Kentucky Offensive Lineman

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    A Phil Steele Second Team All-American, Larry Warford is a seasoned veteran that has played and seen it all while at Lexington.

    The Wildcats may be the worst team in the SEC under Joker Phillips, but Warford is one of the few reasons why their offense will be able to chunk out any sort of yards.

    The guard is a beast (6’3”, 336 pounds), and he will be highly regarded whether or not his team wins a game in the SEC or not.

No. 32: James Franklin, Missouri Quarterback

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    A vital part of the Tigers offense, James Franklin proved in the Independence Bowl that he can put this team on his back and carry them to victory.

    Franklin totaled for 274 yards, but it was his ability to control the game by rushing for 142 yards that made a huge difference. His three TDs were key, but despite losing a few targets this Tigers will be just fine.

    It helps to add one of the best freshman receivers on paper in years in Dorial Green-Beckham, but Franklin is the straw that stirs everything.

No. 31: Sean Porter, Texas A&M Linebacker

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    The Aggies sure missed Von Miller last season, but Sean Porter was solid for an Aggies defense that finished just 59th.

    Porter has improved after every season, but heading to the SEC will certainly challenge him against the best of the best. 

No. 30: Alec Ogletree, Georgia Linebacker

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    Georgia has a loaded group of linebackers led by Jarvis Jones, but Ogletree does not get nearly enough credit.

    Ogletree missed six games last season with a broken foot and is expected to be suspended a few games for this season after violating team rules.

    Still, he notched 7.5 tackles-for-losses and three sacks along the way and is an athletic freak that can completely disrupt your offense.

    Ogletree and Georgia’s defense could be summed up best with one word: speed. Every team does not have to be jealous of the speed of the SEC, but they sure wish they had a bit more achieve more success.

No. 29: Jelani Jenkins, Florida Linebacker

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    The Gators defense should be legit in 2012, but Jelani Jenkins is a speedy linebacker that can make plays all over the field. The Gators could still be years away from becoming legit contenders in the SEC East, but they are not lacking the talent on the defensive side of the ball.

    Florida’s front seven is among the best in the SEC and Jenkins is arguably their biggest and brightest star.

No. 28: Ryan Swope, Texas A&M Wide Receiver

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    Ryan Swope may not have Ryan Tannehill throwing the rock to him, but Swope can make nearly any quarterback look good.

    Swope has electric speed with his ability to burst past the secondary whether he touches the ball or not.

No. 27: Sharrif Floyd, Florida Defensive Tackle

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    This young Gator is ready to burst onto the national scene in games against Georgia, LSU and Florida State.

    Sharrif Floyd had 6.5 tackles-for-losses and 1.5 sacks, but he was also sixth on the team in tackles. Floyd can explode into an opposing backfield, so look for his numbers and achievements to only increase.

No. 26: Devin Taylor, South Carolina Defensive End

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    Standing tall at 6’7”, Devin Taylor alongside Jadeveon Clowney cannot both be doubled. Taylor can knock down a ton of passes as well as harass the opposing passer with legit quickness and strength.

    His six sacks and 8.5 tackles-for-losses were solid numbers from one season ago, but the Gamecocks' front four will only improve with the likes of Clowney and Taylor developing into future NFL stars.

No. 25: Corey Lemonier, Auburn Defensive End

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    The Auburn defensive end can get skinny when need be, but he prefers to use his great combination of power and speed off the edge to just book the tackle that is attempting to block him.

    Lemonier may seem like just one of the guys on the Auburn defensive line, but he still finds a way to stand out as one of the elite SEC pass rushers.

No. 24: A.J. McCarron, Alabama Quarterback

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    For the previous three seasons, a new starting quarterback has ended up winning the BCS National Championship.

    A.J. McCarron is taking that next step to becoming one of the better quarterbacks in the entire SEC.

    If the Alabama quarterback can improve his ability to torch the opposition down the field, he may just lead the Tide to another BCS National Championship.

No. 23: D.J. Fluker, Alabama Offensive Lineman

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    D.J. Fluker is a mammoth tackle (6’6”, 335 pounds) that makes the Crimson Tide's offensive line the best offensive line in the nation.

    Alongside Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones, Fluker gives Alabama a ton of mammoth lineman that do nothing better than pave the wave for the Alabama backfield.

    Fluker may still be developing as a tackle, which makes him a scary and cannot-miss prospect at the next level.

No. 22: Nico Johnson, Alabama Linebacker

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    Alabama is still loaded on defense and the linebackers are quite the intimidating bunch. Nico Johnson is a fierce linebacker that can hunt you down dead in your tracks, but he is not a liability by any means in pass coverage.

    Johnson has been a tackling machine and he feeds off the Alabama faithful to absolutely light up an opposing running back. 

No. 21: Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas Wide Receiver

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    Tyler Wilson is my pick as the best quarterback in the SEC and his top target will be wide receiver Cobi Hamilton. This lanky and quick receiver can torch you deep if you do not have a safety waiting back deep.

