The SEC's 25 best players: No. 23

The No. 23 player in our countdown had a red-hot November a year ago and put up some of the best freshman numbers in the league.

No. 23: Washaun Ealey, RB, So., Georgia

2009 numbers: Led Georgia in rushing with 717 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry and scoring three touchdowns.

Most recent ranking: Not ranked in preseason or postseason countdown for 2009.

Making the case for Ealey: Everybody knows who the leading returning rusher is in the SEC. That would be Alabama’s Mark Ingram, the Heisman Trophy winner from a year ago. But the second leading returning rusher in college football’s top defensive conference would be none other than Ealey, who as a freshman last season averaged 79.7 yards per game. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Ealey didn’t play until the season’s fifth game against LSU. He immediately pumped life into the Bulldogs’ running game and finished the season by averaging 105 yards rushing in his last five games. That’s despite starting just two games all season. Ealey torched Georgia Tech for 183 yards in the Bulldogs’ 30-24 victory over the Yellow Jackets to end the regular season. Georgia coach Mark Richt said Ealey will be in much better shape physically to start this season and has improved his speed from this time a year ago. One of the toughest guys to tackle in the league, Ealey will be looking to become only Georgia’s fourth 1,000-yard rusher since 1992.

No. 24: Chris Marve, LB, Jr., Vanderbilt

No. 25: Luke Stocker, TE, Sr., Tennessee