Five of the SEC’s top six defensive players in terms of tackles for loss last season have either exhausted their eligibility or declared early for the NFL Draft, leaving a relatively young core of returning stars entering spring practice.

Here are the SEC’s returning leaders in tackles-for-loss based on last season’s numbers:

  • Derek Barnett, Tennessee (20.5)
  • Curt Maggitt, Tennessee (15.0)
  • Myles Garrett, Texas A&M (14.0)
  • Stephen Weatherly, Vanderbilt (12.5)
  • Jonathan Allen, Alabama (11.0)
  • Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee (11.0)
  • Cassanova McKinzy, Auburn (11.0)
  • Reggie Ragland, Alabama (10.5)
  • Kris Frost, Auburn (10.0)
  • Jordan Jenkins, Georgia (9.5)

Takeaways: With Mizzou’s Shane Ray and Markus Golden heading to the next level, rising sophomores Derek Barnett and Myles Garrett assume the role of the SEC’s most-feared pass rushers, each possessing a unique blend of size, athleticism and raw power. Barnett’s 20.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage last season was the most at Tennessee since defensive lineman Robert Ayers’ 15.5 in 2008. Garrett, a five-star prospect, conquered the SEC West in his first year with 11.5 sacks … Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost took a few weeks to ponder a return to Auburn for their senior seasons after it was announced Will Muschamp would be the Tigers’ new defensive coordinator in December. Linebacker is arguably Auburn’s deepest position and these two should produce at an All-SEC level this fall.