The SEC has made its mark on the defensive side of the ball in recent years, but there are two former legends from the previous century that are set for a showdown in the Final Four of the SEC Greatest Player Tournament presented by Direct Auto Insurance.
Tennessee’s pass-rushing extraordinaire Reggie White and Georgia’s shutdown corner Champ Bailey are the two semifinalists from the defensive side of the bracket.
White, who acquired the nickname “The Minister of Defense” during his senior season in Knoxville before moving on to a Hall of Fame NFL career, still owns the Volunteers’ single-game and career records for sacks. The champion of our Neyland Region (fitting, isn’t it?) was named the SEC Player of the Year and an All-American in 1983 and has already out-voted the likes of Derrick Thomas (Alabama), Mo Claiborne (LSU), Glenn Dorsey (LSU) and Patrick Willis (Ole Miss).
On the other hand, there’s do-everything Bailey, who served as a Bulldogs’ kick returner, wide receiver and cornerback during his career in Athens. The current Denver Broncors coverman was a two-time All-SEC performer and consensus All-American in 1998. He finished his collegiate career with eight interceptions.
To reach the Final Four, Bailey made it out of a Bulldog-heavy region by winning the fan vote over Wilber Marshall (Florida), Brandon Spikes (Florida), Jarvis Jones (Georgia) and 1-seed David Pollack (Georgia).
The winner of the defensive side of the bracket will face Auburn running back and former Heisman winner Bo Jackson in the final.
Despite inferior career numbers, Jackson upset the tournament’s overall No. 1 seed Herschel Walker with 67 percent of the fan voting last week.
Once again, it will be up to the fans to decide who is the top defensive player in SEC history and pinpoint Jackson’s challenger in the tourney’s grand finale. Voting will run through Nov. 12.