The SEC annually boasts the best athletes on the defensive front. The 2022 NFL Draft saw many defensive linemen picked early. This upcoming season is no different in terms of promise and potential. There is an immense amount of these big playmakers in the SEC, but this list includes a select group with the highest potential. As we wrap up our series on the best returning players in the SEC, here are the best defensive linemen in the SEC for the 2022-2023 college football season.
5: Byron Young: Alabama
Byron Young enters his senior season with over 80 tackles and four sacks. At Alabama, most players make a statement during their senior year, and Young looks to be on a similar path. The Crimson Tide will undoubtedly be one of the best defenses in the country, so Young will have the fortune of getting one-on-one matchups. If he can capitalize and disrupt the pocket with his tremendous size, NFL scouts will definitely look to take him in the first round of next year’s draft.
4: Gervon Dexter: Florida
Gervon Dexter comes into his junior year with 70 total tackles and three sacks. Out of all the Gators’ players, he is one of the few with a chance to go to the NFL following his third season. Billy Napier will be happy to have an incredible athlete like Dexter on the front seven, but Dexter will need to carry the Florida defense on his shoulders. Although Corey Raymond is now the cornerbacks coach at Florida, the Gators’ defensive backfield has struggled against passing offenses. For this reason, Dexter will have to make an impact and get to the quarterback in crucial situations.
3: BJ Ojulari: LSU
BJ Ojulari is a defensive end who has 11 sacks to go with his 70 tackles over the past two seasons. Ojulari is NFL-ready, and he will be the next great on LSU’s defense. He and Ali Gaye will be a dangerous duo on the defensive front, and SEC offenses will struggle to stop pressure from both sides of the ball. The Tigers have done a great job stopping the passing game, but they have had a tough time stopping the run against some teams. Ojulari will often face double-teams throughout the game(s), so new LSU defensive coordinator Matt House might have to move Ojulari to various spots on the defensive line.
2: Derick Hall: Auburn
Derick Hall is a hybrid player for the Auburn defense, as an edge rusher. He will be the heart and soul of the unit in 2022. Since 2019, he has 86 tackles and 13 sacks, and there’s definitely an argument that he’s a top-five player in the SEC West. The Auburn Tigers’ defense has usually been the team’s reason for success, but the departure of defensive coordinator Derek Mason could affect the team; not to mention any of the offseason rumors surrounding head coach Bryan Harsin. Regardless, Hall has to find a way to make a difference in the game to continue to improve his draft stock.
1: Jalen Carter: Georgia
Unsurprisingly, the best defensive lineman in the SEC comes from the best defense in the conference. The Georgia Bulldogs have only three returning defensive starters, and Jalen Carter enters his junior season with just over 50 tackles and three sacks. However, the Carter has a ceiling much similar to Travon Walker from last year, which shows his ability as a playmaker. He will need to replace many other guys as well like Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt, and Nakobe Dean. Expect Carter to be one of the best players in college football during the 2022 season.