College Football Rankings: Looking at the Best Defenders on Ranked SEC Teams

John PattonContributor IOctober 2, 2011

College Football Rankings: Looking at the Best Defenders on Ranked SEC Teams

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    Without question, most of the glory in college football goes to the players on offense.

    However, in the Southeastern Conference—where the five most recent BCS National Championship trophies reside—it could be argued that defense is king.

    Sure, Cam Newton won the Heisman Trophy last year, but would Auburn have won it all without Nick Fairley? The same goes with Alabama, which had Marcell Dareus and Rolando McClain to go along with Heisman winner Mark Ingram, and Florida, which had defensive stalwarts like Brandon Spikes and Joe Haden when Tim Tebow was taking home the big stiff-arm.

    And no doubt the SEC is once again loaded with talent on defense. Here is a look at arguably the best defensive player on each of the six ranked SEC teams in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

No. 2 LSU's Tyrann Mathieu

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    Name: Tyrann Mathieu

    Year: Sophomore

    Position: DB

    Height/weight: 5'9", 172 pounds

    Of Note: The school that produced Patrick Peterson has another outstanding cornerback in Mathieu. A versatile playmaker, Mathieu has six career sacks, three career interceptions and twice this season has recorded double-digit tackle totals.

No. 3 Alabama's Courtney Upshaw

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    Name: Courtney Upshaw

    Year: Senior

    Position: LB

    Height/weight: 6'2", 265 pounds

    Of Note: Projected as a likely first-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft, Upshaw has 9.5 career sacks, a pair of forced fumbles and, on Saturday night at Florida, returned the first interception of his career 45 yards for a touchdown.

No. 12 Arkansas' Jerry Franklin

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    Name: Jerry Franklin

    Year: Senior

    Position: LB

    Height/weight: 6'1", 245 pounds

    Of Note: Franklin leads the Razorbacks with 36 tackles. He also has recorded 3.5 tackles-for-loss, three quarterback hurries and two pass break-ups. He had at least 80 tackles in each of his first three seasons at Arkansas.

No. 14 South Carolina's Melvin Ingram

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    Name: Melvin Ingram

    Year: Senior

    Position: DE

    Height/weight: 6'2", 276 pounds

    Of Note: Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery get all of the publicity. Stephen Garcia gets all of the grief. But no one—no one—has had a better year for South Carolina than Melvin Ingram. Of his 26 tackles, 7.5 are for loss (including 5.5 sacks). He also has three passes defensed, three quarterback hurries, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Oh yeah, he also recovered an onside kick against Georgia for the Gamecocks' "hands team." Yes, a defensive end is on the hands team.

No. 18 Florida's Jaye Howard

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    Name: Jaye Howard

    Year: Senior

    Position: DT/DE

    Height/weight: 6'3", 303 pounds

    Of Note: For the season Howard has 20 tackles, eight of which came against Alabama. Included in that total is 2.5 tackles-for-loss (1.5 of which have been sacks). He also has two pass break-ups, a quarterback hurry and recovered a fumble for a touchdown.

No. 23 Auburn's Neiko Thorpe

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    Name: Neiko Thorpe

    Year: Senior

    Position: DB

    Height/weight: 6'2", 185 pounds

    Of Note: So far this season, Thorpe leads the Tigers in tackles (41) and interceptions (two). He also has broken up a pass and recovered a fumble. He has broken up 27 passes in his career.