Two-man East race for SEC Defensive POY

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Jarvis Jones and Jadeveon Clowney.

What’s not to like about either of these pass-rushing beasts?

Clowney leads the SEC in sacks and tackles-for-loss this season, while Jones is the most dynamic player for the SEC East champs. Both are superb at ruining offensive game plans and rattling opposing quarterbacks from their comfort zone.

The SEC’s top two defenders have each had Heismanesque performances late in the season indicative of athletes pushing themselves a little farther into the spotlight. Jones’ signature dreads were all over the field during Georgia’s best win, a 17-9 victory over second-ranked Florida in Jacksonville, while Clowney recorded a Memorial Stadium-record 4.5 sacks last weekend to lead the Gamecocks to their fourth straight win over Clemson.

Clowney’s 13-total sacks is a school record this season. Deeper inside the numbers, however, reveals Jones is quite the pass-disrupter himself. Used as a defensive end/outside linebacker hybird in Todd Grantham’s system, Jones has tallied 30 quarterback hurries on the season. Clowney on the other hand, has just five. Jones has forced six fumbles with two recoveries and helped UGA stuff Missouri with a key interception in the second half way back in September. Outside of Clemson, Clowney’s shining moment came in the final minutes against Tennessee when he sacked-and-stripped Tyler Bray with his team leading by three points in Gamecock territory.

Last season, LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu received the coveted Defensive Player of the Year for his efforts in leading the Tigers to an SEC Championship and berth in the BCS title game. Mathieu’s numbers (6 FF, 5 FR, 7 PBU, 70 TCKL and 6.5 TFL) are similar to Jones’ junior season (6 FF, 2 FR, 2 PBU, 71 TCKL and 19.5 TFL) and Georgia still has a shot at both the SEC title and BCS Championship. Bonus points to Jones over Clowney in that regard.

As for which of this season’s candidates has had more impact on their respective team is a tough question to answer. No doubt, Jones is the heart and soul of Georgia’s defense, a star-studded unit that has gotten stronger as the season’s progressed. Clowney, on the other hand, anchors one of the country’s fiercest defensive lines and is the cornerstone of Lorenzo Ward’s “pressure the passer with four” mentality, one of the best defenses — statistically — in the Steve Spurrier era at South Carolina.

As you can see, both phenoms have earned their stripes as the SEC’s best defenders and you can’t go wrong with either of these future first-round draft picks as this season’s SEC Defensive Player of the Year. I’d give the edge to Jones considering what’s still out there for the Bulldogs.

Photo Credit: Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE

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