The No. 9 player on our list of the SEC’s 25 best players was relatively unknown at this time a year ago. But not anymore.
No. 9: Pernell McPhee, DE, Sr., Mississippi State
2009 numbers: Recorded 56 tackles, leading the Bulldogs with 12 tackles for loss and five sacks.
Most recent ranking: No. 25 on the 2009 postseason countdown.
Making the case for McPhee: He’s one of those defensive ends who’s as hard on the running back trying to turn the corner as he is the quarterback dropping back to pass. Relentless in the way he plays the game, McPhee burst onto the scene last season in the SEC after coming over from junior college. It didn’t take him long to establish himself as one of the top defensive ends in the league. He earned second-team All-SEC honors from The Associated Press and the coaches. The 6-foot-4 McPhee has worked hard in the Bulldogs’ strength and conditioning program and is now up to 285 pounds. He hasn’t lost any of his burst off the edge, either, and could approach double digits in sacks in 2010. McPhee also fits nicely into first-year coordinator Manny Diaz’s aggressive style and admits he got by on instincts and talent last season. He thinks his increased knowledge of the game and extra film work on the people he’ll be going against will allow him to make even more big plays next season, or as McPhee says, “creating trouble in the backfield.”
No. 10: Jerrell Powe, NT, Sr., Ole Miss
No. 11: Trent Richardson, RB, So., Alabama
No. 12: Stephon Gilmore, CB, So., South Carolina
No. 13: Kelvin Sheppard, LB, Sr., LSU
No. 14: Randall Cobb, WR/QB, Jr., Kentucky