To win in SEC football, it helps to have big men in the defensive trenches.
Georgia's Jalen Carter is the best defensive lineman in the SEC going into the 2022 season, according to a poll of sports journalists who cover the league for the USA TODAY Sports Network.
The Bulldogs' defensive tackle garnered 14 of a possible 16 first-place votes to head a list of the top 10 SEC defensive linemen. LSU placed four defensive linemen on the list.
A total of 24 offensive linemen from 11 schools received votes: Kentucky, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt were the only schools without a player to get at least one vote. Ten points were awarded for a first-place vote down to one point for a 10th-place vote.
The USA TODAY Sports Network is counting down to SEC Media Days, scheduled for July 18-21 in Atlanta, by revealing its top players at each position grouping.
Here is a look at the top 10 defensive linemen:
1. Jalen Carter
Georgia, junior defensive tackle (145 points, 14 first-place votes)
Even playing on a defensive line with three first-rounders, the Apoka, Florida, native flashed with 8½ tackles for loss, three sacks and three blocked kicks.
2. BJ Ojulari
LSU, junior defensive end (113 points)
Ojulari is a projected first-round pick and has 11 sacks and 16½ tackles for loss over the last two seasons.
3. Brenton Cox Jr.
Florida, senior edge (78 points, 1 first-place vote)
Despite not being fully healthy for much of the season, Cox led the Gators in sacks (8½) and tackles for loss (14½), giving Florida an experienced edge rusher in 2022.
4. Colby Wooden
Auburn, junior defensive tackle (74 points)
Wooden exploded as a sophomore, leading SEC defensive tackles in pressures (41), defensive stops (37) and pass-rush win rate (15.7%), according to Pro Football Focus.
5. Byron Young
Tennessee, senior defensive end (70 points)
Young, an edge rusher, tied for the team lead with 11½ tackles for loss and 5½ sacks as UT’s top pass rusher.
6. (tie) Byron Young
Alabama, senior defensive end (56 points)
The SEC's "other" Byron Young started seven games in 2021 with 39 tackles and nine for loss to go with 12 pressures and will likely have an even bigger role in 2021 with Phidarian Mathis gone to the NFL.
6. (tie) Jaquelin Roy
LSU, junior defensive tackle (56 points)
The former top-50 recruit is a projected first-round pick and is poised to break out this season after making 30 tackles last season as an interior lineman.
8. Zacch Pickens
South Carolina, senior defensive tackle (46 points)
Pickens is rated one of South Carolina's top 2023 NFL Draft prospects as he's collected 89 career tackles and had four sacks in 2021.
9. Maason Smith
LSU, sophomore defensive tackle (39 points)
Smith made the SEC All-Freshman team last year and is probably the most talented defensive lineman on a loaded unit.
10. Ali Gaye
LSU, senior defensive end (31 points)
Gaye made the All-SEC second team in 2020 and was limited to four games due to injury in 2021.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Ranking SEC football top 10 defensive linemen for 2022 season