Ranking the SEC's safeties

July, 17, 2012
7/17/12
1:01
PM ET
Now that we've ranked the SEC's secondaries, it's time to take a look at the league's top cornerbacks.

Past rankings:
Here are our top 10 SEC safeties:

[+] EnlargeEric Reid
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesLSU safety Eric Reid has tremendous cover skills.
1. Eric Reid, Jr., LSU: He might be the league's best ball-hawking threat and he packs quite the punch. He had a knack for making all sorts of plays in LSU's secondary last year -- none bigger than his game-changing interception in the first game against Alabama. He tied for the team lead with 76 tackles, broke up three passes and intercepted two. Pro scouts love his ability to roam all around the field and his tremendous cover skills.

2. Bacarri Rambo, Sr., Georgia: He had a true breakout season last year and could have easily left for the NFL draft. The first-team All-American led the SEC and ranked second nationally with eight interceptions and was second in the SEC with 16 pass breakups. He takes the deep pass away, but is also very solid in defending the run and shorter passes.

3. Matt Elam, Jr., Florida: The headliner of Florida's defense, Elam found himself playing all over the field in 2011. He was second on the team with 78 tackles, but led the Gators with 11 tackles for loss, seven pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He loves contact, but also has improved his coverage skills and can line up at the nickel if needed.

4. Robert Lester, Sr., Alabama: Lester has had a solid career with the Tide so far. He notched an SEC-best eight interceptions in 2010 and flirted with leaving for the NFL after his junior season. He's moving to free safety, but has the speed and ability to play that rover position. He covers a lot of ground and can come in and play in the box as well.

5. D.J. Swearinger, Sr., South Carolina: His move from strong safety to free safety was a plus for the Gamecocks. He turned into a tremendous rover in South Carolina's defensive backfield and wasn't afraid to move closer to the line to hit people -- a lot of people. He's a proven playmaker and has no issues finding the ball, as he's registered 122 solo tackles in three seasons.

6. Charles Sawyer, Jr., Ole Miss: He led the Rebels with four interceptions last year, but he even admits that he should have had at least seven after dropping a few easy ones. Though he did breakup 13 passes. He's very quick with his movements and with the speed he possesses, he can cover a lot of ground in Ole Miss' secondary.

7. Nickoe Whitley, Jr., Mississippi State: If not for that ruptured Achilles tendon that cut his 2011 season short, Whitley would probably be higher on this list. In nine games last year, he racked up 34 tackles and four interceptions. He has that impressive ball-hawking ability that will take the deep ball away.

8. Shawn Williams, Sr., Georgia: He was a bit of an underrated talent last year because of the combination of Rambo and Brandon Boykin in Georgia's secondary, but Williams had a very solid 2011 season. He led the Dawgs with 72 tackles, forced a fumble, had two fumble recoveries, broke up six passes and had four interceptions. He's solid defending both the pass and the run.

9. Brian Randolph, So., Tennessee: Playing as a true freshman didn't seem to bother him, as he was an SEC All-Freshman selection, after playing in 12 games (eight starts) and getting time at both the nickel spot and at free safety. He enters the spring as the Vols' starting free safety and is primed to have a big second year.

10. Eric Bennett, Jr., Arkansas: The former high school quarterback hasn't had much of a problem playing defense in college. Last year, he started all 13 games at safety, after moving from cornerback during the spring, and finished the year with 74 tackles, three interceptions and three pass breakups.

Chris Low | email

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