SEC football teams will be looking to dominate with defense in 2017.
SEC football is all about defense and speed. If you’re looking for 4,000 yards passing in a season, you would probably be better off looking at the Big 12. This isn’t meant in any way to be disrespectful to the Big 12. It is simply the stylistic difference between the two conferences.
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There is a reason why the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft hails from the SEC. Myles Garrett is a menace to quarterbacks in the same way another former No. 1 pick and former SEC standout—Jadeveon Clowney—terrorized quarterbacks. Defensive players are given the opportunity to shine in the SEC.
Last season, Alabama led the nation in points allowed per game with just 13.7 points per game. Alabama won the SEC handily and was one second away from winning the National Championship.
LSU didn’t win the SEC, but at times, the Tigers looked impressive. Dave Arranda’s defense finished fifth nationally by allowing just 16 points per game.
Florida, while completely unimpressive offensively, finished right behind LSU by allowing just 16.8 points per game. Florida ranked last in the conference in several offensive categories but was in the top three in most defensive categories, a big reason the team captured the East title.
Auburn, though not typically a defensive stalwart, ranked eighth nationally in allowing 18.5 points per game.
So, who are the teams with a chance to shine defensively in the SEC in 2017? In short, strong defensive teams will look familiar.
Dec 3, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; The Alabama Crimson Tide celebrate after the SEC Championship college football game against the Florida Gators at Georgia Dome. Alabama Crimson Tide won 54-16. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Alabama and LSU should be at the top of the conference defensively once again.
Alabama lost six key defenders to the first two days of the NFL Draft. However, because of Nick Saban’s recruiting prowess, the team has plenty of talent already on the roster.
LSU lost talent in the draft, too. However, the team suffered tougher losses on the offensive side of the ball. Safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Tre’davious White are definitely big losses, but like Alabama, the team has plenty of talent already on the roster.
Despite losing Garrett, Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis should have the Aggies close to the top defensively. The Aggies are especially strong at safety with Armani Watts, Donovan Wilson and Larry Pryor. Jarrett Johnson is a talented pass rusher, even if he is a major step down from Garrett.
Because Auburn is much stronger offense, the defensive statistics will likely regress. However, the Auburn defense should be strong again in 2017. Expectations are high enough that some are picking Auburn to win the West, as well as the conference as a whole.
Byron Cowart moved to defensive tackle and turned heads this spring, while defensive tackle Dontavius Russell has been the vocal leader of the team this spring.
In the East, Florida, while the team lost a bevy of talent to the NFL Draft, should be strong again. Like Auburn, the team will probably see some regression because of the loss of talent. Consider this: Florida lost six starters to graduation and three underclassmen on defense to the NFL draft. The team returns just two returning defensive starters.
Georgia should take a major step forward in year two under Kirby Smart. Georgia had only one player drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft. The team lost three key defensive contributors to graduation. Georgia’s defense is still relatively young, but possesses plenty of talent on paper.
The SEC East is weaker in general and specifically on the defensive side of the ball. Florida lost nine defensive starters, but has a recent track record of being very strong defensively in recent years. Georgia is a team on the rise in the East.
The best defensive teams in the SEC tend to dominate the conference. Alabama and LSU, despite losing a lot of talent to the NFL Draft, are expected to be the top defensive teams in 2017. Texas A&M and Auburn should be strong.