The SEC's 25 best players: No. 3

You get the feeling that the No. 3 guy in our countdown could line up just about anywhere on the field and be a star:

No. 3: Patrick Peterson, CB, Jr., LSU

2010 numbers/honors: Second on LSU’s team with four interceptions and 11 passes defended. Led the SEC in kickoff return average (29.1 yards per game) and punt return average (16.1 yards per game) and returned two punts for touchdowns. Peterson won the Bednarik Award as the top defensive player in college football and the Jim Thorpe Award as the top defensive back in college football. He was a consensus first-team All-American and a consensus first-team All-SEC selection.

Preseason ranking: Ranked No. 4 on the 2010 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Peterson: Try identifying a more explosive athlete in college football last season than Peterson. For that matter, try indentifying one the last several years. The 6-1 Peterson is pushing 220 pounds, runs in the low 4.3’s in the 40-yard dash and plays the cornerback position the way Eric Clapton plays the guitar. There simply aren’t many guys like that anywhere on the planet, and Peterson is one of the most complete cornerbacks to come through the SEC in years. Not only does he take away one side of the field in coverage, but he’s one of the better tacklers on the field and finished with 42 total tackles last season. He’s a guy that could easily play safety. Peterson added return responsibilities to his repertoire last season and quickly became the most feared return man in the SEC. He took two punts back for touchdowns and averaged nearly 30 yards on kickoff returns. Even though he didn’t play on offense, Peterson was fourth in the SEC with an average of 114.2 all-purpose yards per game. He also blocked a kick. LSU’s tradition is rich with great players, but Peterson will go down as one of the best (and most talented) to ever play on the Bayou.

The rundown

No. 4: South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery

No. 5: Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett

No. 6: Alabama WR Julio Jones

No. 7: Kentucky WR Randall Cobb

No. 8: South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore

No. 9: Georgia OLB Justin Houston

No. 10: Arkansas RB Knile Davis

No. 11: Georgia WR A.J. Green

No. 12: LSU DT Drake Nevis

No. 13: Auburn OT Lee Ziemba

No. 14: LSU LB Kelvin Sheppard

No. 15: South Carolina DE Devin Taylor

No. 16: Florida S Ahmad Black

No. 17: Arkansas TE D.J. Williams

No. 18: Alabama S Mark Barron

No. 19: Florida CB Janoris Jenkins

No. 20: Mississippi State LB Chris White

No. 21: LSU RB Stevan Ridley

No. 22: Mississippi State OT Derek Sherrod

No. 23: Alabama DE Marcell Dareus

No. 24: Kentucky LB Danny Trevathan

No. 25: Alabama LB Courtney Upshaw