Qualfying statement: The following isn't a preseason all-SEC team, 2012 NFL Draft mock or power ranking of the league's top talent. It's a roll call for players who will play significant roles on teams that have a legitimate chance to dance in Atlanta come December.
Mark Barron leads a talented Alabama secondary.
1.] WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina: Two ways to defend Steve Spurrier's offense: 1.) Keep a safety over the top of Jeffery and lose a defender against running back Marcus Lattimore or 2.) play single coverage against the 6-foot-4 junior and put an extra guy in the box. Either way, the SEC's active leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns is going to make plays.
2.] OL Barrett Jones, Alabama: In an otherwise ordinary year for offensive linemen in the league, the versatile Jones ranks as a legitimate all-america candidate. Plug Jones in at any spot up front and he'd likely be an upgrade over the incumbent.
3.] RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: Forget about the fact that Lattimore has all the physical attributes you look for in a feature back. Most impressive were the intangibles -- patience and toughness, most notably -- he showcased as a true freshman in 2011.
4.] S Mark Barron, Alabama: If not for a pectoral injury sustained against Auburn late in the 2011 season, Barron would be wrapping up his first NFL training camp. Like Jones, Barron can play a number of positions, something he's asked to do when the Crimson Tide defense switches from its base and nickel looks to the dime package.
5.] QB Aaron Murray, Georgia: Despite an impressive redshirt freshman campaign, Murray will be the second-most talked about member of the UGA backfield in 2011. But that doesn't mean he won't be the most important piece of the offensive puzzle. With wide receiver AJ Green off to Cincinatti, Murray will be asked to lift the level of play for a largely unproven receiving corps.
6.] RB Trent Richardson, Alabama: Nothing serves as a true indicator of the Crimson Tide's success like the number of carries its running backs pile up over the course of a season. In 2009, Richardson and Mark Ingram combined for 416 totes as UA reeled of 14 straight wins on its way to the national title. In 2010, Ingram and Richardson combined for 270 carries and the duo spent New Year's in Orlando. A healthy Richardson is a good bet to get 300 total touches in 2011.
7.] DE Devin Taylor, South Carolina: Like Murray, Taylor will likely be overshadowed by a true freshman. And while Jadeveon Clowney may put up big numbers in 2011, having Taylor on the other side will likely have something to do with it. At 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, Taylor is a dead ringer for former UF defensive end Jarvis Moss.
8.] WR Greg Childs, Arkansas: With running back Knile Davis lost for the season, Childs, who is coming off a knee injury of his own, and the rest of the Hogs passing game will need to be as good as advertised. As dynamic as they are on the college level, it's hard to imagine Childs and fellow Razorback receiver Jarius Wright working together in the same high school offense.
9.] CB Morris Claiborne, LSU: As the "other" cornerback in the LSU secondary a season ago, Claiborne was a popular target among opposing quarterbacks. After posting six pass breakups and five interceptions in 2010, the junior won't be challenged as much this fall. And that means one half of the field will be closed.
10.] QB John Brantley, Florida: No other player on this list has more to prove. Unfortunately for the senior, he heads into his final season in Gainesville working with his third offensive coordinator in four years; a wide receiver corps in search of a No. 1 option and an offensive line that won't be anchored by a Pouncey. Other than that, the October run of Alabama, at LSU, at Auburn and Georgia in Jacksonville should be a breeze.
11.] DE Jake Bequette, Arkansas: Bobby Petrino's offense makes headlines but if he's going to make his way back to Atlanta, the Razorbacks' defense will need to continue to make strides. Heading into the season, offensive tackle doesn't appear to be a position of strength in the SEC, so guys like Bequette, who posted seven sacks in 2010, and Taylor should put up big numbers in 2011.
12.] RB Isaiah Crowell, Georgia: So will the five-star freshman be the next Herschel Walker or Jasper Sanks or somewhere in between? For now, Crowell is the biggest thing to come out of Columbus, Ga., since, well, Jasper Sanks. Beginning with the first offensive series against Boise State, Crowell will get every opportunity to do what Washaun Ealey and Caleb King couldn't: pick up the slack left behind by Knowshon Moreno.
Already have an account? Sign In