What Makes the SEC Such a Strong Conference?
This past week, I was studying Missouri DE Charles Harris for my annual pre-season 2017 NFL Draft preview. Yes, you read that correctly; I’m already working on the 2017 Draft but I digress. Harris is a junior draft eligible and the type of player that the NFL loves. Long. Athletic. Excellent burst. Relentless QB hunter. Watching Harris, though, triggered even more thoughts about Missouri’s defensive line and that in turn led to thoughts about the entire SEC.
That’s when it really hit me that the SEC could have the best defensive line units any conference has seen in quite some time.
Start with Missouri. If Terry Beckner Jr. and Harold Brantley return healthy, the Tigers could argue that their defensive line, with an interior of Josh Augusta, Beckner and Brantley, combined with edge players Harris and Walter Brady, is the best in the nation, at worst the best in the SEC.
But, the best edge rusher in the draft eligible class of 2016 is Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett. Add him to his edge partner Daeshon Hall and future interior stud Daylon Mack and it’s conceivable that A&M has talent to match the Tigers diversity and depth.
Those in Knoxville, TN will quickly disagree, surmising that potential and talent trump depth every day of the week. DE Derek Barnett is a proven commodity, but what gets the Vols’ fans excited is the future with the No. 1 JUCO prospect Jonathan Kongbo, former 5-star recruit Khalil McKenzie and true sophomore DT Shy Tuttle. That trio is ready to dominate in 2016, alongside Barnett.
Alabama might have lost two stars in Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson, but the 2016 group may be better. Out on the edge, Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson are a menacing duo, while DE/DT Jonathan Allen could be the best interior pass rusher in the country. DT Dalvin Tomlinson didn’t really get much chance to shine with Reed and Robinson hogging all of the reps, but Tomlinson will get that opportunity to rock this fall.
Speaking of Hogs, Arkansas’ defensive line returns both defensive ends, including Deatrich Wise Jr. who had eight sacks in 2015. The majority of Arkansas’ defensive line two deep returns in 2016.
Auburn might have the most explosive edge player not named Myles Garrett in the nation in Carl Lawson. Add DT Montravius Adams to Lawson and the Tigers have a pair comparable with any team in the nation.
But, LSU fans…well, they have plenty to crow about on their defensive line. In my opinion, DT Davon Godchaux is the most pro ready interior player in the nation as a junior. DE Lewis Neal is a bona fide 4-3 end who’ll get plenty of 3-4 OLB reps this year. DE/OLB Arden Key is a freak of nature and could ultimately be the best player of the entire bunch, not just at LSU but in the conference. He’s only a true sophomore, so SEC offenses will face him for the next two years. The entire two deep returns, even though they’ll have to adapt to running more 3-4 looks under new DC Dave Aranda.
Suffice it to say, the best conference in college football is the best conference for one big reason.