Last season, defensive end was one the most talked about positions in the SEC thanks to former South Carolina Gamecocks‘ freak lineman Jadeveon Clowney. He took most of the print space a year ago and was on everyone’s preseason All-SEC list. He struggled for most of the season, but there were plenty of other talented guys at the position.
Clowney and the top five defensive ends from a season ago are now all gone. There are plenty of returning players who had great seasons a year ago and are worthy of All-SEC notoriety, but for me the two that stand out are Markus Golden of the Missouri Tigers and Alvin Dupree of the Kentucky Wildcats.
Golden managed to rack up 6.5 sacks as well as 13.0 tackles for loss despite playing behind Michael Sam and Kony Ealy. Both of those numbers were good enough for top ten in the conference. Sam and Ealy got most of the talk, but Golden quietly had a great season right behind them.
Golden will now be featured on the Tigers’ defensive line as both of Sam and Ealy are playing on Sundays. With no one to take playing time away, look for Golden to bust out in a big way in 2014.
Dupree has finished in the top ten in sacks the last two seasons, playing really well in a mostly outmatched Wildcat defense. He’s one of the bright spots on a unit that has struggled, giving up 31.2 points per game a year ago.
If Kentucky hopes to compete at all in 2014, they need for Dupree to be the model of consistency he has been for the past two seasons. He has to continue to be the anchor for the Wildcats to make any improvement on the defensive side of the ball.
Should Mark Stoops and company find some help to take the focus off of Dupree, he could bust out with double-digit sacks and be one of the best in the conference when 2014 concludes.
There are a lot of right answers at defensive end for the upcoming season, but going off past production there are none better than Golden and Dupree. Both should be forces in the SEC this year and will be among the leaders in the league by season’s end.