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2014 SEC Preseason Football Position Rankings: Secondary

In a measure designed to help us all avoid the doldrums that are summer life without football, we – those that make up the SEC blogosphere here at SB Nation – will be voting once a week until football season, ranking the position groups for SEC football as we count down to the first weekend of the season. Our seventh position group ranking focuses on the last line of defense (no pun intended) on the defensive side of the ball -- the secondary.

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Our long national nightmare is nearly over: College football starts back next week!  And with the building excitement, I know you really want to get prepared for another season by finding out where your team's secondary ranks among the SEC's best (or worst).  We've worked our way through every position group so far except the secondary and QBs (they come next week), but if you've missed any so far make sure to check them out in the "more from FWtCT" section below.  Now let's find out whose safeties and cornerbacks rank the highest as we take a look at secondary rankings from SB Nation's SEC bloggers.

Ballot Posts: And the Valley ShookA Sea of BlueGarnet and Black AttackRed Cup Rebellion

1. Florida (Two First Place Votes, 1.75 Average)

Returning Starters/Contributors: Vernon Hargreaves III, Jalen Tabor
Our Thoughts:

-- This unit lost a lot of personnel to the NFL draft last season, but it's a testament to their depth for how good they'll be again this season. Led by arguably the best corner in the SEC Vernon Hargreaves III, the Gators will also return Brian Poole and Jabari Gorman. What UF needs is for another corner to emerge from one of its young, talented players. I'm betting that happens by midseason. (A Sea of Blue)

-- Vernon Hargreaves III isn't just the SEC's best cornerback, he's arguably the league's best defensive player, period. (Red Cup Rebellion)

-- They probably have the best CB in the conference, maybe the nation, and who cares what else. Florida's ranked top 6 in pass defense in the SEC, and top 20 nationally, every year since 2008. Change coaches, change personnel, doesn't seem to matter. (And the Valley Shook)

-- The Gators have the best corner in the league in Vernon Hargraves and a very experienced group of safeties. (Garnet and Black Attack)

Vernon Hargreaves III

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2. LSU (2.25 Average)

Returning Starters/Contributors: Ronald Martin, Tre'Davious White
Our Thoughts:

-- This squad is also loaded with talent. Jalen Collins looks to build on his excellent freshmen season at corner along with Rashard Robinson and Tre'Davious White. Ronald Martin returns at safety, and if Corey Thompson is healthy they'll be good in the back as well. If not, LSU can throw one of their inexperienced blue chips onto the field and coach them up. I'm sure they'd be fine by midseason. (A Sea of Blue)

-- White and Robinson are superstars in the making outside, and Jalen Mills was a stabilizing force for this unit once he moved back to safety. (And the Valley Shook)

-- As usual, this team has plenty of talent in the secondary and brought in a good recruiting class. It's shocking how well this school recruits defensive backs. (Garnet and Black Attack)

3. Ole Miss (Two First Place Votes, 3.0 Average)

Returning Starters/Contributors: Cody Prewitt, Tony Conner
Our Thoughts:

-- The Rebels return talent and experience. Cody Prewitt and Tony Conner are two of the best six or seven safeties in the league, and Prewitt lead the league in interceptions last season. Mike Hilton and Senquez Golden were aggressive cornerbacks last season that should have even stronger seasons this year. The rest of the back-ups return with the sole exception being a back-up nickel back. (A Sea of Blue)

-- Even with three season-ending injuries - safety Chief Brown and cornerbacks Carlos Davis and Tee Shepard - this is still a salty, experienced secondary. Brown and Davis, mind you, were never permanent starters, and Shepard is yet to play a down of SEC football, so their injuries rob this unit of some depth, but nothing proven or immediately valuable. All-American safety Cody Prewitt and his SEC-leading six interceptions from last season are back, as is freshman all-American safety Tony Conner. Senquez Golson and Derrick Jones, both starters from last year at corner, are back as well. Ole Miss will also use Anthony Alford, Trae Elston, Mike Hilton, and C.J. Hampton a lot in the rotation. (Red Cup Rebellion)

-- It's the Cody Prewitt show and not much else. Tony Conner looks to be very good, and they were decent in all phases last year, but nothing really screams to me here. (And the Valley Shook)

-- The Rebels arguably have the best two starting safeties in the league, led by Cody Prewitt. Talented and experienced group of defensive backs. (Garnet and Black Attack)

4. Alabama (3.75 Average)

Returning Starters/Contributors: Landon Collins, Nick Perry
Our Thoughts:

-- Cornerback was the team's weakness last season, and they lost their pair of starting safeties to the NFL. At most schools that's a harbinger of doom, but this is Alabama and they'll just reload and probably improve. (A Sea of Blue)

