The blog poll version of this went up over at For Whom The Cowbell Tolls on Sunday afternoon, but I'm just now getting to posting my part in it. My comments are over on their site, but I'm going to consolidate them for you here with my rankings. I'm not the most knowledgeable person on other team's depth and strengths, so I relied in part on various other watch lists around the internet, memories of games and stories from last season, recruiting classes, and tried my best to compile them into a somewhat believable order. These are provided below along with what I wrote in regards to my thinking...
14. Tennessee: Tennessee lost a ton on the DL this year and are likely going to have a rough time replacing them and building back to a strong defensive line in the SEC.
13. Vanderbilt: New coaches and switching to a new defensive alignment should make this a very interesting year for Vanderbilt on the line. I'm sure there are going to be some serious struggles along the way.
12. Texas A&M: Underclassmen are going to have to step up fast for Texas A&M to improve upon last year's performance.
11. Kentucky: Kentucky lost a lot in the center of the DL, so they're going to need new players to step up quickly.
10. Arkansas: I honestly don't really know terribly much about Arkansas. I know they're returning some pretty good players from last year, but last year's Arkansas team was not terribly impressive.
9. Mississippi State: Three seniors and a five star sophomore. They'll do just fine.
8. South Carolina: South Carolina's defensive line performance may tell us very quickly just how good Clowney was. Did teams focus on him and allow the other linemen to appear better than they are? Or does USC really have a great defensive line? I'm leaning towards the latter, but I get the feeling we'll find out quickly when Georgia comes to town.
7. Florida: Similar to Arkansas, I don't really know a lot about Florida. They were great against the run overall (that little Georgia Southern game notwithstanding), and they have potential, but they're going to need contributions from underclassmen to be truly successful. They're also going to need to develop a pass rush.
6. Missouri: For all Auburn (well, Tre Mason) gassed them in the SECCG, Missouri still had a fantastic defensive line last year. I see that carrying over to at least a really good one this year.
5. Mississippi: Robert Nkemdiche is a sophomore and the Rebels return a good many other talented linemen, as well. They'll be successful if they can stay healthy, as Red Cup Rebellion pointed out.
4. Georgia: Pruitt and the Rock. Georgia has a lot of talent on the line, but I ranked them high because of their coaches. Pruitt is a great coach, and Tracy Rocker is one of the best DL coaches in the business in my homer eyes. They will have Georgia's DL ready to go.
3. LSU: LSU I ranked high because they're LSU. Similar to Alabama, LSU always has a dominant DL. They may have lost a lot from last season, but I have no doubt their underclassmen are ready to step in and not miss much of a step. If they don't though, LSU could struggle a bit against some of the more run-heavy teams.
2. Auburn: This is going to hinge a lot on the health of Carl Lawson. I do think the Tigers' defensive line can be successful without him. Elijah Daniels and LaDarius Owens would likely be the starters on the ends in this case. But don't rule out some stout packages with Montravius Adams on the end, as well.
1. Alabama: Alabama always has a dominant defensive line. I don't expect that to be any different, this year.
Yes, I ranked Alabama #1 ahead of Auburn. I just have too many questions right now about our DL. How healthy is LaDarius Owens after his spring injury? He should be good to go, but we won't know for certain until fall camp. How much will we miss Dee Ford? How much will we miss Carl Lawson if his injury is significant enough for him to miss a lot of playing time? Will the run D improve? What can Jeff Whitaker add after missing last season with an injury? I think we'll end up with a great defensive line, but I just don't know how it's going to look right now.
So how would YOU rank the SEC's DLs? Feel free to discuss below!