The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

October 10, 2012

Pass defense will play key role in SEC title race

(Continued)

That trend is unlikely to change this year.

Alabama topped the nation in pass efficiency defense while winning the national title last year and leads that category again this season. Just behind Alabama are Florida and LSU. Last year, the SEC had the nation's top four teams in pass efficiency defense: Alabama, South Carolina, LSU and Georgia.

Part of the reason for that dominance is because the SEC annually features some of the nation's top pass rushers. Even the SEC's own defensive backs are quick to credit their linemen.

"They do a great job of pressuring the passer, which makes the quarterback make quicker decisions than he wants to (and) maybe throws a bad ball every once in a while," LSU safety Eric Reid said. "I've caught a couple picks that seemed like punt returns just because of the quarterback trying to get the ball off (under duress). So a lot of the credit - most of it - can probably go to the d-line."

But the SEC also has produced plenty of NFL defensive backs during this dynasty.

The SEC had each of the last three winners of the Jim Thorpe Award given annually to the nation's top defensive back: Tennessee's Eric Berry in 2009, LSU's Patrick Peterson in 2010 and LSU's Morris Claiborne in 2011. Eight defensive backs from the SEC - the most of any conference - have been drafted in the first round over the last three years.

"Everybody in the SEC has athletes - especially in the secondary," Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks said. "All the teams are so athletic on offense, you've got to have guys who can match up, guys who can play anywhere on the field. That's what you've got to have in this league so you can be ready for anything."

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