As the season approaches, we continue our position-by-position countdown of the top players in the Southeastern Conference. Today, we take a look at the top ten SEC outside linebackers, which is as athletic a group as can be found across the nation. Several players are speed rushers that can pile up big sack numbers in 2014 while others will fly around from sideline to sideline racking up tackles.
1. Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
Simply put, the rangy outside linebacker is one of the best pass rushers in the Southeastern Conference. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds entering his sophomore season, there is still a lot of room for Floyd to add weight, and with it, strength. He is already a speed demon coming off the edge, and had 6.5 sacks last season as a result. Floyd could have a huge season in new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s system.
2. Serderuis Bryant, OLB, Ole Miss
There are bigger names on defense for the Ole Miss Rebels, but there may not be a better player than Serderius Bryant. The senior had 78 tackles last season and 9.5 tackles for a loss, both of which led the squad. Bryant had three sacks, which fell just one half sack behind team leader Isaac Gross. The Rebels have gotten better along the defensive line with the move of Robert Nkemdiche to defensive tackle as well as the return of CJ Johnson to end, which should free up Bryant to make even more plays in 2014.
3. Jordan Jenkins, OLB, Georgia
Speaking of pass rushers, Georgia has another good one in Jordan Jenkins. He struggled at times last season, but was able to record five sacks last season as a sophomore. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 246 pounds, Jenkins is big enough to play defensive end when the Bulldogs move to a 4-3 look from their base 3-4 system. His versatility will be a big factor for Georgia this season.
4. Skai Moore, South Carolina
Moore appeared in all 13 games for South Carolina as a true freshman last season, and worked his way into the starting lineup before all was said and done. Young and undersized at 205 pounds, Moore still emerged as the team’s leading tackler last season with 56, and also led the Gamecocks with four interceptions. His play earned him Freshman All-SEC honors.
5. Sharrod Golightly, South Carolina
Sharrod Golightly was very active last season for South Carolina. He recorded 47 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and broke up four passes. Similar to Auburn, South Carolina utilizes a 4-2-5 system on defense. And while Robenson Therezie, the Star in Ellis Johnson’s defense, falls more in line as a safety – Golightly, who mans the similar Spur position for Gamecock defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward is more of a linebacker. Also, with South Carolina experimenting with a 3-4 at times this year Golightly is likely to line up more as a true linebacker anyway.
6. Kwon Alexander, LSU
The LSU Tigers have shifted around their linebacking corps since the end of last season, and Kwon Alexander will now play on the weak side after appearing in all 13 games and starting nine on the strong side last season. At 6-foot-2, 218 pounds and with the athletic ability to run all over the field, the weak side is a better fit for Alexander’s skills. Simply, Alexander is one of the fastest linebackers in the nation and should improve upon the 65 tackles and 6.5 TFLs he recorded as a sophomore.
7. Caleb Azubike, Vanderbilt
When new head coach Derek Mason came to Vanderbilt from Stanford, he brought a 3-4 defense with him. As part of that transition, several players that were 4-3 defensive ends during James Frankiln’s regime are now outside linebackers. Azubike is one of them, and he has a great skillset to make a smooth transition. Last season, the junior had only 31 tackles – but 9.5 of them were tackles for loss, including four sacks. He also missed the season’s last three games with an injury.
8. Antonio Morrison, Florida
For all the struggles the Florida Gators had last season, they were great on defense. Despite ranking in the top ten in the country in total defense, however, there is room for improvement – particularly among the linebackers. Antonio Morrison is one of those players that has an even higher ceiling than he showed last season as a sophomore. Injuries certainly impacted his play, causing Morrison to miss four games, though he finished second on the team with 56 tackles in 2014.
9. Denzel Devall, Alabama
Denzel Devall was only a part time player last season, and he started only three times, but he excelled as a pass rusher. The junior had 30 tackles, three sacks and two more tackles for a loss. Now a starter, that production should increase.
10. Kris Frost, Auburn
Last year, Frost split time with Jake Holland at middle linebacker, but still accounted for 56 tackles and six tackles for a loss. The junior improved steadily over the course of the season, and then played his best game with the National Championship on the line. In Pasadena, Frost had a season high seven tackles, five of which were solo. That positive momentum is exciting as we look ahead to the 2014 season in which Frost will be a full time starter for the Tigers. Big and athletic at 6-foot-2 and 234 pounds, Frost’s speed will play even better as the weak side linebacker this season than it did in the middle.