Next up in our early look at each position group in the SEC is the front seven. Here's a quick look at how each team in the SEC West shapes up heading into the offseason at defensive line and linebacker:
Alabama: Defensive linemen Jonathan Allen and A'Shawn Robinson could potentially leave but haven't publicly announced decisions either way. If either returns, that would be a huge boost for the Crimson Tide. The depth they have with players like Da'Ron Payne, Da'Shawn Hand and Dalvin Tomlinson returning is key. At linebacker, getting Tim Williams back at the "Jack" position is huge. The pass-rush specialist had 10.5 sacks in the 2015 season. Reuben Foster figures to step into an increased role after starting eight games this season. Junior Ryan Anderson and sophomore Rashaan Evans will also be back; both will be important. Shaun Dion Hamilton, who started five games, also returns. Replacing All-American Reggie Ragland will be a tough task, though.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks only lose one defensive lineman on their two-deep, senior DeMarcus Hodge. Seniors-to-be Jeremiah Ledbetter (7.5 tackles for loss), Taiwan Johnson (five tackles for loss) and Deatrich Wise (eight sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss) and junior-to-be Tevin Beanum (seven tackles for loss) all return. All linebackers return, led by Brooks Ellis, the team's leading tackler (102), and Dre Greenlaw, who was an SEC All-Freshman team choice.
Auburn: Carl Lawson will be back for his junior season, and that's huge for the Tigers. A hip injury early in the season disrupted his sophomore campaign, but if healthy, he has All-SEC and All-American potential. No word yet on whether defensive tackle Montravius Adams will be back, but if he returns that would be another boost for the Tigers' D-line. They add two early enrollees this month (ESPN 300 defensive lineman Marlon Davidson and junior college transfer Paul James III) plus Dontavius Russell, who had a solid season at defensive tackle, is back. Linebacker depth will take a hit with Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost gone but junior-to-be Tre' Williams is someone the Tigers are excited about and could develop into a leader on defense.
LSU: Solid two-year starters Christian LaCouture and Davon Godchaux return at defensive tackle. At defensive end, the Tigers return Arden Key, Lewis Neal and Tashawn Bower. Between those five, that's 21.5 sacks returning to the lineup and that number will likely grow in 2016. Key, an SEC All-Freshman team selection, has star potential; Godchaux is an underrated product himself and Neal (eight sacks) led the team in that stat in 2015. If junior linebacker Kendell Beckwith leaves for the draft, the Tigers will be a little thin there; if he returns, it's a huge boost to the front seven. Beckwith, a second-team All-SEC pick, is a star. Aside from Beckwith, senior-to-be Duke Riley and junior-to-be Donnie Alexander are back, as is Devin Voorhies, a converted safety. One player that could have an early impact here is ESPN 300 linebacker Michael Divinity. The No. 46 overall player in the 2016 class is an early enrollee.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs take a bit of a hit with the early departures of defensive lineman Chris Jones and linebacker Beniquez Brown, as both declared for early entry into the NFL draft. The team's top returning tackler, linebacker Richie Brown, returns, as does linebacker J.T. Gray, who was fourth on the team in tackles. Gerri Green, an SEC All-Freshman team choice, is back and Leo Lewis, a 2015 ESPN 300 recruit and the nation's no. 2 inside linebacker in the class, enters the fray after a redshirt season. Up front, the Bulldogs return three who started the Belk Bowl: defensive ends A.J. Jefferson and Jonathan Calvin and defensive tackle Nick James. Jefferson led the team in tackles for loss (13.5); and Calvin, James and defensive tackle Nelson Adams all return after appearing in every game in the 2015 season.
Ole Miss: Star defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche is gone but there are numerous returners up front. Starting defensive ends Fadol Brown and Marquis Haynes are back (Haynes had 10 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss); so are defensive tackles Breeland Speaks and D.J. Jones -- who filled Nkemdiche's void in the Sugar Bowl -- as well as Ross Donelly, who played as a true freshman, and Isaac Gross, who missed all last season with an injury. Linebackers C.J. Johnson and Denzel Nkemdiche are gone but junior-to-be DeMarquis Gates, who led the team with 76 tackles, returns. Terry Caldwell, a senior-to-be, or Shawn Curtis, a true freshman in 2015, are potential options to join Gates at linebacker.
Texas A&M: The Aggies return every defensive end on their two-deep, led by starters Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall. They lose two senior defensive tackles (Julien Obioha, Alonzo Williams) but have young, quality depth behind them in sophomores-to-be Daylon Mack and Kingsley Keke and junior-to-be Zaycoven Henderson. Linebacker has been a sore spot for the Aggies in recent years but if they can stay healthy at the position -- something they've been unable to do recently -- their starting group will be experienced. Otaro Alaka, who suffered a season-ending injury early, has star talent, Richard Moore had a strong finish to his true freshman season and veterans A.J. Hilliard and Shaan Washington will be seniors.