Analyzing every SEC team’s DL commitments for the Class of 2017
A tremendous crop of pass rushers is leaving the SEC for the NFL, but a new generation of defensive linemen is ready to take their place.
With an eye toward next season, we’re analyzing the SEC commitments for each position in the Class of 2017. Today’s focus is the defensive line.
The conference’s incoming defensive line class is one of the deepest among all positions, but there isn’t the same level of top-end talent that we’ve come to expect in recent years.
According to the 247Sports Composite Ranking, only eight of the top 50 defensive line prospects are committed to the SEC. There are still a few elite recruits who could change that come signing day, however.
Isaiah Buggs (4-star, No. 1 WDE): The Crimson Tide are losing a lot of veteran players on the defensive line, which makes Buggs a very important member of this class. The nation’s No. 4 overall JUCO prospect is already on campus and should compete for a starting spot.
Akial Byers (4-star, No. 9 DT): Byers is the only other defensive linemen in the 2017 class for Alabama, but he has the versatility to play multiple spots on the line. At 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds, Byers still has some room to grow. A star from Fayetteville, Ark., he spurned the hometown Hogs. He’s ranked No. 29 overall among defensive linemen in the class.
Top remaining targets: Aubrey Solomon, LaBryan Ray, Jarez Parks, Lagaryonn Carson, Phidarian Mathis, Ryan Johnson
Troy James (3-star, No. 69 SDE): James likely won’t make an immediate impact for the Razorbacks, but he has good size and should be a contributor down the road. He possesses good athleticism for a player who is close to 300 pounds, and James could be plugged in at any position on the line. He’s ranked No. 224 overall among d-linemen.
Top remaining targets: Lagaryonn Carson
Alec Jackson (3-star, No. 54 DT): Auburn has one of the best defensive lines in the SEC, but Jackson can provide key depth and even push for more playing time. Jackson is already 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, but coaches believe he will grow another inch and play around 300 pounds, making him a force on the interior.
Top remaining targets: Aubrey Solomon, Jarez Parks, Markaviest Bryant, Ryan Johnson
Zachary Carter (4-star, No. 4 SDE): One of the top pass rushers in this class, Carter is a big addition for the Gators. Carter has a fantastic frame to build upon and he’s shown that he can rely upon speed, power and size to get to the quarterback. He’s No. 20 overall among d-linemen.
Kyree Campbell (3-star, No. 1 JUCO DT): Campbell is a very important signee. The massive 6-foot-5, 300-pound defensive tackle had some serious interest from some of the top programs in the country. Campbell is more of a run stuffer than a pass rusher, but he should help anchor the Gators’ defensive line.
Top remaining targets: LaBryan Ray
Robert Beal (4-star, No. 6 WDE): Georgia sought to improve its pass rush with this incoming class, and Beal is likely to do just that. As a junior, Beal had five sacks and 11 tackles for a loss in only seven games for Norcross High School.
Malik Herring (4-star, No. 5 SDE): Herring’s biggest asset is his strength. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound lineman is fearless when hitting an opposing running back in the hole, and he can bull rush past linemen to get the quarterback to the ground. Herring brings plenty of versatility to the Bulldogs’ defensive line.
Devonte Wyatt (3-star, No. 29 DT): Wyatt isn’t a done deal for Georgia, as the monster defensive tackle has said he is still split between the Bulldogs and South Carolina. If he does end up in Athens, the 300-pound defender will be a welcome addition to the interior.
Top remaining targets: Aubrey Solomon, Markaviest Bryant
Joshua Paschal (4-star, No. 12 SDE): Paschal is the top defensive prospect committed to the Wildcats. Paschal is 6-foot-4 and 253 pounds, and he is versatile enough to play both defensive end or linebacker.
Jordan Wright (3-star, No. 27 WDE): Kentucky fans might be seeing a lot of Wright in the future, as the skilled pass rusher has been offered a walk-on opportunity with the basketball team. His size (6-6, 225) should be a real asset on the edge for the Wildcats.
Phil Hoskins (3-star, No. 4 JUCO DT): Hoskins is listed as a defensive tackle, but he knows how to get after the quarterback. In 10 games at the JUCO level, Hoskins totaled 25 tackles and four sacks.
