It is my position that no position says "football" like the defensive line. The stereotypical football player is big and mean, and only at defensive line is a football player most likely to be able to showcase those characteristics. Quarterbacks are celebrities. Running backs are flashy. Linebackers give the most hits. But nothing epitmoizes football like being the big, mean guy that pushes another big, mean guy out of the way so that you can knock the crap out of whichever pretty-boy who happens to have the misfortune of presently holding the ball.
Today, Stack-Ups is dropping the quarterback for a fifteen-yard loss. Defensive linemen after the jump.
Terrance Cody is the perfect centerpiece for Nick Saban's 3-4 defensive scheme because he takes up a great deal of space. Forgotten by many, though, is the man Cody replaced at Nose Guard - Lorenzo Washington (6'5", 275 lb.), who appears to be sliding over to take over for Bobby Greenwood after sitting behind Cody for most of 2008. Returning on the other side is Brandon Deaderick, who recorded 36 tackles in 14 starts for the Tide in '08 (and started 8 games in 2007). That means that the Tide returns 48 starts among their defensive linemen, which is pretty phenomenal in a 3-4 scheme.
The Razorbacks return four starters on the defensive line. Seniors Malcolm Sheppard and Adrian Davis are third-year starters, and Sheppard earned 2nd Team All-SEC honors last year. However, the run defense was among the worst in the conference (even though, last year, it only had to replace one starter), allowing 4.4 yards per carry. Much of the Razorbacks lackluster efforts in run defense, though, can be attributed to their inexperienced linebacking corp. The line makes lots of tackles, and they should be the strength of the Arkansas defense.
Even with 2nd-Team All-SEC Sen'Derrick Marks, Auburn allowed 4.1 yards per carry in 2008, but were surprised by Antonio Coleman's breakout season at defensive end. Marks is gone, but Coleman and two other starters return. The Tigers replace Marks with either senior Jake Ricks or JUCO transfer Nick Fairley. The most important acquisition, though, was probably Tracy Rocker, who turned around an Ole Miss defensive line that was full of talent, but had allowed 199 yards per game in 2007.
Probably the most regrettable loss for the Bayou Bengals heading into 2009 is on the defensive line. Perhaps he was never the star, but his name typified everything about LSU - Ricky Jean Francois, of course. They have more holes to fill than just in the "awesome Cajun name" category. First-rounder Tyson Jackson is gone, along with four others and 38 starts. Rahim Alem returns, and everyone on the two-deep were recruited in the Top 50 at their position. But even with experience and talent, last year was the worst for the LSU run defense in recent memory, and the Tigers are unlikely to improve significantly, if at all.
The Bulldogs have gone backwards in run defense the last two years from their remarkable 3.4 yards per carry allowed in 2006. They have very little experience heading into 2009 with 11 starts among their first string. Defense was the pride and the focus for State under Jackie Sherrill and Sylvester Croom ('cuz offense dang sure wasn't ever the focus). Neither their projected starters, nor the players they are replacing are exceptionally notable. Pernell McPhee, highly touted JUCO transfer, hopes to be the star. Follow this rule for defensive lines: those boasting JUCO transfers as their star are rarely - I say, rarely, you Tiders - good defensive lines.
I don't know if you've heard, but this is supposedly a strength for Ole Miss.
On a conclusory note ...
Defensive lines will have their hands full in the SEC West in 2009, as we mentioned earlier. But a couple of them, at least, ought to be well up to the task. The fun questions heading into SEC play will be whether the Rebels or Tide emerge as the best, whether Arkansas and Auburn can turn all that experience into results, and what will become of the unexperienced talent at LSU. One thing that is not in question is which team will struggle the most at defensive line (hint: they are stinky cow-poop-faces! lol!).