Ranking the 2012 Recruiting Classes: Defense

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 Today OKTC brings you a final installment, a ranking of the 2014 defensive positions for all 14 SEC schools. 

And we begin with the defensive line:

1. Mississippi State – Denico Autry, Nick James and Quay Evans stand out in a freakish group of DLs who will keep MSU competitive in the SEC for years to come. Assembling a group this talented was a feat in and of itself, but who MSU beat out for these players is just as big a storyline. They went up against heavyweights for some huge (literally) players, and they hit on almost every single one. All of the stars here were in-state players, and Dan Mullen kept them all home while keeping any of them from heading to Oxford at the same time. 

2. Florida – Johnathan Bullard, a fantastic end out of North Carolina, leads a deep, deep group of defensive linemen into Gainesville. Dante Fowler changing his mind on NSD with a flip from FSU solidified the Gators’ class as one the conference’s elite. This group is essentially as good as MSU’s – the Gators are 1b. 

3. Georgia – Jordan Jenkins surprised everyone when he committed to UGA late in the process, picking the Dawgs after being considered a heavy Alabama/Florida lean throughout the cycle. Jenkins is a Day One impact player and can play with a hand on the ground or standing up. Mark Richt made him a priority and delivered, keeping the versatile prospect in state. John Atkins and others provide great depth here in the middle, as well. Josh Dawson was a Signing Day flip.


4. Texas A&M – This class is heavy on talent at the edge with multiple ends who can find their way onto the depth chart immediately. It lacks in the interior, but the quality of talent at end makes this an above-average class. 

5. Alabama – Korren Kirven and Dalvin Tomlinson were both nice steals for Alabama on NSD at a need position. The additions of both DTs cut out a spot for former commit Darius Philon, who went to Arkansas instead. 

6. Tennessee – Darrington Sentimore, a former Alabama defensive end and Junior College transfer, was a great pickup for Tennessee. Sentimore plays with a lot of energy and is an immediate upgrade for the Vols as a pass-rusher. UT also went the JUCO route with Daniel McCullers, a big nose tackle who had plenty of offers from around the South.

7. South Carolina – Darius English is a rangy end out of Georgia who shows potential, but overall this is a disappointing group. But the group who came in after Jadeveon Clowney was always going to look pretty average, right? 

8. Arkansas – Austin Flynn was a nice pick-up at end from a two-year college on the West Coast, and landing Darius Philon on NSD out of nowhere bumped this group up a couple of pegs. 

9. Kentucky – There’s some depth here, which prevents this group from sliding down the list. Thomas Chapman is a player who could potentially surprise for UK. 

10. Ole Miss – Channing Ward was a terrific pick-up late in the process. Ward, who also strongly considered Alabama and Auburn, chose Ole Miss and helped salvage this class. He’s the type of player who could log downs as a specialist or rush end early on. With the haul pulled in down in Starkville, aside from Ward, there wasn’t much left in the cupboard this year. 

11. Auburn – Tyler Nero is a big-instate lineman who shows promise, but this was a low priority for an Auburn staff who has loaded up on defensive linemen over the past two years. 

12. Vanderbilt – It’s a deep group with some promise, but with Vandy’s relative success in recruiting this year, this isn’t a group that stands out compared to other positions they’ve recruited. 

13. LSU – Much like the offensive line class this year, this is an exceptionally and uncharacteristically thin group for LSU. The current depth chart is stacked with young, dynamic players, and that certainly worked against the Tigers this year as the in-state crop wasn’t particularly deep. 

14. Missouri – The SEC’s newest set of Tigers will soon learn that Ws and Ls in this conference are often determined up front on the defensive line. They’ll need to do better than this if they want to be competitive with the big boys. 


1. Alabama – This may be Nick Saban’s best class at linebacker yet. That’s saying something when you’ve recruited like likes of Rolando McClain, Dont’a Hightower, CJ Mosley and Nico Johnson. The 2012 corps includes Reggie Ragland, Dillon Lee, Denzell Devall, Tyler Hayes and Ryan Anderson (a hybrid linebacker/end prospect.) This group boasts size, speed and depth. 

