Most regard the SEC as the best conference in America, and what has always made the SEC so tough a conference is the defense that is played in this league every week of the fall.
The league’s defenses are built on speed and depth more than anything and that’s no different in 2009.
Glenn Dorsey, Patrick Willis, Demeco Ryans, and Laron Landry are just a few of the names that have been All-American's from the SEC and are now playing in the NFL.
Who will be the next great SEC defender to join them in the ranks of the nation's elite?
Here's my SEC All-Defense team for 2009. With teams playing multiple defenses these days, there is an extra linebacker and I went with the four best defensive linemen, regardless of tackle or end.
Terrence Cody, Defensive Tackle
Also known as "Mount Cody", it's no coincidence that Alabama's defense went to an elite level last year with the arrival of Cody, and it's stayed that way in 2009. Cody isn't going to rack up lots of tackles and sacks, but he's a guy that demands a double-team almost every snap. Listed at 365 pounds, he is one of the most dominant tackles in college football.
Jermaine Cunningham, Defensive End
Cunningham helps form the Gators dynamic duo of bookends better than anyone in the country. Likely a first round draft pick, Cunningham is second in the league in sacks with seven, and his 11.5 tackles for a loss is good for third in the league.
Carlos Dunlap, Defensive End
Dunlap makes up the other end of the great duo at Florida. He has freakish size and athletic ability, and may even end up being a top ten NFL draft pick because of his potential. Dunlap has six sacks and another eight tackles for loss on the season.
Antonio Coleman, Defensive End
Coleman returned for his senior season to end his career on a good note and improve his draft stock; he's seemed to do both. Coleman was injured the first part of the season, but since getting healthy he's been one of the best players in the league, leading the SEC in sacks with 7.5 and tackles for loss with 13.5.
Rolando McClain, Linebacker
If there is a smarter player in college football, you will be hard-pressed to find him. McClain is the leader of a swarming defense and many think McClain is like having another set of Nick Saban eyes on the field. McClain has racked up 76 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss this season.
Eric Norwood, Linebacker
Norwood was a somewhat underrated recruit out of high school, but he's not overlooked anymore. He’s versatile enough to play end or linebacker and will make some NFL team very happy in the 3-4 scheme. The senior has 66 tackles, seven sacks, and 10.5 tackles for loss.
Rennie Curran, Linebacker
In a word: missile. Curran, a junior, is a bit undersized but can really run and when he hits you, you tend to go backwards. The speedy linebacker has 94 tackles on the season, including six tackles for loss.
Brandon Spikes, Linebacker
Spikes' "eye gouge" aside, he's still one of the best players on defense in the SEC. A unique combination of size and speed similar to McClain, Spikes leads a defense that can flat shut you down. Spikes has missed a few games but still has 45 tackles, three sacks, and five tackles for loss on the season.
Joe Haden, Cornerback
There may not be a better corner in the nation than Haden. He can run, cover, hit, really do it all and many project Haden to be a top ten draft pick. Haden has nine pass breakups, three interceptions, and an impressive 55 tackles from his corner position.
Patrick Peterson, Cornerback
Peterson is only a sophomore, but his talent is undeniable. After LSU's game at Alabama, I heard a college football analyst say Peterson may have been the best defender on the field. He has a great combination of size and speed that's helped him register 33 tackles, 11 pass breakups, and two interceptions on the season.
Eric Berry, Safety
Was there an easier choice than this? Probably not. Berry has been spectacular since he was an SEC freshman in this league and this year teams finally realized not to throw his way as Berry only has two interceptions on the season, but has still racked up 70 tackles. Berry will likely be a top five draft pick.
Mark Barron, Safety
The only other sophomore on the team along with Peterson, Barron has really emerged as a playmaking safety on the Alabama defense. Barron is a big, physical safety with great athletic ability. His six interceptions are league leading, and has 60 tackles and nine pass breakups to along with them.