SDS is continually counting down the top 25 players in the SEC for 2012, and we’re not stopping until we get to that sexy No. 1. We don’t just rank stats or project players at the next level based on athletic superiority, but we rank players based on the season they had in 2012. I know you’ll agree with every single one…
No. 24 – Johnthan Banks, DB, Miss State
2012 Stats: 63 total tackles, two tackles for loss, four interceptions, seven pass breakups and one forced fumble
Why he’s worthy: The career of Mississippi State defensive back Johnthan Banks has been widely heralded, and rightfully so. The ‘12 Thorpe Award winner’s story is widely captivating, along with his 16 interceptions that set a new career mark at MSU. And specifically in 2012, he lived up to the hype once more, returning for his senior season to lead a veteran defense to post another eight-win season for Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs. He became the first consensus All-American at MSU since Fred Smoot in 2000.
Banks finished fourth on the team in total tackles and second to Darius Slay in interceptions with four. Banks’ 6-2, 190-pound lean and athletic body projects very well in the NFL as a lockdown cover corner, and specifically playing opposite of Slay, the two combined for what looked like arguably the best cover corner tandem in the SEC on one of the more underrated defenses in the league.
And heading into the Alabama game, there were serious talking heads in Mississippi State’s corner, even though they had yet to play a formidable opponent. That same week ESPN GameDay did a feature on Banks’ story as father, son and student athlete. And MSU’s defense was exposed against a legitimate offense in Alabama who won the game 38-7, as AJ McCarron threw for 235 yards and two scores. Ole Miss, too, exposed the Bulldogs’ secondary in the Egg Bowl, but not everything was Banks’ fault.
Nonetheless, Banks was stellar on the field as the nation’s top defensive back and Thorpe Award winner. He also returned 14 punts for 123 yards, too, and we all knew of his versatility on special teams.
Look for Banks to be taken on the first day of April’s NFL Draft.
Photo Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports