2011 was the year of the Honey Badger. What about 2012?
The 2012 college football season will feature a plethora of dominant defenders who will wreak havoc on opposing offenses.
In 2009, it was Ndamukong Suh, then with Nebraska, who was such a dominant defender that he was among the Heisman finalists that year.
Then continuing the defensive dominance was Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu for LSU in 2011, as he also found himself among Heisman finalists.
Mathieu should have another dominant season with LSU in 2012, but he will have to move aside as we welcome a new crop of college football defenders who will be more dominant and have first-round 2013 NFL draft talent.
As a result, who will be the most dominant college football defenders in 2012?
One of the most dominant defenders for the LSU Tigers in 2012 and in all of college football is the fast, explosive Barkevious Mingo.
Mingo, listed at 6'5'' and 240 pounds, is extremely explosive as an edge rusher and can play in a variety of defensive schemes (4-3 as a DE and 3-4 as OLB).
According to Chris Low at ESPN.com
LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis raised a few eyebrows prior to last season when he vowed that Mingo would be the premier pass-rusher in the SEC before he was done. Mingo responded with 15 tackles for loss in 2011, including eight sacks. He’s an absolute blur coming off the edge and has the kind of burst that gives offensive linemen nightmares.
Moreover, Mingo is already among the top five picks in the 2013 NFL mock drafts and will be one of the most dominant pass-rushers in college football in 2012.
Sam Montgomery will dominate again in 2012
Equally as dominant on the defensive line for the LSU Tigers in 2012 and also one of college football's best defenders in 2012 is Sam Montgomery.
Montgomery stands at 6'4'', is about 240 pounds and is just as explosive as his partner in crime.
According to Chris Low:
It’s almost unfair to be as talented as LSU will be across the defensive front this coming season. Montgomery will be the leader of that group. He can rush the passer and play the run and is versatile enough to beat offensive linemen with his power and his speed. Montgomery finished the 2011 season with nine sacks.
Moreover, Mingo might be the better talent, but Montgomery will be the defensive leader of this LSU Tigers team in 2012.
Star Lotulelei will be unstoppable in 2012 for Utah
To move away from the LSU Tigers just for a little bit, we welcome one of the best defensive tackles in college football in Star Lotulelei of the Utah Utes.
Lotulelei is 6'3'', weighs in at over 320 pounds and draws comparisons to current Baltimore Ravens star defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
According to Ted Miller at ESPN.com:
Lotulelei may be the nation's best defensive tackle. He likely will be an early first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft. The Morris Trophy winner as the Pac-12's best D-lineman, he had 44 total tackles, with nine coming for a loss. He had 1.5 sacks, a pass break-up, forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Furthermore, Lotulelei will look to improve upon his 2011 totals as he returns for his senior season for the Utes in 2012 instead of taking the NFL paycheck.
Just ask the Florida Gators how dominant Jarvis Jones is
From a statistical standpoint, Jarvis Jones of the Georgia Bulldogs was easily one of the most dominant college football defenders in 2011: 70 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss (led the SEC), 13.5 sacks (led the SEC), two forced fumbles and two pass break-ups.
According to Heisman Pundit, if Jones is able to duplicate or improve upon those numbers, then he certainly could be among the Heisman finalists in 2012.
Chris Lowe reported:
In [Jones'] first season of action in the SEC after transferring from USC, Jones didn’t need much of a refresher course. He quickly emerged as the most dynamic big-play defender in the SEC and is one of those players who can take over a game.
Moreover, Jones will easily be one of the of the most dominant college football defenders in 2012 because he is a premiere pass-rusher and is always in the right spot at the right time.
David Amerson is a quarterback's worst nightmare
David Amerson was the best cornerback in college football in 2011, leading the nation with an extraordinary 13 interceptions: six more than any other player.
Amerson is bigger than most receivers at 6'2'' and 190 pounds and has great size, speed and hands.
If Amerson can duplicate his 2011 season, then he should also be considered among the Heisman finalists as a dominant college football defender in 2012.
