Published January 21, 2014 - 1:15pmNEW: Follow on facebook -
- Running Backs
- Wide Receivers
- Offensive Linemen
- Tight Ends
- Defensive Ends
- Defensive Tackles
There weren’t as many great defensive tackles as what we are used to seeing in the SEC. And the position would be hurting if not for four freshmen who made instant impacts this past season. The craziest thing about the following rankings is eight of the 10 come from the SEC West. You think the western division is loaded for the future?
Let’s jump into the 10 best defensive tackles…
1. Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina (JR)
There wasn’t another dominant defensive tackle that stood up to Kelcy Quarles this past season. Quarles emerged as the Gamecocks’ biggest and best defensive lineman, not Jadeveon Clowney. He posted 39 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks en route to becoming the SEC’s best defensive tackle. Quarles is leaving early for the NFL Draft.
2. Dominique Easley, Florida (SR)
Yes, Dominique Easley only played three games this season due to a knee injury, but he was the top defensive player through those four weeks and was still arguably the SEC’s best defensive player through the first half. His quickness and explosion was second to none. He posted just two tackles for loss and four QB hurries in his short time. Losing Easley changed the entire complexion of the way Florida played defense.
3. Chris Jones, Mississippi State (FR)
4. A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama (FR)
5. Darius Philon, Arkansas (FR)
Chris Jones is going to be a monster, and I love his upside and athleticism. He blew onto the scene as a high school senior, and he lived up the hype as a freshman. He can play at either tackle or end, and he made 32 tackles, seven tackles for loss and three sacks, along with 10 QB hurries. The kid is going to be a baller…A’Shawn Robinson had a big freshman year, and his future is certainly bright. Robinson played in all 13 games, making 38 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks, along with five QB hurries. Robinson is the nose tackle that Nick Saban covets in his 3-4 defense…Darius Philon is going to be a big-time player for the Hogs, and he’s coming off an impressive redshirt freshman campaign. Philon recorded 46 tackles, nine tackles for loss and three sacks, along with two forced fumbles. He flashed the type of talent that Bret Bielema can build around for the future.
6. Anthony Johnson, LSU (JR)
7. Ego Ferguson, LSU (JR)
LSU had two formidable tackles in Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson. Anthony Johnson never reached his full potential while at LSU. He’s a freak athlete who NFL coaches will love, but he never quite made the massive contribution we all thought he would. Johnson posted 35 tackles, nine tackles for loss and three sacks. Ego Ferguson showed how great of an athlete he truly is by finishing fifth on the team in total tackles. That just doesn’t happen as a tackle, and at one point, he led the team in tackles. Ferguson finished with 58 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack. He has some tremendous upside that should wow scouts at the NFL Combine.
Trio of SEC West bullies
8. Gabe Wright, Auburn (JR)
9. Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss (FR)
10. Isaac Gross, Ole Miss (SO)
Gabe Wright broke out this season with Auburn. No, he didn’t have jaw-dropping numbers, but his ability and consistency helped Auburn have the biggest turnaround in college football. Wright made 30 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks, along with nine QB hurries. He’ll be a force next season…The heralded recruit Robert Nkemdiche switched from defensive end to tackle once in Oxford. His 6-5, 300-pound frame is unbelievable, and it oozes with huge potential. However, I thought Chris Jones, Darius Philon and A’Shawn Robinson had better seasons, but Nkemdiche can erase all of that in 2014. He made 34 tackles, eight tackles for loss and two sacks…Isaac Gross has put strong back-to-back campaigns together. All the talk is about how Gross is undersized for the position, but his quickness and burst make up for it. Gross recorded 34 tackles, nine tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in his sophomore season.
Photo Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports