1. Carlos Watkins – Clemson: The Tigers may have lost the national championship game to Alabama, but this team is amazing and has the talent to continue for a while. Watkins is a senior who elected to return for his senior season instead of heading out to the NFL. Watkins is 6-3, 300 and very physical. He is quick, too, with a 15 yard Interception return for a Touchdown to his credit from last season. He’s great against the run and is a fair pass rusher as well. He will team with last year’s freshman sensation Christian Wilkins and will add Dexter Lawrence this season to the mix. Clemson is Watson, Watkins and Wilkins this year and they are still looking to soar. They just keep bringing in and developing talent.
2. Malik McDowell – Michigan State: McDowell is a very impressive physical specimen that
returns to the Spartans for his junior year with All America aspirations. He is 6-6, 275 with exceptional quickness and athletic ability. Last year, he had 41 tackles with 13 tackles for loss and 4 1/2 Quarterback sacks. McDowell also had another 8 Quarterback hurries and he had a pick for a 13 yard Touchdown. Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio is determined to return to the type of defense that the Spartans fielded in 2013 and it starts with Malik McDowell at Defensive Tackle. McDowell has those long arms and he could play Defensive End in a 3-4 defense rather easily. His size, quickness and versatility should make him interesting to NFL teams come draft day.
3. Jonathan Allen – Alabama: Allen plays Defensive End for Alabama, but they play a 3 man front and he is more like a Defensive Tackle. Allen is 6-3, 285 and this beast had 12 Quarterback sacks and 14 1/2 tackles for loss. For anyone thinking that the Crimson Tide is going away, forget about it. Allen is coming back for his senior season when he had every opportunity to head for the NFL. He is big, strong and quick and he came extremely close to registering several more sacks. Allen should team up with two new starters. Those starters may be new, but they are very, very talented players and Bama should not see much drop off here, if any. DeShawn Hand and Daron Payne should be the new starters and both are gifted and tough.
4. Chris Wormley – Michigan: Like Allen, Wormley actually plays Defensive End, but he is 6-4, 305. Wormley is strong and really tough against the run. He’s also a decent pass rusher and finished 2015 with 6 and 1/2 Quarterback sacks. I suspect that Wormley may play inside a little more this season with the arrival of incredibly fantastic top rated recruit in the country, Rashan Gary. If you are a Michigan fan and have not seen Gary play, you are in for a pleasant surprise. The Michigan defense was really good last season and ranked 4th in total defense. This season, with new Defensive Coordinator Don Brown is a really exciting one. Brown did wonders at Boston College when they finished tops in the nation in total defense with very few top talents. Wormley is a beast and the Wolverines have a lot of depth thanks to recruiting efforts of former Michigan coach Brady Hoke.
5. Montavius Adams – Auburn: Here’s another good player that decided to stay in school instead of leaving for the NFL. The Auburn Tigers have not exactly been known for great defense in recent seasons, but Adams could go a long way in changing that. Adams is 6-4, 300, and a force in the middle. He’s been in the starting lineup since 2014 and he saw a lot of playing time in Auburn’s
magical 2013 SEC Championship season. He totaled 44 tackles a year ago and 2 1/2 Quarterback sacks. He decided to return for his senior season and I hope that pays off for him next draft day.
6. Davon Godchaux – LSU: Going into his third year as a starter at Defensive Tackle, Godchaux has been a force up front for the Tigers. LSU lost it’s other top interior Defensive Lineman when Christian LaCouture went down for the year with a serious knee injury, but they will have depth as usual. Godchaux has started since his freshman season and one would imagine he will declare for the NFL after this season. The junior is 6-4, 295 and an excellent run stopper. He also had 6 Quarterback sacks and 9 tackles for loss along with his 41 tackles. As usual, the Tigers will be tough on defense in 2016.
7. Ryan Glasgow – Michigan: When Glasgow was lost for the season last year, the Wolverines defense went down hill slightly. Glasgow is a powerful player to be dealt with by Offensive Linemen facing the Wolverines. He is a killer against the run and even though he doesn’t rank among the top
tacklers on the team, Glasgow is always clogging up the middle and any running lanes. He is 6-4, 300 and a former Walk-on at Michigan along with his older brother who was the starting Center last season and is now in the NFL.
