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Five best SEC defensive linemen of the past decade

As we continue our position-by-position look at the SEC’s best players over the past decade, it’s time to turn our attention to the defense.

1. Glenn Dorsey, LSU (2004-07): There wasn’t a double- or triple-team that could stop Dorsey, who was the best defensive lineman in college football his senior year. He finished with 69 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks and helped lead LSU to a national championship. That year, he became the first ever player to win the Nagurski Award, the Outland Trophy, the Lott Trophy and the Lombardi Award in the same season. He wasn’t just a one-hit wonder either. The year before, Dorsey had 64 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks and was named a first-team All-American. He might not have as many career sacks (13) as some of the other players on this list, but it’s hard to argue that anybody was as dominant.

2. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina (2011-13): Not every No. 1 recruit lives up to the hype. But Clowney, who might have been one of the most-talked about recruits in history, lived up to the hype and then some. In his first year, he was named the SEC freshman of the year after he finished with 12 tackles for loss, eight sacks and five forced fumbles. As a sophomore, he was even better. He had 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks and was named the SEC defensive player of the year. He even finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting that year. His junior season, he missed some games and couldn’t replicate the production from the year before, but he still became a two-time All-American and the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

3. Nick Fairley, Auburn (2009-10): After going the junior college route, Fairley only played two seasons at Auburn. His first he played in 13 games and started two. But it was his second, the 2010 season, that he’ll be remembered for. Not unlike Dorsey in 2007, Fairley was the best defensive lineman in college football that year and helped lead his team to a national championship. He finished with 24 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks and 21 quarterback hurries. He won the Lombardi Award as the nation’s best lineman; he was a consensus All-American; and he was named the SEC defensive player of the year. In the BCS title game, he earned defensive MVP honors with five tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble.

4. Terrence Cody, Alabama (2008-09): When he arrived in Tuscaloosa from junior college, he was nearly 400 pounds. It didn’t take long before the fans started referring to him as “Mount Cody” -- a fitting nickname for such an intimidating presence on the field. And Cody could play, too. As a noseguard, he doesn’t have the gaudy numbers like everybody else on this list, but he was arguably the best defensive lineman in the conference his two years at Alabama. The most memorable moment of his career came in 2009 when he blocked two field goals to help preserve a 12-10 victory over Tennessee and keep the Crimson Tide’s championship season alive.

5. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M (2014-current): There were some impressive names that didn’t make the cut, and maybe a current player shouldn’t be in the top five considering his career isn’t over yet. But has there been a more dominant defensive lineman in the SEC the last two years? Garrett led the SEC this past season with 19.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. The year before, he broke Clowney’s SEC freshman record with 11 sacks. It was no surprise to see the Texas A&M star at the top of Mel Kiper’s Too-Early 2017 Big Board. And if he can stay healthy, there’s a good chance he’ll only continue to move up this list after his junior season.

Just missed the cut: Marcell Dareus, Alabama (2009-10); Greg Hardy, Ole Miss (2006-09); Derrick Harvey, Florida (2004-07); Melvin Ingram, South Carolina (2009-11); Barkevious Mingo, LSU (2010-12); Shane Ray (2012-14)