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- Defensive Tackles
Above any other position, the SEC is known for putting defensive backs into the NFL. From Patrick Peterson and Champ Bailey to Carlos Rogers and Joe Haden, cornerback has been huge position of strength for the SEC throughout the BCS era.
Although the position may not have been as perceivably strong as previous years, there was still a bumper crop of great corners.
Here are the top 10:
1. Vernon Hargreaves, Florida (FR)
2. EJ Gaines, Missouri (SR)
Vernon Hargreaves was the SEC’s top freshman, and he was also the SEC’s top cornerback. Both Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy will be future NFL corners, but Hargreaves was better than both. He recorded 11 passes defended and three INTs in his first year. He’s a Patrick Peterson or Eric Berry-type talent…EJ Gaines was arguably Mizzou’s top defensive player, and as a senior, he helped lead one of the SEC’s top defenses. Gaines missed a couple games due to an injury, but he still recorded five INTs and three pass breakups. He may be Missouri’s toughest player to replace in 2014, and he has a future on Sundays.
3. Andre Hal, Vanderbilt (SR)
4. Victor Hampton, South Carolina (JR)
One of the most underrated defensive players in the SEC is Andre Hal. I actually had Hal pegged as the top corner entering the season, and he didn’t disappoint. Hal made 49 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss, and he also recorded three INTs, 15 breakups and 18 passes defended. Hal could surprise a lot of folks in the NFL…Victor Hampton was another corner who had a big-time season for South Carolina. Along with returning punts, Hampton recorded 51 tackles, nine pass breakups and three INTs. He left early for the draft, which may have not been the best option, but he’s going to be an impact player wherever he lands. Hampton is a little shorter than you’d like, but he makes up for it with his athleticism and instincts.
Gone to the league
5. Marcus Roberson, Florida (JR)
6. Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida (JR)
7. Chris Davis, Auburn (SR)
Marcus Roberson is the prototypical lockdown corner. He’s 6-1 with long arms and big frame, but he had a tougher time than others staying healthy. Roberson could have been one of the best corners in football had he been on the field more, and he only played in seven games. Nonetheless, this guy can cover anybody, and he made 11 tackles and three pass breakups…Loucheiz Purifoy is a player who scouts love because of his size and athleticism, but he was the third best corner on the team. Purifoy is known for his special teams impact, and he made seven pass breakups and two INTs. He had better numbers than Roberson, but he isn’t a better overall cornerback than Roberson when he’s healthy…Chris Davis will forever be remembered by the state of Alabama. His ‘Kick-Six’ return was the highlight of the college football season, but he isn’t a bad corner either. He led the team with 69 tackles, and he recorded 14 pass breakups and one forced fumble.
Round out the top 10
8. Deshazor Everett, Texas A&M (JR)
9. Jalen Mills, LSU (SO)
10. Jimmy Legree, South Carolina (SR)
Deshazor Everett finished fourth in tackles for Texas A&M’s defense, with 73. He also recorded two INTs, seven pass breakups and nine passes defended. Everett headlines a strong secondary returning for the Aggies in 2014…Jalen Mills is going to be a great player, but the youth caught up to the LSU secondary in 2013. Mills finished third on LSU with 67 tackles, and he also picked off three passes and recorded six passes defended. Mills looks like LSU’s next great corner, and both he and freshman fellow corner Tre’Davious White return…Jimmy Legree had a big season opposite Vic Hampton, finishing second on South Carolina’s team with 55 tackles, and he recorded three INTs, four pass breakups and one forced fumble. Legree was overshadowed by other defensive players, but he was quietly a big reason why the Gamecocks had another 11-win season.
Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports