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College football news top 10 defenses


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1. USC

When linebackers Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing decided to forego the NFL Draft for one more year, it ensured that the Trojans would have one of the nastiest back sevens in the country. Not only are the two seniors All-America-caliber, but the secondary is sensational. Safeties Kevin Ellison and Taylor Mays are among six players with starting experience. Even without current pros Sedrick Ellis and Lawrence Jackson, the defensive line will be just fine. On the outside, speedy Everson Griffen is good enough to make folks forget about Jackson. On the inside, senior Fili Moala is about to shed his anonymity while making a strong push for All-American honors and a spot in the first round of next year’s NFL Draft.

2. Ohio State

Sackmaster Vernon Gholston and productive all-around LB Larry Grant are gone. That's about the only negative on what was the nation's best total and scoring defense. The stunning decisions by LB James Laurinaitis and CB Malcolm Jenkins to return for their senior seasons, when they would've been first round draft picks this year, makes the already good-looking defense something special. All four starters return to the secondary that helped lead the way for the nation's best pass defense. Laurinaitis and running-mate Marcus Freeman will make up for the potential issue at the third linebacking spot, while Lawrence Wilson, Cameron Heyward, and Thaddeus Gibson are great-looking ends who should be camped out in opposing backfield. The key will be the tackles. Mediocre last season, at least by Buckeye standards, Todd Denlinger, Doug Worthington, Dexter Larimore and Nader Abdallah are expected to be far better.

3. Georgia

Considering last season was supposed to be a problem with no experience and several holes to fill, finishing 14th in the nation in total defense and 18th in scoring D, allowing 323 yards and 20 points per game, showed how quickly the team rebuilds. Now the defense is loaded with former high school all-stars who have grown into great college players. There's depth, options, and the potential for an even better rotation with a loaded defense that'll be dominant at times. The only downside is the lack of a sure-thing pass rushing end, with Marcus Howard gone, but there will be pressure from all four spots up front, led by the tackle pair of Geno Atkins and Jeff Owens, while the linebacking corps will be solid, if not spectacular. The secondary grew into something special by the end of the year, and now it should be terrific led by soon-to-be all-stars CB Asher Allen and FS Reshad Jones.

4. LSU

The nation's number three defense in each of the last three years might fall off a little bit with the loss of defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, DT Glenn Dorsey, LB Ali Highsmith, SS Craig Steltz and both starting corners, but it's not like things are going to fall off the map. The defensive line might even be better, even without Dorsey, with tackles Ricky Jean-Francois (academics) and Charles Alexander (knee) joining Al Woods and Marlon Favorite on the inside to form a brick wall, and tackle-sized Tyson Jackson on the end looking for a big season to cash in on for next year's NFL draft. Speed and athleticism should make up for concerns at outside linebacker and cornerback, while MLB Darry Beckwith and the safeties should be tremendous.

5. Auburn

Auburn always comes up with productive defenses no matter what the talent level is like, but this year, unlike last season when the coaching staff had to play around with several different combinations, defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads has a loaded group with seven returning starters. The right players appear to be in the right spots with future NFL millionaire Sen'Derrick Marks in his more natural tackle spot after spending last year on the end, LB Tray Blackmon finally ready to be counted on in the middle after a slew of off-the-field issues marring the first part of his career, and the secondary ready to be among the best in the nation again. The linebacking corps is steady, but needs to prove it can be spectacular. The defensive backfield might not have a bunch of household names, but that should change with Jerraud Powers on the verge of being recognized as one of the SEC's best all-around corners and the safety tandem of Mike McNeil and Zac Etheridge ready to blow up. The one concern is depth on the line and the secondary; it needs time to develop.

6. Boston College

Matt Ryan got most of the pub last fall, but the defense was the backbone of a program that often had trouble putting points on the board. Even without LB Brian Toal and DT B.J. Raji, Boston College finished second nationally in run defense and No. 19 in total D, despite beginning the season without any true stars. The cornerstones of this year’s crew will be DE Alex Albright, DT Ron Brace, and LB Mark Herzlich, who’ll help form a sturdy front wall that’ll again be tough to run on. The pass defense, however, will be easier for opponents to navigate. Fiery S Jamie Silva and top CB DeJuan Tribble are gone, putting pressure on Marcellus Bowman and DeLeon Gause, respectively, to bridge the gap.

7. Clemson

While there are openings and uncertainty at linebacker, the rest of the defense is in good shape with size and speed up front and depth and experience in the secondary. CAT safety Michael Hamlin heads a backfield that boasts four returning starters and a slew of letterwinners. Even without DE Phillip Merling, the Tigers have recruited well enough in recent years to dominate in the trenches and create outside pressure. Mega-recruit DaQuan Bowers has an ACC body and 15 spring practices behind him. One of the most heralded recruits to ever sign with Clemson, he’ll join Ricky Sapp to give the defense a scary and speedy pass-rushing tandem.