8. Christian Wilkins – Clemson: Wilkins was a true freshman last year that stepped right up and played superbly. AT 6-4, 315, Wilkins is a force in the middle and he totaled 33 tackles as a true freshman with 4 1/2 tackles for loss and 2 Quarterback sacks. The Tigers will have Wilkins, Carlos Watkins, Scott Pagano and true freshman super star Dexter Lawrence. As a 5 star recruit, Dexter Lawrence may be the best of the group when all is said and done.
9. Terry Beckner Jr – Missouri: Huge Defensive Tackle that is hard to move off the line of scrimmage. The tigers struggled when they first came into the SEC, and then they surprised everyone and won the SEC East 2 years in a row only to fall apart last season. But, through it all the Missouri Tigers have played pretty tough defense. With a new coach this season, their former Defensive Coordinator, things could be different. Beckner was one of the top Defensive Tackle recruits in the country last year, if not the very best and he saw action immediately. Beckner should team up with senior Josh Augustus who is even bigger to form a solid tackle combo up front for the Tigers. They also have really good Defensive Ends, as usual. Beckner is around 6-4, 300 and 27 total tackles and 8 tackles for loss and 3 Quarterback sacks. I am banking on Beckner being improved for his sophomore season.
10. Caleb Brantley – Florida: The Gators Defensive Tackle is a beast. He is listed as 6-2, 315 and totaled 29 tackles last year with 3 Quarterback sacks and 6 1/2 Quarterback sacks. The Gators may have been awful on offense the past year, but they always play great defense. Brantley will be a junior this season and will no doubt declare for the NFL Draft.The Gators offense will be much improved this season allowing the defense more time on the sidelines to rest and that will help pecially the bigger guys like Brantley.
11. Eddie Vanderdoes – UCLA: Former 5 star recruit that signed with Notre Dame but got out of his scholarship because of family issues.Vanderdoes was injured in the first game of the season last year and missed the rest of it. As a sophomore, he was one of the more productive interior Defensive Linemen in the country. Vanderdoes teamed up with Kenny Clark a couple of seasons back and he
probably would have left after last year if not for the injury because they were a tough combo. Vanderdoes had 50 tackles in 2014. He’s 6-3, 305, strong and very quick.
12. Daron Payne – Alabama: Payne is a physical specimen that is a warrior in the weight room. He was a back up last season, but the guys he backed up were phenomenal. He moves into the starting lineup this season and he should allow for the Crimson Tide to have little drop off. Payne is 6-2, 315 and just an incredible beast of a man that will dominate the line of scrimmage. Even though he’s sort of an unknown at the moment, he will rise to the top by the end of the season and by the time he’s finished at Alabama he will be an early round draft pick.
13. Rex Manu – Oregon: The Ducks lost a lot of players off of their defense but considering their defense was really bad, that might have been a good thing. They also hired former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke as their Defensive Coordinator. In Oregon’s Spring Game, Manu looked like a potentially huge improvement in the Defensive Line. Manu is 6-3, 315 and from Mililani, Hawaii. He played sparingly as a freshman because of more experienced guys playing ahead of him. But, he managed enough playing time to register 6 tackles.
14. Daylon Mack – Texas A%M: The Aggies haven’t been known for defense since probably the old SWC, but if it all starts up front then it starts with Daylon Mack. The former 5 star recruit is a handful for most Offensive Linemen and he had 32 tackles as a true freshman. Mack is huge at about 6-1, 335 and can be a very serious run stopper.
15. BJ Hill – North Carolina State: The Wolfpack had a good Defensive Line a year ago and Hill was a very productive player for them. Hill spent some time in opponents backfields last year and had 11 tackles for loss while compiling 50 total tackles and 3 1/2 Quarterback sacks. Hill is 6-4, 300 and a load in the middle for the Wolfpack and he moves pretty well for a huge guy.
