It is long debated about what the best conference in college football is. The It is long debated about what the best conference in college football is. The

Pac-12 Prospects Outdo SEC Round 2: Defense


It is long debated about what the best conference in college football is. The SEC? Big 12? Pac 12?  Over the past decade, college football fans have witnessed the SEC dominate the post season and the rest of the NCAA, winning 8 of the last 10 national championships, Alabama owning 3 of those.  When looking at the records, it is evident the SEC owns college football and it is hard to debate that.  When it comes to subject of pumping out NFL talent, the SEC has also done a damn good job of pumping out NFL quality talent, with 63 players going from the conference just last year! However, do they posses the best NFL talent for this upcoming draft? Guys like Jadeveon Clowney, Jake Matthews and C.J. Mosley are elite talents in their own right, but does the SEC have the most top end talent at each position compared to other conferences?  No. That honor will go to the Pac-12.

Link to All Conference Teams

Part 1: Offense

The hard-hitting SEC has a great reputation of sending the highest quality of defenders into the NFL.  Geno Atkins, Patrick Willis, Charles Johnson, and Reshad Jones are some of the best defensive players in the NFL with roots that trace back to the SEC.  This year is no different for the South East, whose schools are churning out some of the best defensive talent they have in years; the one and only Jadeveon Clowney, the do everything linebacker C.J. Mosley, the mammoth defensive tackle Daniel McCullers and the versatile defensive back in Ha’Sean Clinton Dix.  All of these are phenomenal prospects, and they sit amongst a host of other talented defensive players.  Despite this, the SEC, once again, falls short of the Pac-12 in terms of the top end defensive talent across all positions.  From a historical standpoint, the Pac-12 has been incredibly impressive sending defensive players to the NFL.  Clay Matthews, Haloti Ngata, Brian Cushing, Jarius Byrd, Richard Sherman and Terrell Suggs are not exactly the worst players in the league. This year, the conference offers up talent at every level of a defense and players are suited for all kinds of schemes.

As previously stated, the SEC has incredibly impressive defensive linemen possibly coming out for the draft.  Jadeveon Clowney is the most impressive defensive player of our generation; Daniel McCullers is a high motor mountain at defensive tackle who would eliminate any running game down the middle, and Dominique Easley, once refined a bit, is a better prospect than fellow Gator and first round pick, Sharriff Floyd. The Pac-12 can match that though. Stanford, for one, has 3 impressive defensive line prospects in Henry Anderson, Trent Murphy and Ben Gardner, each of which brings great length and power in the running game and as pass rushers.  Oregon’s Taylor Hart has the physical prowess that has drawn comparisons to J.J. Watt and is only a few mechanical fixes from being a 1st round pick. Oregon State’s Scott Crichton is a power edge rusher, but his strength and instincts make him an even better run defender.  Down south, Cassius Marsh out of UCLA is a athletic and strong run defender and with great pass rushing potential. A slightly less known player is Cal’s DeAndre Coleman.  Coleman is a big man with elite run stopping ability and has the potential to push the pocket around. The cream of the Pac-12 defensive line crop, Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton.  While he lacks elite size, he is incredibly strong and possess a high motor and great technique that allow him to penetrate into the backfield and produce heavily (13 sacks and 23.5 TFLs last year). Like on offense, the battle in the trenches is close, but the Pac-12, no doubt, has a strong class.

Among the linebackers, the SEC offers up an elite prospect in C.J. Mosley.  Mosley is a solid athlete, but as a football player he can cover and play the run with the best of them and is a defensive quarterback.  Outside of Mosley, players like A.J. Johnson, Adrian Hubbard and Lamin Barrow are nice, but not 1st round picks. At linebacker, the Pac-12 has the best defensive player in the country not named Clowney.  Anthony Barr spent one year at UCLA playing linebacker and set the world on fire. He is a dominant edge rusher who has insane athletic ability that translates to all levels of playing linebacker, if develops more over the course of his senior season, Jadeveon Clowney could have him breathing down his neck for the best defensive prospect in the country. Outside of Barr, Eric Kendricks and Carl Bradford are two very good, athletic linebackers. Bradford is a versatile chess piece at ASU where he is moved around quite a bit like Kyle Van Noy at BYU. Stanford’s Shane Skov had a bad year coming of an ACL, but has shown from previous years that he can be dominant. A rather undervalued linebacker is converted safety Marquise Flowers out of Arizona. He has great length, speed and coverage ability and flies to the ball constantly. He is another piece of an impressive grouping. All in all, SEC linebackers have better name recognition, but it is the Pac-12 linebackers who are easily more talented.

In the secondary, the only player that the SEC projects as a 1st rounder right now is safety Ha’Sean Clinton Dix.  Sure, Craig Loston and Loucheiz Purifoy have mouthwatering athletic ability, but they lack the fundamentals to be first rounders right now. Dix by himself is still very impressive and the supporting members:  Purifoy, Loston, Andre Hal, Marcus Roberson, Kenny Ladler and Damian Swann are all pretty good, but, once again, do not compare to the level of talent in the Pac-12. Oregon corner Ifo Ekpre Olumu is the headliner.  He is an athletic, instinctive, nasty corner with great ball skills and a nose for the ball carrier.  The rest of Oregon secondary has a ton of potential from an NFL perspective, but none on the level of Olumu.  Across the state, Rashaad Reynolds is another physical corner that loves getting in the receivers face.  Up north, Sean Parker is a talented, hard-hitting safety out of Washington whose ability is similar to that of Matt Elam, a former first round pick. Stanford’s Ed Reynolds, the 2012 interception leader, is a high motor ball hawk with great range and an aggressive mindset that helped him pick off 8 passes last year. Down in southern California, safety Dion Bailey is a former linebacker who brings that mentality to the secondary.  He is big bodied and hard hitting, coming up in the run game and making receivers pay coming across the middle.

A little more than offense, the SEC has the talent to be in the conversation with the Pac-12 in terms of the talent the offer at the top end at each position.  Now, while the SEC does have elite players at defensive position, it lacks the overall talent at every position for the 2014 NFL Draft.