According to Heather Dinich at ESPN.com:
He led the FBS with 13 interceptions—six more than any other player. It was the most in the FBS since 1968 and tied as the second-best total in FBS history. He broke the ACC’s single-season interception record in the upset of No. 7-ranked Clemson. He also broke the school’s 73-year-old single-season interception record of nine.
Moreover, in 2012, Amerson will be among the most dominant college football defenders and will give opposing quarterbacks horrible nightmares in 2012.
Eric Reid is the best at the safety spot in college football
Among the best college football defenders at the safety position is LSU's Eric Reid.
Reid does not get the attention of Tyrann Mathieu in the media, but you can bet as far as NFL talent, Reid is much higher on the 2013 NFL draft board than Mathieu.
Reid is the most dominant at his position in college football because he has size at 6'2'', can cover, tackle and make plays on the ball.
According to Edward Aschoff at ESPN.com:
Reid was best known for his tremendous, game-changing interception he made in the first Alabama game last year, but he did so much more for that LSU defense. He can play all over the field and makes it so difficult for quarterbacks to throw deep on the Tigers when he's in center field.
Furthermore, Reid might not put up the best statistics in 2012, but he has multiple talents that will dominate opposing offenses this year.
Jackson Jeffcoat will look to follow in his father's footsteps
Jackson Jeffcoat of the Texas Longhorns had a very solid sophomore season for Texas in 2011 with 63 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and eight sacks.
In 2012, Jeffcoat will go from solid to great and become one of the best college football defenders.
Jeffcoat has good size at 6'4'' and 250 pounds and is an explosive pass-rusher. He plays in the 4-3 scheme as a DE and OLB on the 3-4 scheme.
According to David Ubben at ESPN.com, Jeffcoat's eight sacks "were 1.5 more than any other returner in the Big 12, and he made four more tackles for loss (17) than any other returner, too."
Moreover, not only does Jeffcoat have the talent to become a dominant college football defender in 2012, but he has the bloodline, as his father was NFL great Jim Jeffcoat.
Opposing receivers will get no separation from Xavier Rhodes
Another ACC cornerback who is among the top college football defenders in 2012 who has size and is physical and athletic is Xavier Rhodes of the Florida State Seminoles.
Rhodes stands at 6'2'', 215 pounds and is a very physical cornerback who punishes wide receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Moreover, Rhodes could have actually entered the 2012 NFL draft, but decided to return to Florida State for his junior season.
Rhodes injured his knee in last year's Champs Sports Bowl against Notre Dame wherein he held in check one of the top wide receivers in the 2012 NFL draft in Michael Floyd before the injury.
Furthermore, Rhodes will be fully recovered from the knee injury to start the 2012 season and will be one of the most dominant physical cornerbacks in college football.
Johnathan Hankins will become most dominant in 2012
Johnathan Hankins was among the most dominant college football defenders in 2011 for the Ohio State Buckeyes with 67 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and three sacks.
Hankins is an absolute beast on the defensive line for the Buckeyes and stands at 6'3'' and 330 pounds.
According to ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr.:
Hankins gets off the line with an explosive first step; just moves tremendously well for his size. Drives opposing blockers into the backfield. Size of a nose tackle, but agile enough to be moved around. Very disruptive force on the line.
Furthermore, Hankins has NFL potential and will be on all of college football's radar as one of the more dominant college football defenders in the nation in 2012.
Manti Te'o will look for his third consecutive 120-tackle season
Manti Te'o has been one of the most consistent and dominant college football defenders in the last two seasons, racking up 120 tackles in back-to-back seasons in 2010 and 2011.
Te'o will look to continue his dominance for Notre Dame in the 2012 season.
According to Matt Fortuna at ESPN.com:
The senior passed up NFL millions and returns as perhaps the top inside linebacker in the nation. He will look to build off consecutive 120-plus-tackle campaigns and anchor a front seven primed to take the next step under third-year coordinator Bob Diaco.
Moreover, Te'o will again be one of the most dominant college football defenders in 2012 and will even possibly have a shot as a Heisman finalist.