These guys don’t play nice.

Kicking off ‘Linebackers Week’ at Saturday Down South, here are the players we’ve selected on a team-by-team look as the best at their position entering spring practice.

RELATED: Each SEC team’s No. 1 WR in 2015

Several programs lost notable talents, namely Martrell Spaight at Arkansas and Benardrick McKinney from Mississippi State, but linebacker appears to be an area of strength in 2015 as the SEC tries to claw its way back into the College Football Playoff. Many teams have depth in the middle and we’ll discuss some of those names after the top-ranked guys as well.

ALABAMA: Reggie Ragland — This hard-hitting veteran is Alabama’s top returning tackler on a defense hungry for redemption after having its feelings hurt last time out on the national stage. After two seasons as a reserve on defense and contributor on special teams, Ragland developed into a reliable starter inside last fall and enters the 2015 campaign as a likely Butkus watchlist nominee. Ranked No. 1 at the inside spot in several preseason lists thus far, it appears the 6-foot-3, 260-pounder who returned to school is ready to purse an All-American caliber season for the Crimson Tide. If he stays injury-free, Ragland should be an All-SEC lock at year’s end:

AUBURN: Cassanova McKinzy — One of two senior multi-year starters returning at the position for the Tigers next fall, McKinzy — along with Kris Frost — pondered early entry into the NFL Draft but decided to stick around after Auburn hired Will Muschamp to overhaul the defense. As a sophomore in 2013, McKinzy became Auburn’s first underclassmen to lead the Tigers in tackle since 2008 and countered that with a 91-tackle surge last fall — the most from an Auburn linebacker since Karlos Dansby in 2003. McKinzy could be an early-round selection in 2016 with a standout season. Keep an eye on sophomore Tre Williams behind McKinzy and Frost. He has star potential and will continue to develop with more reps.

ARKANSAS: Brooks Ellis — He doesn’t possess the same physical gifts as Spaight, but Ellis shined during 11 starts as a sophomore, recording 72 stops and two interceptions. His tackle total was second only to the All-SEC selection for the Razorbacks. Ellis came up big against ranked division rivals, posting 34 total tackles against Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

FLORIDA: Antonio Morrison — The anchor of Geoff Collins’ first-year defense in Gainesville now that Dante Fowler Jr. will soon hear his name called in the first round, Morrison won’t play this spring after suffering a serious, undisclosed injury during the Gators’ bowl win over East Carolina. Morrison’s recovery process is reportedly 6-8 months, which is often the time needed to heal from ligament tears. If Morrison’s back to full strength by fall practice, he should have no problem fitting into Collins’ scheme as Florida’s top returning tackler (101 stops).

GEORGIA: Jordan Jenkins — It’s close, but we’ll give the senior an edge over soon-to-be sophomore Lorenzo Carter, one of the SEC’s most gifted players athletically, and rising junior pass rusher Leonard Floyd who plays outside in Georgia’s 3-4 look. Jenkins was a member of Georgia’s expert-tackling, upperclassmen trio last season (Amarlo Herrera, Ramik Wilson) who elected to stay in Athens for a final season. He stabilizes the Bulldogs in the middle of what should be one of the Eastern Division’s top defenses under Jeremy Pruitt.

KENTUCKY: Josh Forrest — Forrest doesn’t get the credit he deserves as one of the SEC’s forgotten players. Solid in coverage with great instincts against the run, Forrest is arguably Kentucky’s top returning player — overall — alongside safety A.J. Stamps. As a junior first-year starter last season, Forrest tallied a team-best 110 stops (third in the SEC at 9.17 stops per game) and picked off two passes.

LSU: Kendell Beckwith — The next draftable linebacker in LSU’s lineage of greats on the defensive side of the ball, Beckwith’s a freak with tremendous upside heading into his junior campaign following a 77-tackle season as a first-year starter. He ranked second on the team in stops behind Kwon Alexander who recently ran the fastest 40-time at the NFL Combine for linebackers. Beckwith will lead the Tigers in tackles for losses this season.

MISSISSIPPI: Denzel Nkemdiche — Anyone expecting the Rebels to take a step back defensively without All-Americans Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson at the back end are overlooking several others capable of similar seasons (including Robert Nkemdiche and Tony Conner), but depth at linebacker is an issue. D.T. Shackelford, Serderius Bryant and Keith Lewis all exhausted their eligibility at Ole Miss, leaving the Rebels with several unproven tacklers, notably JUCO transfer Christian Russell, to have expanded roles. Nkemdiche has the most experience, but is still working to get back to full strength from a broken ankle suffered last season at LSU. He’ll be a focal point in Dave Wommack’s 4-2-5.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: Beniquez Brown — This fourth-year junior has huge shoes to fill on a Manny Diaz-coached defense playing without figureheads Benardrick McKinney and pass rusher Preston Smith. In 26 career games, Brown has posted 101 tackles, finishing second behind McKinney last season with 62 stops.

MISSOURI: Kentrell Brothers — An All-SEC second teamer last fall, the league’s top returning tackler will challenge Alabama’s Reggie Ragland for the top spot this fall after a monster 122-stop campaign as a junior. His production may increase since Markus Golden and Shane Ray are no longer in front of him on the defense hogging tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Brothers and Michael Scherer give the two-time division champs a shot at having an elite defense in 2015 despite substantial pass-rush losses.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Skai Moore — There’s no doubt Jonathan Walton made a late push with a solid performance during the Independence Bowl, but Moore is undoubtedly the Gamecocks’ top returning player at the position and likely on the defense as a unit. Despite leading the team in tackles last season, by most accounts he underperformed as a sophomore following an All-SEC season as a true freshman. Without a pass rush, Moore was often the stop-gap at the line of scrimmage before the opposition reached the second-level of the Eastern Division’s worst unit. He shouldn’t have to shoulder as much of the load this fall with new coordinator Jon Hoke directing the Gamecocks’ run defense and will have the opportunity to make more plays in a freelance role as a roam-free linebacker.

TENNESSEE: Curt Maggitt — Maggitt quietly collected 15 tackles behind the line of scrimmage as a redshirt junior after returning from offseason surgeries, proving he could still be the explosive player in the middle he showed during the 2011 and 2012 campaigns. Maggitt finished third in the SEC in sacks, lining up outside and with his hand in the dirt several times. He’s a hybrid defender on his way to another All-SEC season. Maggitt and Jalen Reeves-Maybin provide Tennessee with one of the best 1-2 punches at linebacker in the SEC.

TEXAS A&M — Shaan Washington: Washington missed the first three games last season with a broken collarbone but still managed to post 64 tackles as a leading contributor at linebacker and he could be the key element of Texas A&M’s turnaround defensively under new coordinator John Chavis. The Aggies will also welcome back TCU transfer A.J. Hilliard who missed nearly all of his redshirt sophomore season after breaking his ankle in the opener at South Carolina.

VANDERBILT — Nigel Bowden: Vanderbilt’s strongest position group during spring practice thus far has been its linebackers, a solid core predicated on power and strength. Last season, Bowden became the school’s first (second-year) freshman to lead his team in tackles since Jamie Winborn in 1998. By season’s end, he took over the title of top dog on defense from Caleb Azubike and earned freshman All-SEC accolades. Stephen Weatherly is another player capable of sizable production at the position for the Commodores.