2013 SEC Position Rankings: Secondary

USA TODAY Sports

How do the defensive backfields stack up in the SEC this season? Here's what I think.

1. Alabama -- Haha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri highlight what should again be the top DB unit in the SEC. Even after losing Robert Lester and Dee Milliner, this unit should again be really good with Clinton-Dix, Sunseri, Deion Blue, and Landon Collins.

2. Florida -- Athletically, Florida's cornerback duo of Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy may be the best pair not just in the SEC, but in the country. Although I gave Alabama the slight nod because of a slightly better overall defensive backfield, this set of Florida DBs is not to be trifled with either. Throw in Jaylen Watkins at safety, and this unit could easily improve from what was the fourth best SEC pass defense in 2012.

3. Vanderbilt -- Yep, that does say Vanderbilt way up there, and the main reason why they are way up here in these rankings is because of the man pictured above, Andre Hal. Hal and company registered as the third-best passing defense in the SEC last season, giving up just under 192 yards per game. His return, coupled with the return of Kenny Ladler at Safety, gives the 'Dores a strong nucleus of returning talent for one of the SEC's best in 2012.

4. LSU -- Eric Reid and Tharold Simon are gone from the 2012 edition of the Tigers, but as is the usual, LSU has five stars stacked up behind those five stars. Up step Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins, who were both thrust into the spotlight a bit early last year after the dismissal of Tyrann Matheiu. The Jalens are joined by All-SEC safety Craig Loston, which should give a strong base for what will again be one of the stronger units in the SEC. You can also almost guarantee that there will be someone in that set of DBs that comes out of nowhere this year to shine. That's an LSU tradition.

5. Georgia -- This is probably my biggest reach in these rankings, as the Bulldogs lost a good bit from last year's second best pass defense in the SEC. However, Damian Swann and Tray Matthews are back, along with what looks to be a ton of promising young talent around them. Can that young talent step up to fill the voids left by Sanders Commings, Bacarri Rambo, and others? We will find out very early on, week one in fact, just how good or bad this unit is, as they open against Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and the Clemson Tigers.

6. Ole Miss -- As much as it pains me to say this as a MSU fan, this unit might be one of the most improved in 2013. Now that statement may depend on the eligibility of Nick Brassell, but even without him, Ole Miss returns plenty of experience to defend against the pass in 2013. Charles Sawyer, Cody Prewitt, Trae Elston, and Senquez Golson give Ole Miss a strong foundation, and if this unit that was really good in spurts last year can grasp that result on a more consistent basis, then we might see Ole Miss have the type of season that everyone is talking about as a possibility.

7. Texas A&M -- 2012 wasn't a great year for the Aggie DBs, as they gave up over 250 yards a game, good enough for 12th in the SEC. The good news though was that they had some guy named Johnny Manziel on the other side, so it didn't really matter (see: 2012 MSU game). The talent is there for the Aggies with guys like De'Vante Harris, Deshazor Everett, and Tony Hurd Jr.; the question going into this fall will just be if they can, like Ole Miss, take the talent and translate it to better results in 2013.

8. South Carolina -- Of course when you think South Carolina defense, you think Jadaveon Clowney and probably nothing else. But the truth is that Clowney didn't do it alone in 2012, and the secondary could be considered a crucial part of the Gamecock's defensive success. The DB unit did lose a few key pieces, but talent returns aplenty.

9. Auburn -- Before you gash me on this one, hear me out. I like Ellis Johnson a lot, and his defense at South Carolina was ranked in the top two in pass defense three out of his four years there. Sure, Auburn was abysmal last year, but their pass defense wasn't that bad, finishing in the middle of the pack in the SEC. That unit returns a lot of players too, including Mississippi native Jermaine Whitehead. Ellis Johnson and an experienced unit could see Auburn finish higher than this this year, without a doubt.

10. Mississippi State -- This is actually a quite ambitious ranking for a unit that lost both of its starting corners to the NFL Draft and a starting safety as well. However, State does return Nickoe Whitley, who will be looked to as a leader for this unit. The Bulldogs also bring in Justin Cox, who should/could be an immediate impact guy. Jamerson Love I think will be better than expected, but in reality both starting corner spots are a wide open race, seemingly. This could go up or go way down, and we should/could find out in week one with a match-up against pass-happy Oklahoma State.

11. Missouri -- Missouri does have E.J Gaines, one of the better cover corners in the SEC, but there isn't much else that shows promise after that.

12. Arkansas -- A unit that was pretty bad -- the worst, actually, in the SEC in 2012 -- looks like it may be near the bottom again in 2013. They do return all of their starters, which is promising, but it may be a mountain to climb for them to prove that they can be better than last year.

13. Tennessee -- When the second worst passing defensive unit returns very few starters, you wonder how they could avoid being ranked at the bottom of this list. The answer is that Kentucky is in the SEC, and the 'Cats return hardly anyone, so they edge out the Vols for the bottom spot. Tennessee lost Daniel Gray and Eric Gordon (Jamont's brother) this spring, leaving them with 13 defensive backs on the roster, but only five with cornerback experience. That could make for an interesting year with little experience and a brand new coaching staff and system, not to mention a schedule that includes Oregon, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama.

14. Kentucky -- I do believe Mark Stoops is going do well at Kentucky, but rebuilding takes time. Please remember that this season, Kentucky.

My Top 5 SEC Defensive Backs:

1. HaHa Clinton-Dix, Alabama

2. Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida

3. Andre Hal, Vanderbilt

4. Deion Belue, Alabama

5. Marcus Roberson, Florida

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