Everyone who follows sports knows how the saying goes: “Defense wins Championships.” College football is no exception. The SEC West boasts two of the most talented defenses in the country. It is no coincidence that both Alabama and Auburn are contenders for the College Football Playoff behind the strength of their defense. LSU is also a team whose legacy of defensive play makers is strong. The Mississippi State Bulldogs return the bulk of their defense as well. There is always an abundance of talent in the conference and each season new names rise to the top. The SEC West is once again loaded with defensive play makers.
SEC West Defensive Play Makers
Off The Edge
Montez Sweat – Defensive End – Mississippi State Bulldogs
The Michigan State transfer burst into the SEC last season. Montez Sweat established himself as one of the defensive play makers to watch with 11 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. He led the Bulldogs in both categories in his first season in Starkville. Sweat has a great burst off the line, solid positioning and angling on his pass rush, and good closing speed. His best attribute may be his hands. When he gets a hold of an opponent, they rarely get away. There also something about a defensive lineman wearing a low jersey number. Opponents can expect to see the number 9 for the Bulldogs flying off the edge all season.
Landis Durham – Defensive End – Texas A&M Aggies
After only playing in four games during his first two years in College Station, the Plano East, Texas native showed out as a junior. Landis Durham was tied with Sweat for the most sacks in the conference a season ago at 11. The rising senior also forced three fumbles. His speed makes him a handful for offensive lineman to deal with. His 55 total tackles last season show that he isn’t just a pass rusher. Durham has shown the patience and strength to fight off blockers and make plays in the run game as well. Coach Jimbo Fisher is looking to bring a toughness back to this program. His senior pass rusher will be a good building block for the new tougher mindset.
Locking it Down
Andraez Williams – Cornerback – LSU Tigers
LSU has long been in the discussion as DBU. They routinely have defensive play makers roaming around in their secondary. It only took Andraez Williams one season to establish himself as the next in a long line of great LSU defensive backs. The 6’2” corner had six interceptions and ten pass break-ups as a freshman. He also showed good physicality for a youngster, amassing 38 tackles in his debut season. The Tigers return only five starters on defense from 2017. Williams continued growth will ease the burden on his teammates. He has great timing when breaking on the ball and has already proven he can take the ball away from the offense.
Javaris Davis – Cornerback – Auburn Tigers
Auburn won the SEC West last season largely on the strength on their dominant defense. They have one of the best defensive lines in the country again this season. The talent and power they have in the trenches makes Javaris Davis’ importance all the more tangible. He has the chance to step up as the defensive play maker the Tigers need in the secondary. He has two interceptions in each of his first two seasons on The Plains. Davis had six tackles for a loss as a freshman, before moving out wide to corner as a sophomore. Auburn has the ability to cause havoc with their front seven. When they do force opposing quarterbacks in to mistakes, it’ll be Davis’ job to make them pay by getting his hands on the ball.
Josiah Coatney – Defensive Tackle – Ole Miss Rebels
Due to NCAA sanctions, multiple players left the Ole Miss program this offseason to transfer elsewhere. Josiah Coatney not only decided to stick things out in Oxford, but was very vocal about those former teammates who did leave. The 6’4”, 302 pound junior’s words were no doubt music to Rebels fans’ ears. Now the big man will have to back up his words by winning the battles in the trenches this season. Coatney had 65 tackles, 8 for loss and 3.5 sacks a season ago. He serves as the anchor for the Ole Miss defense. Occupying blockers and disrupting the run game will be his main priorities.
Sideline to Sideline
De’Jon Harris – Linebacker – Arkansas Razorbacks
The Arkansas offense will have a vastly different look under new head coach Chad Morris. It’s still unclear how the defense might change. One thing is for sure, the Razorbacks will have their tackling machine back from a year ago. De’Jon Harris had 115 tackles as a sophomore, including eight for a loss and three and a half sacks. He will be the leader in the middle of this defense once again in 2018. Harris is a sure tackler with the speed and instincts to make plays all over the field. Look for Arkansas to move him around, whether it be blitzing from different angles, or dropping him back in coverage over the middle of the field.
Mack Wilson – Linebacker – Alabama Crimson Tide
Much like LSU is known for defensive backs, Alabama is known for producing high level linebackers on a regular basis. Mack Wilson is well on his way to being another star linebacker for the Tide. As a sophomore, he 40 tackles and four interceptions. His athleticism and power jump out when he is on the field. Wilson is has the rare combination of being able to drop in coverage and make play on the ball, while also hitting ball carriers like a truck. He should step into a starting role this season, so his productivity should increase. The former five star recruit has already shown the ability to make game changing plays.
Also see our SEC East Impact Defenders
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