-- While uncharacteristically thin at corner, Alabama should have a fine secondary this season. Landon Collins is arguably one of the best safeties in the country, if not the best. (Red Cup Rebellion)

-- Bama is still awesome, though. Landon Collins is already a star, and he anchors a pretty tough unit that returns almost all of its talent. It's nearly impossible to throw on Bama. The loss of Clinton-Dix hurts, but there's a bunch of young studs ready to take over. (And the Valley Shook)

-- The Tide lose a ton of talent in the secondary, but they have a slew of uber-recruits ready to plug in for those players. (Garnet and Black Attack)

5. MSU (5.25 Average)

Returning Starters/Contributors: Taveze Calhoun, Jamerson Love
Our Thoughts:

-- This unit returns 8 of its top 11 contributors. Ridiculous. They were already second best in the country last season on passing downs despite being 78th Passing Downs Sack Rate. If Florida's youth doesn't pan out this unit jumps ahead in my mind. (A Sea of Blue)

-- Taveze Calhoun continues the tradition of oddly named and highly successful Bulldog defensive backs. (Red Cup Rebellion)

-- Not otherwise noteworthy, but they return a ton of experience, so should be a solid, middle of the pack unit. (And the Valley Shook)

-- As with most positions, MSU will have its most talented, experienced group in recent years at defensive back. Lots of returning talent. (Garnet and Black Attack)

6. Auburn (7.0 Average)

Returning Starters/Contributors: Jonathon Mincy, Jermaine Whitehead
Our Thoughts:

-- Auburn's secondary had a lot of issues last season (though, weirdly did alright against Florida State's number one offense last season), and lost three contributors from last season. That could be good or bad in the end. Auburn has two JUCO transfers coming in along with some highly-rated freshmen. Turnover could be good? Maybe? (A Sea of Blue)

-- Auburn gave up a lot of yards through the air last season, and I'm not sure that won't be the same this year, particularly with pass rusher Carl Lawson missing most (all?) of the year with an ACL injury. (Red Cup Rebellion)

-- Jonathan Mincy's status is a concern, but this unit was a bit better than it appeared due to the number of attempts they faced. I'm kind of curious to see how former big-time receiver prospect Trovon Reed transitions to corner. The schedule gives him some time to grow into the job. (And the Valley Shook)

-- Auburn's secondary was porous against the pass for much of last season, although it turned in a shockingly good first half against Florida St. before falling apart late in the game. Can Auburn channel that first-half energy into this year? (Garnet and Black Attack)

7. Tennessee (7.5 Average)

Returning Starters/Contributors: Cameron Sutton, Brian Randolph
Our Thoughts:

-- The secondary returns almost everyone including two year starters Justin Coleman and LaDarrel McNeal, and the other two starters also return. Coleman may not even end up starting if Moseley has indeed taken his spot. In any case, this unit has experience coupled with talent all backed up by even more talent. The back-ups will be young, but should be fine by midseason. (A Sea of Blue)

-- Cameron Sutton is a bright spot, but the Vols gave up 280-something yards a game last year through the air. (Red Cup Rebellion)

-- The Vols had a pretty good secondary last year and they return all four starters, but there's a pretty wide gap between the top three and the rest of the SEC. Cameron Sutton emerged as a freshman, and he's now the anchor of the unit. They allowed 211 yards/game and were just above average in pass defended percentage. It's a unit they can rely on. (And the Valley Shook)

-- The Vols return four starters from one of the league's worst secondaries from last year. Can the group take a big step forward this year? (Garnet and Black Attack)

T-8. Georgia (8.0 Average)

Returning Starters/Contributors: Damian Swann, Corey Moore
Our Thoughts:

-- Can a team that lost three secondary players to dismissals or transfers actually be better? I'm going to say they can. Damian Swann, Quincy Mauger, and Corey Moore all return to provide experience, and they'll be backed up by talented youth. I also tend to think Jeremy Pruitt is a better coach than Todd Grantham, and will coach this group up. (A Sea of Blue)

-- This was the unit that got Todd Grantham shipped off to Louisville. Only one starter returns for a new DC, but the Bulldogs have recruited too well for me to think they stay down too long. (And the Valley Shook)

-- The Dawgs lose Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews but have a reasonably talented group of players to put on the field. (Garnet and Black Attack)

T-8. South Carolina (8.0 Average)

Returning Starters/Contributors: Brison Williams, Chaz Elder
Our Thoughts:

-- Two really great safeties but this unit lost three of its cornerbacks. No doubt the roster has talented individuals to back-fill, but they will be inexperienced and may be forced to start early. That issue may be compounded with the loss of three starting defensive linemen including Mr. Clowney. (A Sea of Blue)

-- The Gamecocks have experience at safety and inexperience at cornerback. I'm not sure if that's better than the contrary. (Red Cup Rebellion)

