<
>

The SEC's top 25 players: No. 8

Another day, another Alabama player in our countdown.

No. 8: Mark Barron, S, Alabama, Sr.

Preseason rank: No. 7

2011 summary: Barron was second on Alabama's No. 1-ranked defense with 68 total tackles, including five for loss. He also had two interceptions. Barron was a consensus first-team All-American and a finalist for the Thorpe Award as the top defensive back in college football. He earned All-America mention in each of his last three seasons with the Crimson Tide.

Why he's here: Widely considered to be the best safety in the country, the 6-foot-2, 218-pound Barron was one of the centerpieces of an Alabama defense that finished the season ranked No. 1 nationally in all four major defensive statistical categories. He was the Tide's catalyst in the secondary, and when he wasn't making big plays, he was helping clean up mistakes or turning what looked like it might be a big gain for the opposing team into a minimal gain. Barron made 39 career starts at safety for Alabama and was the kind of player who made everybody around him better. He was a tremendous athlete and could have played a number of different positions in college, but also combined uncanny football instincts with that athletic ability to become the ideal safety in Alabama's 3-4 scheme. Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said he always felt good about his defense as long as Barron was on the field.