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The SEC's 25 best players: No. 16

We pick back up today with our countdown of the SEC’s 25 best players. No. 16 on the list is from Alabama, the first player so far from the defending national champions. It’s a safe bet he won’t be the last.

No. 16: Mark Barron, S, Jr., Alabama

2009 numbers: Led the SEC with seven interceptions, returning one of those 77 yards for a touchdown. Second on Alabama’s team with 76 tackles, including 3.5 for loss.

Most recent ranking: No. 27 on the 2009 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Barron: Simply, he’s the best safety in the SEC and will state his case in 2010 as one of the best safeties in all of college football. The 6-2, 210-pound Barron stepped in last season as the starting strong safety for the Crimson Tide and quickly established himself as a difference-maker on defense. Not only did he lead the league in interceptions, but he was second only to Rolando McClain on Alabama’s team in tackles. That’s what makes Barron so good. He has terrific ball skills and even better instincts. He’s accomplished enough as a coverage guy that he’ll probably play the “star” position in Alabama’s nickel defense next season. But he’s also a fierce hitter, physical enough and tough enough to take on anybody in run support. Barron was a consensus first-team All-SEC selection last season and earned third-team All-America honors by the Associated Press. Already, NFL scouts are targeting Barron as one of the most complete safeties in the country if he decides to come out. The Crimson Tide will have to lean on Barron more than ever next season in the secondary. He’s the only guy back in what will be one of the most inexperienced defensive backfields in the league.

The rundown

No.17: Darvin Adams, WR, Jr., Auburn

No. 18: Alshon Jeffery, WR, So., South Carolina

No. 19: D.J. Williams, TE, Sr., Arkansas

No. 20: Cliff Matthews, DE, Sr., South Carolina

No. 21: Clint Boling, OT, Sr., Georgia

No. 22: Greg Childs, WR, Jr., Arkansas

No. 23: Washaun Ealey, RB, So., Georgia

No. 24: Chris Marve, LB, Jr., Vanderbilt

No. 25: Luke Stocker, TE, Sr., Tennessee