SEC Power Poll: Pre-Season Defensive Line Rankings

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

Ranking the league's defensive lines.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Absolutely loaded with both proven and incoming talent. When you look at this DL roster and how talented it is, you really have to be amazed at the level of program Saban is running in Tuscaloosa.

2. Florida Gators

The Gators lost a lot of talent from last year's squad, but do have some talented players coming back such as Dante Fowler and Jonathan Bullard. Moreover, they've recruited the defensive line well for years (defensive recruiting hasn't fallen off as much at Florida as offensive recruiting), and they sport an excellent defensive coaching staff that routinely produces top-notch defenses.

3. LSU Tigers

LSU has great returning talent at end. However, the Tigers lose some really talented players inside. You know what, though? This will still be one of the league's best defensive lines. Like Florida, LSU has recruited magnificently at defensive line for years and has excellent coaches in place, and players always emerge to replace the ones who graduate. This year will be no different.

4. Ole Miss Rebels

The Rebels have recruited very well at defensive under Hugh Freeze, whose efforts should increasingly begin to pay dividends now that the talent is maturing. Robert Nkemdiche is the star of the group and could be emerge as one of the best ends in the nation this season.

5. Auburn Tigers

I should probably have this group a bit higher, but arguably the unit's best player, end Carl Lawson, recently had to have knee surgery, and it's unclear if he'll be able to play this year. Even without Lawson, this is a talented group. Montravius Adams was impressive in his freshman season and could emerge as a national star this year.

6. Missouri Tigers

Despite losing Michael Sam and Kony Ealy, the Tigers have a fair bit of proven talent on the line and should again be impressive up front this season.

7. Mississippi St. Bulldogs

The Bulldogs return three starters from a unit that was very productive last season, and sophomore Chris Jones (a former five-star recruit) is primed for his breakout year.

8. Georgia Bulldogs

The Dawgs lose Garrison Smith but return a talented group of players. UGA has recruited well at defensive line in recent years, and the new defensive coaching staff should be able to find a rotation that's effective given the personnel they have available.

9. South Carolina Gamecocks

The Gamecocks have the potential to rise on this list, but a few things have to happen. Can Carolina produce a pass rush without Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles? Darius English is the key player to watch there, but can he continue to bulk up sufficiently to hold up against the run? Lastly, will DL coach Deke Adams's aggressive philosophy mesh better with the rest of the defense in year two than it did last year?

10. Arkansas Razorbacks

Whereas there's a certain degree of parity between the teams listed above, there's a significant drop-off between Carolina and Arkansas. However, the Hogs aren't bad; they have one of the league's better pass-rushers in Trey Flowers and a fairly experienced group overall.

11. Vanderbilt Commodores

Vandy has some talented, experienced players coming back after James Franklin brought in more SEC-like linemen than they've had in recent memory. However, will they move to the 3-4 seamlessly?

12. Kentucky Wildcats

The Wildcats feature a decent end duo, but they graduate their main contributors inside and project to be soft against the run.

13. Texas A&M Aggies

This was a very poor defensive line last year, and it lost one of its most promising players, Isaiah Golden, to dismissal recently. However, several young players did get experience last year, and if those players can get ahead on the learning curve, this unit could be better than expected.

14. Tennessee Volunteers

The Vols lost six seniors and all four starters from last year's line, which already lacked quality depth. Butch Jones brought in some talented players in this year's recruiting class, but unless you're talking about the kinds of exceptional talents programs like Alabama brings in, defensive linemen, particularly inside, need time to develop physically. Tennessee is in trouble up front on defense and may particularly struggle later in the season as depth becomes an issue.

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