SEC Football: The 50 Greatest Players in SEC History

Jeremy Hillman@@SECpigskinContributor IOctober 12, 2011

SEC Football: The 50 Greatest Players in SEC History

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    What makes a player "great?"

    Is it stats? Is it championships? Is it leadership?

    Yes, it is.

    It is all of that.

    Those items are what I took into account as I compiled the following list of the 50 greatest players in SEC history.

    I also gave bonus points to players who made impacts in multiple positions or carried a team on their shoulders.

    Click through the slideshow to see who I believe are the top players ever to suit up in the SEC...

50. Vito Pirilli, Kentucky QB

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    This could be Tim Couch, another star Kentucky quarterback.

    However, Parilli played under Kentucky head coach Paul Bear Bryant and threw for 4,351 yards and 50 touchdowns in his college career and deserves to be mentioned among the best ever in the conference.

    He was first team Al-American in 1950 and 1951 and finished with a 28-8 record as a starter, leading the Wildcats to the SEC Championship along the way.

49. Josh Reed, LSU WR

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    While Wendell Davis is rated by some as the best LSU receiver of all time, the stats point to Reed.

    The Tiger wide out has an incredible two season run and holds the SEC record for receiving yardage in a game (293 vs. Alabama in 2001).

    Reed's biggest season was in 2001, when he ended up with a big 1,740 receiving yards. 

    In two years, he compiled an impressive 3,001 receiving yards, 300 more than Davis. However, both were great receivers and deserve mention on this list.

48. Carlos Alvarez, Florida WR

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    Known as "the Cuban Comet," Carlos Alvarez battled through an injured knee late in his Gator career.

    However, when he was healthy, he lit up opposing defenses with his speed and catching ability.

    The Florida receiver caught 172 balls for 2,563 yards and 19 touchdowns as Gator. The receptions and yards are still a Florida record.

    Alvarez was an All-American in 1969 and All-SEC in 1969 and 1971.

47. Glen Dorsey, LSU DL

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    One of the most dominating defensive lineman in SEC history, Glen Dorsey was a two-time All-American and won the Outland Trophy, Lombardi Award, Nagurski Award and Lott Trophy in 2007.

    In his Tiger tenure, LSU won the national championship.

    He was credited with an impressive 179 tackles, 27 tackles for a loss and 13 sacks at LSU.

46. Rex Grossman, Florida QB

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    Rex Grossman's sophomore season at Florida will always be remembered as one of the best seasons in SEC history.

    The Gator quarterback threw for 3,402 yards and 34 touchdowns in just that one year. That season, he was a first-team All-American and finished second in the Heisman voting.

    For his career at Florida, Grossman had an impressive 9,164 yards and 77 touchdowns.

45. Wes Chandler, Florida WR

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    Wes Chandler played in a wishbone offense and still produced 90 catches, 1963 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns for the Gators.

    More impressive is the fact that as an addition to his solid play at wide receiver, he also played at quarterback and tailback for Florida.

    This production and multi-position work earned him first team All-American status in 1976 and 1977.

44. Ike Hilliard, Florida WR

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    Hilliard was a go-to receiver on the 1996 National Championship Florida team. He had soft hands and flashy speed.

    In his prolific Gator career, Hilliard put up an impressive 126 catches, 2,214 yards and 29 touchdowns.

    He was first team All-American and All-SEC in 1996.

43. Tracy Rocker, Auburn DL

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    In 1988, Tracy Rocker was the first SEC player to win the Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Award in the same season.

    He was strong and fast off the ball and produced even though he was double teamed for most of his career.

    He racked up 354 tackles, impressive for an interior defensive lineman.

    Rocker also added 48 tackles for a loss and was a three-time first team All-SEC selection and an All-American in 1987 and 1988.

42. Ozzie Newsome, Alabama WR

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    Ozzie Newsome started an amazing 47 games for Alabama in his career.

    In those games, in a wishbone offense, he was able to grab 102 catches for over 2,000 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns.

    The big 6'2", 209-pound wide out was known as one of the best blockers in college football and was a leader on and off the field.

41. Terry Beasley, Auburn WR

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    Terry Beasley was on the receiving end of Auburn quarterback Pat Sullivan's Heisman year in 1971.

    Beasley hauled in 141 receptions, 2,507 yards and 29 touchdowns in his career and was known for his leadership and work ethic. The receptions and yards were Auburn records.

    He was All-American and All-SEC in 1970 and 1971.

40. Bert Jones, LSU QB

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    Bert Jones was not in a pass happy LSU offense, but was known to have one of the stronger and more accurate arms in SEC hsitory.

    In a run oriented system, he was still able to throw for over 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns as a starter for LSU.

