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Most Underrated Players in the SEC

Mike FosterCorrespondent IAugust 2, 2013

Most Underrated Players in the SEC

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    Johnny Manziel, Amari Cooper, Todd Gurley and Jadeveon Clowney are just a few names who are the hype of the Southeastern Conference.

    But with such a deep league, especially now that it has 14 members, the SEC is full of underrated players who could flourish on rosters around the country.

    Here's a list of the 10 most underrated players in the SEC.

Byron Moore, Tennessee

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    Despite having a pretty bad defense the past few seasons, the Tennessee Volunteers have a few star players on that side of the football.

    Linebacker A.J. Johnson has earned plenty of preseason mentions and respect from the media, but another man in orange to keep an eye on is redshirt junior safety Byron Moore. 

    The 6'0", 208-pound Moore intercepted a team-high five passes last year, while also breaking up four balls and recording 86 tackles (7.2 per game).

    Moore's best moment was a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown against Georgia. 

     

Chris Boyd, Vanderbilt

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    One of the reasons why Vanderbilt is suddenly a respected opponent in the SEC East is its stellar receiving corps.

    Jordan Matthews was voted First-Team All-SEC by the media, but Chris Boyd is just as viable of an option. The redshirt junior caught 50 passes last year for 774 yards and five touchdowns. 

    Boyd is a silky smooth target with long arms and sticky hands. If transfer quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels can transition well into the Commodores offense, Boyd should have another productive season alongside Matthews. 

Jalen Whitlow, Kentucky

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    Since the Andre Woodson era, Kentucky has struggled to find a reliable quarterback.

    Maxwell Smith was the man at the start of last year, but freshman specimen Jalen Whitlow snuck in and started seven games for the Wildcats. 

    Whitlow, at 6'2" and 220 pounds, is a talented runner and natural playmaker. He struggled to develop last season but still managed to complete 54 percent of his attempts and account for six total touchdowns.

    Whitlow showed promise in the spring game, where he completed 17 of 28 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns.

    He still has a lot of work in front of him, but Whitlow will be the premier toy for new offensive coordinator Neal Brown. 

Damian Swann, Georgia

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    Rising junior Damian Swann could be a star in 2013.

    Swann was slightly overshadowed by names like Sanders Commings, Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams last year, but he might have been the most consistent player in the secondary.

    In 2012, he recorded 53 tackles, 3.5 for a loss, two sacks, four interceptions, nine pass breakups, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

    In other words, Swann was all over the field as a cornerback. Swann was arguably snubbed by Alabama's Deion Belue as a First-Team All-SEC pick, but he could be an All-American when the season is over. 

     

Tre Mason, Auburn

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    Auburn has been in a hole for a few seasons, and its player recognition has dwindled because of it. 

    Tre Mason, who probably registers around 5'9" with the cleats on, is a diminutive but productive tailback who could benefit from a more complete offense. 

    He rushed for 1,002 yards last season, averaging 5.9 yards per carry, and scored eight touchdowns. Mason is also a talented return man. 

    Auburn could only cycle 1,879 passing yards out of three different quarterbacks last season but will hopefully find more balance with the return of Gus Malzahn. 

Connor Shaw, South Carolina

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    South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw missed two starts last year, and the ensuing conversation about a two-quarterback system that includes Dylan Thompson.

    That system has been conversed as an option for this fall, but there's no reason to doubt Shaw's ability. 

    Shaw is a gritty, tough competitor. He has great acceleration and feet, and often defenses underestimate his ability to hit the corner and zip to the pylon for first downs. 

    Shaw completed 67.5 percent of his passes last year for 17 scores and just seven interceptions. A healthy Shaw could have a breakout year as a senior, but a vertically challenged receiving corps might complicate things. 

     

Michael Bennett, Georgia

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    Georgia lost an all-time great in Tavarres King and the often-injured Marlon Brown, but there's still reason to think it has the deepest receiving depth in the entire country. 

    Chris Conley, JUCO transfer Jonathon Rumph and speedster Justin Scott-Wesley will provide more electricity for quarterback Aaron Murray, but none will be more reliable in tough moments than Michael Bennett.

    Bennett (6'3", 205 lbs) quickly built a reputation as a clutch receiver, but his 2012 campaign was cut short when he tore his ACL in early October. 

    Bennett had 32 catches for 320 yards and five touchdowns as a redshirt freshman and was Georgia's top target other than Brown in the first five games of last year (while Malcolm Mitchell was working as a cornerback).

    Mitchell will be a full-time receiver again this year, but don't be shocked if Bennett is just as good. 

     

Matt Jones, Florida

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    With Mike Gillislee toting the rock for the Gators last year, freshman Matt Jones wasn't doing much for Florida's offense.

    But Jones came on strong at the end of the season, including an impressive performance against Florida State. 

    Jones is a big body for a tailback at 6'2", 220 pounds. With Gillislee off to graduation, the starting job will be Jones' to lose. 

    With the way Florida likes to play physical, Jones could quickly become a name to reckon with in the SEC, though T.J. Yeldon, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall will keep him off any All-SEC teams. 

    According to Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com, Jones is reportedly fighting an infection and his availability for the start of the season is in question. 

Alvin "Bud" Dupree, Kentucky

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    If you played for the Kentucky Wildcats during the Joker Phillips tenure, chances are not many people outside of the plateau knew who you were. 

    Unfortunately, that's much of the case for Kentucky's star linebacker Alvin "Bud" Dupree.

    Dupree registered 12.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks last year for the Wildcats. 

    He finished with 91 total tackles. 

    The 6'4", 252-pound junior should become more of a prominent name this season. Newly hired head coach Mark Stoops will be happy to have him, that's for sure.

Bo Wallace, Ole Miss

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    When your name is Bo and you play collegiate ball in Mississippi, there's almost an implied responsibility to showcase the gunslinging playing style that likens to that of Brett Favre.

    Bo Wallace fits the mold.

    His playing style didn't fail him last year, either. Wallace, at 6'4" and 204 pounds, threw for 2,994 yards and completed 63.9 percent of his passes, with 22 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions.

    That's where the gunslinging mentality might not to tone down just a bit, but Wallace is an exciting playerhe even rushed for 390 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore.

    Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray are obviously the faces of quarterbacks in the SEC, but Wallace could be the premier passer in the conference come 2014. 

    More of the reason to keep an eye on him this year. Ole Miss, especially with receiver Donte Moncrief, will be fun to watch. 

     

    Mike Foster is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a local sportswriter in northwest Atlanta. Follow Mike on Twitter!

     

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