Chris Stephens

One Man's Preseason All-SEC Team

Created on Aug. 29, 2013 2:11 AM EST

The Southeastern Conference is no doubt the toughest football conference in the nation.

After having won the last seven national championships, and nine of 15, there's no question as to which conference is favored to come out on top once again.

But who are the top players in the conference?

Here's a look at one person's preseason All-SEC team:


Quarterback: A.J. McCarron, Alabama

This is probably one of the more debated topics this preseason, especially considering Johnny Manziel is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. However, McCarron has won the last two national championships and is more than just a game manager. Look for him to really show out this year.

Running Back: Todd Gurley, Georgia

As a freshman, Gurley showed what he could do on the big stage. While he still will share time in the backfield with Keith Marshall, there's little debating who the top running back is in the SEC.

Running Back: T.J. Yeldon, Alabama

Yeldon comes as a close second as far as running backs are considered. He can bust it inside or get to the corner to make defenses pay. With Eddie Lacy gone to the NFL, it's his show in Tuscaloosa.

Wide Receiver: Amari Cooper, Alabama

Cooper has the best skill set of receivers in the SEC. He catches almost anything near him and he can sprint by a corner for a long touchdown grab. With the maturation of McCarron, Cooper will see more success as well.

Wide Receiver: Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

Matthews doesn't get a lot of credit because he goes to Vanderbilt, but the kid is as good as they come in the SEC. He caught 94 balls for 1,323 yards last year, saving three of his best performances for South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Tight End: Arthur Lynch, Georgia

When properly used, Lynch can be just as much of a threat as any receiver the Bulldogs have. While he didn't catch more than three passes in any game last year, Lynch looks ready to take the next step as a tight end.

Offensive Lineman: Ja'Wuan James, Tennessee

One of the more underrated linemen in the SEC, James mans the right tackle spot like none other in the SEC. He has the experience along the line that should help the Vols have a more successful passing game this year, giving quarterbacks time to throw in the pocket.

Offensive Lineman: Chris Burnette, Georgia

When it comes to smarts in college football, there aren't many who have a higher IQ (book and football) than Burnette. He's also one of 10 finalists for the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award.

Offensive Lineman: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M

Matthews is a better prospect at left tackle than former teammate Luke Joeckel. Now that's saying something. This is his first year on the left side, but the way he dominated the right the last three years, he should have no problem with the transition.

Offensive Lineman: Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama

Fact ... Kouandjio has a body-fat percentage of 16 percent. Fact ... Kouandjio is a major reason why McCarron isn't on the turf more often. Fact ... this guy will eat you for dinner.

Offensive Lineman: Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State

Jackson didn't give up a sack at all in 2012 and is an absolute bulldozer when it comes to the running game. Some project this kid as a Top-20 pick in next year's NFL Draft.


Defensive Lineman: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

Does this one really have to be explained?

Defensive Lineman: Anthony Johnson, LSU

When he came out of high school, Johnson was pegged as the best defensive tackle prospect in the country. Now with the chance to be a starter full-time, Johnson is out to prove that peg wasn't a fluke. His explosiveness has the ability to really disrupt running games, forcing running backs to think a little more in the backfield.

Defensive Lineman: Chris Smith, Arkansas

Smith joins Clowney as the only two SEC players with at least nine sacks in 2012. He also had 52 tackles, including 13.5 for loss. I like what he's able to do, but Arkansas' struggles seem to take away from admiring the work he does on the field.

Defensive Lineman: Dominique Easley, Florida

Easley is my surprise pick for the defensive line, but there's so much to like about this kid. Easley isn't your prototypical defensive tackle, but he's quick and strong. Those are the makings for a great player at the next level.

Linebacker: C.J. Mosley, Alabama

Moseley was a first-team All-American last year and a finalist for the Butkus Award (top linebacker). He has a knack for getting to the ball and making offensive players sorry they had it in their hands.

Linebacker: Denzel Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

The older brother of last year's overall No. 1 recruit Robert Nkemdiche, Denzel is making a name for himself without his brother's aid. He totaled 83 tackles last year and should hit triple-digits this year.

Linebacker: Jordan Jenkins, Georgia

Jenkins takes over the spot vacated by Jarvis Jones, who left for the NFL. That outside linebacker spot is set up to have success as the player occupying it is all over the field during the game. He'll get chances to rush the passer, drop back in coverage and come up to support the run. The only question is, will he live up to the legacy that Jones left?

Defensive Back: Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama

Easily the best name in the SEC, Clinton-Dix also is the best defensive back in the conference. He totaled five interceptions last year and will be the Tide's lockdown corner this year.

Defensive Back: Damian Swann, Georgia

Swann is another player I think is underrated. His two interceptions against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl showed his capabilities.

Defensive Back: Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida

Purifoy is a guy that can knock the crap out of you if you catch a ball on him. He can tackle, cover man-to-man and rush off the edge, making him a triple-threat on defense.

Defensive Back: E.J. Gaines, Missouri

Gaines is a big-time corner who gets lost on a sub-par Missouri team. Still, he can cover and tackle, which is essential in the ever-evolving game. Each week, he'll be assigned to other team's No. 1 receivers, giving him a chance to prove he is one of the best corners in the league.

Special Teams

Kicker: Cody Parkey, Auburn

The Auburn offense should be much-improved from last year, which means Parkey will get more opportunities to kick. His career long is 46 yards, but he has the ability to hit from 50-yards out.

Punter: Kyle Christy, Florida

Christy averaged 45.8 yards per punt last year and has been named to the Ray Guy Award preseason watch list for 2013.

Returner: Odell Beckum Jr., LSU

I equate Beckum to Tyrann Mathieu. He's going to make you miss one way or another and can change the momentum in a game.

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