GN is counting down the SEC’s top 50 players this season; we’re unveiling one player per day until we reach the No. 1 guy.
These are the players ranked 31st through 40th. The players ranked 41st through 50th are here.
“Top” doesn’t necessarily mean the most pro potential or even the most sheer talent. Instead, it’s a mix of what the player has accomplished and what we think the player will accomplish this season. Production does trump potential, though.
Every school has at least one player in the top 50.
31. Auburn DE Marlon Davidson
Particulars: 6-3, 282 pounds, sophomore
Recruiting background: 4-star prospect in 2016 signing class, from Greenville (Ala.) High
The skinny: Davidson arrived on campus amid much hoopla – he was a national top-35 prospect – and did his part to live up to the hype. He enrolled early and wowed coaches (and teammates) in spring practice and fall camp; he then started all 13 games, becoming the first true freshman at Auburn to start a season-opener on the defensive line in more than 30 years (the school’s records on that type of thing only go back to 1985). He finished with 38 tackles, six tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Davidson has added 10 pounds since last season but the added weight didn’t bother him in the spring. He’s quicker than you think for a 280-pounder, and showed good strength and a solid football IQ last fall. Davidson and junior DT Dontavius Russell should form one of the best d-line duos in the SEC this season. Davidson has All-America potential; the question is whether he reaches it this season or next.
32. Georgia LB Roquan Smith
Particulars: 6-1, 225 pounds, junior
Recruiting background: 4-star prospect in 2015 signing class, from Montezuma (Ga.) Macon County
The skinny: There were some concerns about Georgia’s inside linebackers going into last season, but those are gone and Smith is a big reason. While he is from a small town about 150 miles southwest of Athens, he was prepared to play his college ball a bit further away – at UCLA. He committed to UCLA on National Signing Day in 2015, but when reports broke that Bruins defensive coordinator/linebacker coach Jeff Ulbrich – his main recruiter for the Bruins – was leaving for an NFL job, Smith didn’t sign. Ulbrich did leave and Smith ended up signing with Georgia a week after NSD. He was a backup as a true freshman, making 20 tackles, then emerged as a force for a stingy Bulldogs defense last season. He led the team with 95 tackles and played especially well in the second half of the season. While he is a smallish inside ‘backer, he brings the lumber. Smith runs well and can go sideline-to-sideline, and he can be expected to contend for first-team All-SEC honors this fall.
33. Florida CB Duke Dawson
Particulars: 5-11, 208 pounds, senior
Recruiting background: 4-star prospect in 2014 signing class, from Cross City (Fla.) Dixie County
The skinny: It might surprise some that a guy who has started just eight college games would be ranked this high, but big things are expected from Dawson this fall. And while he has started just eight times in three seasons, he has played extensively – at corner, nickelback and even safety. He was Florida’s primary nickelback last season and teamed with Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson – both of whom now are in the NFL – to help give Florida the SEC’s top-ranked pass defense. Dawson now moves into a starting job at corner, and coaches are confident he can be the same type of lockdown corner that the Gators have had of late. Dawson’s high school is one of the smallest public high schools in Florida; Cross City is about 50 miles due west of Gainesville and about 30 miles due east from the Gulf of Mexico.
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