Looking at the front seven for each SEC West team in 2016
The SEC has a reputation for grooming powerful, athletic defensive linemen and playmaking linebackers for the NFL.
Alabama’s entire front seven from its current national championship team is expected to play in the NFL — five are projected as early picks in the upcoming NFL Draft. The other two Crimson Tide starters opted to return for their senior season.
Here’s a look at how SEC West defensive fronts should line up next season:
Alabama: The Tide loses an all-star collection from the nation’s best defense. But end Jonathan Allen may be the most dominating defender in the conference next season. Allen led the Tide with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. He also forced two fumbles and deflected four passes. Linebacker Reuben Foster was second on the team with 73 tackles. The competition at spring practice should be interesting. The Tide has stockpiled a wealth of talent ready to take over.
Arkansas — The Razorbacks will have to replace tackle DeMarcus Hodge. But everybody else returns, including leading tackler Brooks Ellis and emerging star Dre Greenlaw at linebacker. Pass rush specialist Deatrich Wise led the Hogs in 2015 with 10.5 tackles for loss and 8 sacks. Another end, Jeremiah Ledbetter added 7.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. Improving its pass rush will be a priority for the Hogs, who had only 13 sacks last season.
Auburn — The Tigers lose three starters at linebacker, but they get dominant end Carl Lawson back. Auburn needs to improve a pass rush that had only 19 sacks in 2015. The next Tigers star may be tackle Dontavius Russell, who had 42 tackles as a redshirt freshman. Tackle Montravius Adams, who had 44 tackles last season, opted to return rather than enter the NFL Draft. Tre’ Williams, a rising junior, should emerge as a standout at linebacker.
LSU — The Tigers should have one of the top front sevens in the country. They lose only linebackers Deion Jones and Kendell Beckwith to the NFL Draft. Returners include end Lewis Neal, who had a breakthrough season in 2015 with 8 sacks. Damon Godchaux and Christian LaCouture started at tackle as sophomores. End Arden Key had 5 sacks as a freshman.
Ole Miss — Rising junior Marquis Haynes returns at end after making 16.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks last season. Tackle Breeland Speaks had 32 tackles. Linebacker DeMarquis Gates, the other returner, led the team with 76 tackles. The Rebels will miss tackle Robert Nkemdiche, who often drew double teams and clogged up the middle.
Mississippi State — Chris Jones and Beniquez Brown are leaving for the NFL Draft. The rest of the Bulldogs’ front seven returns. The best news for the Bulldogs is that leading tackler Richie Brown will return for his senior season after making 109 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. End A.J. Jefferson had 13.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks last season.
Texas A&M — The Aggies return Myles Garrett, who should be a candidate for several national awards. Last season, Garrett had 19.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks — tops on the team. Linebacker Shaan Washington was second on the team with 81 tackles. Daeshon Hall, who made seven sacks, returns for his senior season. Daylon Mack should emerge as a star, taking over at one of two vacant tackle positions. Mack had 9.5 tackles for loss as a freshman.