Yesterday, we took a look at the talent on the offensive two-deeps for each of the SEC teams. Today, it's time to look at defense.
To recap if you missed the offense post, this is based on the best depth charts I could find/put together. These are fluid right now, of course, as fall practice can tend to scramble these things up. True freshmen aren't included yet either, so impact newcomers can cause these things to change. For now, though, this is what everyone has.
These are average recruiting star rankings according to Rivals, and the averages weight the backups 75% of the value of the starters.
Two teams stand out above the rest, and yes, that's right: Alabama isn't at the top.
Florida's two-deep on defense is not totally set, but it only has two guys rated below four-stars anywhere: backup DE Bryan Cox, Jr. and LB Darrin Kitchens. Both are three-stars. It also helps out that in the post-spring depth chart, five-star guy Ronald Powell is listed both as a starting outside linebacker and a backup at the Buck position (hybrid DE/OLB, basically). Still though, the talent level as measured by recruiting rankings is absurd. CB Loucheiz Purifoy will moonlight on offense, but five-star freshman Vernon Hargreaves, III appears likely to pick up any slack. The coaches are trying out four-star backup S Valdez Showers on offense right now as well, but four-star freshman Keanu Neal is a top candidate for filling in there. For all of the curious recruiting decisions that have led to a real lack of depth at key offensive positions in recent years, the Gators' defensive recruiting has been stellar.
The difference for Alabama is that the Tide only has two five-star guys in the lineup, and it looks set to start a trio of three-star players: DT Brandon Ivory, CB Deion Belue, and S Vinnie Sunseri. Belue and Sunseri are veteran starters off of last year's excellent defense, so it's hard to point to them as potential liabilities. Ivory, on the other hand, is battling fellow three-star Darren Lake for the vital nose tackle job. Lake is the only backup who got under a three-star rating though, showing that the stories you read about Bama's depth and quality of recruiting aren't tall tales.
And yes, that is Georgia in third. All of the concerns about the Bulldogs' defense this year come from basically two places. One, nearly everyone you've heard of from last year's unit is gone. Two, we haven't yet seen Todd Grantham deal with turning over the core of a defense like this. He doesn't just yet get the automatic vote of confidence that Nick Saban, John Chavis, or Will Muschamp already do. By recruiting rankings anyway, the defense actually rates quite a bit higher in talent level than the offense does, and it would be even higher if one of the backup safeties wasn't Connor Norman (who wasn't rated in high school). The Bulldogs are reloading talent-wise; it's up to the coaches to do the rest.
As for LSU, the defensive line looks about as good as ever. It has three four-star guys set to star along side five-star Anthony Johnson. However, five of the seven other defensive starters only got three-star ratings as high schoolers. This is not merely a case of older guys filling in while the blue chip backups marinate. The second line has only four four-star guys with the rest being three-star recruits. This is the first year I've done this exercise so I can't compare to previous years directly. With that said, only two of the eight Tiger defenders taken in last spring's NFL Draft were three-star guys. Take that for what you will.
There isn't a ton to say about most of the teams towards the bottom of the list; the names are probably the ones you'd expect. I can say that this goes to show that Bob Shoop doesn't get nearly enough press. Vandy's defense was around middle of the conference's pack if not slightly better in 2012, and that's phenomenal given how lowly rated the team's players on that side of the ball are.
Ole Miss figures to get a boost from some freshman playing like five-star DE Robert Nkemdiche and four-star CB Antonio Conner. Auburn isn't precisely hurting for talent, but a pair of five-star linemen in Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams can increase its average. Five-star Chris Jones should boost Mississippi State as well.
Tomorrow, we'll look over the combined offense and defensive average rankings.