    LSU was 26-6 during his career and made first team All-America in 1972.

39. Wilbur Marshall, Florida LB

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    The future Washington Redskin, Wilbur Marshall was a force to be reckoned with for the Florida Gators on defense.

    He finished his college career with an impressive 343 tackles, 58 tackles for a loss and 23 sacks. 

    He was a first team All-SEC selection for three three straight seasons from 1981 to 1983 and was an All-American in 1982 and 1983.

38. Carnell Williams, Auburn RB

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    Carnell Williams shared carries with another dynamic back at Auburn, Ronnie Brown, and still dominated opposing defenses, with over 5,000 total yards in his career.

    He was a key member of the undefeated Auburn Tigers in 2004 and is the Auburn career touchdown leader with 45.

    Williams received All-American and All-SEC honors.

    Even more impressive, he was also SEC Special Teams Player of The Year in 2004 and was Academic All-SEC.

37. Joe Namath, Alabama QB

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    Namath is an iconic name in football; however, his stats weren't neccesarily his strength.

    He threw for 2,714 yards and 25 touchdowns in his career, pailing in comparison to others in history.

    However, his confidence, leadership and knack for winning made him one of the most memorable Alabama players in history.

    He was first team All-American, and Alabama won the national championship in 1964 in his senior season.

36. Charles Alexander, LSU RB

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    Nicknamed "Alexander The Great," Charles Alexander was a big and fast back for the Tigers.

    He ran for over 4,000 yards in his career and scored 40 touchdowns in a 44 game LSU career.

    He was a two-time first team All-American in 1978 and 1979, and had 13 100-yard rushing games as a Tiger.

35. Johnny Musso, Alabama RB

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    Musso wasn't a big back; just 5'10", 191 pounds, but he was hard for defenses to stop.

    The quick and dynamic back ran for 2,741 yards in his three-year Alabama career and scored 34 touchdowns.

    In his senior season, he averaged almost six yards per carry and finisshed fourth in the Heisman voting.

    He also finished first team All-American twice, in 1971 and 1972.

34. Kevin Faulk, LSU RB

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    Faulk finished his LSU career with 4,557 yards rushing in 41 games, which was second best in conference history.

    Faulk also finished his career with 6,833 career all-purpose yards and 53 total touchdowns.

    He was one of the top kick returners in the nation, along with his running and receiving capabilities.

    In 1996, Faulk was first team All-American.

33. Woodrow Lowe. Alabama LB

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    A three-time All-American, Lowe started all four years for an Alabama team that won four SEC titles in a row.

    He had 315 tackles in his career and had 135 tackles in a single season.

    They also won a national championship in 1973, the fast and hard-hitting linebacker's senior season.

32. Jack Youngblood, Florida DL

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    Jack Youngblood was one of the toughest defenders to ever play the game.

    He started at fullback before becoming the best defensive end in the nation and finished his Gator career with 29 sacks.

    Named to the All-SEC team for the 70's, Youngblood has been remembered as one of the best defensive ends in SEC history.

31. Steve Kinner, Tennessee LB

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    Kiner was the top player on a very good Tennessee defense in the late 60's.

    He racked up tons of tackles and earned first team All-American and first team All-SEC two years in a row, in 1967 and 1968.

    He actually finished sixth in the 1967 Heisman voting, solid for a defensive player.

30. Jerry Stovall, LSU DB

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    Jerry Stovall was a two way player for LSU and excelled at running back and defensive back.

    He finished second in Heisman voting in 1962, based upon his production all over the field.

    During his career at LSU, Stovall played corner back, safety, running back and receiver.

    He literally did it all.

29. Tommy Cassanova, LSU DB

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    Tommy Cassonova is the only player in LSU history to have been selected first team All-American three times.

    He played free safety and running back in games and excelled at both.

    Cassonova also returned the kicks and punts for LSU. He was literally all over the field.

28. Steve DeLong, Tennessee OL

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    Steve DeLong was a big and talented lineman that won the Outland Trophy.

    He was first team All-American in 1963 and 1964.

    The talented guard also finished eigth in the 1964 Heisman voting, a very big achievement for a lineman.

27. Bob Gain, Kentucky OL

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    Bob Gain dominated on both sides of the ball, playing offensive and defensive line.

    He was a three time All-SEC selection and two-time All-American pick.

    Gain was the first SEC lineman to win the Outland trophy.

    When Gain was a starter, Kentucky won three straight SEC Championships, the only time that has happened for Kentucky.

26. Doug Atkins, Tennessee DL

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    One of the meanest and hardest playing players in SEC history, Doug Atkins was a big 6'8", 280 and played with lots of emotion.

    Atkins and the 1951 Volunteers won the National Championship.

