- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
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This morning our SEC reporters offered their predictions for this season's SEC offensive player of the year. Now we turn our attention to the defense. Here are our choices for the 2015 SEC defensive player of the year:
Edward Aschoff: Carl Lawson, Auburn
I have an eerie feeling that Lawson is going to explode this fall. Not literally, but, I don't know, maybe? The defensive end missed all of last season with an ACL injury but came back more than ready to be a star on the Plains as coordinator Will Muschamp's monster hybrid pass-rusher. He's stronger, yet faster. He also understands the game and his role more. With his ability to stand up or put his hand in the ground, Lawson is going to lead the SEC in sacks and completely change the dynamic of this defense.
David Ching: Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
How much better can this kid get? A lot better -- and we're going to see even more out of the Aggies' star sophomore this season. Garrett was already tough to block as a pass-rusher, setting a new SEC freshman record with 11.5 sacks in 2014. Now the 6-foot-5, 260-pound defensive end is focused on becoming a more well-rounded player after getting exposed in the running game at times last fall. Now healthy after playing with an injured hand for much of last season, Garrett might be poised to explode this season under A&M's new defensive coordinator John Chavis.
Sam Khan: Jamal Adams, LSU
Since David stole my pick, I'm looking east down Interstate 10 at Adams. The first two words of Adams' LSU media guide bio read "tenacious defender" and that's a perfect description of the sophomore safety. Standing 6-0, 206, he's physical, fast, strong, confident, hits hard and covers well. I think he's headed for an All-American-type season after a true freshman year where he had 66 tackles, five tackles for loss, a sack and five pass breakups despite starting only twice and playing a lot of nickel. The Tigers have some other studs with player of the year potential, such as linebacker Kendell Beckwith, cornerback Tre'Davious White or safety Jalen Mills, but I'm picking Adams.
Greg Ostendorf: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
Is Hargreaves the best defensive player in the SEC? Yes. Will he win the award? Maybe. It will likely depend on how many interceptions he pulls down, but it's hard to grab interceptions when the quarterbacks don't even look in your direction. That's part of the reason he only had three last season, though he did lead the conference with 13 passes broken up. I wouldn't be surprised if he doubled that interception total this season, but more importantly, he will once again lock down his half of the football field. And that is invaluable.
Alex Scarborough: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
I'm tempted to go with one of Georgia's many pass-rushers, but I can't. And as much as Myles Garrett and Derek Barnett feel like safe picks, I wonder about a potential sophomore slump. So give me experience. Give me Hargreaves. If he can't win this award in three years of trying, then nobody should get it. He's been the best corner in the league since he was a freshman. If a few QBs are dumb enough to throw his way, maybe he'll get the interceptions necessary to win the award. If not, I figure he deserves it based on career achievement.
4hDavid M. Hale