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May 14, 2013

New names look to enter SEC's OLB elite

AggieYell.com's preseason breakdown of the best players by position in the SEC continues with a look at another position in transition, outside linebacker.

Top Individuals:

1) Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
2) Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
3) 
Lamin Barrow, LSU
4) Steven Jenkins, Texas A&M
5) Deontae Skinner, Mississippi State
6) Denzel Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
7) Antonio Morrison, Florida
8) Ramik Wilson, Georgia
9) Denzell Devall, Alabama

Hubbard is the sack specialist for Alabama and is a beast off the edge at 6 feet, 6 inches tall and 252 pounds. In a year where teams across the board are reloading at linebacker, he's a slam dunk as the top outside guy. His resume is impressive: 41 tackles, 11 TFL, 7 sacks and 3 forced fumbles.

Justin Houston led the SEC in sacks in the SEC in 2010. Jarvis Jenkins led the SEC sacks the last two years. Now, it's Jordan Jenkins' turn to take over. Jenkins (31 tackles, 5 sacks) started only 6 games last year, but was good enough to break into a strong Georgia linebacker corps as a true freshman. Now, he's the man in the spotlight.

The extremely productive Barrow (104 tackles, 7.5 TFL) may end up on the inside this season, but right now he's considered an outside linebacker and he needs to be somewhere. He's too good to overlook.

Skinner (62 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 passes defensed) and Jenkins (79 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT returned for a touchdown) are two of the veterans on this list and will be looked to for more than just leadership in 2013. Jenkins, especially, should be turned loose with the departures of Sean Porter and Damontre Moore.

On the other end of the spectrum is Nkemediche (82 tackles, 13 TFL, 3 sacks, 3 INTs), who came out of nowhere to be a Freshman All-American in 2012. As one of two starters in a 4-2-5, he could could be considered an inside or outside guy, but his range fits him better here.

Morrison, Wilson and Devall are all first-year starters, but have already shown a lot of talent in limited snaps last year.

By group:
1) Alabama
2) LSU
3) Florida
4) Georgia
5) Mississippi State
6) A&M
7) Tennessee
8) Vanderbilt
9) Arkansas
10) Missouri

Don't quite fit (4-2-5): South Carolina, Auburn, Ole Miss
In Transition: Kentucky


When you have two starters in the top 9 players in the conference at a position, you're pretty good. But when Alabama can move the best linebacker in the conference -- C.J. Mosley -- to SAM at its leisure, there's no doubt who comes in at the top.

LSU, Florida and Georgia are all in the same boat: they're breaking in new starters, but the talent level and depth that they have at outside linebacker is almost embarrassing. They'll all be formidable in 2013. The Aggies have a top player in Jenkins, but the rest -- Tommy Sanders, Nate Askew, Brett Wade and likely Darian Claiborne -- are all unknowns. If Sanders is solid, then this will be a ranking that is too low.

Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Arkansas are all breaking new players on the outside and nobody's quite sure what they have. With Nkemdiche, Ole Miss can be solid, at the very least. Auburn isn't sure what they have, and South Carolina has a bunch of upperclassmen who haven't been good enough to get on the field at the top of their current depth chart. It's a far cry from the loaded group they have up front.



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