Welcome to Saturday Down South’s “D-line Week”, where we talk with some of the top realistic defensive line targets out there for SEC schools. We’ve interviewed some of the biggest names in the country, and we’ll rank them at the end of the week. See who your school has a chance of luring to campus.
Last year, 12 SEC defensive linemen were drafted within the first five rounds on the NFL Draft. That’s actually a decent chunk of the draft-eligible starting defensive linemen in the conference, if you think about it.
Perhaps nothing differentiates SEC football from the rest of the country more than the play along its defensive front. These big dudes aren’t just rooted in the ground to provide some stationary, immovable barricades that the opposing offense must navigate itself around like in a drill … these guys can move and they hate quarterbacks. And a lot of them are going to be rich one day. They’re athletic, they’re well coached … and for some reason there seems to be a large concentration of them in the south.
If experts were asked to name the one unit on the field that has had the most to do with SEC teams reaching eight straight national title games, one has to think the defensive line would be named. Since the 2010 recruiting class–spanning six classes if you include this year’s, 2015–four of the consensus No. 1 national recruits have been defensive linemen heading to the SEC. In 2010, DE Ronald Powell picked Florida, in 2011 DE Jadeveon Clowney chose South Carolina, in 2013 DE Robert Nkemdiche chose Ole Miss and this year’s No. 1–DT Trent Thompson–is almost certainly going to sign with an SEC school. Oh, and the class that signed last month, the 2014 version? RB Leonard Fournette may have taken the top spot, but there was perhaps no more dominating individual in the postseason games than Texas A&M bound DE Myles Garrett, who was the consensus No. 2 behind Fournette. Garrett easily could have been No. 1, too.
“The D-line is the backbone of the defense,” Thompson, the nation’s top recruit, told Saturday Down South over the weekend. “If you don’t have good D-linemen, they’ll just be running on you all day and throwing on you all day. You have always got to have somebody who can put that hand in the dirt. No good defensive linemen wants to leave the SEC. There’s a lot of good ones there.”
How about this stat, just narrowing it down to one SEC program: LSU has had a defensive lineman picked in 10 straight NFL Drafts. Last year, four went in the NFL Draft–Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery, Lavar Edwards and Bennie Logan.
That’s how this league works.
So before everybody gets all fired up about quarterbacks who throw for 4,000 yards and receivers who catch 100 passes in a season … how about a defensive lineman who might as well stake a tent in your backfield and roast your skill players over an open flame of pressure and intensity. As they say, it all starts up front … and nobody does it better than the SEC.