Jean-Francois heads SEC's top defensive players

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

No disagreements on the top 10 offensive players in the SEC, right? OK, let's move on to defense. You might be surprised at who's No. 1 and No. 2 on our list. You won't be, though, at season's end.

Defensive Players

1. Ricky Jean-Francois, DT, LSU: His performance in the BCS national championship game last season was just a glimpse. He's moving inside to tackle, where he'll be a terror against both the run and pass.

2. Sen'Derrick Marks, DT, Auburn: Moved back to tackle this spring after playing end last season. Similar to Jean-Francois, Marks is one of those disrupters who can rush the passer from the interior and stuff the run.

3. Greg Hardy, DE, Ole Miss: One of the best pure pass-rushers in the SEC, Hardy gets a clean slate with Houston Nutt after staying in Ed Orgeron's doghouse last season. He still finished with 10 sacks.

4. Eric Berry, S, Tennessee: The best defensive back prospect at Tennessee since Deon Grant, Berry can play both cornerback and safety and he's fearless when it comes to taking on a ball-carrier.

5. Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida: He's what everybody's looking for in a middle linebacker with terrific tackling skills and great speed. Finished second in the SEC last season with 131 total tackles.

6. Rolando McClain, S, Alabama: Along with Berry, McClain is the best sophomore defender in the league. At 255 pounds, his blend of size, speed and instincts make him almost impossible to block.

7. Derek Pegues, S, Miss. State: Maybe the best all-purpose defensive player in the league. Pegues can play cornerback and safety and also excels on special teams. Scored touchdowns on interceptions and punt returns last season.

8. Darry Beckwith, LB, LSU: One of the cornerstones of what should be the best defense in the league. Beckwith has battled knee injuries during his career, but is still one of the SEC's most dynamic defenders.

9. Antonio Coleman, DE, Auburn: Didn't even start until the middle of the season last year, but still led the Tigers and was fourth in the SEC with 18.5 tackles for loss. A quarterback's worst nightmare coming off the edge.

10. Jasper Brinkley, LB, South Carolina: Brinkley's stock might have dropped some after blowing out his knee last season, but he insists he's all the way back and ready to prove that he's still one of the SEC's best linebackers.

In closing: It was difficult to leave South Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlyn off this list. He's probably the best cover corner in the league. If LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson returns to his 2006 form, he'll quickly find his way on to this list.