Ranking the SEC defensive tackles

July, 8, 2013
7/08/13
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You've seen where the defensive ends in the SEC rank, now it's time to check out the bigger uglies inside:

[+] EnlargeDominique Easley
Kim Klement/US PresswireDominique Easley, who led the Gators last season with four sacks, returns as one of the top defensive tackles in the SEC.
1. Dominique Easley, Sr., Florida: He's been pretty disruptive since his arrival in Gainesville, but he's moving back to his more natural position inside. That's where he's the most dangerous, but he'll move outside at times for the Gators because he's good wherever you line him up. Easley led the Gators with four sacks and had 8.5 tackles for loss, but created so many plays for his teammates and should be an even bigger nuisance for opposing backfields this fall.

2. Anthony Johnson, Jr., LSU: He's been dubbed "The Freak" for a reason, but we still haven't seen him fully take off. That should change this fall with him being the centerpiece of LSU's defensive line. He had 10 tackles for loss and three sacks last year, but with his size, speed, strength and athleticism, he should be even better in 2013. The Freak will be unleashed this fall.

3. Daniel McCullers, Sr., Tennessee: The Vols have to figure out where to put all the pieces to their defensive line puzzle, but McCullers should be just fine in the middle. He's a mountain of a player (6-8, 351 pounds) and clogs quite the hole along Tennessee's defensive line. But he has to be more than just a space eater this fall. He'll need more than 5.5 tackles for loss and one sack for this defense.

4. Donte Rumph, Sr., Kentucky: He's been a steady player for the Wildcats over the years and with players around him getting better, he should be able to have even more freedom up front. He only had six tackles for loss last year, but posted four sacks. He can be very disruptive in both the run and pass game and with help from new coach Mark Stoops, he should really excel in his final year with the Wildcats.

5. Kelcy Quarles, Jr., South Carolina: He often gets overlooked because of Jadeveon Clowney, but Quarles has been a solid player for the Gamecocks over the past two years. He can clog up space against the run and can put a lot of pressure on quarterbacks in passing situations. He'll be helped by even more attention going to Clowney, but Quarles can certainly handle his own.

6. Byran Jones, Sr., Arkansas: He's another player on Arkansas' defensive line that probably doesn't get enough love because of the shortcomings by the guys behind him. Jones was very good in the middle for the Hogs last year, registering 52 tackles, including five for loss with 1.5 sacks, four quarterback hurries, and even blocked a kick.

7. Issac Gross, So., Ole Miss: He suffered a groin injury at the start of spring camp, but should be just fine this fall. He was a pleasant surprise for the Rebels last year and came away with 10 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and 40 tackles. He played nose guard and made seven starts last season as a freshman. He came away with at least .5 tackles for loss in each of the Rebels' final 10 games of the season.

8. Jeoffrey Pagan, Jr., Alabama: When it comes to potential, Pagan has a lot of it. He still has to work on his consistency, but the coaches are expecting big things from him now that he's been thrown into a starting role. Pagan was a big-time high school recruit and now that he's had ample time to learn from some pretty good Alabama ends, he should have no problem zooming past his four tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks from a year ago.

9. Kirby Ennis, Sr., Texas A&M: He was suspended this spring after dealing with legal trouble, but has had to do certain things to get back on the team. It sounds like he's done all that so far, and the Aggies will really need him this fall. He started 11 games last year and while he didn't blow up the stat sheet, he's a big, athletic body who will have every opportunity to be a big-time player in the middle once he returns to the field.

10. Angelo Blackson, Jr., Auburn: This line had plenty of issues last year, but Blackson tied for the team lead with seven tackles for loss. He only had 26 tackles and one sack, but he's likely to be the anchor in the middle of the line this fall. He's big and athletic and his improvement will go a long way for this line and defense in 2013.

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