16. Derrick Nnadi – Florida State: A lot of talent coming out of Virginia Beach and Nnadi is an immovable object in the defensive line. He is about 6-1, 305 and he had 45 tackles as a sophomore last season. He’s not a great pass rusher with only 2 Quarterback sacks, but he is a good run stopper.
The Seminoles return everyone on offense and they will need great play on the defensive side of the ball as well to win the ACC.
17. Trenton Thompson – Georgia: One of the top Defensive Tackle recruits in the country brought in by the previous coaching staff. Thompson earned very much playing time as a true freshman and finished with 25 total tackles and he was in the opponents backfield a lot. Thompson is about 6-4, 305 and he has serious potential to continue improving for new Georgia head coach Kirby Smart. New coach Smart is also a defensive specialist, so there should be serious improvement in the Bulldog defense.
18. Elijah Qualls – Washington: Qualls is a beast at about 6-2, 325 and an excellent run stopper. Washington is surprisingly stout on defense and they were the best in the Pac 12 last season on that side of the ball. As a sophomore last season, Qualls had 26 total tackles and both 4 1/2 tackles for loss and Quarterback sacks. He is super strong and really quick and should be a force this season. The strength of the Husky defense is at Defensive Back with Budda Baker and Cornerback Sidney Jones.
19. Jake Replogle – Purdue: Many will disagree with this selection, but Replogle has a motor and that has to be respected regardless of how bad his team is. The Centerville, Ohio native is 6-5, 275 and runs really well. He had 60 total tackles which placed him 4th on his team. He also had an
impressive 14 tackles for loss and then 2 Quarterback sacks which needs to improve if he is going to get noticed this season.
20. Gerald Willis – Miami: Willis is a transfer from Florida where he did get in some trouble. New Cane coach Mark Richt won’t tolerate any such nonsense, but if Willis can stay straight he can be a world beater. He is not a huge tackle at about 6-4, 285, but he has tremendous speed and quickness. He should bring some heat on the Quarterback from the interior for the Hurricane’s defense. Coming out of New Orleans, Willis was a win for Florida in the recruiting battles. But, now he is a big win for the Miami Hurricanes as they attempt a return to greatness.
Demarcus Christmas – Florida State: He could be outstanding
DeAngelo Brown – Louisville: under consideration.
Ufomba Kamalu – Miami: the Canes have some quality here.
Courtel Jenkins – Miami: A lot of talent.
Jeremiah Clarke – North Carolina: Tar Heels struggle against run still.
Nazair Jones – North Carolina: Up and coming?
Kentavius Street – North Carolina State: Wolfpack could be coming on.
Justin Jones – North Carolina State: tough interior.
Tyrique Jarrett – Pittsburgh: Watch out for the Panthers
Andrew Brown – Virginia: former 5 star needs to step up.
Charles Walker – Oklahoma: Very good player
Vincent Taylor – Oklahoma State: Cowboys need domination here.
Chunky Clements – Illinois: bright spot for new coach Lovie Smith.
Jaleel Johnson – Iowa: Tough to run against unless you are Stanford.
Maurice Hurst – Michigan: Wolverines are coming.
Brian Mone – Michigan: Unlimited potential has been slowed by injuries
Raequan Williams – Michigan State: Spartan defense longs to return to 2013
Tyler Lancaster – Northwestern: Wildcats played tough at times in 2015
Noah Jefferson – USC: Trojans need Defensive Linemen to step up.
Eli Ankou – UCLA: great potential
Robert Barber – Washington State: the Cougars played some defense last year.
Dalvin Tomlinson – Alabama: Crimson Tide defense is so deep.
Jeremiah Ledbetter – Arkansas: This guy is better than expected
Tevin Beanum – Arkansas: More of a Defensive End.
Dontavius Russell – Auburn: shares interior with Adams to form solid wall.
Christian LaCouture – LSU: injured and probably out for season.
DJ Jones – Ole Miss: Better mostly that more celebrated teammate at college level.
AJ Jefferson – Mississippi State: Tough interior line.
Rickey Hatley – Missouri: The Tigers defense can be tough.
Kahlil McKenzie – Tennessee: next year, or a later kind of guy
Kenny Bigelow – USC: should be good if not injured
Some will rise as the season progresses.