- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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Now that we’ve examined who's bringing back what defensively in the East, let’s take a look at the schools in the West.
It was a mixed bag on defense in the West last season.
Alabama and LSU both had top 10 defenses nationally. Texas A&M had one of the more underrated defenses in the league. The Aggies finished 26th nationally in scoring defense, and after the Louisiana Tech debacle, put together an impressive stretch of defensive football to close out the season. Most of the points they gave up came after the outcome had long since been decided, but a lot of the players who played key roles on that defense are gone.
Here’s a closer look at the West:
Eight of the Tigers' top 10 tacklers return.
Leading returning tackler: Safety Demetruce McNeal was second on the team with 90 total tackles. He tied for the team lead with seven tackles for loss.
Gone is linebacker Daren Bates, who was the Tigers’ leading tackler last season. Auburn returns six of its top seven tacklers among defensive linemen, including end Dee Ford, who led the team with six sacks. Also back is tackle Angelo Blackson, who had seven tackles for loss to tie with McNeal for the team lead.
Eight of the Rebels' top 10 tacklers return.
Leading returning tackler: Linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche led the team with 82 total tackles as a redshirt freshman.
The Rebels return their top six tacklers. That includes all three players who had double-digit tackles for loss last season -- Nkemdiche (13), linebacker Mike Marry (10.5) and tackle Issac Gross (10).
Seven of the Crimson Tide's top 10 tacklers return.
Leading returning tackler: Linebacker C.J. Mosley led the team with 107 total tackles and was third with eight tackles for loss.
The Crimson Tide return three of their top five tacklers as well as outside linebacker Adrian Hubbard, who led the team with 11 tackles for loss. End Ed Stinson was second with 8.5 tackles for loss, and he also returns.
Six of the Hogs' top 10 tacklers return.
Leading returning tackler: Safety Rohan Gaines was second on the team with 75 total tackles as a redshirt freshman.
The Hogs lost three of their top four tacklers. Defensive ends Trey Flowers and Chris Smith led the team in tackles for loss with 13 apiece, and they both return in 2013. Smith was fourth in the SEC with 9.5 sacks.
Six of the Bulldogs' top 10 tacklers return.
Leading returning tackler: Middle linebacker Benardrick McKinney was second on the team with 102 total tackles as a redshirt freshman.
Starting defensive backs Johnthan Banks, Darius Slay and Corey Broomfield are gone, and all three were among the Bulldogs’ top 10 tacklers last season. Also gone is linebacker Cameron Lawrence, who led the team in total tackles (120) and tackles for loss (10). End Denico Autry is back after finishing second on the team with 9.5 tackles for loss last season.
Four of the Tigers' top 10 tacklers return.
Leading returning tackler: Linebacker Lamin Barrow was second on the team with 104 total tackles, including 7.5 tackles for loss.
The Tigers return three of their top five tacklers. Gone are linebacker Kevin Minter and ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, who combined for 36.5 tackles for loss. Five of LSU's top six tacklers among defensive linemen are gone. Tackle Anthony Johnson was third on the team with 10 tackles for loss, and he's back.
Three of the Aggies' top 10 tacklers return.
Leading returning tackler: Safety Toney Hurd, Jr. was fourth on the team with 67 total tackles.
The Aggies lost their top three tacklers and five of their top six. End Damontre Moore left early for the NFL draft. He led the team and was second in the SEC with 21 tackles for loss. Nobody on the team returns who had more than 4.5 tackles for loss last season.
5dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf