College Football Preview – SEC Defenses

Jul 1, 2008

David Funk, a good friend and writer of the Fantasy Sports Network blog, put together a ranking of the SEC Conference Defenses.  He was kind enough allow me to post his breakdown on my site to pass the great information on to you.  This is very useful info as you gear up for the college football season, especially if you play the Sporting News College Football Salary Cap game.

“Finally, we wrap of the SEC rankings on defense. This was by far my toughest list of rankings yet, but this is what I came up with. These rankings in no way reflect how I pick teams to finish in the standings of their conferences. This is for anyone playing fantasy college football, and I hope you find these rankings useful. Enjoy.

SEC Team Defensive Rankings:
1. Auburn – Starters returning: 7
The Tigers come into this season with plenty of experience on defense for a unit that ranked 6th in the nation a year ago. Sen’Derrick Marks moves from defensive end to tackle, and pass-rusher Antonio Coleman returns at defensive end. All three linebackers return led by Tray Blackmon, who played hurt a year ago. The secondary returns two starters and Aairon Savage moves to corner to start from the safety position.

2. Georgia – Starters returning: 7
Georgia’s defense has experience and depth to be quite possibly the best unit in the conference. The defensive line is very deep as they rotate players constantly, and tackle Geno Atkins is a force in the middle. The linebacking corps returns only starter in middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, but Rennie Curran is a play-maker. The secondary returns three starters led by corner Asher Allen. The defense was 14th in the nation last year.

3. Mississippi State – Starters returning: 8
The Bulldogs played very well on defense a year ago, and the back seven returns six starters after ranking 7th in pass defense a year ago. Kyle Love and Jessie Bowman return at the defensive tackle spots. The team’s two leading tacklers return in middle linebacker Jamar Chaney and outside linebacker Dominic Douglas. The very experienced and talented secondary is led by free safety Derek Pegues.

4. South Carolina – Starters returning: 10
This is a unit that is deep and experienced as they get a boost with the return of middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley from injury. Eric Norwood moves to outside linebacker from defensive end. The defensive line has three returning starters led by tackle Ladi Ajiboye. The secondary returns all starters from a unit that ranked 4th in pass defense a year ago led by strong safety Emanuel Cook. The unit must play the run better after a 110th nation ranking last year.

5. Tennessee – Starters returning: 6
The Vols have gotten stronger on the defensive line as tackles Demonte’ Bolden and Dan Williams return. Ends Robert Ayers and Wes Brown provide quick pass-rushers. Rico McCoy is the only starter returning at linebacker, but Ellix Wilson is a play-making middle linebacker. The secondary is the strength of the defense with depth and talent led by safeties Eric Berry and Demetrice Morley.

6. Florida – Starters returning: 8
The Gators have new coaches on defense, and will likely change things up from last year after getting torched against Michigan in the Capital One Bowl. Defensive tackle Javier Estopinan and end Jermaine Cunningham return up front. The linebacking corps maybe the best in the nation with Brandon Spikes, Dustin Doe, Lorenzo Edwards, and A.J. Jones. Three starters return in the secondary, but depth is a concern.

7. LSU – Starters returning: 4
Defensive ends Tyson Jackson and Kirston Pittman return, but losing tackle Glenn Dorsey is big. Marlon Favorite and Ricky Jean-Francois will start in the middle. Darry Beckwirth is the only returning linebacker. Kelvin Sheppard and Jacob Cutrera are the likely starters at linebacker, but Cutrera has had health issues. Safety Curtis Taylor is the only returning starter in the secondary, and the cornerback position is likely the team’s biggest concern on defense.

8. Alabama – Starters returning: 6
Lorenzo Washington returns at nosetackle and Brandon Deaderick joins him in the middle. End Bobby Greenwood is expected to provide a consistent pass-rush. Linebacker Rolando McClain is the only lock as a starter as Ezekial Knight had a heart ailment in the offseason and Prince Hall was suspended during the spring for violating team rules. Safety Rashad Johnson, who tied for the SEC lead in interceptions with six last year, returns in the secondary.

9. Arkansas – Starters returning: 7
The Razorbacks defensive line returns all four starters led by ends Antwain Robinson and Adrian Davis. Elston Forte returns at linebacker, but health is a concern with Wendel Davis injuring his knee as well as the spring suspension of starter Freddie Fairchild. Corner Jerell Norton is the only returning starter in the secondary, but the talent is there despite the inexperience as of the group as a whole.

10. Kentucky – Starters returning: 8
Jeremy Jarmon returns at defensive end where he led the team in sacks with nine a year ago. Tackles Corey Peters and Myron Pryor must show more consistency this year. Linebackers Johnny Williams and Braxton Kelley are back and Micah Johnson also saw the field alot last year. The secondary has depth, and is led by corner Trevard Lindley and safety Marcus McClinton.

11. Ole Miss – Starters returning: 7
All-SEC tackle Peria Jerry returns as does end Marcus Tillman up front. Linebacker Ashlee Palmer returns after leading the team in tackles a year ago. Allen Walker was projected to start on the weakside, but he was suspended after an arrest for a DUI charge. The secondary sees Marshay Green convert from receiver to corner, and the other three starters return led by safety Jamarca Sanford.

12. Vanderbilt – Starters returning: 5
Vanderbilt loses three starters on the defensive line and the entire linebacking unit has new starters. Steven Stone returns at end and Broderick Stewart starts opposite of him. The coaches are high on tackle Greg Billinger stepping up this year. Patrick Benoist and John Stokes looked impressive at the linebacker spots in the spring to ease some of the concern there. The entire secondary returns and is one of the SEC’s best led by All-SEC corner D.J. Moore.

Stud defenses: Auburn, Georgia, Mississippi State
Rising defense: Tennessee
Falling defense: LSU

Overall analysis: Top to bottom, you will not find a better conference that has this kind of depth to select defenses for your fantasy teams. All defenses in this conference do have concerns, but would rank near the top in most other conferences. Auburn and Georgia both ranked very high in overall defense a year ago, and most of their starters are back. Mississippi State returns all their key starters from a year ago, so they shouldn’t drop off. South Carolina will be tough on defense, but they have to play the run better. The Vols only real concern is inexperience at linebacker, but the unit is a solid start that could emerge to an elite one by season’s end. Florida has new coaching changes on the defensive side of the ball, and should shore up many of the issues that plagued them in the bowl game a year ago. LSU has concerns in the secondary and Alabama now has depth issues, but both should be fine otherwise. Arkansas has a new head coach, and if they get over the concerns with their linebacking unit, they’ll be fine. Kentucky has plenty of experience to be good this year as does Ole Miss. Vanderbilt will also be tough, but will have to progress quickly in what is a relatively new front seven in order to be solid start every week. You can’t really go wrong with any of these units during the season, and ranking this conference of defenses has been by far and away the toughest for me yet. When they get into conference play, this is the best time to get your money’s worth in fantasy football. There is no better conference in the land on defense than the SEC.”

Great info.  Be sure to check all of David’s posts at the Fantasy Sports Network (

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