1. LSU: Tiger head coach Les Miles hired Dave Aranda away from Wisconsin and the Badgers ran a 3-4 defense. The Tiger defense will be maybe better than ever in 2016 and beyond.
Christian LaCouture will be the Nose Guard backed up by Greg Gilmore.
Last year’s super Defensive Tackle Davon Godchaux moves to Defensive End. Tashawn Bower and Sione Teuhema, who is the older brother of super Offensive Lineman Maea Teuhema, provide more than quality depth.
At the other end, Lewis Neal is back for his senior season, but he will have to beat out Frank Herron. Deondre Clark is also in the mix and could get some playing time.
Last year’s freshman sensation at Defensive End, Arden Key, has moved to the Rush Linebacker Tashawn Bower for the starting role.
spot where he is battling with
LSU always recruits well since they are the only show in a talent rich state and this year was no different. From Monroe, Louisiana they signed Rashard Lawrence who is one of the top Defensive Tackles in the country. Edwin Alexander is a highly rated Defensive Tackle from Hammond. Out of Texas, they signed Rahssan Thornton. He could play Defensive End, or Outside Linebacker.
Back in their home state, they signed another tackle in Glen Logan and then 2 Defensive End/Outside Linebacker types in Andre Anthony and Caleb Roddy.
2. Tennessee: Volunteer head coach Butch Jones can recruit with the best of them and he has greatly increased the talent at Tennessee. Kahlil McKenzie, Kendall Vickers, Danny O’Brien and Shy Tuttle return at Defensive Tackle. Tuttle missed most of last season, but he has a chance to be one of the best in the nation.
The problem could be depth for the Vols at the tackle positions. Junior College transfer Alexis Johnson was the top JC Defensive Tackle in the country in the rankings but he is in some serious legal trouble.
Defensive End is a totally different picture than Tackle. Derek Barnett is one of the best in the nation and Corey Vereen has started for two seasons. They have plenty of depth in LaTroy Lewis,
Dimarya Mixon, Kyle Phillips, Austin Smith, Darrell Taylor and Andrew Butcher.
Then, there is Junior College transfer Jonathon Kongbo who was the top rated Defensive End in the nation.
As long as the Defensive Tackles avoid injury, the Vols could have the top group of Defensive Linemen in the nation.
3. Alabama: Alabama is just Alabama. As long as Saban is around they will continue to recruit tons of talent and this team should be as good as any when all is said and done. Their Defensive Line, which is a 3 man front, only returns one starter but he is really good. Johnathan Allen may not have surprised you when he decided to come back, but I was certainly surprised.
Expected to start at Nose Guard is Da’Ron Payne and he should be backed up by Joshua Frazier or OJ Smith. The other Defensive End opposite of Allen should be Da’Shawn Hand or Dalvin Tomlinson.
Their Spring roster was kind of short on Defensive Linemen, but help is on the way with the most recent recruiting class. Terrell Hall, Quinnen Williams and Christian Bell are Defensive Ends that are all rated 4 star prospects. Jamar King is also coming as a Junior College transfer from Detroit Michigan and he should help right away at End.
Kendall Jones is half man, half monster from Killeen, Texas and he’s 6-5, 360. He should be a run Raekwon Davis is another monster man at 6-8, 320 from Meridian, Mississippi that could play in a hurry.
stopper from the moment he arrives.
The accumulation of this kind of talent is the reason that Alabama will remain kings of the SEC and people saying the dynasty is over last season should seek help. I had Alabama ranked #1 last year when people like Danny Kanell said they didn’t belong in the top 10.
4. Michigan: The Wolverines are about to explode onto the national scene in a way like they never have before. Jim Harbaugh inherited some talent when he took the job and he is collecting a bunch more. Ryan Glasgow returns at Nose Guard, but Bryan Mone is also back after sitting out last season with a broken leg.
Maurice Hurst and Matt Godin both return to the Defensive Tackle position. Hurst should start, but Godin will definitely play a lot. Michael Dwumfour is a talented recruit from New Jersey that could help at Nose or Tackle.
Chris Wormley returns at Strong side Defensive End and so does Taco Charlton. Both of these guys are players and could be the starter.
Lawrence Marshall, Chase Winovich and Shelton Johnson could be fighting it out for the Defensive End job, but Rashan Gary probably comes in and beats all of them out. Gary was the top recruit in the country this past recruiting season and he will be difficult to keep off of the field.
Ronald Johnson and Carlo Kemp are other recruits that will challenge for playing time. Kemp is the nephew of Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano and San Diego Chargers Defensive Coordinator John Pagano, so there’s a chance he understands the game just a little bit. He was the top player out of the state of Colorado.
5. Miami: Al Golden really recruited well for the Miami Hurricanes, but he just couldn’t win with that talent. He turned the Temple program completely around, but Miami proved to be too much for him. They fired him last season when the Canes got destroyed by Clemson. The Tigers had the better team, but not 58-0 better. They went 4-2 after Golden was gone and then they hired Mark Richt.
