Defense wins championships right? It's hard to argue with it last year when two of the best defenses in the nation in Alabama and LSU squared off for the BCS Championship. Of course we will conveniently ignore the year before when Auburn and Oregon both had average defenses yet competed for the crystal ball. Just the thought of all these guys playing on the same defense made Matt Barkley shit his pants.
LSU produces stellar defensive lineman like Nickelback produces complete shit. One after another. Montgomery is a returning 1st team All-American who was a finalist for the Defensive End of the Year Award. His 9 sacks last year were a team high. Expect double digits in 2012.
At 6'3 351 pounds Jenkins is basically two men carved into one hell of a beast. Jenkins will plug the middle for a potentially great UGA defense this season. Don't be surprised if he has a Nick Fairley impact his senior season.
A potential #1 overall draft pick Star is the most complete Utah football player since...well...ever. The 6'4 320 defensive end is constantly double and even tripled team but still made a hell of an impact last year in the PAC-12 earning 1st team honors. Brings back memories of Ndamukong.
It kills me to say this about a Sparty player but Gholston is probably the most underrated defensive player in the country. Gholston is still growing and at 6'7 275 pounds it's hard for any tackle to stop him in his tracks. Gholston has tremendous upside and I think he will put it all together this season after a spectacular bowl game vs Georgia (5 tackles for loss).
You know USC is crying in their dirty Trojans letting this stud linebacker transfer to the east coast. Jones was a finalist for the Butkus Award last year while earning 1st team All-American honors after recording a staggering 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. He should once again dominate between the hedges in 2012.
Manti came to South Bend as the most highly regarded defensive player in the past 20 years and has yet to disappoint. Manti once again led the Irish in tackles while earning 1st team All-American honors. He shocked many including myself when he decided to come back for his senior season. Manti is already a legend at Notre Dame but 2012 will give him the chance to be considered the greatest linebacker in their storied history.
When I think of inside linebackers I tend to think of guys who are always there making a play on defense. The Ray Lewis-type players. Skov is that type of guy. The fast and tenacious Skov is coming back from a serious knee injury he suffered early last season. He should once again be the leader in a very underrated Stanford D.
"Linebacker U" just continues to produce standouts and it doesn't change with Hodges. Unlike the past great Nittany Lions Hodges doesn't have to worry about dropping the soap in the showers anymore. Also he doesn't have to worry about JoePa eating his brains. Or does he? In all seriousness Hodges is a great player and should be fun to watch his senior season in Happy Valley.
CORNERBACK-David Amerson (NC State)
The returning 1st team All-American led the nation in INTS with 13 last season. He was the winner of the Jack Tatum Award for nation's best defensive back and probably should have won the Thorpe Award over Mo Claiborne. At 6'3 194 he's a little bigger than most corners but he doesn't lack in speed or recovery time.
FREE SAFETY-Eric Reid (LSU)
One of the hardest hitting safeties in the nation who also is the team leader down in Baton Rouge. Reid earned All-American honors during a stellar sophomore season last year and should once again be a player offenses gameplan around. This kid has the brains and the brawn to be one of the best safeties in the college game since Ed Reed.
STRONG SAFETY-Ray Ray Armstrong (Miami)
For one reason or another Armstrong has been able to put it all together and stay on the field down in Coral Gables. That changes this year. Physically gifted with closing speed and instincts Ray Ray should have a great senior season.
CORNERBACK-Xavier Rhodes (FSU)
Rhodes will be the first to tell you he didn't have the best 2011 season due to some leg injuries. It's one of the main reasons why he chose to come back and not enter the NFL draft. The nagging pain should be gone and I fully expect Rhodes to be back to his stellar self.
PUNTER-Brady Wing (LSU)
KICKER-Caleb Sturgis (Florida)
KICK RETURNER-De'Anthony Thomas (Oregon)
The Black Mamba don't fuck around. He takes it to the house.
The Honey Badger don't give a shit. He takes what he wants.