Last season the NFL featured 60 defensive linemen from the SEC. The ACC and Pac-12 were distant competitors with 41 and 40 respectively.
So the title of “SEC’s best D-line” carries weight -- like the 713 combined pounds weighed by Georgia nose tackles John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers.
This was a tough decision, but LSU edged Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina for the honor. Here’s why:
Juniors Sam Montgomery (6-5, 260) and Barkevious Mingo (6-5, 235) form the best pair of DEs in the nation. Montgomery has 19.5 tackles for loss in 19 career games played, while Mingo broke out last year with 15 tackles for loss, eight sacks and 11 QB hurries.
"He's the best defensive end I've ever gone against," LSU right tackle Alex Hurst told NOLA.com about Mingo. "Nobody I've seen in the SEC has his speed mixed with his power."
If they leave early, Mingo and Montgomery project to go fourth and sixth overall in the 2013 NFL Draft, according to NFLDraftScout.com.
DT Bennie Logan (6-3, 295) is a borderline first-rounder who gets the honor this season of wearing No. 18. The number goes to the player who best represents LSU on and off the field.
The Tigers are incredibly deep at tackle, with Anthony Johnson, Ego Ferguson, Josh Downs and redshirt freshmen Quentin Thomas and Mickey Johnson all expected to be in the rotation.
Downs (6-3, 287) is a senior who’s played in 35 games. It’s a luxury to have that kind of experience coming off the bench.
"The rotation is helping us a lot during camp, especially for the tackles," Ferguson told NOLA.com. "We take a beating down there, so we're going as hard as we can for two or three plays -- and you know someone else is coming in behind you, so you give it your all and know you'll have a chance to catch your breath."
Georgia: Jenkins (6-3, 358) and Geathers (6-6, 355) will take turns occupying two blockers in Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme. With All-American OLB Jarvis Jones (13.5 sacks last year) also drawing extra attention, DEs Cornelius Washington and Abry Jones should feast on juicy one-on-one matchups.
Alabama: Nose tackle Jesse Williams, the Australian JUCO transfer who can bench 600-plus pounds, is projected as the third-best DT in the 2013 draft. Senior end Damion Square made seven tackles for loss last year, while junior Ed Stinson and senior Quinton Dial are waging an intense camp battle for the other spot.
South Carolina: Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor aren’t far behind LSU’s DE tandem. As a true freshman, Clowney (6-6, 256) forced five fumbles, got eight sacks and made 12 tackles for loss. Taylor is a senior who has 27 tackles for loss in 32 starts. Sophmore DT Kelcy Quarles is poised for a breakout.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from SEC bloggers Daniel Lewis and Larry Hartstein, follow @CBSSportsSEC.