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2014 SEC Preseason Football Position Rankings: Defensive Line

Everyone else has had their shot at ranking the defensive lines of the SEC, but no one invited us*, so we're inviting ourselves. Below is my incredibly informative and inciteful commentary. (* Okay, they invited us, but we were late to the party.)

Results according to my Power Organization System:

14 - Tennessee

  • Returning Starters/Contributors: Corey Vereen, Curt Maggitt
  • Key Losses: DT Daniel McCullers, DE Jacques Smith

Tennessee is of the opinion that the flood of recruits they're bringing in will be able to substantially improve the performance of their defensive line and we all know that how well you recruit directly correlates to on field success but I'm just not ready to move them out of the basement until I've seen physical evidence of this.

13 - Vanderbilt

  • Returning Starters/Contributors: Caleb Azubike, Adam Butler
  • Key Losses: DE Walker May

A change in coaching staff and a move to the 3-4 will probably bring a rough transition but if fellow future rulers of the universe Stanford made it work, I think Vanderbilt can too. Just not yet. That being said, I always like seeing a college team run a 3-4 defense because the scheme can be enough to influence games.

12 - Texas A&M

  • Returning Starters/Contributors: DE Julien Obioha, DL Gavin Stansbury, DE Daeshon Hall
  • Key Losses: Isaiah Golden

It's going to be hard for Sumlin to replace Johnny Manziel, but they've been recruiting the tar out of Texas and in a year or two I think the talent will congeal into the form of a defense. Unfortunately I don't see that happening by this fall. Also Johnny Manziel isn't around, did I mention that? I don't know if that'll be brought up enough next year.

11 - Arkansas

  • Returning Starters/Contributors: DE Trey Flowers, DT Darius Philon
  • Key Losses: DE Chris Smith, DT Robert Thomas, DT Bryan Jones


10 - Kentucky

  • Returning Starters/Contributors: DE Alvin Dupree, DE Za'Darius Smith
  • Key Losses: DT Donte Rumph, DT Mister Cobble

Mike Stoops likes defense and returns Za'Darius Smith, who was pretty effective rushing the passer last year. The question will be, will Kentucky be able to stop the run enough to make having a good pass rusher significant?

9 - Mississippi State

  • Returning Starters/Contributors: DL Chris Jones, DE Preston Brown, DL Kaleb Eulls
  • Key Losses: DE Denico Autry

Everyone seems high on Mississippi State's Chris Jones and I don't blame them, especially returning the kind of talent they are. They play in the SEC West so they'll get the chance to prove themselves, but unless we see them in the SEC Championship game, I probably won't think about Miss State again this year, sorry.

8 - Ole Miss

  • Returning Starters/Contributors: DE CJ Johnson, DT Robert Nkemdiche, DL Isaac Gross, DL Lavon Hooks
  • Key Losses:

7 - Florida

  • Returning Starters/Contributors: DE Dante Fowler, DL Jonathan Bullard
  • Key Losses: DT Dominique Easley

A defense that really under-performed last year after facing tough early losses due to injuries will return Dante Fowler who I still remember hit Maty Mauk in the face and should have been called for a roughing the passer penalty no I'm not bitter why do you ask? Muschamp is still coaching this defense and I don't think he's terrible at that aspect of his job so I expect a return to form.

6 - South Carolina

  • Returning Starters/Contributors: DT J.T. Surratt, Dixon brothers, Darius English
  • Key Losses: DE Jadeveon Clowney, DT Kelcy Quarles

Literally EVERYONE will bang that "Jadeveon Clowney" drum for until kingdom come, but it's notable that in 2010, the year before Jadeveon Clowney came to South Carolina, Spurrier took the team to the SEC Championship game (and lost 56-17 to Auburn). Something tells me that Ol Ball Coach will have 'em ready for their September 27th home game against Mizzou. Beyond that I don't much care.

5 - Mizzou

  • Returning Starters/Contributors: DL Shane Ray, DL Matt Hoch, OLB/DE Markus Golden
  • Key Losses: DE Michael Sam, DE Kony Ealy

A lack of recruiting and the loss of key scrubs Kony Ealy and Michael "who did he play?" Sam will be the talking points for many pundits. In the here-and-now of 2014, Mizzou returns Markus Golden (6.5 sacks, 13 TFL, 36 solo tackles) Matt Hoch (3 sacks, 4 TFL, 20 solo tackles), Lucas Vincent (2.5 sacks, 5 TFL, 20 solo tackles) and Shane Ray (4.5 sacks, 9 TFL, 27 solo tackles).

4 - Georgia

  • Returning Starters/Contributors: DE Sterling Bailey, DE Ray Drew
  • Key Losses: DE Garrison Smith

Ray Drew will be the go-to name people will mention when talking about Georgia, but I'll agree with College and Magnolia's assessment that Georgia will surprise people because of their phenomenal defensive line coaches Tracy Rocker and Jeremy Pruitt.

3 - LSU

  • Returning Starters/Contributors: DE Jermauria Rasco, DE Danielle Hunter
  • Key Losses: DT Anthony Jennings, DT Ego Ferguson

It's LSU. They always have legit defensive lineman talent that ultimately end up being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs and under-perform in the pros. The Sun also rises in the east.

2 - Auburn

  • Returning Starters/Contributors: DE Carl Lawson, DT Ben Bradley, DT Gabe Wright, DT Montravius Adams
  • Key Losses: DE Dee Ford

It's kind of scary how well set up Auburn is to compete again in the tenacious SEC West. The focus was on their offense in 2013, but it's easy to forget that their defense held up pretty dang well against Alabama, leading to the infamous "Kick-6"

1 - Alabama

  • Returning Starters/Contributors: A'Shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen, D.J. Pettway, Brandon Ivory,  Darren Luke
  • Key Losses: Jeoffrey Pagan, Ed Stinson

Some things you just don't over-think.

Results according to the SEC Blog Poll:

14. Vanderbilt (12.56 Average)
13. Tennessee (12.44 Average)
T-11. Texas A&M (11.78 Average)
T-11. Kentucky (11.78 Average)
T-9 South Carolina (9.33 Average)
T-9. Arkansas (9.33 Average)
8. Missouri (6.67 Average)
7. MSU (6.33 Average)
6. Ole Miss (5.22 Average)
T-4. LSU (5.11 Average)
T-4. Georgia (5.11 Average)
3. Florida (1 First Place Vote, 4.33 Average)
2. Auburn (1 First Place Vote, 3.89 Average)
1. Alabama (7 First Place Votes, 1.22 Average)