SEC Defenses That Will Be Hardest to Run Against in 2013
The most recent trend in college football has been the adaptation of the no-huddle offense.
Speed has changed the game, and defenses are struggling to catch up. In the SEC there have been some growing pains for the top defenses, but a defensive mentality still runs the conference.
These six teams never lost their defensive edge, and heading into the new year they will be brick walls against the run.
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The LSU Tigers lost a lot of experienced depth along the defensive front thanks to the NFL draft, but there is still a host of talented players that will lineup for the Tigers this fall.
Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson return with experience on the interior of the defensive line, and rush-end Jermauria Rasco returns to the fold.
At linebacker Kwon Alexander, Lamin Brown and Deion Jones return with significant experience for the Bayou Bengals. Even the two-deep has experience in situational play or on special teams.
The key to LSU’s run defense is often the secondary. The safety play is crucial, and having Craig Loston back for a senior campaign will ensure that the Tigers will be stingy against the run.
Alabama Crimson Tide
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Alabama is the most tenacious defense in the country. Heading into 2013, it will continue to show why teams struggle to produce on the ground against the Nick Saban 3-4.
This program is losing key players along the front to the NFL draft, but it returns a number of experienced playmakers along the front, and the linebacker corps is among the best in the country.
Led by senior C.J. Mosley, this group will return at least two other starters in Trey DePriest and Adrian Hubbard. Xzavier Dickson was a starter last season, but he moved to the defensive line to start spring (h/t AL.com), so there may be a plan for a shift in position.
Dickson was a defensive end in high school (h/t Yahoo!).
Defensive linemen Ed Stinson and Jeoffrey Pagan return with experience, and they become the next big names to play along Alabama defensive line this year.
Look for the Tide to be one of the most aggressive teams against the run as they attempt to set the tone early by blowing up ground games throughout the SEC.
South Carolina Gamecocks
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Heading into 2013, South Carolina is a front-runner for the East Division crown for what seems like the past decade.
The Gamecocks have been a consistent piece of the SEC conversation over the past few years under Steve Spurrier, but surprisingly the theme has been defense. The Ol' Ball Coach may have cut his teeth at Florida with his run-and-gun offense, but the Gamecocks play nasty defense.
This year Jadeveon Clowney heads into the season as the most talented defender in the country. There is no other player in the game that has the ability to affect an entire offense like Clowney.
South Carolina also returns Chaz Sutton, J.T. Surratt and Kelcy Quarles along the line. They are all talented run defenders.
Kaiwan Lewis will be a missile from the linebacker position as he seeks out and blasts through ball-carriers.
Look for the Gamecocks to be a strong contender for the SEC crown thanks to the ability of this defense along the front.
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Mark Richt has put together a host of talented recruiting classes over the past few seasons and the defensive side of the football has been a major focus.
The Bulldogs have been consistently inconsistent against the run over the past few seasons with last year being the worst in recent memory. The Bulldogs finished 2012 No. 12 in the SEC (via CFB Stats).
This team brought back experience, but it couldn’t stop the ground game of its opponents when it mattered, and it cost this team. Remember the SEC title game?
As the Bulldogs head into 2013 they are looking to jump back into the front of the pack in run defense. Garrison Smith and Ray Drew return as stars along the end, and John Taylor and Chris Mayes should be able to make a lot of plays from the interior.
Chase Vasser, Jordan Jenkins and T.J. Stripling return at linebacker, and safety Josh Harvey-Clemons returns as well. Harvey-Clemons is one of the best in the SEC against the run.
This will be Mark Richt’s best defense in the past few seasons and it will finish as one of the best against the run in the SEC.
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Over the past few seasons Will Muschamp has brought back the smash-mouth mentality of Florida defense to Gainesville. This program is recruiting with the best in the country, and it is developing defensive players with the best in the country.
Despite the losses of key defenders after 2012, the Gators return Leon Orr and Darious Cummings at nose tackle, and Dominique Easley is back at tackle ready to dominate offensive lines.
Ronald Powell—out of spring with an ACL injury (h/t The Palm Beach Post)—and Dante Fowler Jr. return at linebacker and will help usher in young talent this year for the Gators.
This program will finish in the top five in rushing defense again this year, and it will be thanks to the talented front seven that roams the Swamp on Saturdays.