Terrific Twos

Justin Hunter leads a deadly UT receiving group

The Southeastern Conference is full of elite two-man combinations. It's what makes the league so tough to prepare for every weekend. Double team one defensive end off the edge, but you're leaving the other one guarded by one man. Double team one receiver, and the other deep threat can beat you just as bad. The depth of talent is what makes the SEC the talented league it has become.

Tennessee wide receivers Justin Hunter and Da' Rick Rogers: These two targets are helped out by a potential early selection in the NFL Draft at quarterback in Tyler Bray. The Volunteers showed what they were capable of on offense in the first two games last season, but Hunter went down with a torn ACL early in the game in Gainesville.

Rogers picked up the slack. He finished with 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore while averaging 15.5 yards per catch and 86.7 yards per game.

Hunter will be one of the most explosive offensive weapons in the SEC if his knee is completely healthy. His combination of speed and leaping ability makes him tough to cover. When teams double-team him, it will open up Rogers with single coverages. The Volunteers also bring in five-star junior college wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.

South Carolina defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor: This combination could have more potential than all of them. Clowney showed flashes of dominance during his freshman season.

Clowney was second on the team with eight sacks and 12 tackles for a loss. At SEC Media Days last week, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier even admitted that they held him back some on the field. The sky is the limit for Clowney, and it shouldn't take long for him to realize that, especially with a growing role in the defense. The chains are off.

Taylor is an interesting defensive end. He has elite speed and used it to record six sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss last season. When he gets moving, he's as quick as some skill players. It's all about speed off the edge for Taylor, and it's what makes him tough for offensive tackles to stick with and block.

LSU cornerbacks Tharold Simon and Tyrann Mathieu: The Tigers' secondary was highlighted by cornerback and Dallas Cowboys' first round pick Morris Claiborne. With him gone after a team-high six interceptions, Simon slides into more playing time at cornerback.

Mathieu is already well known all over the country. The pesky cornerback put his name on the national map early in the 2011 season with his knack for the football and creating turnovers. Mathieu eventually earned an invitation to the Heisman Trophy ceremony as a finalist.

Simon intercepted two passes in 2011 but led the team with 10 pass breakups. No other Tiger has more than six. He also tied for the team lead with 12 pass deflections. He'll get a chance to expand on those numbers in 2012.

LSU defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery: This duo combined for 17 sacks and 28.5 tackles for a loss last season. They became fixtures in the opponent's backfield with speed and power off the edge for a team that played for a national championship.

This season, they return to anchor the defense. The linebacker position will have some questions for LSU to answer before the start of the season, but the defensive line and secondary will be strong again. The Tigers don't have many holes on the defensive side of the ball.

Florida defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley: This duo assumes the best case scenario that Florida will have the defensive end play that allows Floyd to slide inside to his natural position at defensive tackle. That could come from freshman Jonathan Bullard or the emergence of a veteran like Kedric Johnson or Earl Okine.

Floyd has been nominated for five preseason award watch lists. He showed what he could do last season when moved back to defensive tackle for the Gator Bowl against Ohio State as he recorded his first career sack and was disruptive.

Easley can be an on this list if he is fully recovered from his torn ACL against Florida State in 2011. He was a force on the interior last season, using his quick first step to penetrate and make plays in the backfield.

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