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The SEC's 25 best players: No. 18

The No. 18 guy on our countdown was the only semblance of experience in the Alabama secondary when the 2010 season began and helped to hold that group together.

No. 18: Mark Barron, S, Jr., Alabama

2010 numbers/honors: Led Alabama with 75 total tackles and also had three interceptions and nine passes defended. A first-team All-America selection by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and second-team All-America selection by the Associated Press. A consensus first-team All-SEC selection.

Preseason ranking: Ranked No. 16 on the 2010 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Barron: Much more than just a playmaker in Alabama’s inexperienced secondary last season, Barron had to wear a multitude of hats. He corrected mistakes both before and after the snap and was an extension of the Alabama coaching staff on the field. One of the better tacklers in the SEC, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Barron is as complete a safety as you’re going to find. He’s terrific in run support, can also cover and is equally adept at coming on the blitz. Barron finished fourth among defensive backs in league games with 62 tackles and also ranked among the leaders in league games with six passes defended. Barron’s real value is that he hits like a linebacker, but is skilled enough to matchup with receivers in coverage. He tore his pectoral muscle in the regular-season finale against Auburn and missed the bowl game after undergoing surgery. Throughout much of the season, Barron was being pegged as a possible NFL first-round draft choice, but elected to stay in school for his senior season following the surgery.

The rundown

No. 19: Florida CB Janoris Jenkins

No. 20: Mississippi State LB Chris White

No. 21: LSU RB Stevan Ridley

No. 22: Mississippi State OT Derek Sherrod

No. 23: Alabama DE Marcell Dareus

No. 24: Kentucky LB Danny Trevathan

No. 25: Alabama LB Courtney Upshaw