Fans tab Menzie as most improved player

The race for who will emerge as the SEC's most improved player in 2011 was a close one.

In the end, the fans agreed with Alabama coach Nick Saban and selected senior cornerback DeQuan Menzie in our SportsNation poll.

Saban told me during the spring that Menzie had really blossomed and was playing outstanding football. The fact that Menzie was even on the field last fall was amazing. He recovered from a torn Achilles tendon after signing with the Crimson Tide out of junior college and started in seven games.

The injury limited Menzie's practice time in the fall, so the Alabama staff decided to use him almost exclusively in a nickelback role and not bog him down with cornerback duties as well. If this spring was any indication, the 6-foot, 200-pound Menzie is poised to be an every-down player at cornerback and showed signs that he could end up being one of the most complete cornerbacks in the league.

With more than 12,500 votes cast, Menzie received 28 percent of the votes by fans. In second place was LSU running back Spencer Ware, who had 22 percent of the vote. Georgia tight end Orson Charles and Tennessee receiver Da'Rick Rogers each collected 19 percent of the vote and Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley 13 percent.

And let's be honest here. The most improved player in 2011 could be somebody that comes completely out of nowhere. Former Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley wasn't on anybody's radar this time last year, and neither was Arkansas running back Knile Davis.

Some of the other possibilities mentioned by fans include Florida quarterback John Brantley, Florida defensive end Ronald Powell, Georgia defensive lineman Kwame Geathers, Arkansas safety Tramain Thomas, South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw and Auburn defensive end Corey Lemonier.

All good choices, but it looks like Menzie is the guy to beat in what should be a much improved Alabama secondary.