SEC's Best Defensive Freshmen

It's difficult for freshmen to consistently make an impact at the SEC level. Players are bigger and faster than high school, and it's harder for defensive players to get off blocks. However, multiple teams have needs on defense in 2010 and freshmen will fill those roles.

5. LSU defensive ends Sam Montgomery/Barkevious Mingo- The two are both listed as backups on the depth chart, but the LSU starters at defensive end are only sophomores, Chancey Aghayere and Lavar Edwards, and this is their first year starting. There will be plenty of playing time available for whoever decides to step up at defensive end for LSU.

Montgomery and Mingo each racked up two sacks in the LSU spring game. For a defense that recorded only 21 sacks, defensive coordinator John Chavis will welcome any increase in their pass rush.

Montgomery was raw coming out of high school, but his potential was unquestioned. His impact throughout the spring looks like he has handled the added weight and is ready to contribute.

4. Florida safety Matt Elam- With a starting tandem of Ahmad Black and Will Hill at safety for the Gators, Elam's impact might not seem important. However, after enrolling early and being the most impressive freshman on the field during spring practice, Elam will be on the field quite a bit this fall. Head coach Urban Meyer already said he expects Elam on the field, and it looks like he will head into fall practice as the first team nickel.

He excelled at the position in the spring against slot receivers like Chris Rainey and Andre Debose. Elam is strong enough to jam receivers at the line. The nickel position would be perfect for Elam to shine from in 2010, as he will likely step into the strong safety position when Ahmad Black graduates.

3. Tennessee defensive ends Corey Miller/Jacques Smith- The Volunteers have two veteran defensive end starters Ben Martin and Chris Walker, but they are looking for more of an impact. Martin and Walker combined for only 9.5 sacks last season, while Walker's six sacks led the team.

Smith was the first commitment in Tennessee's 2010 class and stuck with the team when Lane Kiffin left for USC and Derek Dooley took the job. Miller went back and forth between Tennessee and Florida State throughout the process, but he eventually stuck with the Volunteers.

The two freshmen will be given the opportunity to earn playing time and serve as the backups at both positions. Martin and Walker are steady as starters for the Volunteers, but neither provides a fearsome pass rush off the edge. It could be one of the freshmen that provide that fear.

2. Alabama cornerbacks Demarcus Milliner/John Fulton- The Crimson Tide will be starting two new cornerbacks this season on a revamped defense. Dre Kirkpatrick seems to be the front-runner for one cornerback position while B.J. Scott may start at the other. Milliner and Fulton will be in conversation for both starting spots once fall practice gets started.

Milliner is still raw. He is smooth on the field and cuts well, having all the tools to turn into a shutdown cornerback. However, he isn't there yet. Fulton looks to be more prepared to play as a freshman. The two will have a chance to battle for playing time once fall practice gets started. With the questions in the defensive backfield for the Crimson Tide, it wouldn't be a surprise to see either or both on the field this fall.

1. Florida defensive end Ronald Powell- The Gators need for a pass rusher in 2010 has been well documented. Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham were each selected in the second round of the NFL Draft, taking 39 career sacks with them. Justin Trattou will start as one defensive end, but he has only seven sacks in his three-year Florida career.

Powell has the athleticism and strength to compete at one of the most difficult positions for a freshman to play. He has turned heads in the Florida weight room after being on campus for a few weeks. The Gators signed three of the top four defensive lineman in the country last year, and Powell looks like he will be the jewel of the class.

The Gators will need him to be. With multiple new starters, a consistent pass rush will help the rest of the defense settle in.
Follow Cody Jones on

Fightin Gators Top Stories