Getting Defensive in the SEC

Getting Defensive in the SEC
March 28, 2012, 2:30 am
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Defense is king in the SEC.

(Tim Heitman-USA Today Sports)

The deeper we get into spring practice the more scrimmages we have to digest. It also reminds us of how the SEC has dominated other conferences in BCS games. The defense has been the bell cow for the conference and 2012 should provide and interesting barometer for that tradition. I talked about winning quarterback play earlier this month, but some would argue that the SEC teams have won in spite of its quarterback play. Most guys have been managers of the game, while the defenses
suffocated opponents. That couldn't have been clearer than in
2011 when LSU and Alabama offered up the nation's two best defenses. Both programs have recruited excellently and displayed plenty of depth last season, but can they duplicate it this season with new starters?

Here is the number of defensive starters returning for each team in the SEC.

Florida- 10
Georgia- 9
Auburn -9
Vandy- 7
Miss St.- 7
Ole Miss- 7
South Carolina- 6
Arkansas- 6
Texas A&M- 6
Kentucky- 6
Missouri- 6
LSU- 5
Alabama- 4

Can you believe the two best teams in the country have to totally rebuild? But we all know they have a ton of talent and experience but maybe not the leadership they had from last year's groups. I think this will be more evident at Alabama which may have to lean on its offense early in the season. Florida is still searching for an offense but with them returning 10 guys they should contend in the East. Georgia is the team to watch out for in bringing back nine guys off a dominant unit from 2011. They got a taste of the title game and where they need to be with a measuring stick game against LSU. Tennessee like Florida needs some help from its offense. Finally the team to watch may be Arkansas who returns six guys brings in a new defensive coordinator who paid dividends with the bowl win over Kansas State.

Everyone looks at scoring defense and total defense when assessing a solid unit. These are good numbers to gauge success. But here ate three stats that you want your favorite team to do well in.

1. Turnovers forced.
2. 3rd down defense.
3. Red zone defense.

Oklahoma State was much maligned for its defense last year, but still had a 12 win season and a record breaking year. Most will point to the high octane offense and rightfully so, but Mike Gundy's defense led the country in a key statistical area. The Cowboys forced 44 turnovers. To put that into perspective, that's 12 more than SEC leaders Georgia and South Carolina.

Stanford was one of the 3rd down defenses in the country last season finishing 6th That's pretty dang good in the PAC 12 with all that offense and playing powerful Oklahoma State in the bowl game . The Cardinal finished 11-2 and in a BCS bowl game.

Michigan capped it's year one turnaround under Brady Hoke with a BCS win in the Sugar Bowl over Virginia Tech. They did it with essentially the same personnel on defense that finished at the bottom of the country in 2010. How did they do it? They were 3rd in the country in red zone defense allowing just a 68 scoring rate. In their only two losses last year the Wolverines gave up a perfect six for six inside the red zone (100).

Follow me on twitter @bradyack.

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