SEC defensive line coaches begin the journey
Posted by: Pete Roussel on Sunday August 04, 2013
The SEC is a line of scrimmage league.
In order to earn a trip to Atlanta for the SEC championship game, you have to be able run the ball when the defense knows you’re going to run it. And you’ve got to be able to protect the quarterback, when the defense knows you’re going to throw it.
Don’t you remember Alabama imposing their will in the run game against Georgia in the second half of the SEC championship game?
This season, nearly half of the league’s offenses will utilize fast tempo as part of their base offense. In addition, we know that Mike Bobo and Cam Cameron will incorporate fast tempo at times. When you throw in the non-conference opponents, maybe 80% of college football teams will try to use fast tempo to their advantage.
Thus, developing depth across the defensive line becomes increasingly important. Back-ups could see 6-12 more snaps per game this year than in the past, so it’s more than just about having one or two All-Conference type of players.
As Bret Bielema recently said, “Defensive ends are like corners. If you have one great one, they'll run the other way. You need two great ones.”
In the off-season, roster management is critical. Because defensive linemen are so coveted by NFL organizations, it’s rare for a super-star defensive lineman to stick around for his senior season. Thus, it’s becomes increasingly important for coaching staffs to sign a strong class of defensive lineman every year.
Now that training camp has begun, staying healthy and player development become the focus.
This year, as voted by the coaches, the pre-season first-team All-SEC defensive line features Clowney, Easley, Anthony Johnson, and Chris Smith. The second team consists of Xzavier Dickson, Ed Stinson, Dee Ford, and Jeoffrey Pagan. The third team includes of Garrison Smith, Alvin Dupree, Daniel McCullers, and CJ Johnson.
As I look at the 2-deep for each of the SEC programs, it’s glaring just how coaches value maturity when it comes to who will play along the line of scrimmage.
For example, Missouri is expected to start a red-shirt senior and four red-shirt juniors on the defensive line. Tennessee is expected to start a red-shirt senior and three other seniors. At Auburn, five out of the eight players in the projected 2-deep are seniors, while two more are juniors. Mississippi State will start a senior and three juniors. Arkansas will start three seniors and one junior.
Here’s a look at the roster numbers along the defensive line for each SEC program. (I included the “Jack” linebackers at Alabama and the rush OLB at Georgia because they are primarily ‘line of scrimmage’ players.)
Projected starters are in YELLOW. Back-ups are in GRAY.
Alabama: Including “Jack” linebacker Xzavier Dickson, three Alabama players that play on the line of scrimmage were tabbed second-team preseason All-SEC by the coaches.
Arkansas: Bret Bielema believes defensive ends are like corners. If you have one great one, they'll run the other way. You need two great ones, and the Hogs have that. Quality depth, however, is a concern for defensive line coach Charlie Partridge. Three red-shirt freshmen are listed in the 2-deep.
Auburn: Rodney Garner will rely on a number of players that have been a part of the program for a long time. It will be interesting to how long it takes for highly-touted signees Carl Lawson, Elijah Daniel, and Montravious Adams to impact the line of scrimmage.
Florida: Will Muschamp says defensive tackle Dominique Easley has as good of initial quickness as any interior defensive lineman that he’s coach. But do the Gators have enough quality depth on the interior?
Georgia: While Garrison Smith was tabbed third-team preseason All-SEC by the coaches, new defensive line coach Chris Wilson has his hands full preparing his position group for the likes of Clemson, South Carolina, and LSU in the first month of the season.
Kentucky: I don’t know how talented they are, but DJ Eliot will likely start 3 seniors and a junior college transfer. Depth, however, could be an issue.
LSU: Outside of Anthony Johnson, Tigers defensive line coach Brick Haley will have to get production out of several inexperienced players. Three freshmen are listed in the 2-deep.
Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze and defensive line coach Chris Kiffin are concerned about the health of defensive tackle Isaac Gross, who might not be ready to go in the season-opener against Vanderbilt. Like Gross, C.J. Johnson is coming off surgery, but Freeze said today that he should starting practicing soon. Carlos Thompson figures to enter the mix after red-shirting in 2012. Although not listed in our 2-deep, defensive tackle Carlton Martin has significant playing experience. Freshman Robert Nkemdiche is expected to have an impact immediately.
Mississippi State: Defensive line coach David Turner will rely on a senior and three juniors. Highly-touted freshman Chris Jones could have an impact.
Missouri: It looks like Missouri will start three red-shirt juniors and a red-shirt senior.
South Carolina: A lot of defensive line coaches would like to have what Deke Adams has: experience, depth, and Clowney. That’s a good combination.
Tennessee: Steve Stripling will likely start three red-shirt seniors and another senior.
Texas A&M: Terry Price doesn’t appear to have the talent or depth that he is used to having as a veteran defensive line coach in the SEC. For A&M’s sake, they have Terry Price, who will find a way to get his unit to play better than people expect.
Vanderbilt: It looks like Vanderbilt will start a senior, two red-shirt juniors, and another junior. That’s what you want in the SEC.