(Returning starters: 7 | Defense: 4-3)
April took standout defensive linemen Chad Lavalais and Marquiese Hill as both moved to the NFL. First team All-SEC and preseason All-America pick Marcus Spears still remains and will be one of the leaders on the defensive side of the ball. Spears is a force on the end with long arms and demands a double team. He recorded 47 tackles, 12 for loss, five sacks while adding 19 quarterback hurries. He is a candidate for postseason honors as the Bronko Nagurkis Trophy, the Chuck Bednarik Award, and Ted Hendricks Award all have him on their watchlists.
|Spears demands the attention of two offensive linemen.|
Junior college transfer Claude Wroten played his way into the starting left tackle role after impressive spring and fall camps.
On the right side of the ball sit juniors Kyle Williams and Melvin Oliver. Williams was an honorable all-conference selection after grabbing 38 tackles, 6.5 for loss, and four sacks. He is the most intense player on the line and has much to prove now that Lavalais is gone. Oliver played in 12 games, primarily as a backup, but added 27 tackles, 2 for loss, and three sacks. He also recovered a co-team high two fumbles. His first step is deadly.
A host of freshman and sophomores sit behind the starters.
A pair of experienced players in senior Lionel Turner and junior Cameron Vaughn return for the 2004 campaign. The hard hitting Turner was second on the team in tackles last year with 69 while adding two picks and a team high two forced fumbles. He is a headly player and is a preseason All-American selection in one publication. Vaughn added 53 stops two sacks, two picks and a blocked kick.
Junior E.J. Kuale beat out junior college transfer Kenneth Hollis for the third staring linebacker position. Along with Hollis, senior Dorsett Buckles and highly regarded Ali Highsmith will provide the ‘backers with depth.
One of the premier defensive backfields in the country will take the field for the purple and yellow as three of four players return, including two All-America picks.
|Webster needs six picks to tie the school record of 20.|
In just his first year, freshman All-American free safety LaRon Landry led the team in tackles last year with 76 while adding three sacks and two interceptions. Despite being young, he is one of the leaders on the defense and has a nose for the ball. He has also been selected preseason All-SEC second team by numerous writers. Sophomore Jessie Daniels accompanies Landry in the backfield after beating out senior Greg Hercules for the starting role. Daniels is a good hitter and will punish receivers coming across the middle of the field.
First team All-American Corey Webster locks down the left side of the field after grabbing a team high six picks and 23 breakups in 2003. He also had 46 tackles and needs six picks to tie the school career record of 20. Webster leads all active players in the SEC in both interceptions and pass deflections and is on the Walter Camp and Jim Thorpe watchlists. Senior Travis Daniels will start at right corner for the third year in a row after leading the team with 26 breakups. He also added 54 tackles, two sacks and two fumbles in 13 games. Davis has been selected to several second team All-SEC squads by several publications.