SEC Front Seven Rankings
SEC Front Seven Rankings
1. Alabama: Raekwon Davis, the most intimidating man in college football at 6’7”, 308 pounds, leads the way for the always-dominant Crimson Tide. Davis is a remarkably active interior force; his 4.93 tackles per game last season were the most by an Alabama lineman in more than a decade. As a pass-rusher, his 8.5 sacks were good for fifth in the SEC. Throw in senior Isaiah Buggs and this unit is poised for more of the same. At linebacker, Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses are ready to lead on the inside and Anfernee Jennings, 6’3”, 263 pounds, showed off his potential in the College Football Playoff Semifinal against Clemson. Upperclassmen Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis are also now healthy. Here’s why the Crimson Tide get the benefit of the doubt; Alabama has led the nation in rush defense five of the last seven years.
2. Auburn: Up front, the Tigers’ talent and depth is almost unmatched. Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson, Dontavius Russell and company give Auburn a defensive line capable of completely taking over games. Brown, the star prototype at 6’5”, 316 pounds, is fresh off a sophomore season with nine tackles for loss. Russell, battle-tested, is a trusted anchor with 37 career starts. Seniors Deshaun Davis and Darrell Williams roam the middle of the field for the Tigers and are tried and true veteran defenders. Across the first two lines of defense, Auburn has six projected upperclassmen starters. Along with quarterback Jarrett Stidham, the front seven will set the tone for the team.
3. Mississippi State: There isn’t a better defensive line tandem in the country than tackle Jeffery Simmons and end Montez Sweat, a pair of All-American candidates. Simmons is a disruptive athlete from the middle of the front and has the most pressures of any returning defensive tackle in the game, while Sweat paced the SEC in sacks in 2017 with 10.5. They, along with edge-rusher Gerri Green, combined for a noteworthy 28.5 tackles for loss a year ago. The group can force even the best quarterbacks into poor performances, just ask Lamar Jackson. An argument can be made that only Clemson, anywhere, is better at the point of attack. Leo Lewis and Eroll Thompson are developing talents at linebacker.
4. Georgia: Obvious retooling must be done, but the Bulldogs still have plenty of pieces in place. It appears the next star edge-rusher in Athens will be senior D’Andre Walker, who recorded an impressive 13.5 tackles for loss in a reserve role a season ago. The return of linebacker Natrez Patrick, the team’s second-leading tackler in 2016, strengthens the middle of the defense. There are very high expectations for his up-and-coming partner Monty Rice, a name fans need to know. Experienced Jonathan Ledbetter, rising Tyler Clark and Notre Dame-transfer Jay Hayes provide a great foundation for Georgia’s front. Clearly, Kirby Smart’s recent recruiting efforts here have been elite.
5. Florida: It will be fascinating to see how everything falls into place in coordinator Todd Grantham’s new defensive scheme. Expect some mixing and matching early and the personnel adjusts. Senior Cece Jefferson will continue his shift along the front in an attempt to emerge as a more effective pass-rusher. Now an upperclassman, expect more consistency from athletic edge Jabari Zuniga, who has nine career sacks. David Reese has emerged as a rock at linebacker and will contend for All-SEC honors after 102 total stops and ten tackles for loss last fall.