There are some schools that are really deep in the Defensive Line this season and it’s probably between Clemson, Ohio State and Miami for the best and the deepest. Of course, Alabama and Florida State are in the mix and North Carolina State is really good up front.
1. Clemson: Last season’s true freshman Tackle Dexter Lawrence was possibly the best freshman Defensive Tackle I have ever seen in 50 years of viewing. Back inside at Tackle again is Christian Wilkins who moved outside last year because of injuries. These might be the best tackle tandem in the country. At the Ends, the Tigers return Clellin Ferrell and Austin Bryant as their starters. Bryant missed most of last season, but Ferrell was a late season hero. Depth took a blow recently with the loss of Richard Yeargin for the season. But, Clemson has built a machine in recent seasons. Nyles Pinckney, Albert Huggins and Jabril Robinson are back ups at Tackle and they are all really good. Pinckney redshirted last year after coming in as one of the best Defensive Tackles in the nation. Huggins came through when needed last year and is a quality player. At Defensive End, Chris Register, Xavier Kelly and Sterling Johnson provide more than dependable depth.
2. Ohio State: It’s a really close race between the top teams and the Buckeyes are also loaded in the Defensive Line. Urban Meyer called it a team strength. Ohio State just has a lot of talent and depth at every line position. At Defensive End, the team leader in sacks for the past couple of seasons has been Tyquan Lewis. Sam Hubbard and Nick Bosa also lend a valuable hand to the pass rush. Jalyn Holmes probably does not get enough credit, and there are a lot of others eager to get on the playing field. Darrius Slade, Rashod Berry, Jonathan Cooper and Chase Young are young and talented players waiting for their shot. At the inside positions senior Michael Hill and Dre’mont Jones, plus Tracy Sprinkle are the ring leaders. They are backed by sensational undersized Robert Landers. Also, Jashon Cornell, Malik Barrow, Davon Hamilton and Dylan Thompson are depth. Incoming freshmen Haskell Garrett and Jerron Cage were highly rated recruits. The Buckeyes have some serious talent and depth in their Defensive Line. Playing time might be scarce for the younger guys. Ohio State Defensive Line
3. Miami: The Hurricanes have depth and they have talent. They might have been placed 2nd on this list if Gerald Willis had not taken a leave of absence. Starting in the middle, RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton are an outstanding tandem, good at stopping the run and decent pass rushers as well. Backing them should be Pat Bethel and Anthony Moten, with Ryan Fines and Tyreic Martin trying to fight for playing time as well. On the outside, Defensive End is also really loaded, maybe even more so. Chad Thomas and Joe Jackson are the starters and are elite pass rushers. The numbers don’t prove that as Thomas had 8 and a half sacks last season while Jackson only had 4, but they are coming on. Trent Harris and Demetrius Jackson back them up with DJ Johnson, Scott Patchan and Jonathan Garvin also fighting for playing time. It’s a talented group which would have been even better with the big time Willis there with them. Hurricanes Defensive Line 2017
4. Florida State: The Seminoles lost a great one when Demarcus Walker used up his eligibility, but they gained a great one when Derrick Nnadi decided to return for his senior year. Although Nnadi is short for a Defensive lineman at 6-1, he is also thick at 315 and super quick. He is in the opponents backfield so often it seems he belongs there. Nnadi had 6 sacks last year and 10.5 tackles for loss. The Seminoles like to play Nnadi over the Center like a Nose Guard and play another Tackle which is manned by Demarcus Christmas. While not quite the force that Nnadi brings to the game, Christmas is still a bad hombre that Running Backs wish to avoid and he’s 6-4, 310 to boot. Losing Walker at Defensive End was huge, but Josh Sweat and Brian Burns are monsters on the outside. Sweat plays their Defensive End, while Burns is technically their Buck which is another name for an Outside Linebacker that mostly rushes the passer. Sweat had 7 sacks last year while Burns, a true freshman, had 9.5. By the end of the season, Burns was probably as good as anyone on the defense including Walker. The Seminoles have some quality depth which was added to by their last recruiting class. They signed 3 5 star recruits and 2 of those were Defensive Linemen. Marvin Wilson was the top rated Defensive Tackle in the nation and Joshua Kaindoh was the top Defensive End. Both are
beasts and will play early and often. If given the opportunity, Wilson could very well be this year’s Dexter Lawrence or Ed Oliver. Kaindoh is also just unbelievable and don’t get used to them Nole fans, you’ll only have them 3 years, at best.
Florida State plays Alabama in their first game and that could be a game for the ages. If the Seminoles happen to win, the door could be opened for another big season and teams with great defensive lines seem to do well.
5. Alabama: The Tide had some huge losses in the Defensive Line, but they are still Alabama. With a 3 man front, the NoseGuard will be Da’Ron Payne and he is not only massive, but he is super strong. DaShawn Hand is at one End and Josh Frazier on the other side. As long as Nick Saban is around the Crimson Tide will always have talent and this year is no different. These guys all played a lot last season so they are experienced and tough.
Isaiah Buggs transferred from Mississippi Gulf Coast College and should back up Hand, while Quinnen Williams backs up Frazier on the other side. Raekwon Davis is a giant at 6-7, 315 and he is the back up for Payne in the middle. Those thinking Alabama is going somewhere will be sadly disappointed next season.
