Breaking down the SEC- Defensive Line


As we get closer to the start of football practice, it’s time to start breaking down the SEC position by position. Since SEC football games are mostly won upfront- I’ll start today with the defensive line. The DLine has long been the position that separates the SEC from other conferences, and this season is no exception.

1. LSU– Best DLine in the country. Talent AND depth. Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo will give opposing QB’s absolute HELL this season. Dont play these guys on artificial turf- their speed is unreal. Logan and Johnson are also outstanding at DT. You could easily see 3 1st round picks out of this group in the 2013 NFL draft. (also ranked #1 by ESPN and Phil Steele)

2. South Carolina– In any normal season, they would have the two best DE’s in the SEC. Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor are very, very good. There is a small drop in talent at DT, but these guys still arent bad. Kelcy Quarles is going to be a good DT. (ranked 2nd by ESPN and 5th by Phil Steele)

3. Alabama– They return 2 of 3 starters in Damion Square and Jesse Williams. Ed Stinson moves in at DE to take the other spot. This group is always one of the most talented and best coached groups in the country. (5th by ESPN, 2nd by Phil Steele)

4. Georgia– Another 3-4 team, this group is led by NT Jonathan Jenkins. He is a bad boy in the middle of their D and the main reason Georgia has been getting better on defense. He is joined by DE’s Abry Jones and Cornelius Washington. An all SR group, they will be tough upfront. (3rd by ESPN, 2nd by Phil Steele)

5. Florida– Good group but not without some questions. How will Dominique Easley and Ronald Powell recover from injury? Can juco DT Damien Jacobs from East Mississippi make an impact? Lerentee McCray and Sharrif Floyd are very good- as is DT Omar Hunter.  (4th on ESPN and 4th by Phil Steele)

6. Auburn– easily the strength of the Auburn defense with all 4 starters returning. Corey Lemonier is a beast at DE, and the Tigers hope Dee Ford returns to form after an injury. Lots of depth at DT, this group is led by Juniors Jeffrey Whitaker and Kenneth Carter.

7. State– It’s really telling just how good SEC DL’s are when State’s is ranked 7th. Josh Boyd is a consensus All-SEC level DT, and he will be joined outstanding Freshman Quay Evans by midseason. Curtis Virges will get plenty of time, PJ Jones, Dewayne Cherrington, and Devin Jones as well. Nick James could factor in this group as well, but has to get in shape. DE Denico Autry looks to make an impact, coming in highly rated out of juco. Soph Kaleb Eulls is the other DE. Eulls is great vs the run, but needs to do a better job of rushing the passer in 2012. (7th by Steele and ESPN)

8. Arkansas– Here is where a noticeable dropoff begins on DL’s in the conference. The Pigs should be the best of the rest, with DT’s Byran Jones and Robert Thomas returning in the middle. They return 6 of their top 8 guys on the 2-deep, so I’m calling it “strength in numbers” in 2012. This group will be key if they are  to beat Alabama or LSU. (8th by ESPN, 10th by Steele)

9. Tennessee– they have experience returning as they switch to the 3-4. Maurice Couch is a little lite at NG, weighing in at 295. He could end up being replaced by juco Daniel McCullers. Another juco, Darrington Sentimore will man one end while Marlon Walls returns at the other end spot. (10th by ESPN and 8th by Steele)

10. Vandy– a veteran group with 3 starters returning, this group should be improved. Franklin is also building some depth for a change in Nashville. DE Walker May should have a good year for the Dores. (11th by ESPN and 12th by Steele)

11. Texas A&M– The Aggies are reversing the trend, instead moving from the 3-4 to a 4-3 defense. Big 12 teams arent known for defense, so it will be interesting to see how this group adapts. Damontre Moore is a man at DE (even if he isnt 40), Spencer Nealy is another returning starter at DE. Lots of questions in the middle at DT. Stopping the run needs to be priority one for this group. (9th by ESPN and Steele)

12. Kentucky– the Wildcats also return 3 starters and should perform a little better this season. Should definitely see a better group vs the run. Collins Ukwu could help improve the pass rush. (12th ESPN, 13th by Steele)

13. Missouri– this group loses 3 starters from last season, and also has guys coming off injuries. If healthy, Brad Madison is pretty good- but he needs some help from the younger guys. (13th by ESPN and 10th by Steele- wtf????…no way Phil)

14. Mississippi– this group was freaking terrible last season, dooming Mississippi to be one of the worst teams in the nation vs the run. They wont be much better this season, but should see slight improvement. Lack of depth is still a huge issue, so avoiding injuries is crucial. CJ Johnson returns at DE, as does Uriah Grant at DT. They really need 4-star signee Channing Ward to get eligible to bolster the talent level of this group. (14th by ESPN and tied for 13th by Steele)