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Texas A&M Football

Top to bottom: Ranking the 2020 Southeastern Conference defensive lines

May 27, 2020

Strong defensive line play is as synonymous with Southeastern Conference football as boisterous crowds and live mascots.

Almost everybody has one. Just last year, nine SEC teams ranked among the nation’s top 60 (more than half) in rushing defense. Eight were ranked that high in sacks. Those figures don’t happen without strong defensive lines.

There have been 30 SEC defensive linemen selected within the first three rounds of the last five NFL drafts. A dozen of those were first-round picks.

Defensive line production and destruction figures to continue in 2020.

Here’s a prospective ranking of the SEC’s defensive lines for the upcoming season:

1. Alabama: Expect the Tide to be better than a year ago. Alabama figures to be more talented and deeper. Nose guard DJ Dale and defensive end Justin Eboigbe are returning starters, but sophomore defensive tackle Christian Barmore may be the best up front. He expects to have a break out year. Incoming five-star ends Will Anderson Jr. and Chris Braswell may improve the pass rush immediately.

2. LSU: Ed Orgeron has recruited so well that the Tigers are three-deep on the line. And that’s at four positions with new/old Defensive Coordinator Bo Pelini taking LSU back to the 4-3. Nose tackle Tyler Shelvin and end Glen Logan are returning starters. The Tigers will need others to step up, and they probably will.

Lia Musgrave, TexAgs
Kirby Smart’s defensive line must again be strong in 2020 if the Dawgs are to win a fourth-consecutive SEC East division title.

3. Georgia: The SEC East Division winners were only average in rushing the passer in 2019. That may change if sophomore defensive end Nolan Smith — the nation’s top-rated recruit in 2019 — takes the next step in his progression from freshman contributor to dominant edge rusher. A slew of highly-regarded prospects, including incoming five-star tackle Jalen Carter, can fill in immediately. End Malik Herring is the lone returning starter.

4. Texas A&M: Uber athletic sophomore DeMarvin Leal could be a dominant tackle. Except that A&M is so stocked inside — with Bobby Brown, Jayden Peevy and prize recruit McKinnley Jackson — that Leal could move to end. A&M needs veterans Tyree Johnson or Micheal Clemons or touted newcomers Donell Harris and Fadil Diggs to emerge as a reliable pass rusher opposite Leal.

5. Florida: Nose guard Kyree Campbell is the only returning starter from one of the country’s top defensive lines a year ago. A bunch of uncertainties must come through for the Gators to continue to play at that level. Georgia transfer Brenton Cox must be as good as advertised as an edge rusher. Jeremiah Moon must overcome health issues, and freshman tackle Gervon Dexter must live up to his considerable hype.

6. Auburn: The Tigers won’t be as good up front without Derrick Brown, a first-round draft choice, and Marlon Davidson, a second-round pick. They won’t be bad, though. Highly-regarded tackle Tyrone Truesdell and buck Big Kat Bryant return. Junior college transfers Marquis Burks and Dre Butler could be starters.

7. Tennessee: Depth is the Volunteers’ most significant asset in the defensive front. Six defensive linemen posted between 45 and 19 tackles in 2019, and all remain on the roster. Tackle LaTrell Bumphus —a converted tight end — and end Matthew Butler were particularly active. A trio of incoming four-star prospects will further enhance the Vols’ depth.

8. Kentucky: Nose guard Quinton Bohanna, a 367-pound senior, can clog up inside running lanes. However, the Wildcats will miss tackle Calvin Taylor, who was second in the SEC with 8.5 sacks in 2019. End Josh Paschal posted 3.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore in 2019. Four-star recruit Samuel Anaele figures to challenge for a starting role.

Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Kobe Jones figures to be one of Mississippi State’s starters on the edge.

9. Mississippi State: Though leading pass rusher Chauncey Rivers is gone, Marquiss Spencer and Kobe Jones form a solid set of ends. Sophomore nose guard Fabien Lovett started as a true freshman. Junior college transfer Jordan Davis figures to make an impact.

10. Missouri: All-SEC tackle Jordan Elliott opting for early entry into the NFL draft (he was a third-round pick) certainly leaves a hole, but Kobie Whiteside posted 6.5 sacks from the other tackle slot. Whether he can be as productive without Elliott drawing multiple blockers remains to be seen. Three ends with starting experience are on hand, but none had more than 24 tackles or two sacks.

11. South Carolina: The loss of first-round draft choice Javon Kinlaw at tackle will be hard to overcome, as will the loss to buck D.J. Wonnum. Returning starter Aaron Sterling posted six sacks and ten tackles for loss in 2019. Look out for five-star freshman defensive tackle Jordan Burch.

12. Ole Miss: The Rebels must replace their entire starting line up in the front three. That includes Benito Jones, who was an all-conference nose guard. Tariqious Tisdale was a productive backup at end. Incoming freshman Demon Clowney (cousin of former South Carolina All-American Jadeveon Clowney) figures to play right away.

13. Vanderbilt: The Commodores managed just 11 sacks in eight conference games in 2019. Defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo had a dozen tackles for loss. Tackles Cameron Tidd and Drew Birchmeier are also returning starters. They must be more productive. Depth is an issue, which is typically the case in Nashville.

14. Arkansas: Sacks were scarce, and rushing yards were easily surrendered in Fayetteville last year. It’s hard to believe that will change with three starters departed, including McTelvin Agim, a third-round NFL draft pick. The only returning starter is defensive end Mataio Soli. He managed 19 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss last year. Clemson transfer Xavier Kelly, once a four-star recruit, provides a measure of hope for the Hogs.

Discussion from...

Top to bottom: Ranking the 2020 Southeastern Conference defensive lines

8,256 Views | 5 Replies | Last: 1 yr ago by Agsuffering@bulaw
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Arkansas does get DE Dorian Gerald back, who was likely going to be the best pass rusher last year before he missed most of the season with a blood clot in his neck (scary injury).

Can't argue with being last though. Our line play on both sides of the ball has been abysmal.
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Hot take - Demarvin Leal will be better in 2020 than Maduibuike was in 2019.
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Nice having a coach developing defensive fronts again. Before the 2019 draft, we had not had a DT or SDE drafted since 2008.

I see Leal as a SDE versatile enough to play 3 tech or WDE (in run situations). If Leal is better than Madabuike, we will be very good defensively (unless a rash of injuries).
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MGM ... I assume you consider Myles a WDE?
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Yes. He was an edge-rusher first. He played some on the strong side b/c we lacked a true SDE. The NFL always saw him as an edge rusher. Madabuike lined up some outside to rush the passer last year b/c we lacked a true pass rusher. Madabuike is still a DT.
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