Ranking SEC's top 10 defensive linemen: Alabama football has 3 of them, but who's No. 1?

USA TODAY Sports Network
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Alabama football has three of the top 10 defensive linemen in the SEC, according to a poll of sports journalists who cover the league for the USA TODAY Sports Network, but the best defensive lineman in the league plays for Texas A&M.

The Aggies' DeMarvin Leal was voted the league's best defensive lineman, garnering eight of a possible 17 first-place votes from the panel. Six players got first-place votes.

A total of 24 defensive tackles from 12 schools received votes in the poll: no players from Tennessee or Vanderbilt received votes in the position grouping. Ten points were awarded for a first-place vote down to one point for a 10th-place vote.

The USA TODAY Sports Network is counting down to SEC Media Days, scheduled for July 19-22 in Hoover, Alabama, by revealing its top players at each position grouping.

Here is a look at the SEC's top 10 defensive linemen:

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1. DeMarvin Leal

Texas A&M, junior defensive tackle (127 points, 8 first-place votes)

Leal is one of the nation's top defensive prospects. He had 37 tackles, 2.5 sacks, four pass deflections, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 2020.

James Fletcher

2. Brenton Cox Jr.

Florida, junior defensive end (119 points, 4 first-place votes)

Cox registered 41 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and four sacks in his first season with the Gators. He made the All-SEC second team and could push for first-team honors this year.

Zach Abolverdi

Florida linebacker Brenton Cox Jr. attacks during the Gators' game against the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday, December 5, 2020 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.

3. (tie) Trajan Jeffcoat

Missouri, junior defensive end (117 points, 1 first-place vote)

The returning first-team All-SEC player rejoined the Tigers several days before their 2020 opener after a brief stint in the transfer portal. Jeffcoat tied for the SEC lead with six sacks. 

Eric Blum

3. (tie) Kingsley Enagbare

South Carolina, senior defensive end (117 points, 1 first-place vote)

The team’s best defender at 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, Enagbare has a knack for making plays in the backfield. He’s among the best in the SEC at getting to the quarterback and posting tackles for loss. 

Eric Boynton

5. Jordan Davis

Georgia, senior noseguard (95 points, 2 first-place votes)

Davis commands double-teams at the noseguard position. The 6-foot-6 Charlotte native leads a formidable run defense, but coaches want him to drop some weight. 

Marc Weiszer

6. Ali Gaye

LSU, senior defensive end (62 points)

Gaye led LSU with 9.5 tackles behind the line and was second with two sacks on a bad defense in 2020. He will be key for new defensive coordinator Daronte Jones, who inherits the worst unit in school history.

Glenn Guilbeau

7. Phidarian Mathis

Alabama, senior defensive end/tackle (51 points)

Mathis sheds blockers and disrupts backfields, often with ease. He registered 31 tackles, five for loss, 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble last season.

Nick Kelly

8. (tie) LaBryan Ray

Alabama, senior defensive end/tackle – (37 points, 1 first-place vote)

Ray can be one of Alabama’s best on the defensive line when healthy. In his most recent complete season, 2018, he tallied 39 total tackles, six for loss and 2.5 sacks.

Nick Kelly

Sep 26, 2020; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers quarterback Shawn Robinson (3) throws a pass that is blocked by Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman LaBryan Ray (18) during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

8. (tie) DJ Dale

Alabama, junior defensive tackle (37 points)

Dale returns as a physical presence in the middle of the Crimson Tide defense. He tallied 22 tackles, one for loss, and broke up two passes in 2020.

Nick Kelly

Teammates celebrate with Alabama defensive lineman DJ Dale (94) after he recovered a fumble by Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks (13) at Arkansas Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020. [Photo by Kent Gidley, University of Alabama]

10. Josh Paschal

Kentucky, senior defensive end (24 points)

Paschal totaled 6.5 tackles for loss in 2020 despite being slowed by several minor nagging injuries in second half. He is now two years removed from immunotherapy treatments for malignant melanoma.

Jon Hale

Voting panel: Zach Abolverdi, Gainesville Sun; John Adams, Knoxville News Sentinel; Will Backus, Knoxville News Sentinel; Eric Blum, Columbia Daily Tribune; James Fletcher, The Tuscaloosa News; Gentry Estes, The Tennessean; Aria Gerson, The Tennessean; Glenn Guilbeau, The Daily Advertiser; Jon Hale, The Courier Journal; Cecil Hurt, The Tuscaloosa News; Nick Kelly, The Tuscaloosa News; Adam Sparks, The Tennessean; Nick Suss, The Clarion-Ledger; Blake Toppmeyer, Knoxville News Sentinel; Josh Vitale, Montgomery Advertiser; Marc Weiszer, Athens Banner-Herald; Mike Wilson, Knoxville News Sentinel.

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