We ranked the guys in the trenches on Friday, so now it’s time to take a look at the outside guys on the defensive line.
Below is the way we would rank the top 10 defensive ends in the SEC heading into the 2012 season. One thing to note is that Florida’s Ronald Powell, who plays a hybrid end/linebacker role for the Gators, is not on this list because he’s recovering from ACL surgery and could miss the first part of the season.
Here’s what we came up with:
1. Sam Montgomery, Jr., LSU: The SEC’s most complete defensive end, Montgomery is big enough and explosive enough to stuff the run as well as rush the passer. He had nine sacks last season.
2. Jadeveon Clowney, Soph., South Carolina: His freshman season was just a glimpse. Clowney had eight sacks and five forced fumbles and was playing on talent alone. He’ll be an every-down force in 2012.
3. Barkevious Mingo, Jr., LSU: LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis predicted that Mingo would emerge as the best pass-rusher in the SEC. He’s well on his way after racking up 15 tackles for loss last season.
4. Corey Lemonier, Jr. Auburn: He’s the leading returning sack man among SEC defensive ends with 9.5 last season. Lemonier could play his way into the first round of the NFL draft with a big junior season.
5. Damontre Moore, Jr., Texas A&M: He may be new to the SEC, but Moore will quickly introduce himself to opposing quarterbacks in this league. He finished with 17.5 tackles for loss a year ago and forced four fumbles.
6. Devin Taylor, Sr., South Carolina: He’s the “other” defensive end for the Gamecocks and plenty productive in his own right. The 6-foot-8, 267-pounds Taylor had six sacks last season.
7. Abry Jones, Sr., Georgia: An end in Georgia’s 3-4 scheme, the 6-foot-3, 309-pounds Jones is extremely active and one of the most improved players on the team. Look for him to have a big senior season.
8. Brad Madison, Sr., Missouri: A painful shoulder injury limited Madison last season, and he missed the spring after undergoing surgery. He should be good to go this fall and return to the same form he displayed as a sophomore.
9. Denico Autry, Jr., Mississippi State: The only newcomer to make the list, Autry was a big hit this spring for the Bulldogs after coming over from junior college. His specialty is rushing the passer.
10. Damion Square, Sr., Alabama: Even though Square didn’t have big sack numbers last season, don’t be fooled. He’s a veteran player who played his best football down the stretch. He’ll be even better as a senior.