Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  By STEVE EUBANKS  |  Last updated 8/6/13
Anything Jadeveon Clowney does makes news these days. Even turning over a sled in practice -- a fairly common occurrence during summer workouts -- becomes a viral Internet sensation when Clowney is involved. There is good reason for this: the young man is, by far, the best defensive end in the nation and possibly the top player in college football. But he is not the only defensive end around. As a matter of fact, he isnt the only standout DE on South Carolina's roster. Here is a list of play-making SEC defensive ends to watch this year: 10. Dee Ford, Auburn Being the best player on an awful team is always a mixed bag. How good would Dee Ford be if he was playing 159 miles up the road in Tuscaloosa? Would he be playing at all? Those are inexorable unknowns, but what can be said is that Ford came back from back surgery with speed, intensity and a nose for the football that set him apart on an otherwise inglorious Auburn defensive team. He posted 21 solo tackles, 8.5 for losses and seemed to be the only defender on the field during some games. His six solo tackles against Georgia were a season high, but the Bulldogs still trounced the Tigers 38-0. Without Ford the Auburn loss would have been much worse. 9. Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss OK, putting a true freshman who hasnt played a down of college football on this list is a gamble, but Nkemdiche shows the potential to adapt to the Rebels system and have an impact quickly. "Hes physically gifted enough to play, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said over the weekend after the first phase of workouts, where Nkemdiche took some reps with the starters. Its all about can he understand what were trying to accomplish, what his assignments are. If he can get that, theres no question he can play. They (his defensive staff) better be trying to get him ready. That sounds like a coach who cant wait to put a freshman on the field. 8. Ronald Powell, Florida Powell missed all of last year with a knee injury but has come back stronger and faster than ever, much to the delight of his coaches and teammates. To not be able to play, to not know if I ever will play again, or how Id be if I did play -- just that thought process of losing something that you love so much, which is the game we play and the lifestyle, its scary,Powell said to assembled reporters during last weeks media availability in Gainesville. It was one of the most humbling pieces of adversity I ever faced. It taught me so much as a man. Its opened me up more to share, to let my guard down as a person. ... The experience humbled me so much and is one of the biggest factors in my life. In Will Muschamps scheme, Powell will play both outside linebacker and defensive end, and he will be pushed by the other defensive end on the field, sophomore Dante Fowler, Jr., who had eight tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks last year. But expect Powell to rise to the occasion. He is, after all, a man with something to prove. 7. C.J. Johnson, Jr., Ole Miss Having two Rebels on the list speaks volumes for what Hugh Freeze has been able to do in Oxford in a short period of time. And no Rebel is more deserving than Johnson, who led the team with 6.5 sacks and 28 solo tackles last year. Johnson broke his leg in the spring and hasnt joined the team for full practice yet, but defensive line coach Chris Kiffin expects him to begin drills in a matter of days. Healthy, Johnsons down-the-line skills are among the best in the league. 6. Bud Dupree, Kentucky When Paul Johnson took over as head coach at Navy, he sent a message in his first summer practice by telling his team, You went 0-11 (last year). How good could you be? Kentucky was a little better than 0-11 (2-10, 0-8 in the SEC), but the point is the same. No one questions that Alvin Bud Dupree is one of the best pass rushers in the conference, but he will be moving from outside linebacker to defensive end, and will be playing for a new coaching staff this year. Based on his size (6-foot-4, 254 pounds), speed, strength and past performance (54 solo tackled in 2012), the junior should separate himself this season. But for Duprees performance to mean much the Wildcats need to play better as a team. 5. Walker May, Vanderbilt Walker May is the Alabama native who got away, or at least that is what Tide and Tiger fans have to be thinking as the 6-foot-5, 250-pound end from Birmingham enters his senior season at Vanderbilt with one of the most impressive resumes in Commodore history. His numbers last year are nothing short of astonishing given Vandys schedule: May had 41 tackles including 10.5 for loss and three sacks. Those tackles didnt all come against Presbyterian or UMass, either. May had five games in 2012 with three or more solo tackles and eight games where he registered at least one tackle for loss. If the Commodores go to three consecutive bowl games and improve on their 9-4 record, May will be a big part of the teams success. 4. Chris Smith, Arkansas Defensive ends usually get a reputation as either being great pass rushers or great run defenders. Rarely do you find one who could be called great at both. Chris Smith, a 270-pound senior for the Razorbacks, could be that rare exception. He was recently named to the Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year watch list and his numbers show that he can rush the passer and find the runner with equal aplomb. Smith had 9.5 sacks last year (fourth overall in the SEC), 28 solo tackles and 13 tackles for loss. Coach Brett Bielema also thought enough of Smiths leadership to bring him to SEC Media Days in July where he was one of the more diplomatic spokesmen for his team: We have been focusing on Coach Bielema right now. He has the entire Hog nation fired up and he just wants us to be uncommon and shock the world. Thats what were going to try to do. 3. Chaz Sutton, South Carolina Chaz Sutton was a backup last year and he still had 24 tackles and five sacks, numbers that a lot of SEC starters would love to have at the end of this year. At 6-foot-5 and 270, he isnt as quick as Clowney, but very few in the college game are. But being on the field with the best defensive end in the nation will be both a blessing and a curse for Sutton. Clowney will receive most of the attention and double-teams, but Sutton can expect to have a lot of plays run in his direction and away from the Gamecocks other defensive end. 2. Ed Stinson, Alabama In Nick Saban and Kirby Smarts schemes, Stinson has been standing up and playing outside linebacker most of the time, but he will occasionally put his hand down and take on any offensive tackle in the league. During the Tides championship season last year, Stinson had a career-best 29 tackles, 19 solo and 8.5 for loss. He also had three sacks, which was a good number given how many times he dropped back in coverage. Plus, Stinson has something that sets him apart on this list: he is the only defensive end with two BCS Championship rings. 1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina In short, the best defensive player in the country and one of the best defensive ends in college football history. If he remains healthy, Clowney will almost certainly be the overall No.1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
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