6. Michigan: The Wolverines took some hits with the loss of about 45 seniors. The Defensive Line was no different with the losses of Taco Charlton, Ryan Glasgow, Chris Wormley and Matthew Godin. But, the returning players are outstanding. Former national top recruit Rashan Gary is back Chase Winovich should take over the other Defensive End and this guy can play. Not a lot of Tackles are going to be able to handle Winovich with his quickness and his heart and desire.
for his sophomore season and there’s nobody in his way in 2017. Supposedly, the 280 pound Gary ran a 4.57 40 yard dash in the Winter workouts. Lightly regarded
At the Nose Guard position they return Bryan Mone and he’s a lot better than given credit for. He’s had some injuries, but when on the field he is a pure beast. He is dominating and clogs up the middle really well. At the Tackle position might be their best player in Maurice Hurst.
The problem Michigan might have is experience should any starter goes down, but the talent is there with quality recruits. Backing up Mone is Aubrey Solomon that the Wolverines stole from the SEC with their coaches saying that they couldn’t take anyone that the SEC wanted. Everyone wanted Solomon and he is having a great camp in Michigan and he should play early. Michael Dwumfour, Phillip Paea, James Hudson and Deron Irving-Bey are the next generation of Michigan inside linemen. On the outside, the Wolverines have Carlo Kemp, Donovan Jeter, Luiji Villain and Kwity Paye. The Wolverines lost a lot of players, but they have a lot of young up and coming talent. Don’t ever count out Jim Harbaugh. That would be a huge mistake.
7. North Carolina State: Bradley Chubb, Darian Roseboro, Kentavius Street, Justin Jones and BJ Hill. Those are the returning Defensive Linemen for the Wolfpack of North Carolina State. Their Defensive Line is about as good as anyone in the country. Everyone on the Defensive Line besides Roseboro is a senior and they all have plenty of experience. The Wolfpack finished strong last season and they have a lot of returning talent.
Bradley Chubb is the leader of the bunch and last season he spent a lot of time in opponent’s backfields with 21.5 tackles for loss and 10 Quarterback sacks. Chubb is 6-4, 275 and one of the top Kentavius Street and Darian Roseboro. The 6-2, 290 Street had 5.5 Quarterback sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. While the 6-4, 280 Roseboro had 7 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. These ends are very big and very good and they should frighten other ACC teams.
Defensive Ends in the country. The other End position is occupied by
The same is true of Tackles Justin Jones and BJ Hill. Between them, they had 4 more sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. If you hope to play the Wolfpack, you had better have a really good Offensive Line. Not only do they have talent, but they also possess a lot of depth.
8. Houston: Any Defensive Line with Ed Oliver playing in it has to be one of the nation’s best. Oliver and Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence are the two best freshmen Defensive Tackles I believe I have ever seen. Oliver just terrorized enemy Quarterbacks last season and finished as 4th on the team in total tackles with 22.5 tackles for loss and 5 Quarterback sacks. Along with the sacks, he had 7 Quarterback pressures and 9 pass breakups. To top that off, he also forced 3 fumbles along the way. Oliver is an All American and if he isn’t, he should be. He is 6-2, 290 with a level of quickness that is hard to believe. The Cougars play a 3 man front with Oliver in the middle. He’s engulfed by Defensive Ends Nick Thurman and Jerard Carter. Thurman is a returning starter, while Carter was a part timer a season ago. Neither should be underestimated.
9. LSU: Say whatever you might about the Tigers, but they will always play good defense in present times. Their Defensive Line took a big hit when Davon Godchaux declared for the NFL. But, they got great news in the return of injured Christian LaCouture. A super productive Tackle in 2015, LaCouture missed the entire 2016 season and it was a blessing that he was able to return. Such a blessing that the LSU coaches and players voted on him wearing the traditional #18 jersey.
The Tigers also lost super productive Defensive End Lewis Neal, but watch out for senior Frank Herron there. At the Nose Tackle position, Greg Gilmore is back and at 6-4, 310 he should be able to clog up the middle. Consider Buck Linebacker Arden Key also a returning Defensive Lineman and he returns after racking up 12 Quarterback sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss with another 11 Quarterback hurries. LSU should not be slept on and they probably are the 2nd best team in the SEC
10. Kentucky: The other Stoops, Mike, has quietly assembled a decent football team in Lexington, one that it’s basketball program can be proud. It’s Defensive Line is pretty stout as well. Coming off the edge is Defensive End Denzil Ware. He may be a bit undersized at 6-2, 255 but he was 4th on the team in tackles with a healthy 70 and he was also all over Quarterbacks with 5.5 sacks and another 5 Quarterback hurries. There was not a lot of real talk about the guy with Derek Barnett at Tennessee and Myles Garrett at Texas A%M, but Ware seems to have a great passion for the game.
At the Nose position, Naquez Pringle and Matt Elam are almost impossible to move out of the way with their 300 plus pounds battling opponents’ Centers. Adrian Middleton is also a beast at the Defensive Tackle position. TJ Carter is a new starter at the other Defensive End position, but he has experience and can be good. While Kentucky won’t overtake Alabama, they sure can give troubles to other teams in the SEC East.
11. Wake Forest: One doesn’t usually think of Wake Forest when it comes to good football, but they have a solid team returning for next season and it all begins with defense for the Demon Deacons. It all begins with the 6-4, 270 senior man beast Duke Ejiofor. He’s one of the top Defensive Linemen in the country coming from his Defensive End position and he finished last season as one of his team’s top tacklers. He had 10.5 Quarterback sacks with 17 tackles for loss on 50 total tackles. Among all of his other stats he also came up with an Interception. At the other Defensive End is senior Miami native Wendell Dunn. Willie Yarbury was one of the Defensive Tackles last season as a sophomore, but the other Tackle is the only new guy up front. Redshirt freshman Sulaiman Kamara is 6-2, 280 and we will have to see how he does against good ACC Offensive Lines.