How does one program produce so much talent at linebacker? Even with C.J. Mosley gone, the Tide have a proven leader in Trey DePriest and an unbelievably deep roster full of former bluechip recruits.
2. LSU Tigers
The Tigers go two deep with good talent at each position. Look for weak-side OLB Kwon Alexander to be one of the league's breakout defensive stars.
The Gamecocks had one of the youngest linebacking corps in the country last season, and while the group was a liability early on, it became a strength by the end of the season. Each position is loaded with talented depth. Skai Moore is another player who is primed for a breakout season.
This group is loaded with talent but was heavily impacted by injuries last season, with some of those injuries extending into the spring. With most of the injured players slated to be back this fall, though, this could be an excellent group.
MSU returns tons of experience at linebacker from a 2013 team whose defense usually stood its own against good teams outside of a few bad games.
The Dawgs return all their significant production from a year ago at linebacker. This defense was near the bottom of the SEC in many categories, though, and the linebacking corps lacks the star power UGA has enjoyed in the past, so is having these guys back really going to help this group break into the league's upper echelon?
With A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt leading the unit, the Vols potentially have a breakout linebacking corps for 2014.
The Tigers return a fair amount of production from what was a so-so unit a year ago. Highly ranked true freshman Tre Williams may be able to help immediately.
The Rebels return talented linebackers Denzel Nkemdiche and Serderius Bryant, and they'll be joined by strong players Hugh Freeze and his staff have brought in over the past two cycles. Look for this group to get better as the season progresses.
10. Missouri Tigers
The Tigers have to replace two starters, including leading tackler Andrew Wilson. They have enough players in the pipeline to field a decent unit, though.
The Hogs' young linebacking corps struggled a year ago, but they have just about everyone back and healthy, and it seems likely improvement is imminent.
The 'Cats graduate lose one of their best defensive players from a year ago in draft pick Avery Williamson, and they may not be able to replace the lost production immediately. They do have some good players in the pipeline, though, such as true freshman Dorian Hendrix, who impressed the coaches with his play as an early enrolee in the spring. This group may get better as the season progresses.
Vandy returns a reasonably talented depth chart at linebacker. One concern for the 'Dores, though, is that they're moving to a 3-4. There may be growing pains, particularly given that they'll be relying on former ends to produce at linebacker.
14. Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies came into the summer knowing they'd hurt at linebacker in 2014, and now with sophomore Darian Claiborne has been dismissed, and he was one of the few reliable players returning players on this defense. You think Dylan Thompson and company are chomping at the bit to welcome this defense to Williams-Brice?