AggieYell.com's breakdown of the top players in the SEC nears its conclusion with a look at the top cornerbacks in the conference for 2013.
1) Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
2) Damian Swann, Georgia
3) Deshazor Everett, Texas A&M
4) Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
5) Marcus Roberson, Florida
6) Jalen Collins, LSU
7) Jimmy Legree, South Carolina
8) Victor Hampton, South Carolina
9) Jalen Mills, LSU
10) EJ Gaines, Missouri
How could a player with zero career interceptions be the best corner in the SEC -- and he may not even start? Purifoy is an exceptional case, as he's usually not thrown at but still makes plays (51 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 5 passes defensed and one blocked punt in 2012). He also plays wide receiver for the Gators, who are desperate for playmakers. Florida's defensive back corps will be loaded in 2013, and Purifoy's the best of the bunch.
Statistically speaking, Swann has a serious case to make as the conference's elite corner. He had 53 tackles, four interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a pair of sacks last year in 14 games, saving his best for the SEC Championship and the Capital One Bowl.
As A.J. McCarron can attest, Everett was a guy quarterbacks were wise to throw away from last year. In his first season as a starter, he racked up 56 tackles, 3.5 TFL, two interceptions, one touchdown return, seven pass breakups and nine passes defensed. By the end of the year, he'd proven he was an elite SEC corner and should be the best the Aggies have had at the position in a while in 2012.
Hal (48 tackles, 2 INT, 14 passes defensed) was a second-team All-SEC selection last year and should merit the same consideration this year. Roberson was one of the most-recruited corners in the nation two years ago and he showed why, tying for second in the SEC with 14 passes defensed while only starting four games. He should join Purifoy as the latest in the long line of UF shutdown corners.
Collins was a freshman All-SEC selection last year while only starting one game -- but he could have been the difference in that game, the win against A&M, as he came up with a key interception. He'll start this year, and should easily top his numbers of 30 tackles, 6 passes defensed and a pair of picks.
South Carolina has one of the better corner combinations in the country this year with redshirt senior Legree (44 tackles, 3 INT, 6 pass breakups) and Hampton (40 tackles, 1 INT, 6 pass breakups) making up one of the bigger, more physical and experienced pairings in the nation.
Mills had a fine season last year, starting all 13 games and racking up 57 tackles and a pair of INTs. He'll be back in his starting role this year. Gaines made the best of a bad situation in a weak secondary last year, racking up 74 tackles, one interception, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He'll be the best player in the Tigers secondary again for his senior season.
3) South Carolina
4) Texas A&M
7) Ole Miss
13) Mississippi State
The Gators are as loaded at corner as anyone in the nation. Adding Vernon Hargreaves III, possibly the nation's top corner in the 2013 class, is just adding to an already potent group. LSU's doing a little bit of rebuilding, but will start a pair of all-conference caliber corners and has their usual ton of talent.
South Carolina has a quality duo starting for them as well, and they're really experienced -- one is a senior, the other a redshirt senior. Depth is a bit of an issue for them, though. The Aggies have a budding star in Everett, a very strong cover corner in Devante Harris and the best nickel corner in the conference in Toney Hurd Jr., but needs to find some more answers when it comes to reserves.
Alabama gets back starter Deion Belue, who was solid last year, but they're still looking for options to replace star Dee Milliner, who left a year early. UGA is in a similar situation with Swann returning, but questions elsewhere. Ole Miss, on the other hand, returns two starters and several significant backups, but needs to play a lot better than they did last year when they were frequently torched.
Kentucky had a very young cornerback corps last year that is now a year older, and has added some depth from the JUCO ranks. Auburn returns a lot of younger players and their new coaching staff appears to think they'll be much better this year -- but they weren't good last year and picked off all of one pass in 2012. Missouri lacks talent beyond Gaines; Mississippi State has to find replacements for both corners and Tennessee was flat-out atrocious in pass defense last season.
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