The SEC's best 25 players: No. 7

It's next to impossible to live up to the kind of hype this next guy in our countdown received coming out of high school, but he didn't disappoint as a freshman.

No. 7: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina, So.

2011 summary: After signing with the Gamecocks as the country's top-rated prospect, Clowney tied for seventh in the SEC with eight sacks as a freshman and tied for second with five forced fumbles. Clowney, who finished with 12 tackles for loss, was named the SEC Freshman of the Year by the league's coaches, and earned first-team Freshman All-America honors by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).

Most recent ranking: Not ranked in the 2011 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Clowney: Last season was just a taste for the 6-foot-6, 256-pound Clowney. He'll be better, even more explosive and much more prepared mentally for how opposing offenses will try to block him in 2012. That's bad news for everybody else in the SEC. Physically, Clowney is as good as it gets, and the Gamecocks plan to take full advantage of his many talents. Coach Steve Spurrier said they would move Clowney around this season, from end, to tackle, even to a linebacker position, in an effort to get him matched up one-on-one. That's because few players can handle Clowney one-on-one. He's powerful enough to play inside on certain downs, but what sets him apart is his burst off the line of scrimmage and ability to get to the quarterback. Clowney was able to rack up his numbers last season in a part-time role. Two of his forced fumbles led directly to touchdowns by Melvin Ingram, who was drafted 18th overall in April's NFL draft. As good as Ingram was, Clowney has a chance to be even better.

The Rundown

  • No. 25: Matt Elam, S, Florida, Jr.

  • No. 24: Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee, Jr.

  • No. 23: Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M, Sr.

  • No. 22: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama, Jr.

  • No. 21: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia, Jr.

  • No. 20: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M, Jr.

  • No. 19: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee, Jr.

  • No. 18: Jesse Williams, NG, Alabama, Sr.

  • No. 17: Bennie Logan, DT, LSU, Jr.

  • No. 16: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee, Jr.

  • No. 15: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas, Sr.

  • No. 14: Chris Faulk, OT, LSU, Jr.

  • No. 13: Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn, Jr.

  • No. 12: Eric Reid, S, LSU, Jr.

  • No. 11: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State, Sr.

  • No. 10: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia, Jr.

  • No. 9: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama, Sr.

  • No. 8: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU, Jr.