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Outstanding SEC Defenses for the 2024 Season


Outstanding SEC Defenses; Oct 21, 2023; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Danny Stutsman (28) punches the ball out of the hands of UCF Knights wide receiver Xavier Townsend (3) during the second half at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Oklahoma LB Danny Stutsman/© Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

There is an adage in American football that defense wins championships. The Southeastern Conference is the greatest collection of gridiron talent in college football, on both sides of the ball. In 2023, teams from the SEC consistently ranked in the top 15 of FBS schools in every major defensive category. If you are looking for the outstanding SEC defenses for 2024, look at the five teams listed below.

 



Texas Longhorns: 'Forty Acres of Hell'

If you were on the Texas schedule last season, opposing offensive coordinators took the running game portion of their game plan, folded it up like origami and tossed it in the trash. Texas held their opponents to a paltry 82 yards per game on the ground, and they averaged just 2.9 yards per carry. Texas ranked No. 3 in the FBS in that category. Texas would not give an inch and opponents could not take a mile. It was "forty acres of hell" for opposing ball carriers.


The Longhorns will play in the SEC for the first time and return eight starters from that defensive unit of a season ago, led by sophomore LB Anthony Hill Jr. Hill was second on the team in tackles last season as a true freshman, racking up 67 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 5 sacks and a forced fumble. Hill was named Freshman Linebacker of the Year by the College Football Network.



In addition, Texas returns DB Jahdae Barron (60 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 6 pass breakups) and LB David Gbenda (50 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss). From the transfer portal, the Longhorns landed talented LB Trey Moore from UTSA. Moore recorded 45 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, 1 INT and 1 forced fumble on his way to AAC Defensive Player of the Year honors. Austin, Texas, native Andrew Mukuba, a defensive back, comes home after playing at Clemson.


Oklahoma Sooners: A Strong Wind Sweeping the Plains in the SEC

Another new member of the best conference in college football, the Sooners were a crimson and cream juggernaut that stormed opponent’s backfields with freakish regularity. Oklahoma ranked tied for No. 11 in the FBS in tackles for loss with 98 and was No. 2 in the country in INTs, picking off 20 passes and returning four for touchdowns. It was a no-fly zone when the Sooners’ defense was on the field.



Oklahoma will be led by LB Danny Stutsman, who led the Sooners in 2023 with 104 stops. In addition, Stutsman recorded 16 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 1 INT returned for a score.

Stutsman will be aided by LB Kip Lewis (66 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss) and DB Billy Bowman Jr. (63 tackles, 6 INTs—three of which being returned for touchdowns).

 



Ole Miss Rebels: A Much Improved Defense in 2024

The Rebels return their top five tacklers from last season. Ole Miss was No. 2 in the SEC in INTs with 13, behind only Georgia. Among the many experienced leaders on an Ole Miss defense that returns 10 starters is safety Trey Washington, who led the team with 83 stops. In addition, Washington picked off three passes, had 2 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Safety John Saunders is also back after posting 65 tackles, 3 INTs, and 5 pass breakups.



During the offseason, coach Lane Kiffin was the king of the transfer portal and landed two talented players on the defensive line. DL Walter Nolen (from Texas A&M) racked up 37 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks, and DL Princely Umanmielen (from Florida) recorded 39 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks and 17 quarterback hurries. Rest assured, the rebel yells will be loud and proud in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium this fall.


Kentucky Wildcats: Defending the Old Kentucky Home

Kentucky returns five of their top tacklers from last year’s squad, led by DB Maxwell Hairston. Hairston picked off five passes (tied for the SEC lead) and returned two for touchdowns. In addition, Hairston recorded 68 tackles and broke up six passes. Hairston earned second-team all-SEC honors for his efforts. DL Deone Walker also returns after posting 55 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks.



On the transfer front, coach Mark Stoops went out and got talented LB Jamon Dumas-Johnson from the Georgia Bulldogs. Dumas-Johnson recorded 34 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, and is projected to start for the Wildcats. Look for the Kentucky defense to leave opponents black and blue in 2024.


Texas A&M Aggies: The Rebirth of the Wrecking Crew Defense

Eerily similar to the RC Slocum-led Aggies teams of the 80s and 90s with a swarming defense aptly named “The Wrecking Crew," the 2023 Aggies fielded one of the top defenses in the SEC and college football. The Texas A&M defense ranked as follows:


  • No. 1 in rushing defense in the SEC at 108 yards per game (No. 14 nationally)

  • No. 3 in total defense in SEC at 316 yards per game (No. 19 nationally)

  • No. 1 in sacks in the SEC with 42 (No. 8 nationally)

  • No. 2 in tackles for Loss in the SEC with 99 (No. 8 nationally)


In 2024, the Aggies return nine starters from that highly productive unit, including LB Taurean York and DL Nic Scourton. As a true freshman in 2023, York was second on the team in tackles with 74 stops. In addition, York added 8.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 5 quarterback hurries and 1 forced fumble on his way to being named to the SEC All-Freshman Team.



As a second-team all-Big Ten Conference selection at Purdue, Scourton recorded 50 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 10 sacks for the Boilermakers. A native of Bryan, Texas, this is a homecoming for Scourton, and he is a projected starter for the Aggies. A good hype photo for this defense would be for the players to wear hard hats with 16-pound sledgehammers slung over their shoulders.


These outstanding SEC defenses listed above will impact their team’s path to the extended college football playoff. These are men of commitment and sheer tenacity with one mission-to play with attitude and to hit people with enough force that they consider changing sports.

 



 

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