2. LSU – Lamar Louis and Ronnie Feist are two prospects who will fit right in down in Baton Rouge. The pair both have the frame to play on the outside or drop into coverage as big defensive backs if needed. As LSU looks to build even more depth on the defensive side of the ball (where it’s already loaded) this class will make its mark soon. Adding Kwon Alexander on NSD was a big move. 

3. Arkansas – Otha Peters and A.J. Turner are a couple of big outside ‘backers who have range that should provide Arkansas quality depth in the near future. Vin Ascolese was a late pickup last week who rounds out this class. Peters was particularly surprising, though, as the long-time Tennessee commit flipped late. 

4. Florida – Jeremi Powell is the star in this group for Will Muschamp’s Gators. 

5. Missouri – Markus Golden is a huge MLB prospect out of the Junior College ranks who will make an impact early at Mizzou. Donavin Newsom is a MLB talent that will stand out. 

6. Georgia – Josh Harvey-Clemons is a super talent on the outside. At 6’5″, Leonard Floyd has the raw physical ability to wreak havoc on the edge, too. 

7. Auburn – Two LB commits from the Birmingham area headline Auburn’s group of linebackers. Cassanova McKinzy and Javiere Mitchell are both athletic prospects who should contend for early playing time at a position where Auburn had issues with consistency in 2011. 
8. South Carolina – Kaiwan Lewis and T.J. Holliman project on the inside as run-stoppers. 

9. Texas A&M – Jordan Richmond has the size to play outside or inside, depending on need. 

10. Vanderbilt – Jakarri Thomas is an interesting prospect out of a school that’s produced a lot of talent over the years – Tallahassee’s Godby High School. 

11. Ole Miss – Temario Strong was an important pickup from nearby prep powerhouse South Panola. 

12. Tennessee – Losing Otha Peters late in the process hurt. Justin King is a versatile player who could project at linebacker. 

13. Kentucky – The ‘Cats went outside the Bluegrass to Florida and Georgia to pick up a pair of promising LBs this year. 

14. Mississippi State – MSU made the defensive front four a priority, and it showed, but they didn’t focus much attention on linebackers at all. It will be a need position next year. 


1. Alabama – Similar to the LB corps, Alabama’s 2012 group of defensive backs is absolutely stellar. Landon Collins, Geno Smith, Eddie Williams and Cyrus Jones are all among the best prep DBs in America, and Travell Dixon and Deion Belue were highly coveted JUCO players. Look for either Williams or Jones to give WR a shot initially because of the depth in this group. 

2. LSU – Derrick Raymond and Corey Thompson lead another stellar group of new DBs at LSU. This class will add to the already obscene amount of talent in the backfield on that side of the ball. 

3. Texas A&M – Devante Harris and Kenneth Marshall provide a punch at corner and safety. An above average group of DBs is heading to College Station. 

4. Auburn – Josh Holsey, Jonathan Jones and T.J. Davis form a nice trio of cornerbacks. 

5. Tennessee – LaDarrell McNeil, Daniel Gray and Deion Bonner are three out-of-state prospects who show promise. 

6. Kentucky – Kory Brown, a JUCO safety, heads up a deep group of DBs in Lexington. 

7. Florida – Brian Poole is a notable athlete at safety for the Gators. 

8. Mississippi State – Quadry Antoine is a notable pickup out of Louisiana for the Bulldogs. The safety prospect has closing speed and decent size. 

9. South Carolina – This class isn’t as special as past DB groups who have pledged to Carolina. Jordan Diggs is a safety prospect to keep an eye on. 

10. Vanderbilt – Vandy went heavy on corners in the Class of 2012. 

11. Missouri – It’s not an overly impressive class, but it will do for now. 

12. Mississippi – Trae Elston surprised LSU on Signing Day by picking the Rebels. He elected to not follow HS teammate Kwon Alexander to Baton Rouge.

13. Arkansas – The DB class in Fayetteville is somewhat thin. Davonte Neal is a versatile prospect still considering the Hogs. 

14. Georgia – The defensive backfield apparently wasn’t a major area of concern in Athens. 


The Offense position rankings are here:

Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers

Running Backs and Offensive Lines

Our total 1-14 SEC team ranking can be found here. 


Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021.

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Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports.

Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.