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Alabama has best set of ‘triplets’ in the SEC in 2016

PHOTOS BY USA TODAY SPORTS; GRAPHIC BY JODY HORTON

We’re going to bust out a little Latin for everyone: omne trium perfectum. Translated, it roughly means everything that comes in threes is perfect – or, to put it another way, good things come in threes.

That’s certainly the case in football, where every coach craves triplets – difference-makers at every level on both sides of the ball (i.e., quarterback, wide receiver and lineman on offense, and lineman, linebacker and defensive back on defense).

Truth be told, there are no high-level offensive triplets in the SEC; Ole Miss has the quarterback (Chad Kelly) and receiver (DaMore’ea Stringfellow), but no lineman. But defensively? That’s a different story. High-level triplets abound in the SEC on that side of the ball.

And there were a handful of SEC teams that came close defensively. Texas A&M has the lineman (Myles Garrett) and the defensive back (Armani Watts), but no linebacker. Auburn has the lineman (Carl Lawson) and defensive back (Carlton Davis), but no linebacker. Vanderbilt has the linebacker (Zack Cunningham) and defensive back (Torren McGaster), but no lineman. Arkansas has the lineman (Deatrich Wise Jr.) and linebacker (Brooks Ellis), but no defensive back.

But five teams have it all. Here they are.

charles harris 2015

CHARLES HARRIS, PHOTO COURTESY OF MISSOURI ATHLETICS

5. Missouri

The ‘triplets’: DE Charles Harris, LB Michael Scherer and CB Aarion Penton
The skinny: NFL scouts love Harris (6 feet 3, 255 pounds) because of his upside, and he is the centerpiece of an extremely talented – yet underrated – line. Harris, a junior, started for the first time last season, and finished with seven sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss (second-most in the SEC). Harris is dangerous off the edge and is stronger than he first appears; he has a surprisingly good bull rush. Scherer (6-3, 235) played in the shadow of Kentrell Brothers the past two seasons, but still managed to make a combined in 2014 and ’15. Scherer, a senior, isn’t overly athletic, but he has good size and instincts, moves well laterally and is a physical tackler. Penton (5-10, 190), a senior, is a high-level corner who basically gets zero attention, but he was the key piece in a Mizzou secondary that helped the Tigers finish fifth nationally in pass defense. He is adept at press-man and can play both outside and over the slot. In addition, he packs a punch as a tackler.

Derek Barnett vs. Florida 2015

DEREK BARNETT, PHOTO BY KIM KLEMENT/USA TODAY SPORTS

4. Tennessee

The ‘triplets’: DE Derek Barnett, LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin and CB Cam Sutton
The skinny: Barnett (6-3, 265) has 20 sacks, 33 tackles for loss and 141 tackles in his two seasons with the Vols. His 20 sacks are tied for eighth in school history, and he is 12 sacks away from tying Reggie White as the Vols’ leading career sack man. In addition to being a pass-rushing force, Barnett also does a nice job of setting the edge against the run. Reeves-Maybin (6-0, 230), a senior, will be a three-year starter. He made at least 100 tackles in each of the past two seasons, and he should hit that plateau again this fall. He has good closing speed and moves extremely well laterally. Sutton (5-11, 186), a senior, slumped a bit during the second half of last season, but still is one of the best corners in the SEC. He plays with a lot of confidence and has the ability to be a shutdown corner. Sutton has started every game in his career and has six interceptions and 26 pass breakups. He also is one of the best punt returners in the nation.

arden key 2015

ARDEN KEY, PHOTO BY STEVE FRANZ/LSU ATHLETICS

3. LSU

The ‘triplets’: DL Davon Godchaux, LB Arden Key and S Jamal Adams (also considered: LB Kendell Beckwith, CB Tre’Davious White)
The skinny: Godchaux (6-4, 299), a junior, started 10 games as a true freshman in 2014, then started all 12 games last season. He had six sacks and nine tackles for loss in 2015 and is surprisingly quick for a guy who weighs 300 pounds. It will be interesting to see how he is deployed when LSU uses its 3-4 front; he likely will be used at all three spots along the line. Key (6-6, 238) was a national top-100 recruit from the Atlanta area, and had five sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss and nine quarterback hurries as a true freshman last fall. Key will be moved around in LSU’s 3-4, and with his pass-rush ability, it’s not a stretch to think he will contend for the SEC lead in sacks. Adams (6-1, 213), a junior, is the best safety in the SEC and one of the top two or three in the nation. He has good size, covers a lot of ground, possesses solid ball skills and absolutely delivers a big blow. He has four interceptions, 11 pass breakups, 133 tackles and 10 tackles for loss in his career.

jarrad davis florida 2015

JARRAD DAVIS, PHOTO BY RACHEL MOWAT/FLORIDA ATHLETICS

2. Florida

The ‘triplets’: DT Caleb Brantley, LB Jarrad Davis and CB Jalen Tabor (also considered: S Marcus Maye)
The skinny: Brantley (6-2, 297), a junior, was a fulltime starter for the first time last season and played especially well in the second half of the season. Brantley has value as a run-stuffer and as an interior pass rusher (he had three sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss last season). He appears poised for an All-SEC-type season. Davis (6-2, 238), a senior, might be the best linebacker in the SEC – not bad for a three-star recruit. He became a fulltime starter for the first time last season and had 98 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, seven quarterback hurries, four pass breakups and one interception. He moves well and has a high football IQ. Tabor (6-0, 201), a junior, is the best cornerback in the SEC and one of the top two or three in the nation. He has immense confidence, is athletic, possesses a good size/speed mix and shows excellent ball skills. He has five interceptions and 27 pass breakups through his first two seasons; he has returned two of those picks for TDs. He can play outside or over the slot, and is at ease in press or “off” coverage.

JONATHAN ALLEN, PHOTO BY MATT BUSH/USA TODAY SPORTS

JONATHAN ALLEN, PHOTO BY MATT BUSH/USA TODAY SPORTS

1. Alabama

The ‘triplets’: DE Jonathan Allen, LB Tim Williams and S Eddie Jackson (also considered: LB Reuben Foster, CB Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB Marlon Humphrey)
The skinny: Allen (6-3, 291), a senior, is one of the best pass rushers in the nation. He led the Tide with 12 sacks last season and added 14.5 tackles for loss, six quarterback hurries and four pass breakups. He was at his best in big games, with 11 sacks against ranked opponents. Allen doesn’t have the same burst as some other pass rushers on this list, but makes up for that in a variety of ways, including sheer strength. Williams (6-4, 252) is another elite pass rusher. As a situational player on passing downs, he had 10.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss; he was second on the team in both categories. Williams – a senior who hasn’t started a game in his college career – is quick off the edge, and while he needs work against the run, his pass-rush skills will make him a lot of NFL money. Jackson (6-0, 194), a senior, played cornerback in his first two seasons before moving to safety in the spring of 2015. He adapted quickly, to the point that he was one of the best safeties in the SEC last season and should contend for All-America honors this fall. Jackson has better coverage skills than the average safety, as evidenced by his team-high six picks last season; he returned two for touchdowns. Jackson has good size, range, athleticism and ball skills.

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(You can follow Mike Huguenin on Twitter @MikeHuguenin)

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