The SEC finished 1st, 2nd ,3rdand 5th in total defense last season. It has always been aboutdefense in the conference and it startson the line of scrimmage. Its the only league that has as many playmakers onthe defensive line as it does in the back seven. There are also great minds onthat side of the ball. When you have defensive coordinators like John Chavis,Kirby Smart, Todd Grantham in this league your getting the best of the best.They will all tell you it takes players and no league has more on the defensiveside of the ball. Here is a list of ten of the best returning playmakers on thedefensive side of the ball.Jarvis Jones, OLBGeorgia-Jones is the perfect fit in Todd Granthams 3-4 and led the leaguewith 13.5 sacks last season. He also led the league with 19.5 tackles for loss.Thats an amazing 33 plays in the opponents backfield. He will see more chipsand double teams in 2012 but he is the best pass rusher in the country.Tyrann Mathieu, DB,LSU- He is a natural playmaker scoring in many different facets of thegame. He only had two interceptions but he forced and incredible six fumbleslast season. He also was a dynamic punt returner for the Tigers. Alabama worehim out in January and that will serve as off season motivation for the HoneyBadger.Jadevon Clowney, DLSouth Carolina- Clowney will be the big gun on the South Carolina defensivein 2012. He was very good as a freshman forcing five fumbles himself for theGamecocks. He played in the backfield of the opponents registering 8 sacks and12tackles for loss.Cory Lemonier, DLAuburn-The Tigers were not that good on defense collectively, but Lemonierwas excellent. He had 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. New coordinatorBrian Van Gorder should give Lemonier a winning system to continue to showcasehis talents.Matt Elam, S Florida-Elam was the most consistent player on Will Muschamps defense in year one. Elamcan play in the box while still excelling in coverage. With coordinator DanQuinn pledging to use more 3-4 in season two, expect Elam to make plays a-laMark Barron at Alabama. Robert Lester,Alabama- Lester was arguably the best safety on the team in 2010, but lastseason teams did not throw as much. Trust me he has the talent and experienceto be the next playmaker in Tuscaloosa. He has 10 career interceptions and likeElam can play in the box for Kirby Smart.Alonzo Highsmith LB,Arkansas- The change in philosophy on defense should help Highsmith evenmore. He was a stat sheet stuffer last year playing along side JerryFranklin. He was 10th in theSEC with 12.5 tackles for loss. Barkevious Mingo DE,LSU- Mingo led the SEC Champion with 15 tackles for loss and was secondwith 8 sacks. He has a tireless motor and often teams try to screen him withbacks and tight ends. He re-directs better than anyone in the league for hisposition.Johnthan Banks, DBMississippi State- Banks is a ball hawking playmaker that actually saw timeon offense this spring. He is tied for second with 12 interceptions all timeand is also a threat on the on punt return team.Sam Montgomery, DLLSU- He was the top sack guy on the Conference Champion Tiger defense with9. He also had 13 tackles for loss and was a force versus the pass as well asthe run.The next five-Dee Milliner, DB Alabama.Eric Reid, S LSU.Jacques Smith, LB TennesseeJohn Bostic, LB Florida Nico Johnson, LB Alabama.SEC Defenses by the numbers-9 SEC defenses finished in the top 50 last year4 teams finished in the top 12 in interceptions2 teams finished in the top 5 in rushing defense5 teams finished in the top 20 in scoring defenseAlabama and LSU combined to give up 27 touchdowns. That is less than or equal to 114 FBS teams.
Returning defensive playmakers
May 14, 2012, 12:21 am