The SEC is known for many things, but one of those claims to fame is that the conference routinely boasts the best defensive lines in the country. Alabama, LSU and others have exhibited dominance with this particular position group in years past and, when it comes to 2016, Myles Garrett and the Texas A&M Aggies are generating a ton of hype.
Jeff Dooley of Pro Football Focus has a different idea with regard to what school has the best defensive line in the nation, though, as he believes a school from the Midwest holds that distinction. That program is Michigan:
It might feel sacrilegious not to go with an SEC team for the nation’s best D-line, whether that be Jonathan Allen-led Alabama or Myles Garrett-led Texas A&M, but the Wolverines return a starting front four that can stack up with any unit in the country.
All four graded well versus the run last season, but it is their work as pass-rushers that really stands out. This year’s DEs Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton, and DT Maurice Hurst all ranked first or second in the nation, respectively, in pass-rush productivity at their position groups last season, while DT Ryan Glasgow ranked 18th. That is a ridiculously efficient group at getting pressure. None of those guys individually can stack up to Garrett, the highest-graded pass-rusher of the past two seasons among returning players, but collectively they are an absolute force.
Dooley’s breakdown mentions Wormley, Charlton, Hurst and Glasgow, all of whom project to be All-Big Ten level players in 2016. Beyond that, the Wolverines also have the nation’s top recruit from 2016, Rashan Gary, to operate along the defensive line, and Michigan also has a defensive tackle standout in Bryan Mone that was injured for the 2015 season and back at 100 percent health.
It also helps that the Wolverines have arguably the best position coach in the country to aid their defensive line, as former Baltimore Ravens and Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is back for another season. A list like this is, inherently, nitpicking and there are many quality groups in the SEC (Texas A&M ranks second on this list, for instance), but the depth for Jim Harbaugh and company is undeniable and the rest of the Big Ten should be operating with some level of fear throughout the 2016 campaign.