    He was originally recruited to Tennessee to be a basketball player, but ended up an All-American football player.

25. Champ Bailey, Georgia DB

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    The dynamic Georgia defensive back, Champ Bailey made a big impact in the SEC.

    He played on both sides of the ball, producing at wide receiver and defensive back.

    Bailey played an amazing 957 plays.

    In 1998, he racked up 52 tackles and three interceptions and added over 1,000 yards of total offense.

    He won the Bronko Nagurski award as the nation's top defensive back in 1998.

24. Eli Manning, Ole Miss QB

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    Eli manning followed in his father and brother's footsteps as a prolific Manning QB.

    He passed for an impressive 10,119 passing yards and 81 touchdown passes in his Ole Miss career.

    In 2003, he won the Maxwell award as the nation's top offensive player and finished third in the Heisman voting.

23. Charley Trippi, Georgia RB

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    Charley Trippi played both running back and quarterback for Georgia.

    He ran for 672 yards and passed for 567 yards in Georgia's 1942 national championship season.

    He was a two time All American and won the Maxwell award in 1946, after a break from football, for war, in 1945.

    In 1945 and 1946, he comined for 39 total touchdowns.

22. Patrick Willis, Ole Miss LB

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    Patrick Willis started four seasons at Ole Miss and made an impact right out of the gate, as he started all 13 games his freshman season.

    In his Ole Miss career, Willis racked up over 250 tackles and over 30 tackles for a loss.

    He won the Dick Butkis award for the nation'd best linebacker in 2006.

    He was the leader of the Rebel defense and won SEC defensive player of the year in '06 and '07.

21. Shaun Alexander, Alabama RB

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    Shuan Alexander played as a freshman and contributed to the Bama offense for four seasons.

    He was limited a bit because of injury in his senior season, but was able to amaze an impressive 3,565 rush yards in his Alabama career.

    Alexander played a key role in Alabama's SEC Championship in 1999.

20. Mark Ingram, Alabama RB

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    Mark Ingram playes at Alabama for three seasons and made an impact in each.

    He scored 12 touchdowns as a freshman and ended his Alabama career with over 4,000 total yards and 42 touchdowns.

    He won the Heisman trophy in 2009.

19. Darren McFadden, Arkansas RB

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    Running back Darren McFadden played in a dangerous offense and was a dangerous college back.

    He gained over 4,700 total yards and a very solid 51 touchdowns in his Arkansas career.

    McFadden won the Doak Walker Award two years in a row, was selected as the Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Year by SEC coaches and was awarded the Walter Camp Award, given to the nation's best overall player.

    He finished second in the SEC two straight seasons in 2006 and 2007.

18. Steve Spurrier, Florida QB

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    Steve Spurrier is a famous college coach, but he was also a solid college football player.

    Spurrier threw for 4,848 yards and 36 touchdowns in his career.

    He also could run, and rushed for over 400 yards from the quarterback position.

    He sealed the 1966 Heisman trophy with a game-winning field goal as time expired against Auburn.

    He was also a first team All-American selection in 1965 and 1966.

17. Billy Cannon, LSU RB

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    Billy Cannon was a 6'1", 210-pound running back with power and speed.

    He also played linebacker and was a sure tackler and one of the best defenders in the country.

    In his LSU career, he gained 1,867 yards rushing, 522 yards receiving, 965 yards returning kicks and led the Tigers in tackles.

    He led LSU to a national title in 1958, and he won the Heisman in 1959.

16. Pat Sullivan, Auburn QB

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    Pat Sullivan was a dynamic quarterback that could run and pass.

    He threw for a big 6,284 yards and 53 touchdowns as an Auburn Tiger.

    He also ran for 18 touchdowns in his career.

    Sullivan won the Heisman in 1971 and was a first team All-American selection.

15. Derrick Thomas, Alabama LB

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    Derrick Thomas is one of the most disruptive defender in SEC history.

    He is the all-time sack leader in the SEC, with an impressive 52 QB sacks in his college career.

    Thomas won the Butkis Award and finished 10th in Heisman voting in 1988.

    He was a first-team All-American and All-SEC selection.

14. Don Hutson, Alabama WR

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    Don Hutson is a legendary football player.

    He is known as the father of the the modern pass route, as he created forward offense from his split end position.

    Hutson led Alabama to the 1934 national championship.

13. Reggie White, DL Tennessee

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    Reggie White played defensive end and defensive tackle in college and was a strong pass rusher from either position.

    White was the most feared linebacker in football.

    He had 32 sacks in his career to go along with 19 tackles for a loss.

    He was an emotional leader on and off the field and was named first-team All American and SEC Player of The Year in 1983.

