Individual Position Rankings

Ranked in terms of talent and potential impact, here’s how the SEC’s top defensive tackles stack up this season:

Just outside the Top 5: Lucas Vincent, Mizzou; Montravius Adams, Auburn; Adam Butler, Vanderbilt; J.T. Surratt, South Carolina; Issac Gross, Ole Miss

5. Darius Philon, Arkansas: The first of four sophomores in our Top 5, the former Alabama commit made his presence felt on a bad team with nine tackles for loss and three sacks. Toward the end of the season, he was more disruptive flying to the football and his numbers reflected it with an average of nearly six tackles per game over the final five contests. Along with Trey Flowers, Philon’s one of the players that gives the Razorbacks hope in what promises to be an ultra-competitive SEC West.

4. Gabe Wright, Auburn: Tigers defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson’s moved to Wright to defensive end much of Auburn’s fall camp, but the senior 1.5-year starter has played inside his entire career on the Plains and has been very productive in doing so. Wright’s possible position switch and potential impact as a rusher off the edge has more to do with his overall ability and under-developed players around him. As the Tigers’ best player up front, he’ll be asked to wear many hats this season and could create quite the terrifying combo with sophomore Montravius Adams.

3. A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama: Despite his massive frame, Robinson’s a swift pass rusher who cracked Kirby Smart’s defense as a true freshman with 38 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Stronger than most of the offensive linemen he’s up against, Robinson’s explosion at the snap is an element of his game that scouts are aware of and offensive coordinators loathe. If he’s healthy, and that’s a legitimate question considering his time on the sideline during camp, Robinson’s production will increase as a sophomore, perhaps approaching All-American mention.

2. Chris Jones, Mississippi St.: This 6-foot-5, 300-pounder calls himself a defensive end and the Bulldogs’ coaching staff will likely let him use that outside rusher speed this fall as a sophomore following a 32-tackle, three-sack freshman campaign. He’s a hybrid defender up front for the Mississippi St. defense, a player who could start at a variety of positions inside or out, but is especially dominant from a three-point stance in the middle. If Jones continues to slim down, the Bulldogs may have no choice but to let him play his preferred position.

RELATED: Projecting 2014 SEC Statistical Leaders — Defensive Linemen

1. Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss: With plans to take a relentless approach this season, Nkemdiche says he’s so fired up to start the season his coaches may have to drop him down an octane in the Rebels’ opener against Boise St. Nkemdiche’s an All-American candidate as a sophomore, arguably the SEC’s most gifted interior pass rusher despite enormous expectations as a former top recruit in the nation. The adjustment period from the defensive end to tackle switch is over and Nkemdiche should flourish in a new, now welcomed, role as a short-burst threat.