If there is one thing we all know, it’s that the SEC has, is, and always will be a staple for defensive talent. That said, four teams have taken things up a notch. So where does Mississippi State place? The following are ranked based on all defensive units.
No. 1: Alabama Crimson Tide
Is there even a question here? Alabama is a well oiled machine, reloading and getting better each fall. Having lost a plethora of talent, the game’s best coach in Nick Saban knows a thing or two about recruiting.
As it pertains to the line and linebacking corps, the Tide boast the best in the business. A versatile monster upfront, Raekwon Davis, who can play tackle or end has game changing power. At six-foot-seven and 316 pounds, Davis has posted 21 total tackles thus far. The one-man wrecking crew is set to take over, but we will see what happens once Bama faces some real competition.
Also upfront is an end with overlooked quickness, Isaiah Buggs. Buggs has been on fire since day one of the 2018 season, as his numbers cannot be questioned. Like Davis, Buggs has recorded 21 tackles, but has added six sacks, a forced fumble and a pass defensed to an impressive stat line. Buggs’ 3.5 sacks against Texas A&M speak for his talent, as the senior is on a roll.
At linebacker, Bama has two prominent faces, and their names are Dylan Moses and Mack Wilson. Moses has battled injury but has fought back and brings it. As for Wilson, he can be deemed the second coming of Reuben Foster. This man will lay the wood whenever he wishes.
The two are due for a big second half. Look for Moses and Wilson to wreck havoc late into the season when facing stiff competition, most notably LSU and Auburn. Each will be on a mission to make a statement against an arch-rival.
But perhaps the secondary is in question for the Crimson Tide. They are young with a ton of promise. However, the operative word mentioned above is young. Patrick Surtain Jr. and Trevon Diggs are names to make note of, as both are raw and ready. Having said that, teams have and will continue to go after them.
Speed and awareness are points of emphasis for Surtain and Diggs, Both will break out sooner rather than later, just give it time. Each has had their moments and have a bright future.
No. 2: Mississippi State Bulldogs
The one word that can describe Mississippi State’s defense is, well, depth, especially upfront and at linebacker. But the secondary remains suspect. That said, this defense is more than formidable and can be counted on.
There is no argument against the Bulldogs’ front four. Ends Montez Sweat and Gerri Green, each put forth a quick first step with ability to set the edge and quickly close the gap. And how can we forget about likely NFL prospect Jeffery Simmons? Though unable to keep his composure at times, Simmons has shown an ability to push the pocket and show up when called upon.
As for the linebackers, the Bulldogs have plenty and the ceiling is high. Though in a losing effort against Florida, Erroll Thompson recorded 14 tackles, speaking for his ability. Thompson has emerged into a fearless leader well beyond his years. Look for him to take it up a notch after the bye.
But the secondary must show up and be able to tackle in the open field. Marc McLaurin, Jonathan Abram, and Jamal Peters are all capable, but have had trouble. The talent is there, but must emerge and be consistent.
No. 3: Georgia Bulldogs
It always helps when your coach comes from the Saban tree, as former Alabama defensive coordinator and Georgia native Kirby Smart has worked wonders as the headman in Athens. Another team who has lost plenty, the Dawgs have reloaded. Smart is a defensive mastermind whose knowledge may transcend all in the game, and yes, that includes Saban.
Senior defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter knows how to set the edge, as his quickness is highly underrated. His partner in crime in upperclassman Tyler Clark, can also make a heavy impact. Both stand at six-foot-for and can disrupt anybody’s running and passing game.
While both are upperclassmen, each have the motor of an incoming freshman with the highest of ceilings. Ledbetter and Clark will have to step it up in the season’s second half. The schedule will be harder and if the Dawgs want to reach the playoff, both will have to be at their best.
Georgia’s linebacking trio, which includes D’Andre Walker, Walter Grant, and Monty Rice, have gelled well together. All three have plenty of talent. Looker for Walker, Grant, and Rice can get after the quarterback, a must in the SEC.
Though the linebacker position is often deemed the quarterback of the defense, it is within the Dawgs’ secondary that their primary faces stand. They are no other than Deandre Baker and J.R. Reed. The duo may just be one of the best in the game, as Baker and Reed are sure NFL prospects.
Baker has accumulated 21 tackles, five passes defensed, an interception, and a forced fumble thus far in his senior campaign. He is lethal in the open field and has come a long way. As for Reed, the junior has also shined with 24 tackles, an interception, and a pass defensed. He is an athlete and can match up with the best of them, ultimately frustrating any offensive coordinator.
The bottomline is that we know what defense means to the SEC. While all three are in a world of their own, Mississippi State’s is the most intriguing. Why? Because they are the most complete.
The Bulldogs know their strengths and what needs to be addressed. The second half for Mississippi State will be interesting, as Mississippi State starts it off with a trip to Death Valley to take on LSU. If a win is in store, it will be in large part to the Bulldogs’ talent on the defensive side of the ball.