Alex King (3-star, No. 36 WDE): With the potential to play a hybrid linebacker/defensive end role, King should get plenty of chances to rush the quarterback. He uses his hands to keep linemen off him and has the speed to beat them inside or outside.
Quinton Bohanna (3-star, No. 67 DT): At 315 pounds, Bohanna is a massive body for Kentucky on the interior of the defensive line. He still needs some polish, but Bohanna can develop into a good run defender.
Christopher Whittaker (3-star, No. 58 WDE): He might not make an immediate impact, but Whittaker has the raw skills to become one of the top defenders in this class. The coaches will need to work with him, but the South Florida product has great burst off the ball.
Tyler Shelvin (4-star, No. 3 DT): Shelvin isn’t a total lock for LSU just yet, and he has one eye on Alabama. Still, the Tigers are confident they can land the talented defensive tackle, but they will need to get him on a training regimen. Shelvin weighs around 345 pounds, but his ideal playing weight is probably closer to 325 pounds.
Justin Thomas (3-star, No. 18 SDE): Thomas is an ideal defensive end for LSU’s defense. Equally talented against the run and the pass, Thomas has the strength necessary to thrive in the SEC. As a junior, Thomas had 55 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks.
Neil Farrell (3-star, No. 42 DT): Several premier programs have come after Farrell hard in recent weeks, but the athletic defensive tackle is still pledged to LSU. Farrell is a talented interior pass rusher who has drawn comparisons to former SEC standout Nick Fairley.
Aaron Moffitt (3-star, No. 41 SDE): The son of LSU strength and conditioning coach Tommy Moffitt, this defensive end should add solid depth to the Tigers’ defensive line.
Top remaining targets: Marvin Wilson, K’Lavon Chaisson, Phidarian Mathis, Markaviest Bryant
Chauncey Rivers (4-star, No. 2 JUCO WDE): Mississippi State’s top defensive recruit has a bit of experience playing in the SEC. Rivers spent a year at East Mississippi Community College after he was dismissed from Georgia in 2016. In his one JUCO season, Rivers recorded 45 tackles and eight sacks.
Deion Pope (3-star, No. 1 JUCO DT): Pope’s route to Mississippi State has been one of the most interesting of any 2017 recruit, but he’s finally on campus and prepared to make an impact. Pope is a talented pass rusher, who recorded 42 tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks in his freshman JUCO season.
Lee Autry (3-star, No. 2 JUCO DT): The Bulldogs have the top two defensive tackles from the JUCO ranks already on campus, and they should complement each other well. Where Pope is a freakish athlete, Autry is a powerful player who has a high ceiling. He isn’t a quick player, but Autry could become an immovable object in the middle of the defensive line.
Aaron Odom (3-star, No. 34 WDE): Odom is a linebacker in a defensive end’s body. He is an attacking player off the edge who explodes into an opposing player with an impressive amount of force. Odom isn’t yet a fluid pass rusher, but he could develop into a real weapon.
Montez Sweat (3-star, No. 7 JUCO WDE): Yet another JUCO defensive lineman, Sweat was originally part of Michigan State’s program before his path led him to Mississippi State. At Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Sweat recorded 39 tackles, six tackles for a loss and five sacks.
James Jackson (3-star, No. 70 DT): Jackson is another massive, powerful player for the interior of the Bulldogs’ defensive line. The 345-pound defensive tackle was a competitive power lifter, but he would benefit from playing at a lower weight.
Nate Anderson (3-star, No. 6 JUCO SDE): A hybrid-type player, Anderson offers some potential as a pass rusher. The 6-foot-3, 255-pound defensive end recorded 13.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks at the JUCO level in 2016.
Rashad Brandon (3-star, No. 18 JUCO DT): Brandon is a defensive tackle who should earn immediate playing time next season. The 315-pound defender is capable of plugging the middle and quick enough to make plays in limited space.
Chris Turner (3-star, No. 65 WDE): Turner is far from a finished product, but he has the tools to become an effective pass rusher with some hands-on coaching.
Top remaining targets: Chester Graves
Markel Winters (3-star, No. 5 JUCO WDE): Ole Miss had an interesting time with Winters during his recruitment, but the JUCO defensive end finally signed. Winters is a tremendous pass rusher, who will provide plenty of athleticism. In nine games last season, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound defender recorded 16 sacks.
