LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu
Every Tuesday, The SEC Blog will rank the top player at each position for each team in the SEC. Today, we rank the best cornerback at every school in the conference.
14. Cartier Rice, Kentucky
Rice enters his senior season as the current starter at one of Kentucky's cornerback spots, along with converted running back Marcus Caffey—who has the talent to be a star anywhere on the field. Rice has 19.5 tackles and one interception during his Kentucky career. Safety Martavius Neloms will slide over and play some corner for the Wildcats.
13. Dustin Harris, Texas A&M
Harris is more known for his skills returning kicks on special teams, but he's also Texas A&M's most experienced cornerback. He had 33 tackles, two sacks, an interception and eight pass breakups last season. When the season rolls around, don't be surprised to see DeShazor Everett and Floyd Raven emerge as the starters, though.
12. Wesley Pendleton, Ole Miss
Charles Sawyer moved back to safety late last year, which means that it's Pendleton's show at corner in Oxford. He tallied 19 tackles in 2011 but did not record an interception. The rising senior transferred from junior college prior to the 2011 season and needs a big season in 2012 to cap off his college career.
11. Marcus Roberson, Florida
Roberson got thrown into the fire in 2011, starting the first 10 games of the season as a freshman. He had 22 tackles and an interception before injuring his neck against South Carolina, which ended his season. He sat out spring practice but is expected to be ready to go this fall. He could fly up this list once the season starts.
10. Trey Wilson, Vanderbilt
Wilson had three interceptions last season, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Replacing Casey Heyward won't be easy, but it's Wilson's job to lose. He will be joined by Andre Hal as starters at cornerback for Vandy in 2012. Like Roberson, he's a player that could fly up this list once the season starts.
9. Akeem Auguste, South Carolina
Auguste has bounced around between cornerback and safety during his time in Columbia. He made the move back to cornerback this spring after sitting out all but one game in 2011 with a foot injury. He tallied 58 tackles in 2010 and is looking to cap off his career after taking a medical redshirt last season.
8. E.J. Gaines, Missouri
Gaines proved to be a force last season, finishing with 69 tackles, two interceptions and 18 passes defended. Those numbers were skewed a little bit since he played in the pass-happy Big 12, but he's still an All-SEC candidate for the Tigers.
7. Tevin Mitchel, Arkansas
As a freshman in 2011, Mitchel didn't have an interception, but he did tally 56 tackles as a true freshman. He is a solid cover corner and is expected to be a leader alongside fellow cornerback Darius Winston on that revitalized Arkansas defense under first-year defensive coordinator Paul Haynes.
6. T'Sharvan Bell, Auburn
Bell emerged as a leader in Auburn's secondary late in the season during Auburn's 2010 run to the BCS National Championship. He was off to a solid start in 2011 with 45 tackles and two interceptions before he tore his ACL and MCL vs. Georgia. He's back in 2012 and should be a solid corner for Auburn alongside Chris Davis.
5. Dee Milliner, Alabama
Milliner was the third cornerback for the Crimson Tide last season behind Dre Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie, but he still managed to lead the Tide with three interceptions on the season. He has plenty of experience, but now he's the unquestioned No. 1 corner, which brings a new set of responsibilities for the rising junior.
4. Prentiss Waggner, Tennessee
Waggner has played both safety and cornerback during his time on Rocky Top and enters the 2012 season as one of the starters alongside sophomore Justin Coleman. He had 48 tackles and two interceptions last season bouncing between safety and cornerback, but he had five as a cornerback in 2010.
3. Sanders Commings, Georgia
Commings will miss Georgia's first two games of the season, and his absence could be felt vs. Missouri during Week 2. The 6'2", 217-pounder is a monster on the outside who finished last season with five interceptions and 55 total tackles. He's a big piece to a Georgia secondary that has a chance to be one of the nation's best.
2. Jonathan Banks, Mississippi State
Banks has a nose for the football, picking off five passes and breaking up 14 passes for the Bulldogs last season. The 6'2", 185-pound senior is a true shutdown cornerback that is not only an All-SEC candidate, but an All-American candidate in 2012.
1. Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
Mathieu's stock soared high enough last season to earn the rising junior a trip to New York City as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. He was picked on by Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron in the BCS National Championship Game, which is a bit concerning.
But he has proven the ability to be a playmaker on defense and special teams. Mathieu and Tharold Simon should combine to be the nation's top one-two punch at cornerback.