Ranking the SEC's 10 best linebackers of 2014
With modern offenses on the rise in the SEC, having strong linebacker play is as important as ever. From rushing the passer, playing in coverage or stuffing the run, SEC linebackers need to be able to do it all.
As always, the conference had plenty of talent at the position. Here are our top 10 linebackers from this season.
Under the Radar
10. Skai Moore, South Carolina
Moore blossomed at the end of the season for a downtrodden South Carolina defense, recording 31 total tackles and 3 interceptions over the Gamecocks’ final three contests. Moore still has a ways to go in stopping the run, but he averaged 7.5 tackles per game this year.
9. A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
Before he was suspended following sexual assault allegations, Johnson was one of the most dominant individual players in the SEC, leading the conference in tackles at the time of his suspension. He still finished seventh in the conference despite missing the Volunteers final two games. Johnson was a big key to Tennessee having a top-20 overall defense during his time on the field, and he’ll have a long, productive NFL career if his legal troubles are resolved.
8. Michael Scherer, Missouri
7. Kendell Beckwith, LSU
6. Kentrell Brothers, Missouri
5. Kwon Alexander, LSU
Scherer and Brothers are both on the smaller side for elite linebackers, but they make up for it with high activity levels, flying around the field with reckless abandon and shedding blockers with ease. Brothers finished second in the SEC in total tackles and Scherer came in at fifth. Brothers was a bit more of a playmaker, breaking up four passes and forcing three fumbles, including a crucial turnover late in the Arkansas game. … Beckwith was the man who turned around LSU’s defense midseason. His explosiveness led him to take over at middle linebacker sometime during LSU’s blowout loss to Auburn, and from that point on LSU’s defense turned into a fearsome unit. After that Auburn loss, LSU held every opponent to 4 yards per carry or fewer. He had plenty of help from Alexander, one of the most athletic and physical outside linebackers in the SEC. He was excellent playing the run, with 7.5 tackles for loss, and also picked up 1.5 sacks and five QB hurries.
4. Antonio Morrison, Florida
In a down year for Florida, Morrison was one of the brightest spots for the Gators defense. After a slump during his sophomore season, he bounced back in a big way with four straight games of 10 or more tackles early in the season and two games later on with 15-plus takedowns. He was a physical force in the middle, directing a Florida defense that finished second in the SEC in yards per carry and yards per game allowed.
3. Amarlo Herrera, Georgia
2. Reggie Ragland, Alabama
1. Martrell Spaight, Arkansas
Herrera followed up his stellar junior season with an even better senior campaign, finishing third in the SEC in total tackles while racking up 10 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, six pass break ups, a forced fumble an interception. He’s not known for being loud as a player, but he’s put together a very solid career, with more than 320 total tackle over his four seasons in Athens. Georgia’s defense was a little disappointing in its first year under Jeremy Pruitt’s direction, but Herrera did all he could for the Bulldogs. … On an always-loaded Alabama defense, Ragland stood out amongst a very good corps of linebackers. While Ragland didn’t lead the Crimson Tide in tackles (that honor fell to safety Landon Collins), he was all over the field defending both the run and pass game. Ragland racked up 86 total tackles, 10.5 for loss, as well as an interception and 1.5 sacks. He helped lead an Alabama run defense that finished second in the country in stopping the run. … Spaight flew under the radar as a member of Arkansas’ unheralded defense, but he and the rest of the Razorbacks got everyone’s attention by the end of the year. Spaight led the SEC in tackles as a sideline-to-sideline force, averaging more than 10 tackles per game. He helped create three turnovers — two forced fumbles and an interception — and was the most eye-catching player among a dominant front seven.