Power Ranking the SEC's Most Dominant Defensive Lines
The defensive line is the most important unit of a football team in the SEC. If your team can't stop the run and pressure the quarterback, that defense is likely to fail, which then means that it is going to be a long season for that program.
SEC football is won in the trenches and it takes an elite defensive line for a team to take that next step. While many teams in this conference are talented up front, there are only a handful that truly standout among the rest of the pack.
It's best to build a dominant unit around one superstar, which is the formula these top defensive lines have used.
5. Ole Miss
Ole Miss is a perfect example of what athleticism and youth can do for a defense. Although the Rebels may not have many household names, the production and potential is clearly there this early in the season.
First off, Robert Nkemdiche is everything he was hyped up to be. He overpowers more experienced offensive linemen, gets off the ball well and covers a decent amount of ground for somebody so massive. The rest of the SEC has a real problem on its hands once he continues to get comfortable at his position.
C.J. Johnson has looked solid in his recovery from a broken leg and Channing Ward continues to put pressure on the opposing quarterback. This defensive front is aggressive and flies to the football. It's also ranked fourth in the SEC, allowing just 114 rushing yards per game.
Once these young players mature, there's a great chance Ole Miss could have the top defensive line in this conference.
So much for LSU taking a step back defensively. Oh, the Tigers are losing majority of their defense to the NFL? No problem, head coach Les Miles and defensive coordinator John Chavis will replace those bodies with a bunch of young, athletic kids who will contribute just as well.
Must be nice, huh?
Thanks to Jermauria Rasco, Ego Ferguson, Anthony Johnson and the rest of the gang, LSU has the third best run defense in the SEC, allowing just 110 rushing yards per game. The Tigers consistently get solid penetration in the backfield and continue to overwhelm smaller offensive linemen. This defensive line has a unique combination of size and athleticism.
The scary part is that this young unit will continue to improve as the year plays out.
No, this is not a misprint. Arkansas gets after it defensively, which is part of the reason why the Razorbacks have gotten off to a 3-0 start. The nine sacks in three games is good for second in the SEC.
The leader of this group is defensive end Chris Smith. He already has 4.5 sacks on the year and is well on pace to shatter last year's total of nine sacks and 52 tackles. Trey Flowers comes off the other side, and he has hardly disappointed in the two games he's played. Together, this is arguably the top defensive end tandem in the SEC.
In the middle, Byran Jones and Robert Thomas have done a solid job of clogging up running lanes and eating up ball carries in the backfield. Arkansas has the second best run defense in the SEC, allowing just 106 rushing yards per game.
Stop sleeping on the Razorbacks!
Florida's defensive line is loaded with depth and top tier talent, beginning with defensive tackle Dominique Easley. His ridiculous first-step and off-the-charts athleticism should be illegal for most teams. He's thrived at his more natural position and has appeared as an unblockable force in the middle of the line.
The Gators have also gotten a boost from Ronald Powell, who missed last season due to an ACL injury. He's a hybrid linebacker who also plays buck defensive end, and he's gotten off to a fast start, picking up four tackles, two sacks and three quarterback hurries in two games.
Florida is also getting nice production from Dante Fowler Jr, Jonathan Bullard and Leon Orr, who all have the potential to become stars in due time. Although the offense can't seem to catch up, the Gators defense is elite and it all starts up front with this dominating unit.
1. South Carolina
Regardless of the early letdown with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina easily has the best defensive line in the SEC. He'll eventually get his condition down pat and begin dominating offensive linemen like he has the last two seasons.
Even though he hasn't lived up to the hype this season, he is still the most intimidating and overwhelming defensive player in college football. He's also a lock to be one of the first two picks in next year's NFL draft. Call him what you want, but nobody on your favorite team wants to see him on the other side of the field.
The Gamecocks also have depth around the football star, with Kelcy Quarles and Chaz Sutton combining for 3.5 sacks in the first three games.
South Carolina's defensive line has a lot to do with why so many folks where on the bandwagon to begin the season.