Larrell Murchison (3-star, No. 8 JUCO SDE): Murchison is an interesting prospect who might end up playing on the edge, despite possessing the size (6-4, 277) and power to play in the middle. His presence should help the Rebels hold up better against the run, and he does offer some upside on passing downs.
Ryder Anderson (3-star, No. 62 WDE): Once committed to Arkansas, Anderson flipped to Ole Miss shortly after the season ended. Standing 6-7, Anderson has a massive frame to build upon. He might be a bit of a project, but he is certainly worth the investment.
Top remaining targets: Chester Graves
MJ Webb (4-star, No. 8 SDE): Webb has been on campus since before South Carolina’s bowl game, and he’s made quite the impression. A powerful defensive lineman, Webb has the potential to become a dominant player with improved technique.
Tyreek Johnson (3-star, No. 63 SDE): Possibly better against the run than as a pass rusher, Johnson knows how to use his hands and keep his pads low through contact. He’s a quick athlete who could get to the quarterback more often as he adds more moves to his arsenal.
Eric Crosby (4-star, No. 13 DT): A coveted defensive tackle prospect, Crosby is a big addition for Tennessee’s defense. At 6-1, 330, he is a big, physical player who has a rare versatility for someone his size. With time and coaching, Crosby should become the anchor for the Vols’ defensive line.
Matthew Butler (3-star, No. 36 DT): Butler isn’t highly-ranked, but he could end up becoming one of the best players in this class. He exploded during his senior season, garnering 96 tackles, 44 tackles for a loss and a whopping 26 sacks. Butler should continue to develop into an every-down lineman for the Vols.
LaTrell Bumphus (3-star, No. 26 WDE): Bumphus played tight end and defensive end in high school and is one of the most athletic defenders in this Tennessee recruiting class. If he is tabbed to play defense for Tennessee, Bumphus will need some time and practice to reach his potential.
Kivon Bennett (3-star, No. 40 DT): In Bennett, the Vols landed a coveted defensive tackle with an NFL pedigree. The son of former Alabama All-American Cornelius Bennett, he already looks to be a polished player who should benefit from a college strength program.
Marquez Bembry (3-star, No. 39 ATH): Another hybrid player, Bembry (6-4, 210) could play outside linebacker for defensive end. Bembry has exceptional burst and a natural feel for getting to the quarterback. He could become a gem in this class.
Deandre Johnson (3-star, No. 43 WDE): Johnson finished his senior season with 15 sacks. Coaching will help Johnson refine his technique, and he may benefit from taking a redshirt.
Ryan Thaxton (3-star, No. 40 SDE): The newest defensive line commitment for Tennessee, Thaxton likely won’t make an immediate impact. He could develop into a good rotational player down the road but doesn’t have some of the same natural tools as other members of this class.
Top remaining targets: LaBryan Ray, Elijah Conliffe
Jayden Peevy (4-star, No. 18 DT): Peevy is a big body for the interior of the Aggies’ defensive line. The 6-foot-6, 279-pound tackle has the physical tools to become an effective SEC lineman, but he isn’t close to being a finished product yet.
Micheal Clemons (3-star, No. 2 JUCO SDE): Texas A&M needs some immediate assistance on the line, and Clemons can provide it. Clemons already looks the part of an SEC defensive end, and he has the in-game versatility needed to make plays.
Tyree Johnson (3-star, No. 30 WDE): Johnson still has a few official visits on his list, including a big one with Auburn, but he remains committed to the Aggies as of now. A better run defender than a pass rusher at this point, Johnson could become a regular player if he learns how to make the most of his natural abilities.
Ondario Robinson (3-star, No. 50 SDE): Robinson could be a sleeper in this recruiting class. He’s already shown a variety of pass rush moves and has the natural ability needed to survive in the SEC.
Top remaining targets: Lagaryonn Carson
Dayo Odeyingbo (3-star, No. 34 SDE): A naturally-gifted player, Odeyingbo is extremely versatile and could play on either side of the ball for Vanderbilt. Because he played several positions in high school, Odeyingbo is still very raw as an edge defender, but he has the potential to become an impact player down the line.
Jalen Pinkney (3-star, No. 44 WDE): Pinkney doesn’t have the same tools as some of the other defensive ends in his class, but he has a good motor and could provide some depth for the Commodores.
All rankings courtesy of the 247Sports Composite