12. Archie Manning, Ole Miss QB

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    Archie Manning played for a poor Ole Miss squad and had little talent around him. However, he could run and pass and made the Rebels competitive.

    He threw for 4,753 yards and 31 touchdowns and ran for 823 yards and 25 touchdowns in his Ole Miss career.

    He was a hard worker and leader and willed his way to success, leading to two All-American selections in 1969 and 1970.

11. Cornelius Bennett, Alabama LB

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    Cornelius Bennett was an athletic and quick linebacker that had a habit of making big plays.

    Bennett racked up a big 287 tackles in his career and added 21.5 sacks.

    He was a three time All-American and finished seventh in Heisman voting in 1986.

10. Emmitt Smith, Florida RB

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    Emitt Smith did not play on a very good Florida team and had to take the Gator offense on his shoulders in most games.

    Under these constraints, he still compiled a stat sheet that had over 4,000 total yards and 36 touchdowns.

    He had an impressive 23 games of 100 yards or more rushing in his college career.

    Smith earned All-American honors in 1989.

9. Frankie Sinkwich, Georgia RB

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    Frankie Sankwhich was nicknamed "Flatfoot Frankie," and he was a dynamic player.

    He was a top running back and a top quarterback. He passed for 30 touchdowns and rushed for 30 touchdowns in his Georgia career.

    He ran for 2,271 yards and passed for 2,331 yards during that span.

    In 1942, he won the Heisman trophy and led the Bulldogs to a national title.

8. Peyton Manning, Tennessee QB

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    Peyton Manning was one of the more prolific quarterbacks in college history.

    Tennesse was 39-5 with Manning as a starter, making him the all-time winningest SEC quarterback.

    He threw for 11,201 yards, and a ridiculous 89 touchdowns in his college career.

    Manning won the Walter Camp Award and was a first team All-American in 1997. He also finished second in the Heisman voting.

7. Danny Wuerffel, Florida QB

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    Danny Wuerffel had incredible numbers as a quarterback and had the trophies and wins, too.

    He threw for an impressive 10,875 yards and 114 touchdowns. Yes, 114 touchdowns.

    Wuerfell lead Florida to two national title matchups in a row and won the national championship in 1996.

    He was a two time All-American and won the 1996 Heisman Trophy.

6. John Hannah, Alabama OL

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    John Hannah is widely regarded as one of the best offensive lineman to ever play the game.

    "Hawg" Hannah was first team All American in 1972 and won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the best blocker in the conference.

    While it is tough to rank a lineman against other positions, anyone who saw Hannah play would agree that he belongs near the top of any list.

5. Lee Roy Jordan, Alabama LB

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    Lee Roy Jordan was hailed by legendary coach Paul Bear Bryant as "one of the finest football players the world has ever seen."

    He played on both sides of the ball and dominated at each position.

    For example, in an Orange Bowl game against Oklahoma in 1963, Jordan graded out 100 percent at Center and made 31 tackles on defense.

    He was an All-American and at both positions in his college career.

4. Bo Jackson, Auburn RB

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    "Bo Knows" became a popular slogan for Nike after Bo Jackson made a name for himself as a powerful and fast running back at Auburn.

    The 6'1", 220 back was big and fast, making him a nightmare for opposing defenders.

    He rushed for a big 4,303 yards and 43 touchdowns in his Auburn career.

    Jackson won the 1985 Heisman and was a two time All-American selection.

3. Cam Newton, Auburn QB

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    Cam Newton led Auburn to the National Championship in 2010 and won the Heisman trophy along the way.

    The big and powerful quarterback threw for 2,908 yards with 30 passing touchdowns and ran for 1,586 yards and scored 24 rushing touchdowns in his career.

    In 2011, he had an insane 4,291 total yards and 50 total touchdowns in one season.

    Clearly one of the more dominant players in college football history, not just the SEC.

2. Tim Tebow, Florida QB

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    Tim Tebow is one of the most dangerous dual threat quarterbacks in the history of college football.

    He passed for 9,286 yards and a huge 88 touchdowns and ran for an additional 2,947 yards and 57 touchdowns in his prolific Gator career.

    Tebow won the Heisman Trophy in 2007, and the Gators won the national title during his freshman and junior seasons (2006 and 2008).

1. Herschel Walker, Georgia RB

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    Herschel Walker led Georgia to an undefeated season and a national championship in his 1980 freshman season.

    Georgia won three SEC titles and went 33-3 in Walker's three seasons as a Bulldog.

    He gained an impressive 5,259 yards and scored 52 touchdowns in three years.

    That is an ridiculous average of 159 yards per ball game. One of the main reasons that the big and fast 6'2", 230 pound back is in the college football Hall of Fame and tops my list of best players in SEC history.

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