SEC: Jarvis Jenkins

Now that we've ranked the SEC's linebacker groups, it's time to take a look at the league's top linebackers.

Past rankings:
Here are our top SEC linebackers:

1. Jarvis Jones, Jr., Georgia: Talk about an SEC debut. Jones jumped right into his first year of football with the Bulldogs by leading the SEC with 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. He possess one of the nation's fastest first steps, has thirst for ruining quarterbacks' days and has the ability to move all around the field to make plays.

2. Sean Porter, Sr., Texas A&M: He's more than a proven playmaker for the Aggies, making offensive coordinators sweat whenever he lines up. He wreaked havoc on opposing backfields, racking up 17 tackles for loss and leading Texas A&M with 9.5 sacks last season.

3. C.J. Mosley, Jr., Alabama: He shared time at one of the middle linebacker spots last year and suffered an elbow injury early in the year, but Mosley has the potential to be a top talent in this league. He's big, strong, extremely athletic and has a real high football IQ. He's also Alabama's best linebacker in coverage.

4. Jelani Jenkins, Jr., Florida: He is probably Florida's most physically gifted linebacker. He has tremendous speed and while he lines up outside, he can play multiple positions and covers a lot of defensive ground. The next step in his game is to become more of a pass-rushing threat.

5. Nico Johnson, Sr., Alabama: He's the lone returning starter at linebacker for the Crimson Tide and will be relied upon even more this year. The veteran is one of Alabama's best tacklers and excels in defending the run. He should improve on his 47 tackles from a year ago.

6. Alec Ogletree, Georgia: Though he dealt with injury last year, when Ogletree was on the field he made offensive players miserable. He's one of the fastest linebackers in the league and has the ability to be a tremendous pass rusher. He was seventh on the team in tackles (52) even after playing just eight games last fall.

7. Alonzo Highsmith, Sr., Arkansas: He was a major spark last fall after coming over from the junior college ranks. He started all 13 games on the outside and led the Hogs with 12.5 tackles for loss. He dealt with an injury (pectoral tendon tear) this spring, but should be fine this fall and should have another solid year for the Razorbacks.

8. Jon Bostic, Sr., Florida: The steady senior is the unquestioned quarterback of Florida's defense. He has a real nose for the football, leading the Gators with 94 tackles last year. His coverage skills and field awareness have really improved and he's coming off a good spring in Gainesville.

9. Kevin Minter, Jr., LSU: The lone returning starter at linebacker for the Tigers, Minter made tremendous strides at middle linebacker last year. He's extremely explosive and packs quite the punch and could be primed for a breakout season down on the Bayou this fall.

10. A.J. Johnson, So., Tennessee: He had a tremendous freshman campaign, becoming one of four true freshmen to rank among the top two on his team in tackles (80) among all FBS schools. He has good size, good speed and good athleticism. A sophomore slump doesn't appear to be in Johnson's future.
Auburn survived its first test on the road two Thursdays ago in a 17-14 win at Mississippi State.

Clemson has whipped through two glorified scrimmages.

They meet up on the Plains this Saturday night in a game that should be revealing for both teams. SEC blogger Chris Low and ACC blogger Heather Dinich take a closer look at this battle of Tigers.

Gus Malzahn
John Reed/US PresswireGus Malzahn's spread offense should keep Clemson's defense guessing.
Chris Low: Heather, I say we dub Saturday’s Auburn-Clemson matchup the Lewis Grizzard Bowl. He’s the late Southern humorist and Atlanta newspaper columnist who once said Clemson was “Auburn with a lake.” He nailed it, because the number of similarities between the schools is uncanny. It’s only fitting that they resume a series that was played fairly regularly when Ralph “Shug” Jordan was coaching at Auburn and Frank Howard at Clemson. As I look at this game, right off the bat I wonder if Clemson is ready for the pace of game Auburn wants to play. There’s no such thing as playing too fast for Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who wants to run as many plays as he possibly can.

Heather Dinich: C-Low you’re not the only one wondering that. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney knows his team hasn’t been tested yet like it will on Saturday. Wins over North Texas and Presbyterian aren’t exactly bowling over any Top 25 voters. One of the biggest keys to this game for Clemson will be stopping the run, and that’s something the Tigers struggled with last year -- just ask Georgia Tech, who rushed for over 300 yards twice last season in wins over Clemson. Of course, Clemson will also have to keep Auburn quarterback Cam Newton in check. We know Newton can run deceptively well for his size, but how good of a passer is he? Will he be able to win the matchup against All-America safety DeAndre McDaniel?

CL: Newton hasn’t had to beat anybody yet throwing the football, and while he has an incredibly strong arm, it’s fair to say that we’ve yet to see how accurate he is when it comes to throwing the ball down the field. Malzahn will take whatever the defense is giving him, and having a 250-pound quarterback like Newton who can run makes Malzahn’s spread offense that much more effective. He’ll run a reverse pass on one play, a bubble screen on the next and then try to hit you deep. In other words, Malzahn is going to make you defend everything, but he’s never going to stray too far away from the run. Even though Newton is leading the Tigers in rushing through two games with 241 yards, running backs Onterio McCalebb and Mike Dyer are both averaging more than 6 yards per carry. If I were Clemson, Heather, I’d get ready for a heavier dose of Dyer, the Tigers’ prized freshman.

[+] EnlargeDeAndre McDaniel
Jeremy Brevard/Icon SMIAll-America safety DeAndre McDaniel could be lined up all over the field.
HD: No doubt, C-Low, and I talked to coach Dabo Swinney on Wednesday about how the Tigers plan to counter all of the misdirection, play fakes and talented runners. He said they’re preparing for the tempo you mentioned, which he compared to a 2-minute drill the whole game. The Tigers have to do a great job with their rush lanes, stay disciplined with their alignments, tackle well, and do a good job of disrupting that flow by winning first downs and getting them out of their comfort zone. Expect McDaniel to be lined up all over the field. Clemson might even have the edge up front with its defensive line now that defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins is back.

But hey, it’s not like Clemson doesn’t have some talented runners of its own. Haven’t you heard about “the New Storm”? Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper helped Clemson average 9.8 yards per rush against North Texas. I know Auburn’s run D is good, but has it really been tested?

CL: No, Auburn’s run defense hasn’t been tested. Arkansas State picked Auburn apart with short passes in the opener, and then Ted Roof’s defense bounced back against Mississippi State and was outstanding in the second half when the offense started to sputter. Mississippi State’s running game, though, is not one of the better ones in the SEC, at least not with Anthony Dixon no longer around. The best news for Auburn in the Mississippi State game was junior defensive tackle Nick Fairley stepping to the plate and playing the game of his life. He was a dominant force in the middle with 2.5 tackles for loss, an interception and fumble recovery. The Tigers aren’t going to get that kind of production from him every game, but they’re so much better against the run if he’ll come to play like that every game. A major concern remains depth at linebacker. Josh Bynes played every snap against Mississippi State. He’s a good one, but you know that has to catch up with you at some point in the fourth quarter.

HD: Indeed it does. It sounds like we’ll find out a lot more about both of these teams on Saturday. Of course, there’s another record on the line Saturday as well -- my picks. I know you were puffing your chest up a bit last year after boosting your prediction percentage with all of those Florida and Alabama picks, but it’s time to even the score this year. I’m playing it smart on Saturday, and sticking with the home team, Auburn. I think Auburn will get pressure on Kyle Parker and win the battle up front. Then again, Clemson seems to be at its best when the least is expected -- and right now, not much is expected from anyone in the ACC.

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