    Hamilton will need to step up big when he runs a few more routes over the middle, but he is a fine athlete to do just about anything for the Razorbacks.

    The touchdowns and yards-after-the-catch should increase with Wilson threading the needle, and the hype should follow. 

No. 20: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M Offensive Tackle

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    A future stud at the next level, Jake Matthews helps lead one of the better offensive lines in the country. The Aggies are entering the SEC with middle-of-the-road expectations thanks to landing in the brutal SEC West, but Kevin Sumlin will not be letting up, offensively speaking.

    Matthews has great technique for a tackle and his wide base and athleticism allows him to block at the second level of a defense with ease.

No. 19: Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee Wide Receiver

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    If you enjoy those athletic, freakishly gifted wide receivers, than Da’Rick Rogers is the guy to pay attention to.

    This Tennessee Volunteer will help Tyler Bray become one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC.

    Rogers, however, is arguably the top target in the conference thanks to his set of hands, solid route-running and tremendous ball skills. His athleticism often allows him to feast on smaller corners that cannot jump out of the stadium.

No. 18: Chance Warmack, Alabama Offensive Lineman

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    Phil Steele lists Chance Warmack as a First Team All-American thanks to his bulldozing ability at offensive guard.

    He can allow a truck to drive through, but Warmack is a smart lineman that also has solid and underrated technique.

    A.J. McCarron developed and looked like a star at times, but it was because of Warmack’s ability to pave the way.

No. 17: Alex Hurst, LSU Offensive Lineman

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    One of the biggest lineman (6’6”, 340 pounds) in the country, Alex Hurst is the perfect guy to run behind.

    LSU is a running team and it showed last season, but Hurst is versatile enough to slow down even the elite edge-rushers in the SEC.

    Many programs are attempting to land 300-pounders, but in the Bayou they grow their men to be just a bit bigger.

No. 16: Tyler Bray, Tennessee Quarterback

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    Can Tyler Bray finally have a full season filled with health?

    Bray desperately needs to stay healthy to help cool the hot seat for Derek Dooley and to make the Vol fans take a deep breath before they have a heart attack.

    This Tennessee squad needs all the help they can get, but the schedule might just allow Tyler Bray to become the breakout star for the SEC.

    A passing offense filled with a few studs (Da’Rick Rogers, Justin Hunter), Bray has the arm strength to have a sensational season that will give his squad a chance to win as many at least eight or nine games.

No. 15: Barkevious Mingo, LSU Defensive End

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    KeKe Mingo may be the most explosive defensive end in the entire country thanks to his ability to blow by offensive tackles.

    The kid is a freak and he has a fairly high ceiling for the next level. Any conference should die to have a playmaker like this due to his size, speed and ridiculous athleticism.

    Truly one of the best in the game and he is just a junior for a star-filled LSU defense. 

No. 14: Johnathan Banks, Mississippi State Defensive Back

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    Arguably the most underrated guy on this list due to the school he plays for. Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs were just coming off a double-digit season two years ago, and now they fell nearly into the abyss of the SEC at 7-6.

    Johnathan Banks is an All-SEC defensive back that has an excellent chance at becoming your best in the conference thanks to his great ball-hawking skills, fluid hips and deadly instincts.

    Mississippi State was 35th in total defense one season ago, and with Banks and six other starters returning, will no longer will be thrown to the way-side by most experts.

No. 13: C.J.Mosley, Alabama Linebacker

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    Alabama will forever be loaded with linebackers under Nick Saban, so C.J. Mosley will continue the tradition of making the life a living hell for opposing SEC quarterbacks.

    Guys like Hightower and Upshaw were some of the best players in the entire country last season, but there is no doubt that the Alabama defense will once again be one of the best in the conference (and beyond).

    The depth is never-ending and coming off that tough injury in the BCS National Championship has only added more to the plate for Alabama because youngsters have developed (junior college transfers too), which in turn has brought Mosley back with more intent to become the next superstar.

No. 12: Robert Lester, Alabama Safety

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    This center-fielder of a safety can make up more ground arguably than any safety on the planet. Eric Reid of LSU is right there, but Lester is a corner safety that has a great nose for the ball.

    SEC speed kills for a reason, and the Alabama defense is loaded with playmakers. Lester is just one of the many stars on that side of the ball, but he is the best of the bunch and that says quite a bit.

No. 11: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina Defensive End

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    If you had to draft a defensive line right now, would you take anybody over Mr. Clowney?

    This athletic freak can come off the edge and terrorize your starting quarterback so bad he may have nightmares for the rest of his life.

    Clowney is lanky enough to become factors on all passing downs, but he is lightning-quick where he can even help out against the run.

    Going up against bigger, elite lineman will be a challenge like it is for all stud pass rushers. Still, Clowney will get his fair share of sacks with the skill set (6’6”, 256 pounds) that he has been given thus far.

No. 10: Aaron Murray, Georgia Quarterback

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    Aaron Murray has improved his game and is looking to take that final step towards greatness. His accuracy became a concern at times (see SCAR, LSU, and MSU), but it would help if his receivers came up big (see LSU).

