Ranking the SEC’s top 10 safeties of the BCS era


Related BCS Ranking:

Defensive secondaries have been loaded during the BCS era. The task of putting the best 10 cornerbacks together was monumental, and it doesn’t get any easier with the safeties. The last line of defense is one of the premier positions in the SEC.

Related: Ranking SEC safeties for 2013

Let’s get it…

1. Eric Berry, Tennessee (2007-09)
Skinny: Berry was one of the few five-star can’t-miss players to actually live up to the hype. He entered Tennessee as a corner, developed and left as one of the top safeties in the BCS era. He won the SEC Defensive Freshman of the Year and led all SEC freshmen with 86 tackles and posted 12 INTs for 487 yards in his first two years. He went on to have a fantastic three-year career as a unanimous All-American his sophomore and junior seasons, along with winning the Thorpe Award in 2009. Berry twice won the Tatum Trophy.

2. LaRon Landry, LSU (2003-06)
Skinny: LaRon ‘The Body’ Landry hit like a truck in the Tigers’ secondary, and you can add another defensive back to DB U’s resume. Landry was a four-year starter with 48 consecutive starts. He became a first-team All-American and a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award. He finished his career tied for No. 2 in school history with passes broken up (40) and No. 3 in INTs (12). He then became LSU’s highest draft pick in history at No. 6 overall.

3. Mark Barron, Alabama (2008-11)
Skinny: There are some parallels between Mark Barron and LaRon Landry. They were both signed as athletes by Nick Saban aimed to control the secondary as beefier safeties. Barron racked up 237 total tackles, five sacks, 22 break ups and 12 INTs during his four-year career. He was a two-time first-team All-American in 2010-11 and a three-time All-SEC performer in 2009-11. He helped Alabama win the 2009 and 2011 national championships.

4. Reggie Nelson, Florida (2005-06)
Skinny: Nicknamed the ‘Eraser’, Reggie Nelson erased Florida’s problems in the secondary. Nelson went the JUCO route before ultimately landing at Florida and immediately becoming a starter at free-safety. However, his best work came in 2006 when he became an All-SEC and All-American performer. He won the Tatum Award and the Vince Dooley Award, along with being a finalist for the Thorpe and Nagurski Awards. Nelson helped propel Florida to win the 2006 national championship.

5. Deon Grant, Tennessee (1997-99)
Skinny: Grant was one of the defensive heroes for the 1998 national championship team, and he blew into a consensus first-team All-American in ’99, nabbing nine INTs and 167 return yards. I can still see Grant’s one-handed INT that ultimately helped defeat Florida in overtime in ’98. Grant was a fantastic safety for the Vols.

6. Eric Reid, LSU (2010-12)
Skinny: Reid still stands as one of the SEC’s most athletic defensive backs to come through the BCS era. Reid became the first All-American at safety since Craig Steltz. In 2012, he finished third on the team in tackles with 91 and was the leader to the Tiger secondary that ranked among the nation’s best in points allowed and total yards.

7. Craig Steltz, LSU (2004-07)
Skinny: Steltz had a solid three-year career until he became one of the top safeties in the country in 2007. He led the Tigers with 101 tackles and led the SEC with six INTs, helping propel him to an All-American season and a Thorpe Award finalist. Steltz didn’t have the athleticism as every safety on this list, but he was a hard-nosed player who brought the hammer.

8. Rashad Johnson, Alabama (2005-08)
Skinny: No one knew Johnson would become an All-SEC safety when he walked on as a running back for Alabama. He made an impact early on special teams before moving to safety permanently. Johnson also was an All-American in 2008 and was a member of the Bama All-Decade team for the 2000s and was one of only eight Tide players in history to be named a captain twice.

9. Thomas Davis, Georgia (2002-04)
Skinny: Davis now plays outside linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, but he starred at safety for the Bulldogs. Davis earned second-team All-SEC honors after his sophomore season, but he became a first-team All-American in 2004. He recorded 272 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. Davis played with reckless abandon.

10. Jason Allen, Tennessee (2002-05)
Skinny: Allen was a three-year starter for the Vols who became a 2004 All-American and a Thorpe Award semifinalist. He was one of the more versatile defensive backs on the list and started 14 games at corner and 12 at safety. As a safety, Allen led the team with 123 tackles in ’04. Allen’s Tennessee career ended five games into his senior season when he suffered a dislocated hip against Georgia.



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