The Canes have some talent in the Defensive Line and it might all start with a transfer from bitter rival, Florida.
Gerald Willis began his playing career at Florida before he was shown the door. Willis looked exceptionally good in the Spring Game displaying outstanding quickness and a desire to get to the
football. His acceleration for a man his size is unbelievable.
RJ McIntosh had a great Spring and is coming on strong. They return Anthony Moten, Courtel Jenkins, Kendrick Norton and Ryan Fines are also all back at the Tackle positions.
At Defensive End, it may seem like old times for Hurricane fans. Al-Quadin Muhammed, Trent Harris, Chad Thomas and Demetrius Jackson are all talented players.
Jackson, in particular, had a really good Spring and could be a force this season.
Miami will be an interesting team to follow this next season with the new coaching staff and returning talent. Maybe this new staff will actually know what to do with these guys.
6. Texas A%M: The Aggies have not really been a good defensive team since they hired Kevin Sumlin who seems to prefer winning with just offense like many other coaches.
But, Defensive End Myles Garrett is 6-5, 260 and projected by many as the first guy taken in next year’s NFL Draft. He has 24 Quarterback sacks over 2 seasons.
On the other side of the line, Defensive End Daeshon Hall totaled 7 Quarterback sacks last season. They are backed by Qualen Cunningham, Jarrett Johnson and James Lockhart.
Defensive Tackles Daylon Mack and Zaycoven Henderson return. Their back ups are Kingsley Keke and Hardreck Walker.
The Aggies have a pretty good wall up front and could be a much improve defense.
7. Missouri: The Missouri Tigers have become one of the schools with the best Defensive Lines in the game. But, for some reason they are going to a base 3-4 defense. Gary Pinkel was the long time Missouri football coach that stepped down last season because of health issues and Defensive Coordinator Barry Odom takes over and he apparently wanted to make some changes.
Their best Defensive Lineman was suspended earlier in the year, but Terry Beckner Jr should be
back and he is a monster on the Defensive Line.
If they are serious about the 3-4 defense, they have several guys that could play at the Nose Guard position including Beckner. He is a solid 300 pounder, but they also have Josh Augusta who is 345 pounds. Rickey Hatley and AJ Logan are both around 300 pounds, or more.
They also have Harold Brantley who was a star in the 4-3 as a Tackle.
Josh Moore, Tyrell Jacobs, Marcell Frazier and Spencer Williams will be providing depth at any of the 3 positions.
Last year’s talented rush Ends such as Charles Harris, Walter Brady and Nate Howard will move to an Outside Linebacker position where they will basically do the same thing that they did last season, which is rush the passer.
8. Auburn: Don’t laugh because the Tigers have not played great defense in recent years, but they really do have a great Defensive front in 2016 and maybe even one of the best.
If Defensive End Carl Lawson stays healthy for an entire season, he could be one of the very best players in the nation.
Across from Lawson should be Byron Cowart who was the top recruit in the nation at his position in 2015 and one of the top ones over all. Cowart did not have a great freshman season for whatever reasons. Raashed Kennion and Paul James should be the top back up players at each End position.
Montravius Adams and Dontavius Russell are both back at Defensive Tackles after putting up Devaroe Lawrence and Maurice Swain.
almost identical numbers a year ago. In a very surprising move, Adams decided to return to Auburn for his senior season. Backing them up are
The good news for Auburn is that they signed 2 of the best Defensive Tackles in the country in Derrick Brown and Antwuan Jackson Jr both from the state of Georgia. They also landed 3 star Defensive Tackle Tashawn Manning from Florida.
They also signed the 5th ranked Defensive End, Marlon Davidson. Plus, the 5th ranked Junior College Defensive End, Paul James.
Nick Coe is not rated very highly, but he is about 6-6, 270 and could help the Tigers.
9. Florida State: What are the Seminoles without a good Defensive Line? It all starts in the middle and Florida State only returns Derrick Nnadi or they would be rated higher on this list. Demarcus Christmas started one game last season and he may start in 2016.
Walvenski Aime is a Junior College transfer who was impressive in the Spring and he should help out immediately. Alabama wanted Aime badly and that’s saying something.
Frederick Jones and Arthur Williams are sophomores that played as redshirt freshmen a year ago and they could compete for much more playing time in 2016. Keith Bryant, Justin Shanks and are also looking for playing time.
The Seminoles also landed highly regarded Defensive Tackles Shavar Manuel and Cedric Wood in their most recent recruiting class.
Defensive End is more established with DeMarcus Walker and Josh Sweat returning. Walker is big and fast and one of the team’s defensive leaders. He had 10.5 sacks a year ago. Sweat was a highly recruited true freshman a year ago that broke into the starting lineup. They are both talents and among the best in the country.
The Defensive Ends took a hit, however, when super talented Lorenzo Featherston was injured and he may never play football again. Another good Defensive End was Rick Leonard who was moved to Offensive Tackle in the Spring and showed so much promise that he could possibly replace a returning starter at Tackle. Potential Breakout Players
But, the Florida State coaches must feel good about their depth because they moved another talented Defensive End to Tight End in Chris Casher.
