The SEC says goodbye to star tackles Sharrif Floyd and Sheldon Richardson, among others. However, the line of scrimmage league has several no-names, veterans and talented newcomers ready to emerge as the next batch of tackles in the SEC.
Some may be new names, but they’ll become household names in 2013. That starts this spring. And others not listed will have breakout years during the ‘13 season, but we’re not forecasting breakout stars. We are looking at known commodities.
Here are the 10 best defensive tackles opening spring practice:
Top of the line
1. Anthony Johnson, LSU
2. Dominique Easley, Florida
3. Byran Jones, Arkansas
Anthony ‘Freak’ Johnson may not have lived up to his enormous potential yet, but there’s a great chance this man-child finally does in 2013. The rising junior recorded 10 tackles for loss and three sacks last season, but that pales in comparison to his 4.8 40 time. The former freshman All-American will anchor LSU’s always talented defensive line…Dominique Easley is the SEC’s bad boy. Between pregame fights and in-game trash talking, Easley is one of the more feared tackles in the league. And he could prove to be the best when December rolls around. Easley’s quick first step sets him apart from the rest, and he recorded 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks last season…It seems like Byran Jones has been at Arkansas for 10 seasons, but his fourth and final season will be in 2013. Jones recorded 52 tackles last year, along with posting five tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. The 312-pound hawse will help anchor a strong and experienced Arkansas defensive line in 2013.
Underrated impact players
4. Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
5. Isaac Gross, Ole Miss
6. Donte Rumph, Kentucky
7. Robert Thomas, Arkansas
8. Angelo Blackson, Auburn
All we hear about on South Carolina’s front four is Jadeveon Clowney, but don’t forget about developing and emerging tackle Kelcy Quarles. Quarles recorded 38 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in ‘12, helping the Gamecocks to a league-leading 43 sacks. Like Clowney, Quarles is a rising junior, and he will help fortify the middle of the inexperienced Gamecocks’ defense…I love players like Isaac Gross. Just another three-star exiting high school, Gross was deemed ‘too light’ to make an impact at any major university at nose tackle. But all he did was post 40 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in his freshman season. Some guys are just gamers, and Gross is definitely that. He, along with newcomer Lavon Hooks, will be a force in the teeth of the Rebels’ defensive line…Donte Rumph gives Mark Stoops an impact player at tackle. No, he’s not ultra talented, but he is tied for the league-lead in sacks for returning tackles in ‘13. He’s shown flashes of outstanding potential, and he could be a force in Stoops’ system. Rumph registered 36 tackles, six tackles for loss and four sacks in ‘12…Robert Thomas may have something to say about his counterpart in crime Byran Jones being ranked so high. Thomas and Jones share the same amount of potential, but we haven’t sees Thomas’ best yet. The 308-pound rising senior gives the Hogs four strong starters returning on the defensive line to hopefully make Arkansas’ run defense one of the best in the league…Auburn’s defensive line was supposed to be the strongpoint of last year’s squad, but it, like the rest of the team, became a disappointment. One of the few bright spots on defense was Angelo Blackson. He totaled seven tackles for loss and one sack as a sophomore, but he should make a bigger jump in 2013, starting this spring.
9. Maurice Couch, Tennessee
10. Kirby Ennis, Texas A&M
We haven’t seen Maurice Couch’s best yet, and a new year in a new 4-3 system bodes well for Couch to live up to his potential. He recorded just four tackles for loss and one sack in Tennessee’s less than impressive 2012 campaign, but he’s one of the best the league has to offer in ‘13…Kirby Ennis was suspended by Kevin Sumlin after his arrest earlier this year, and he’ll miss spring practice because of a lingering knee injury and internal obligations because of his suspension. But after he does, he’ll become the Aggies’ one returning starter in the front four. Ennis’ veteran leadership will be key to a young and inexperienced front seven. He recorded 24 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack in 2012.
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