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The SEC's best 25 players: No. 20

Our countdown of the SEC's top 25 players continues with the leading returning sack man in the league not named Jadeveon Clowney.

No. 20: Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas, Sr.

2012 summary: Smith ranked fourth in the SEC last season with 9.5 sacks. Of the league's returning players, only Clowney had more sacks. Smith had 13.5 tackles for loss to tie with fellow defensive end Trey Flowers for the Arkansas team lead. Smith finished with 52 total tackles to go along with 12 quarterback hurries, four pass breakups and one forced fumble.

Most recent ranking: Not ranked in the 2012 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Smith: Even though he racked up just under 10 sacks a season ago, Smith flew under the radar and didn't receive first- or second-team All-SEC honors from the Associated Press or the coaches. Something says he won't fly under the radar this season. Smith is a terror coming off the edge, and combines speed with a quick first step. He'll be surrounded by a veteran group up front this season for the Hogs, making it difficult for opposing teams to load up on him. Smith's size was the reason several schools shied away from him coming out of high school. But he's gone from 230 pounds when he arrived to 268, and is coming off a tremendous offseason. Still driven by the fact that he was overlooked by so many schools during the recruiting process, Smith also possesses that one quality all the great pass-rushers have: He never quits coming. What's more, he's developed a nice array of moves during his time in the league, and has everything it takes to become an elite player in 2013.

The rundown

  • No. 21: Jordan Jenkins, OLB, Georgia, So.

  • No. 22: Craig Loston, S, LSU, Sr.

  • No. 23: Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt, Sr.

  • No. 24: Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia, So.

  • No. 25: Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida, Jr.