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Who's back on defense in the East?

1/25/2011

Now, we take a look at who has what coming back on defense in the Eastern Division.

FLORIDA

The Gators return 11 of their top 20 tacklers from this season, losing six of their top nine. Starting linebackers Jelani Jenkins (76 tackles) and Jon Bostic (57 tackles) return along with All-SEC cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who had three interceptions and led the team with eight pass breakups. Defensive tackle Jaye Howard had 12 tackles for loss and returns up front along with rising sophomore defensive linemen Ronald Powell and Sharrif Floyd as well as rising junior tackle Omar Hunter.

Key losses: Safeties Ahmad Black (team-leading 108 tackles, five interceptions) and Will Hill (54 tackles, two interceptions) and defensive end Justin Trattou (12 tackles for loss).

GEORGIA

The Bulldogs return 12 of their top 20 tacklers from this season, losing three of their top four. Safety Baccari Rambo is back after finishing second on the team with 82 tackles. The Bulldogs' starting secondary returns intact. Cornerback Brandon Boykin had 44 tackles and three interceptions. Branden Smith, the Bulldogs' other cornerback, had two interceptions. Inside linebacker Christian Robinson finished with six tackles for loss.

Key losses: Linebacker Akeem Dent (second in the SEC with 126 tackles), outside linebacker Justin Houston (18.5 tackles for loss, including 10 sacks) and defensive end DeMarcus Dobbs (15 quarterback hurries).

KENTUCKY

The Wildcats return 16 of their top 20 tacklers from this season, including their top 11 tacklers. Linebacker Danny Trevathan led the SEC with 144 tackles and also had 16 tackles for loss. Safety Winston Guy had 102 tackles and three interceptions. Cornerback Randall Burden led the team with six pass breakups. All of their linebackers and secondary starters from the bowl game will return.

Key losses: Defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin (5.5 tackles for loss) and defensive end DeQuin Evans (4.5 tackles for loss).

SOUTH CAROLINA

The Gamecocks return 15 of their top 20 tacklers from this season, including eight of their top 10. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who led the team with 79 tackles and three interceptions, is back along with defensive end Devin Taylor, who led the team with 13 tackles for loss. Defensive tackle Melvin Ingram had a team-leading nine sacks, while his cohort inside, defensive tackle Travion Robertson, had 10 tackles for loss. The secondary returns intact.

Key losses: Defensive end Cliff Matthews (8.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks) and middle linebacker Josh Dickerson (65 tackles).

TENNESSEE

The Vols return 13 of their top 20 tacklers from this season, including seven of their top 10. Defensive tackle Malik Jackson had 11 tackles for loss, including five sacks. Safety Janzen Jackson had five interceptions and a team-leading 11 passes defended. He was third on the team with 69 tackles. Cornerback Prentiss Waggner had five interceptions and was fifth on the team with 57 tackles. Linebacker Herman Lathers had 75 tackles, which was good for second on the team.

Key losses: Middle linebacker Nick Reveiz (team-leading 108 tackles), outside linebacker LaMarcus Thompson (60 tackles) and defensive end Gerald Williams (7.5 tackles for loss).

VANDERBILT

The Commodores return 18 of their top 20 tacklers, including nine of their top 10. Strong safety Sean Richardson led the team with 98 tackles. Middle linebacker Chris Marve was second with 80 tackles, including eight tackles for loss. Cornerback Casey Hayward had six interceptions and 17 passes defended, while free safety Kenny Ladler was fifth on the team with 57 tackles. Defensive tackle Rob Lohr had a team-leading four sacks.

Key losses: Outside linebacker John Stokes (third on team with 78 tackles).