HOOVER, Ala. – SEC Network analyst Booger McFarland has his eye on several SEC defensive linemen going into the 2017 season.
McFarland, a former LSU defensive lineman who later was taken in the first round of the NFL draft, told Gridiron Now on Wednesday at the Regions Traditions Pro-Am a few who he’s high on this fall.
“You’ve got to think (LSU defensive end) Arden Key, (defensive tackle Trenton) Thompson up at Georgia and you look at a guy like (defensive tackle Daylon) Mack out at Texas A&M,” McFarland said. “These are guys that can get pressure inside. There’s a lot of guys. “Tennessee, even though you lose (Derek) Barnett and (Corey) Vereen. They’ve got some young guys coming out. I think the conference is going to be good from a pass rushing standpoint.”
Key already has been projected to go No. 1 in the 2018 NFL draft. Thompson and Mack also could be high draft picks if they also choose to leave school early after this season.
At Tennessee, McFarland believes defensive tackle Kendal Vickers and redshirt junior defensive end Jonathan Kongbo could both step up in the absences of the departed Barnett and Vereen, who combined for 20 total sacks last season.
McFarland also said that he has Kentucky as a surprise team in the SEC this season.
“They’ve got a good stable of running backs coming back,” McFarland said. “Defensively, if (Mark) Stoops can get that group together. (Stephen) Johnson should be the quarterback and the tailback (Benny) Snell should be outstanding. I think Kentucky will surprise some people, because they have talent and the East will be a little weaker.”
Snell rushed for 1,091 yards and 13 touchdowns as a true freshman last season and should see an increased workload after Stanley “Boom” Williams left for the NFL. Johnson threw for 2,037 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for 327 and three touchdowns last season after taking over as starter in the Wildcats’ third game of the season.
Kentucky also went 7-6 (4-4 SEC) in 2016 to finish tied for second in the SEC East and reach a bowl game for the first time in six seasons.
McFarland said in February on the “Cole Cubelic Show” in Huntsville, Alabama that he wouldn’t be shocked if Kentucky won the SEC East this season.
(You can follow Dan Mathews on Twitter @DanMathewsATL)
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