We continue our look at statistical benchmarks in the SEC by staying on the defensive side of the ball. It's time to find out which defenders will reach the coveted double-figure number in sacks.
After having at least five guys reach double-figure sack numbers in the previous two seasons, the SEC took a hit in that department in 2016. So how many will reach at least 10 sacks in 2017? I'm going to go with four.
Here are some players with the best chance of reaching 10 sacks this fall:
1. DE/LB Arden Key, LSU: He's officially back with the team after taking time for personal reasons this spring. Key played like an NFL first-rounder last year and in what should be his final year with the Tigers, he has the best chance of anyone in this league to reach 10 sacks this fall.
2. DE Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss: He has been one of the SEC's best pass-rushers for the past three seasons. In those three years, Haynes has 24.5 sacks, including seven in 2016. Ole Miss' defensive line had a rough 2015, but the Rebels have a chance to be sneaky good up front this fall, which should free up Haynes more.
3. DE Marcell Frazier, Missouri: Death, taxes and a Mizzou defensive lineman being near the top of the SEC stat chart. Frazier recorded 6.5 of his 7.5 sacks in the last three games of the season in 2016, so he's a guy with a lot of 2017 momentum. What should help him even more is Mizzou moving from that crummy read-and-react style up front.
4. LB Lorenzo Carter, Georgia: Carter has all the talent to be a first-round pick, but he has had a very up-and-down Georgia career. He began his time in Athens with 4.5 sacks as a freshman, but had zero in 2015. Carter registered five last year, and he's only getting better under Kirby Smart's tutelage.
5. DE Da'Shawn Hand, Alabama: A part of the front seven rebuild in Tuscaloosa, Hand was once a top recruit. He has had to sit and watch some great players in front of him during his career, including Jonathan Allen last year, but he comes in this season with a load of upside and two sacks from last year. But now that he's taking Allen's spot, all eyes will be on the guy already getting first-round attention.
6. LB Josh Allen, Kentucky: Not many people know his name, but Allen was one of Kentucky's top defenders last year, registering seven sacks. He is a versatile player who can create havoc off the edge.
7. LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama: He might have started only one game last year but Evans has a chance to be one of the SEC's breakout players in 2017. He's looking to replace Reuben Foster in the middle, but he'll also be used as a pass-rusher through the middle of the field. He's talented enough to lineup all over, and after grabbing four sacks as a backup last year, Alabama's coaches will make sure he's more involved in getting to the quarterback this fall.
8. DE/LB Denzil Ware, Kentucky: Ware is the big name on Kentucky's defense, and all of his opponents know it. The attention teams paid to him last year benefited Allen's play, and like Georgia's duo, how one guy plays for the Wildcats will impact the other. Ware had 5.5 sacks last year as a hybrid end/linebacker, and he could be in for an even bigger year this fall.
9. DE Jabari Zuniga, Florida: Zuniga has a ton of potential, but he'll have to play better in SEC games. He led the Gators with five sacks last year, but only one of them came against an SEC opponent and he was done after the first week of October. The coaches are excited about his upside, and if he really takes hold of the pass-rushing position, he could be a lightning rod for this defense.
10. LB Davin Bellamy, Georgia: Like Carter, Bellamy checked out his NFL stock after last season. He also turned in five sacks in 2016. Both he and Carter have a chance at 10 sacks, and the play of one will certainly impact the other's chances here. It's a good problem for the Bulldogs to have.
11. DE Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State: These Bulldogs don't return much of their sack production last year, but last year's sack team left a lot to be desired anyway. Simmons had zero sacks last year, but he was second on the team with four quarterback hurries. Simmons has arguably the most potential of anyone on this defense, so expect a much bigger second year in Starkville.