8. South Carolina

A major disappointment last year thanks to a slew of injury problems, the D is loaded and could be among the best in the SEC if everyone can stay on the field. The biggest boost is the return of LB Jasper Brinkley after suffering a knee injury, while the linebacking corps will undergo a bit of a change with end Eric Norwood swapping spots with LB Cliff Matthews. There's plenty of star power with Brinkley, Norwood, CB Captain Munnerlyn, SS Emanuel Cook, and DT Ladi Ajiboye all certain to earn all-star honors, and now someone has to stop the run. USC finished first in the SEC in pass defense, but that's partly because everyone pounded the ball. That should change with massive size in the front seven and most of the key parts healthy again.

9. Michigan

While there's plenty of uncertainty on offense, Scott Shafer's defense should be solid after bouncing back from a disastrous start. The line has the potential to be among the best in the nation, but now all the talent needs to turn into more production with tackles Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson and ends Tim Jamison and Brandon Graham needing to dominate. The secondary was terrific last year, and it will be again even with new safeties to go with strong corners Morgan Trent and Donovan Warren. The question is the linebacking corps that should be decent, but nothing special outside of Obi Ezeh in the middle.

10. Oregon

For a change, most of Oregon’s stars this season will be on the defensive side of the ball. The Ducks lose little from Nick Aliotti’s ball-hawking unit, retaining all six of the players who earned all-conference recognition a year ago. Up front, ends Nick Reed and Will Tukuafu are talented pass rushers who can also defend the run. The Jerome Boyd-led linebackers have a chance to be the best group in Eugene in years. The secondary, featuring Patrick Chung, Jairus Byrd, and Walter Thurmond, will be among the best in the West. Offenses should have their best luck running the ball right at a line that’s understaffed at defensive tackle.

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I think the secondary bit may have been wrong only because he didn't account for all the injuries and problems in our secondary. Or the incoming talent is really good and he didn't elaborate.

But I agree with his overall assessment in principle :)

I am getting very excited as the season is just within reach.

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You all know that I am one of the most openly optimistic Auburn fans in the world. I am in a little shock though that we were picked as the 5th best defense in the nation. If that rings true (and I think it will) and our offense explodes into a top 20 or 25 offense, then we are truly going to be hard to beat. I know, I know, two new coordinators (both very proven) and a new QB as well as a thin/unexperienced cornerback group (but with an azz load of talent). I am very very excited about this team, and even more excited to just watch our Auburn Tigers take on a new face so to speak!

WAR DAMN EAGLE! 08' :au:

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1. USC

2. Ohio State

3. Georgia

Hmmm . . . shocker. These three may have (slightly) better talent, but, when it comes to actually stopping people, I think Auburn (and LSU, and others) has been consistently better than all three of these teams defensively in recent years. I don't recall USC's results, but Georgia's D was ripped by Tennessee and Florida last year (and gave up 30+ to our new OC), and OSU's was ripped by LSU and . . . well, I'm sure there'd have been others if they'd actually played anybody. (OK, I know we haven't stopped UGA a lick in three years, but I still like our 'D' better overall.) Georgia's always decent defensively, but never as good as their talent.

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1. USC

2. Ohio State

3. Georgia

Hmmm . . . shocker. These three may have (slightly) better talent, but, when it comes to actually stopping people, I think Auburn (and LSU, and others) has been consistently better than all three of these teams defensively in recent years. I don't recall USC's results, but Georgia's D was ripped by Tennessee and Florida last year (and gave up 30+ to our new OC), and OSU's was ripped by LSU and . . . well, I'm sure there'd have been others if they'd actually played anybody. (OK, I know we haven't stopped UGA a lick in three years, but I still like our 'D' better overall.) Georgia's always decent defensively, but never as good as their talent.

Can you imagine the conspiracy theorists coming out of the woodwork if me manage to shut Georgia down this year?

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Ohio State hasn't been able to stop either of the 2 SEC juggernauts it has faced the past 2 years. Their stats are only padded by weak competition in the Big 10.

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5 of the top 10 and 3 of the top 5 (regardless if I agree). That my friends is why the SEC is the best conference in football.

Last time I checked Defense wins championships and playing against that all year is tough.

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All year, we wish it was Sept., now I'm starting to wish it was January!

All this suspense is eating me alive, i want the games to begin, so we can see what's really going to happen. I am definitely drinking the Kool-Aid, and believing in a special season!

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Our defense should be one of the top five or so defenses in the nation. OSU's is a defense of padded stats. Look I actually think they're better than some folks say they are, but they are NOT one of the top five defensive teams in the nation. The Animal's son is overrated. The line doesn't have natural pass rushers. The secondary is pretty solid.

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Georgia's always decent defensively, but never as good as their talent.

Anything specific?

We usually are fielding Top 10-20 D's in the country so I am curious what we would need to "rank" to be as "good as" our talent

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I think UGA players should understand that they have to be number one at everything. They have more talent than anyone else, and they have no excuse in failing to achieve perfection. I'm pretty sure this is the most talented team in the history of college football; so if they lose a game, they should just get dejected and quit... especially before the Auburn game.

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