South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney
The power of the SEC has been demonstrated over the years due to speed up front, and that trend will continue this season with the crop of defensive ends in the SEC.
The Ted Hendricks Foundation released its watch list for the Hendricks Award on Monday. The Hendricks Award is given to the nation's top defensive end.
The SEC is well-represented on this year's list. South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, LSU's Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, Florida's Dominique Easley, Auburn's Corey Lemonier, Missouri's Brad Madison, Texas A&M's Damontre Moore and Georgia's Abry Jones are featured on the preseason list.
Clowney and Taylor comprise one of the best one-two punches at defensive end in the country.
Clowney burst onto the scene last season as a true freshman, notching eight sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 36 total tackles in 2011. He was named the SEC Freshman of the Year by the coaches, and is set up for a fine season in 2012. He will drop down and play defensive tackle to create mismatches at specific times this season, which will only help his production.
Taylor got overshadowed by Clowney and Melvin Ingram last season, but he's back in 2012 and looking to finish off his career in style. He has been a steady contributor during his first three seasons in Columbia. He tallied six sacks, 8.5 tackles for loss and 42 tackles last season.
Both Taylor and Clowney will push for that South Carolina single-season sack record at 10.
LSU boasts a solid one-two punch at defensive end themselves, with Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo.
Montgomery proved to be one of the top defensive ends in the country last year, finishing sixth in the SEC with nine sacks. He has speed off the edge, and even if he doesn't make a sack or tackle, he's a disruptive force in the opponent's backfield.
If a quarterback has one eye on Montgomery, his other eye better be on Mingo, who finished last season with eight sacks and 46 tackles. With a solid interior line to take up double teams led by Bennie Logan, the combination of Mingo and Montgomery should be even better in 2012.