    Murray has been a great leader for the Dawgs and has all the talent in the world to lead them to another SEC East division title. Entering his junior season more progress should be made where he spreads the wealth among all of his talented receivers.

    Bank on the starter garnering some Heisman hype if UGA continues its winning ways, but certainly Murray and the team will be looking to finish the dream by defeating whoever they face in the SEC title (if they were to win the East again).

No. 9: Knile Davis, Arkansas Running Back

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    Knile Davis was a stud two seasons ago, but his ankle injuries added up last year and he had to sit out for the entire season.

    Will the 2010 version of Knile Davis return to form in 2012?

    The guy did run for over 1,000 yards and had double-digit touchdowns in his sleep. There was no back better in the country arguably down the stretch two seasons ago and he single-handedly could lead the Razorbacks back to the SEC title.

    Davis is an underrated beast of a back that is a load to bring down, and his elusiveness and cutting ability makes him one of the more talented players in the SEC.

No. 8: Eric Reid, LSU Safety

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    This blazing heavy-hitter can lower the boom for the Bayou Bengals' killer defense, but Reid might just be the most underrated of the entire bunch.

    When discussing the top defensive backs in the country, Reid’s should be one of the first mentioned. The guy has made several significant and game-changing plays (see Alabama), and he will be instrumental in the Tigers' chances of repeating as SEC champions.

No. 7: Sam Montgomery, LSU Defensive End

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    The Bayou Bengals sure looks like the best in the country heading into the season as they have depth for days. Most can argue that their second team defensive line is just as good as, if not better, than many BCS squads.

    Sam Montgomery is truly the full package as he can take over a game whenever he feels like it.

    His nine sacks and 13.5 tackle-for-losses are absurd since he will likely improve upon those numbers with other players on that best line in the country improving as well.

No. 6: Bacarri Rambo, Georgia Safety

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    Bacarri Rambo is a returning All-American safety that lays the wood and plucks darts in the dark better than any safety in America.

    Rambo likely will likely be suspended in the first few games, but his return should lift the ‘Dawgs defense into one of the top five defenses out there. Rambo has tremendous quickness for a safety and always takes the right reads and angles to make the tough plays look easy.

    If Rambo does not start his season full of rust, this All-American safety can easily land on and achieve more postseason achievements.

No. 5: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina Running Back

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    The best running back in the country was Montee Ball due to his 39 total touchdowns, but Marcus Lattimore has arguably more talent than the Badgers superstar.

    Lattimore is an absolute beast of a back that can bounce off tacklers with ease, but what makes him so special is his ability to pick up the blitz.

    However, his best asset is not his ability to grind out yards in the fourth quarter, but his hands out of the backfield as a receiver are second to nobody.

    Lattimore is a true Heisman candidate and is the type of stud that can carry your team to victory on any given Saturday. 

No. 4: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU Cornerback

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    While great teams are built from the inside-out, the “Honey Badger” is one of those few electrifying players that has such an impact on the game.

    One of the better defensive backs in the country heading into the season (likely the best), Mathieu also happens to be arguably the best punt returner in all of the land as well.

    A defensive playmaker, Mathieu has a nose and then some for the ball with his ability to consistently be one step ahead of the opposition.

    A true joy to watch, Tyrann Mathieu is the type of player that every team dreams of having due to the electricity he brings to the table.

No. 3: Jarvis Jones, Georgia Linebacker

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    This 3-4 pass-rushing outside linebacker is filled with freak skills that can absolutely light up an opposing backfield.

    Jarvis Jones is a buzzsaw to defend because he is strong enough to bullrush you and he is easily athletic enough to blow by lineman.

    The Georgia defense is so fast that they will likely rank among the top of the country, but it is Jones that makes them arguably the most explosive.

No. 2: Tyler Wilson, Arkansas Quarterback

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    Arguably the best quarterback in the country (save Matt Barkley), Tyler Wilson is primed to once again lead the Razorbacks to a double-digit season.

    However, Wilson is ready to give the Razorbacks their first SEC title (0-3 all-time in SEC title games) and he has the skills to accomplish such a tough task.

    Getting both Alabama and LSU at home will allow Wilson to garner Heisman talk, but he would much rather get his squad into the SEC title (which is a play-in game for the BCS title).

    The accuracy of Wilson has been absurd since taking over for Ryan Mallett (4,378 yards, 35 total TD).

    A healthy Knile Davis in the backfield could propel this signal-caller to become the best player not only in the SEC, but perhaps the country. 

No. 1: Barrett Jones, Alabama Offensive Lineman

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    The reigning Outland Trophy winner is arguably the best college football player returning in the entire country.

    Most lineman gets zero love these days because we see the whole unit get love as opposed to an individual. Football is a team game, but Barrett Jones is as good as it gets for his position.

    The unanimous All-American and All-SEC choice is versatile with the ability to play any position on the line, but he is arguably the biggest reason (not named Saban) why Alabama has an excellent chance at winning consecutive BCS national titles.

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