Alabama LB Nico Johnson
Defense wins championships, and the SEC appears to be a dominant force on defense yet again in 2012.
Th Butkus Award, which is given annually to the nation's top linebacker, features 15 players from SEC schools on its watch list.
Florida's Jon Bostic, Missouri's Zaviar Gooden, Arkansas' Alonzo Highsmith, South Carolina's DeVonte Holloman, Florida's Jelani Jenkins, Tennessee's A.J. Johnson, Alabama's Nico Johnson, Georgia's Jarvis Jones, Mississippi State's Cameron Lawrence, Florida's Lerentee McCray, LSU's Kevin Minter, Texas A&M's Damontre Moore, Alabama's C.J. Mosley, Texas A&M's Sean Porter and Georgia's Cornelius Washington are the SEC's representatives on the watch list.
If you're looking for favorites, look no further than the University of Alabama and linebackers Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley.
Alabama has earned the reputation of "Linebacker U" under head coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, and Johnson and Mosley should reap those rewards in 2012.
Mosley finished last season with 37 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and one interception, playing in the shadow of former Crimson Tide linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw. He's coming off of an injury suffered in the BCS National Championship Game, but Saban expects Mosley to be at 100 percent when toe meets leather this fall.
Joining Mosley as a favorite is Johnson, who was more impressive statistically in 2011. He finished last season with 47 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one interception.
The other player that's likely to be mentioned prominently for this award is Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones. Jones burst onto the scene last season with 13.5 sacks, which led the SEC. He is a future first-round draft pick and a perfect fit at outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's 3-4 system.