-- This was one of the better units last season, but they are losing their two most productive players. Spurrier stocks the cupboard enough that there shouldn't be too much of a dip, but there will be a dip in production. (And the Valley Shook)

-- The Gamecocks have a talented, experienced group of safeties but a very green, if talented group of corners. Their leading safety, Brison Williams, is likely to play most of the season at corner. (Garnet and Black Attack)

T-10. Arkansas (10.75Average)

Returning Starters/Contributors: Alan Turner
Our Thoughts:

-- Returns seven contributors from last season and the unit was pretty decent last season, according to F/+ ratings. I suspect they'll be even better this season. Safety Allan Turner could make an All-SEC team. (A Sea of Blue)

-- They are bad and didn't find instant answers like some conference mates that did. (And the Valley Shook)

-- The Razorbacks have a handful of talented players but lack experienced depth. (Garnet and Black Attack)

T-10. Missouri (10.75 Average)

Returning Starters/Contributors: Braylon Webb, John Gibson
Our Thoughts:

-- Lost three starters in the secondary, but their replacements will all be upperclassmen. This unit could easily move up the board, but is unproven as of now. (A Sea of Blue)

-- Braylon Webb, one of the team's top tacklers, is back at safety. Other than that, Mizzou's replacing a bunch of starters. (Red Cup Rebellion)

-- Graduation is a bitch for this whole defense, but particularly the back end. (And the Valley Shook)

-- Mizzou loses a lot of talent from last year's secondary, but like South Carolina, they had a good recruiting class in the position group. (Garnet and Black Attack)

T-10. Texas A&M (10.75 Average)

Returning Starters/Contributors: Deshazor Everett, De'Vante Harris
Our Thoughts:

-- Like UK, A&M returns a lot of experience but performed poorly last season. Deshazor Everett is a player for the non-A&M fans to watch out for. (A Sea of Blue)

-- Cornerback Deshazor Everett is impressive but what else is there beyond that? And don't say Floyd Raven, because something something his mother faxing an LOI something something Ole Miss something something whatever I'm not impressed by him. (Red Cup Rebellion)

-- The Aggies have three starters back off a group that intercepted 17 passes, but also allowed 31 touchdowns and 7.6 yards per attempt (11th in the league last season). (And the Valley Shook)

-- Like Tennessee, TAMU returns a ton of experience, but it's from a group that got shellacked repeatedly last year. (Garnet and Black Attack)

13. Kentucky (12.5 Average)

Returning Starters/Contributors: Blake McClain, A.J. Stamps
Our Thoughts:

-- The pass defense was solid the first two thirds of the season, but then fell apart as injuries accumulated and UK faced better pass offenses. Luckily, every starter and his back-up return along with JUCO transfer AJ Stamps who will probably start at safety in Week One. Meanwhile, UK's best defensive back two seasons ago, JD Harmon, will be coming off his redshirt season. The loss of four star freshmen Mike Edwards (grey shirt) and Darius West (injury) will hurt the depth this season, but freshman Kendall Randolph has turned heads in camp and will see some playing time. (A Sea of Blue)

-- The Wildcats struggled to create turnovers last year, and this year should be no different. I am willing to wager that their defensive line, however, could make their defensive backs look better than they are.
The Cats return all four starters from a unit that was cover-your-eyes awful. They allowed nearly 230 yard/game, and only successfully defended 9.23% of pass attempts. (Red Cup Rebellion)

-- The second worst team in the SEC had a 12.90% PD rate. Opposing QB's had a passer rating of 154.54 and completed over 65% of their passes. It's hard to conceptualize just how awful their secondary was last year. And now they get an encore performance. This isn't just the worst secondary in the SEC, this may be the single worst personnel group at any position in the SEC. (And the Valley Shook)

-- Another group that returns experience, but experience that looked bad for much of last season. (Garnet and Black Attack)

14. Vanderbilt (13.75 Average)

Returning Starters/Contributors: Paris Head, Jahmel McIntosh
Our Thoughts:

-- The loss of four talented starters is not easy to overcome for the majority of schools, and Vandy is among commoners in this regard. The good news is that last season's back-ups saw some game action last season, according to CFBStats. It also looks like several freshmen defensive backs were redshirted as well. This secondary will be young, and young secondaries often have breakdowns. It feels unfair to rank this team last because I don't think this secondary will be bad come mid- to late-season. (A Sea of Blue)

-- Replacing all four starters in the secondary, huh? Good luck. (Red Cup Rebellion)

-- One of the best secondaries in the SEC last season has been gutted by graduation. Vanderbilt returns zero starters. Hope they enjoyed those productive defenses in Nashville. (And the Valley Shook)

-- The 'Dores lose all four starters from a year ago. Although the entire second string is back, that has to worry Vandy fans. (Garnet and Black Attack)

Cody Prewitt

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