Janarius Robinson was an early enrollee and an impressive prospect. Josh Brown was another member of the 2016 class that came in early. He could play End or Outside Linebacker. Another freshman on his way is 4 star recruit Brian Burns.
10. Clemson: Sporting comments are filled with cliches that get way overused and one of them is about good programs that don’t rebuild. Instead, they reload. Clemson has come to that point in their program where they just seem to reload every season. When Deshaun Watson is finished at Quarterback that will be another matter, but Clemson just seems to keep adding bodies when it comes to the Defensive Line.
For the second year in a row, Clemson is almost starting from scratch again. But, that worked out really well for them last season. Can that happen again? Oh, yeah, and it probably will.
The CW brothers return at Defensive Tackle with Carlos Watkins and Christian Wilkins. Watkins is a senior and a returning starter which puts them above last year which had zero returners. Wilkins was a true freshman last season and he can play.
Add in Scott Pagano and super freshman Dexter Lawrence and nobody will be shedding any tears Jabril Robinson, Gage Cervenka, Albert Huggins and Sterling Johnson.
for the mighty Clemson Tigers. They also have
Nyles Pinkney is a 4 star recruit that could also help in a hurry.
Defensive End lost 2 really big time players in Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd who were early picks in the most recent NFL Draft.
But, Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell look like more than capable replacements.
Kaleb Bevelle, Richard Yeargin and Dane Rogers back them up.
They added 4 star recruits Xavier Kelly and LaSamuel Davis to the team for next season at Defensive End. Keep an eye on Clemson again this season, but getting by Florida State will be no picnic.
11. Stanford: Pound the ball and great defense is the motto that Stanford coach David Shaw tends to live by as a coach and that’s why they appeal to me. Shaw loves a great defense and that all starts up front. Whoever wins the battle in the trenches still wins the game, usually, and Stanford does more than it’s share of winning.
The bell cow for the Stanford Cardinal is Defensive End Solomon Thomas. I blogged about Thomas earlier: Solomon Thomas
Thomas played Nose Guard last season, but moved out to End in the Spring and he is an
With a 3 man front, the Cardinal doesn’t need the depth that some teams require.
But, they also have Luke Kaumatule and Jordan Watkins returning with Kaumatule at End and
Watkins at the Nose. They weren’t starters last season, but they have experience and some talent.
Eric Cotton, Dylan Jackson, Harrison Phillips and Wesley Annan are also back and ready to go.
From Texas, the Stanford Cardinal recruited 4 star Defensive Tackle Mike Williams who should be ready to go at Nose Guard. They also landed Bo Peek from Tampa, Florida and from Indiana they signed Jovan Swann. They might also have Thomas Schaffer from Austria by way of Lake Forest, Illinois that is if they can keep him away from the Offensive Line coach.
12. Arkansas: Razorback head coach Bret Bielema is one of the bigger dopes in the country as far as putting his foot in his mouth, but you have to give him credit for what he has done with the program. He has recruited well on both sides of the ball and in both lines and has made the Hogs a very physical team. Personally, I think he’s just trying to get some attention on his program even if he has an odd way of going about it.
Deatrich Wise Jr is the best returning Defensive Lineman from his End position. Last season, Wise had 10.5 Quarterback sacks and he should bring terror to SEC Quarterbacks again this season.
Jeremiah Ledbetter and Taiwan Johnson should start at the Defensive Tackle positions and they are both seniors just like Wise.
Tevin Beanum should start at the other Defensive End spot if he can hold off true freshman sensation McTelvin Agim. He was the 3rd rated Defensive End in the country according to ESPN.
Bijhon Jackson, Ke’Tyrus Marks, TJ Smith and Armon Watts will provide depth at the Tackle positions.
JaMichael Winston will have something to say about the Defensive End position.
Austin Capps is a 4 star recruit at Defensive Tackle and Jonathan Marshall is a talented Defensive End recruit.
13. Michigan State: Malik McDowell is one of the better Defensive Tackle/Nose Guard type of players in the country. At 6-6, 280, he is tall and slim for a traditional Nose, but he is super quick and a hard guy to block.
The Defensive Tackle should be Damon Knox, with Raequan Williams backing him up. Williams is a freshman that redshirted last fall, but he came on strong during the Spring.
Cassius Peat, Kyonta Stallworth and Enoch Smith should back up McDowell. Peat is the younger brother of former Stanford All American Left Tackle Andrus Peat.
Craig Evans and Gerald Owens provide depth at Defensive Tackle.
The Spartans lost long time starter Shilique Calhoun at Defensive End, which will hurt. Demetrius Cooper and Evan Jones are expected to be the starting Defensive Ends with Robert Bowers and Montez Sweat expected to be the main back ups. Dillon Alexander, Justice Alexander and Mufi Hunt will all be battling for playing time, too.
Austen Robertson and Josh King are 4 star Defensive Ends that the Spartans signed in 2016.
They also signed Defensive Tackle prospects Naquan Jones and Mike Panasuik who were also 4 star prospects.