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Sallee Blog: SEC's Most Indispensable Players
Tennessee S Eric Berry
Tennessee S Eric Berry
Posted Aug 4, 2009

With the season rapidly approaching, Barrett Sallee gives you the five SEC players that are indispensable for their respective teams in 2009.

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In the SEC, there is no lack of talent. Generally speaking, the first teamers for every team can compete at an SEC level on a week-in, week-out basis. What makes good teams great is depth. The dictionary defines indispensable as; “absolutely necessary or requisite.”

Of course, no team can account for, or predict injuries. But, they are a part of the game. These five players would be the hardest SEC players to replace in 2009.

5. Florida QB Tim Tebow
Yes, Tim Tebow is a former Heisman Trophy winner, a two-time national champion and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. With Florida being touted as the odds-on favorite to win everything in 2009, Tebow is obviously crucial to the Gators success. Many people will probably be surprised not to see him higher in these rankings; but Urban Meyer does have the Florida machine cranking big time, attracting more talent to Gainesville than he knows what to do with. Included in that talent is the 6-3, 217-pound QB John Brantley. Brantley was a four-star QB coming out of Trinity Catholic HS in Ocala, Fla. Several people I've talked to have even referred to Brantley as a top five SEC QB right now. Of course, that's a bit speculative and not based on anything more than potential. We know what Tebow is capable of when the bullets are flying for real. Brantley is still a major question mark.

4. South Carolina LB Eric Norwood
When you think Steve Spurrier, you instantly think offense. But, entering year five of his tenure in Columbia, Spurrier's Gamecocks have been built on defense, including finishing 13th in the nation in total defense in 2008. As a junior last season, Norwood led the Gamecocks with 14.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks. The pre-season first-team All-SEC linebacker enters the 2009 campaign as the leader of the defense, taking over the spotlight from the recently-departed Jasper Brinkley, despite putting up comparable numbers as Brinkley did in 2008. Other than Norwood, the linebacking corps is relatively inexperienced with guys like Rodney Paulk, Josh Dickerson and Gerrod Sinclair expected to be major contributors. With a questionable offense and several holes yet-to-be-filled on defense, Norwood is the key piece on a unit that could be relied upon more than any other unit in the league.

3. Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead
Ole Miss enters 2009 on a six-game winning streak and with enough hype to make them a legitimate contender in the SEC West. The reason for the hype is junior QB Jevan Snead. The transfer from Texas led the Rebels to their most successful campaign since the Eli Manning Era in 2008, throwing for 2,762 yards and 26 TD's. Behind Snead, there is very little experience with senior Billy Tapp and redshirt freshman Nathan Stanley backing him up. There's little doubt that Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt would surely find some way to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers without Snead, but his absence would most definitely eliminate the Rebs from SEC West contention.

2. Auburn OT Lee Ziemba
Ziemba, a junior who has been a two-year starter for the Tigers at LT, will be counted on as the leader an offensive line that is replacing three starters. Ziemba was a big-time recruit out of Arkansas two years ago, earning a starting spot as a true freshman. But, he struggled a bit last year due in large part to a lingering knee injury and the scheme of former Tigers offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, which had offensive lineman play at a lower-than-normal playing weight. The Tigers have very little depth on the offensive line, and don't have many incoming freshman coming in to help out. New Tigers offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn recently said that the Tigers would be in “scramble mode,” should they suffer some injuries on the offensive line. Auburn has sophomores A.J. Greene and Vance Smith as possible back-ups to Ziemba, but neither has seen significant game experience.

1. Tennessee SS Eric Berry
Berry, a pre-season All-SEC first team member and dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate, is the most important player to any team in the SEC. The junior finished 2008 tied for the nation's lead in interceptions with seven, made 72 tackles for the nation's third best defense and tallied 8.5 tackles for loss. The Vols, stricken with an inept offense, relied heavily on defense last season under former defensive coordinator John Chavis. With new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin bringing his Tampa 2 defense to Knoxville, Berry should be putting up similar numbers in 2009, should opposing offenses throw in his direction. The problem is that the Vols offense isn't expected to be much better this year, so Berry will be counted upon to get the Vols in good field position. After all, he did set the NCAA single-season record with 265 interception return yards in 2008.

Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for He can be reached at, or on Twitter

2009 Archive:
SEC's Most Indispensable Players – August 4, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Media Days, Day 3 – July 24, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Media Days, Day 2 – July 23, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Media Days, Day 1 – July 22, 2009
SEC Blogger Roundtable Discussion, Part 4 – July 14, 2009
Meyer Not Going To Notre Dame? – July 13, 2009
Top 5 SEC Non-Conference Games – July 6, 2009
SEC Blogger Roundtable Discussion, Part 3 – June 16, 2009
Bama Put On Notice – June 11, 2009
Coaches Ballots Should Be Public – May 27, 2009
SEC Blogger Roundtable Discussion, Part 2 – May 24, 3009
Ranking The SEC Coaches – May 9, 2009
SEC Blogger Roundtable Discussion, Part 1 – April 26, 2009
Live Auburn A-Day Blog – April 18, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – April 16, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – April 12, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – April 9, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – April 3, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 30, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 26, 2009
Keep The Cocktail Party In Jacksonville – March 23, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 18, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 15, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 11, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 7, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 3, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – February 28, 2009
Another Misstep For Lane Kiffin – February 14, 2009
New Rule Could Take Points Off The Scoreboard – February 12, 2009
Kiffin Swings at Meyer … And Misses Badly – February 5, 2009
Playoffs … Be Careful What You Wish For – February 4, 2009
UGA Loses RB Samuel For Spring Practice - January 28, 2009
Alabama Signs Coach Away From Auburn - January 21, 2009
America Deserves a USC vs. SEC Title Game – January 10, 2009
Chizik Putting Together A Solid Staff – January 6, 2009

Click here for the 2008 archive

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