Picking a Defensive MVP for each team in the SEC
The top teams in the SEC were CFP participants Georgia and Alabama, conference runner-up Auburn and Citrus Bowl-bound LSU.
All four had at least one thing in common: outstanding defenses with multiple players worthy of MVP consideration.
The rest of the league’s teams had defensive standouts of their own.
Here is the Defensive MVP for every SEC team in 2017.
Alabama: S Minkah Fitzpatrick
Half of the Tide starters would have been acceptable choices, but Fitzpatrick is the most decorated player on one of the country’s elite defenses. He has had an impact in the backfield, the secondary and special teams while being nominated for virtually every award for which he is eligible.
Arkansas: LB De’Jon Harris
It was a difficult season for the Razorbacks, but Harris played at a high level week in and week out, finishing with 115 tackles. He has two years of eligibility remaining, giving new coach Chad Morris something to start with on defense.
Auburn: DL Jeff Holland
This is another defense with multiple worthy candidates, but Holland gets the nod over LB Tre’ Williams and DB Carlton Davis. Holland was a force in opposing backfields, finishing with 12 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 22 quarterback hurries.
Florida: DB Duke Dawson
Florida always has top-flight defensive backs and this season was no exception as Dawson edged out freshman DB C.J. Henderson, who matched Dawson’s four interceptions. Dawson also had nine pass breakups in Florida’s injury-riddled secondary.
Georgia: LB Roquan Smith
The awards have been rolling in for Smith, who was the MVP of the Bulldogs’ SEC Championship victory against Auburn. He also was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and won the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker.
Kentucky: DB Mike Edwards
He led the way all season for the Music City Bowl-bound Wildcats. Edwards led the team in tackles (90) pass break-ups (6) and interceptions (4).
LSU: LB Devin White
Greedy Williams had five interceptions and Arden Key and Rashard Lawrence were playmakers when healthy, but it was White who led the way for 12 games, finishing with an SEC-best 127 tackles. The sophomore emerged from the shadows to become the leader of one of the SEC’s better defenses.
Mississippi State: DL Montez Sweat
It was the DL tandem of Sweat and Jeffery Simmons that led the way for the Bulldogs defense, but Sweat gets the nod after recording 9.5 sacks. He overcame a slow start, not getting any sacks in the first four games, to have at least half a sack in seven of the last eight games.
Missouri: DL Marcell Frazier
The Tigers were known more for their offense than their defense, but opposing quarterbacks knew Frazier, who had 7 sacks. He had just 36 total tackles, but continued his harassment of quarterbacks with 8 hurries and 5 pass break-ups.
Ole Miss: DL Marquis Haynes
The Rebels had trouble stopping the run, but when opponents tried to pass, Haynes made things hard on them with 7.5 sacks. He also had 11 tackles for loss and finished his career as the school leader in tackles for loss and sacks.
South Carolina: LB Skai Moore
His first-team All-SEC selection reflects his impact this season. His standing as the Gamecocks’ leading tackler in each of his four seasons and his spot tied for the career interception record (with the Outback Bowl to come) demonstrate his impact on the program.
Tennessee: DB Daniel Bituli
The expectations for Bituli were limited entering the season, but he emerged as a leader and made a team-high 90 tackles while playing multiple positions.
Texas A&M: DB Armani Watts
He tied for second in the SEC with four interceptions, but was effective all over the field. Watts was second on the team in tackles and tied for third in tackles for loss while earning first-team All-SEC honors.
Vanderbilt: LB Charles Wright
The redshirt junior got off to a fast start in his first season as a full-time starter, getting 6 sacks in the first three games. He finished the season with 9 sacks.