For the first time since we started our preseason rankings we have discrepancies at the top of our list. While we’re mixing and matching at the top of our rankings, we are in agreement at the bottom where Iowa State and Texas Tech are the two worst in the Big 12 when it comes to winning the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball.
Texas comes in at the top of our list with Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Oklahoma coming in close behind.
The points system was based on value of the vote. For example, a first-place vote was worth 10 points, second-place 9, third 8, and so on. Below the rankings is how our staff voted and some of their logic in doing so.
|Consensus Preseason DL Rankings|
Oklahoma State arguably has the deepest defensive line in the Big 12. The Pokes have 5 different guys that they can play at defensive end. The only obstacle this corps has is replacing Vincent Taylor. If they can find a replacement in Darrion Daniels, the Cowboys will be in great shape.
The Longhorns once again have an extremely talented group at the defensive line position. The question is, how will this group come together in the fall? Led by Malcom Roach, Texas should be dominant in the trenches this season.
The Sooners defensive line will be led by senior Matthew Romar. Backed up with all kinds of depth, Oklahoma will be giving offenses trouble all season. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is the best pass rusher in the Big 12. Having a guy like him coming off the edge is a great asset to have.
It’s not that the Cyclones aren’t any good on the defensive line, they simply have no experience. Iowa State will rely on a young group to get the job done. Hopefully the non-conference schedule will give them time to get adjusted.
Texas Tech would’ve been higher on my list had they not lost Breiden Fehoko to LSU via transfer. The Red Raiders have had trouble on the defensive line for several years now. Hopefully a new group led by Joe Wallace will find success this fall.
The struggle at the top of the list isn’t due to a lack of talent but rather too many similarities in top notch talent. The best talent, along the defensive line, in the Big 12 can be found at four schools (with a hat-tip to Kansas) and the gap is razor thin.
Bill Snyder wins games by controlling the ball on offense and winning the line of scrimmage on defense. Tackle Will Geary is back with the team (after an absence in the spring) and is an all-conference talent. He has Reggie Walker and Tanner Wood on the ends with Walker being one of the rising talents in the conference.
Texas is honestly at the top in terms of “paper talent” but they just played so terrible at times last season. Yes, I do understand there’s a new regime in Austin but once a player has developed the habit of taking plays off, or giving up on a play, it takes time to wash that out.
It comes down to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State for the third spot. Both are loaded but OSU has a huge question mark in the middle due to the absence of Vincent Taylor who is making a name for himself with the Miami Dolphins. The Cowboys are no joke at the defensive end position though.
The Sooners get the nod over the Cowboys based on their experience across the board. OSU may be deeper due to having five ends readily available but OU has proven experience across the front. Switching to a 4-3 front this fall allows OU to play Matt Romar and Neville Gallimore in the middle with Marquise Overton and Du”Vonta Lampkin adding depth. Although technically a linebacker, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is the best pass rusher in the conference coming from the “Jack” position.
Undeniably, the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma State Cowboys bring the deepest defensive line units to the conference in 2017. Getting the edge though based solely on talent has to be the Longhorns. With depth and versatility, the three-man front looks poised to lead the conference statically. However, Texas has struggled as of late to get players playing at their full potential. Now with Tom Herman in place, will things change?
For OSU, losing a player like Vincent Taylor certainly hurts. The Cowboys will look to fill the void while boasting five experience defensive ends. In the Big 12, everything starts up front with the pass rush. Oklahoma State certainly has the skill to live in the backfield this upcoming season.
When it comes to the bottom two, Iowa State will rely on transfers to carry the load. Leaning on newcomers could go well…but it could also go extremely poorly. I’m not entirely confident in the unit the Cyclones bring to the table. They fall just above the Texas Tech Red Raiders. TTU has failed to put together anything that resembles a defensive line over the past several years. This upcoming season should be no different in my opinion.
Texas has a solid front line on defense that comes into the season with plenty of experience. Malcolm Roach is one of the top defensive lineman in the Big 12, and Poona Ford could find himself in All-Big 12 talks. Take the experience that the Longhorns have and add depth, and this group of guys could wreak havoc on opposing backfields all season long.
Despite losing Vincent Taylor a year early to the NFL Draft, Oklahoma State still has plenty of talent to man the defensive line. Cole Walterscheid recorded 28 tackles a year ago, the most of any of the returning defensive lineman, but the Cowboys have a lot of depth, which means fresh legs in on defense at any given moment.
Kansas State falls in at number three due large in part to reigning Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, who will have a heavy impact on the Wildcat defensive front. Former All-Big 12 lineman Will Geary will also be key to K-State’s success defensively.
Iowa State will look to JUCO transfers Ray Lima and Kamilo Tongamoa to make something happen on the defensive line. With a lot of questions surrounding their opportunity for success, the Cyclones rank near the bottom of the Big 12.
Texas Tech sits at dead last in the conference due to their historic inability to establish any type of success with their defensive front. Any improvement from the last few years should be considered a success, but the Red Raider defensive line is not likely to be one that strikes fear in the heart of opposing quarterbacks.
|Heartland’s 2017 BIG 12 Preseason DL Rankings|
|Oklahoma State||Kansas State||Texas||Texas|
|Texas||Texas||Oklahoma State||Oklahoma State|
|Oklahoma||Oklahoma||Kansas State||Kansas State|
|Kansas State||Oklahoma State||Kansas||Oklahoma|
|West Virginia||West Virginia||TCU||West Virginia|
|Iowa State||Iowa State||Iowa State||Iowa State|
|Texas Tech||Texas Tech||Texas Tech||Texas Tech|