The SEC's best 25 players: No. 9

The next player in our countdown of the SEC's best 25 players has a mean streak and shed a lot of weight to be able to run a 4.7 40-yard dash while carrying nearly 300 pounds.

No. 9: Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU, Jr.

2012 summary: Johnson played in all 13 of LSU's games last year, starting three. He totaled 30 tackles, was third on the team with 10 tackles for loss and registered three sacks last year. He also had two quarterback hurries and broke up a pass.

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

Making the case for Johnson: There's a reason Johnson's nickname has stuck with him for so long. "The Freak" dominated the high school circuit with his athleticism and strength on his way to being the nation's No. 1 defensive tackle and the No. 2 overall player in the 2011 recruiting class. But it took him some time to adjust to the college level. Luckily for him, he had a plethora of people to help teach him the game, and he's only gotten better with age. Now, he's looking to be the first defensive tackle taken in next year's NFL draft. Chances are that if Johnson, who is currently projected to be a first-round pick, has a big year he won't stick around Baton Rouge for 2014. And no one would really blame him. He's lost nearly 40 pounds since his freshman year, making him more agile and quicker up front without losing the strength he values so much. Last year, he was able to be more of the disruptive player that coaches, fans and the media expected him to be from the start. But having to sit behind the likes of Michael Brockers and Bennie Logan helped him learn more about the game, making Johnson an even better player today. Johnson will be the centerpiece of LSU's rebuilt defensive line and with his speed back and his strength better than ever, Johnson should create a lot of chaos up front for the Tigers as both a run-stopper and pass-rusher.

The rundown