Predicting the defensive MVP for every SEC West team in 2019
When you think of the SEC West, you think defense.
It’s their calling card, and aside from Arkansas and Ole Miss, every team in the division features a top 25 caliber defense. Programs like Alabama, LSU and Auburn are name brands when it comes to producing stars on defense, and even Mississippi State and Texas A&M have come into the mix in recent years.
Some teams have numerous stars on defense, while others just a few, but only one guy can be the defensive MVP. Here are the picks for defensive MVP’s from the SEC West in 2019.
Alabama: LB Dylan Moses
As is predictably the case with the always talented Alabama defense, there are numerous strong candidates here. Raekwon Davis might be the most freakishly gifted athletically, but Moses drives the defense – the one who makes the pre-snap reads and makes the calls and adjustments for the unit.
Moses was outstanding in 2018, leading the team with 86 tackles while also adding 10 TFLs and 3.5 sacks. He’s very well suited for the modern game with the speed and range to cover and also possesses the power to get off blocks and enforce the run defense inside. He has been on the national radar since Alabama gave him a scholarship offer before he went into 8th grade, and 6 years later, he’s ready to step up and become the face of the vaunted defense.
Arkansas: LB De’Jon Harris
This one is a no-brainer because not only is Harris the best player on defense, he’s the best player on the team. In fact, the 6-0, 245-pound senior might just be the best linebacker in the league. High praise indeed considering we’re talking about the SEC.
His production has been off-the-charts the past 2 years, piling up 233 tackles, 17.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks and defending 7 passes, earning All-SEC honors each year. For Arkansas to improve itst porous defense from last year — were 11th in the SEC in yards allowed per game and 13th in scoring defense – the Hogs need another big year from their playmaking leader at the heart of their defense.
Auburn: DT Derrick Brown
Virtually everyone, myself included, was shocked when Brown decided to return for his senior season. Even considering the historic depth and talent the 2019 NFL Draft featured among defensive linemen, Brown was a lock to go in the 1st round. Instead, the NFL will have to wait another year, much to the chagrin of every interior offensive lineman in the SEC.
Brown is a 6-5, 325-pound behemoth. He has a rare combination of power and quickness, with the ability to not only anchor against the run, but the burst and lateral mobility to penetrate the line and make plays in the backfield. It’s nearly impossible to block him 1-on-1, and the double teams he necessitates creates single blocks for others, such as star pass rusher Nick Coe.
LSU: S Grant Delpit
The Bayou Bengals are a factory when it comes to churning out elite defensive backs for the next level. The latest in a long line of standouts is Delpit, who isn’t just the best defensive back in college football – he might be the best player in the country.
The 6-3, 203-pound athletic marvel was electrifying as a sophomore last year, racking up 74 tackles, 9.5 TFL’s, 5 sacks, 5 interceptions and defending 9 passes. He’s the epitome of a defensive weapon with his skill set – he can rush the passer, stuff the run behind the line of scrimmage, play man coverage on receivers or drop into a deep centerfield zone. A playmaker with his versatility is simply invaluable to a defense.
Mississippi State: CB Cam Dantzler
With the presence of 3 first-round picks on the dominant defense last year, Dantzler flew somewhat under the radar. Make no mistake, though, he was by far their best cover corner, leading the team with 11 passes defended and tied for the most interceptions with 2.
Dantzler is a lean and rangy corner at 6-2, 185 who uses his long arms well to close passing windows. He’s graceful in transition with good recovery speed and closing burst, and is underrated against the run. His elite man coverage ability allows coordinator Bob Shoop to put him on an island, and provides more time for the defensive linemen to get after the QB.
Ole Miss: LB Mohamed Sanogo
The Rebels have been looking high and low for impact players at linebacker, and it seems they’ve finally found one in Sanogo. The 6-2, 230-pound junior enjoyed a breakout season in 2018, leading the Rebels with 112 tackles (4th in the SEC), 6.5 TFLs and a sack. He should be even more impactful in 2019.
Not only is there another offseason of development under his belt, but he projects very well inside the Rebels’ new 3-4 defense. His strength has never been sideline-to-sideline speed, it’s been stacking and shedding interior blockers and defending the run between the tackles, which makes him ideally suited for the odd front. The Rebels will need his veteran leadership for a still maturing defense that will feature plenty of underclassmen playing prominent roles.
Texas A&M: DT Justin Madubuike
The 6-3, 300-pound junior hasn’t quite gotten the attention he deserves, despite an impressive 2018 campaign that saw him rack up 40 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. Granted, much of the attention last year went to guys like Daylon Mack, Kingsley Keke and Landis Durham – but that should change now with those guys off to the NFL, and Madubuike set to become the new face of the defense.
The twitch and burst that made him such a touted prep prospect as a defensive end hasn’t been diminished as he gained weight to move inside — making him a formidable interior pass rusher. He has a terrific first step and does a nice job anticipating the snap count, putting him in backfields constantly to disrupt plays behind the line of scrimmage.