One of the more improved players in the SEC, this next guy had a breakout season in 2010 and checks in at No. 15 on our countdown:
No. 15: Devin Taylor, DE, So., South Carolina
2010 numbers/honors: Led South Carolina with 13 tackles for loss and 11 quarterback hurries and was second on the team with 7.5 sacks. His 7.5 sacks ranked him fourth in the SEC. A first-team All-SEC selection by the Associated Press and second-team All-SEC selection by the coaches.
Preseason ranking: Not ranked in the 2010 preseason countdown.
Making the case for Taylor: South Carolina’s defensive front was the best in the SEC last season when it came to rushing the passer and making life miserable for the opposing quarterback, and the 6-7, 245-pound Taylor was a big reason why. The Gamecocks led the league with 41 sacks, and Taylor had 7.5 of those sacks. Even more telling, all 7.5 came against SEC competition, which ranked Taylor second in the league only to Georgia’s Justin Houston, who had eight sacks against SEC foes. Also, Taylor had 12 of his tackles for loss against SEC competition, and only Auburn’s Nick Fairley and Houston had more. Taylor will return in 2011 as one of the best pass-rushers in the league, but he also has a knack for being around the ball in all situations. In the win over Tennessee last season, Taylor intercepted a pass and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown and also recovered two fumbles. And with his quickness coming off the edge, combined with his height and ridiculous wingspan, he’s one of those defensive ends that can wreck an entire offensive game plan.
No. 16: Florida S Ahmad Black
No. 17: Arkansas TE D.J. Williams
No. 18: Alabama S Mark Barron
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