July has turned to August and we’ve turned our attention from the offensive to the defensive side of the ball with our position rankings. Each of the Heartland Sports writers give their take on a specific position, ranking them from first to worst. Each writer is asked to defend their top three and bottom two rankings.
On the defensive side of the ball, the line is where one of the top contenders in this year’s conference race seems to have an advantage and yet another is at a strong disadvantage.
The consensus rankings come from a points system. A first place selection is worth 10 points, second place is 9 points, and they continue in descending order with tenth place equaling 1 point.
|Heartland Sports Consensus Defensive Line Rankings|
|3. Iowa State||32|
|4. Oklahoma State||31|
|6. Kansas State||16|
|7. Texas Tech||15|
|10. West Virginia||4|
1. Texas | The Longhorns definitely have the most NFL talent on their defensive line. Breckyn Hager and Charles Omenihu would start on any defensive line in the country. Considering the depth and experience that Texas has in their line they’ve earned the top spot in my rankings. If Texas plans to make a run for the Big 12 this season, it’s going to start with the defensive line.
2. TCU | The Horned Frogs have one of the best defensive ends in the country in Ben Banogu. He finished second in the Big 12 in sacks a year ago with 8.5 per game. However, he’s not the only threat on the TCU defensive line. The Horned Frogs have a ton of up and coming talent that could go well with their senior. TCU could be dangerous up front on defense causing trouble for quarterbacks.
3. Oklahoma State | The Cowboys had a rotation of eight different guys last year on their line. This year, they return six of those guys. Having that kind of experience is what earns them a top three spot in my rankings. Jordan Brailford will be returning on the edge as a defensive lineman and Oklahoma State will be counting on him to lead the way up front.
4. Iowa State
6. Kansas State
9. Texas Tech | The Red Raiders lost their best player on the defensive line from a season ago. Now, they’ll have to look for a new star to rise to the occasion. However, there’s just not a lot of talent to choose from in Lubbock right now. They’ll rely on junior Eli Howard to lead the way and hope to fight another disrupter to play alongside him.
10. West Virginia | The Mountaineers struggled on the defensive line a season ago. This year, it’s likely to be the same considering the lack of depth on this roster. West Virginia does have a few play makers in Reese Donahue and Ezekiel Rose. However, those two guys aren’t enough. West Virginia is a serious contender for the Big 12, but they are going to have to figure out things on the defensive line.
1. TCU | The Horned Frogs had one of the top defensive lines in the country last year as they ranked fifth nationally in rushing defense, and they tied for eighth in the country in team sacks. Ben Banogu ranked second in the conference last season with 8.5 sacks, and he returns for his senior year to lead a talented group across the board.
2. Texas | The Longhorns came in second in the Big 12 behind TCU in both rushing defense and sacks, and they boast plenty of talent and depth themselves. Seniors Charles Omenihu and Breckyn Hager should be playing on Sundays next year, and Chris Nelson has plenty of experience as well.
3. Oklahoma State | Junior Jordan Brailford is probably the most talented returning member of the group, but the Cowboys have a lot of depth all around. Senior Trey Carter could be a First Team All-Big 12 selection, and there are four other seniors that will see a lot of playing time as well.
4. Iowa State
6. Texas Tech
8. Kansas State
9. Kansas | The Jayhawks don’t do a lot of things well, and clogging the middle on defense is just another one. They ranked eighth in rushing defense and ninth in sacks a season ago. On the bright side, senior Daniel Wise might just be the best defensive lineman in the conference.
10. West Virginia | The Mountaineers struggled to stop the run last season, ranking dead last in the conference in rushing defense, giving up over 200 yards on the ground per game. Their offense is clearly the team’s strong point, but the defense is going to have to get some stops if they want a chance to reign as Big 12 Champions.
1. TCU | Ben Banogu racked up 16.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks for the Horned Frogs a year ago. Primed to build on the number, the lineman remains a force to be reckoned with. Drawing a majority of the attention should open things up for others in the unit allowing the sack number to rise. Still, we haven’t mentioned the likes of Corey Bethely and LJ Collier. Regardless, this is a team built around the defensive prowess and it all starts in the trenches.
2. Iowa State | The Cyclones certainly surprised many opponents while finding success on both sides of the ball. Led by JaQuan Bailey upfront, the lineman turned in the best performance in the league numbers wise. Yet losing two from the two deep leaves a group that held teams to 128 rushing yards per game with questions. This is still a solid and experienced group that will take some pressure off the offense.
3. Oklahoma State | Experience and depth are two strong suites for the Cowboys along the defensive line this season. Possessing size across the front, it’s Jordan Brailford holding most of the expectations. As one of the best pass rushers in the conference, OSU success rides primarily on him as well as Trey Carter on the inside.
6. Kansas State
7. Texas Tech
9. Baylor | The Bears are certainly experienced and are bringing in a few grad transfers to help the cause. However, the line surrendered 4.9 yards per carry. That stat line does not bode well in a conference focused on the rushing attack moving forward.
10. West Virginia | For the Mountaineers, the struggles from last year are met with questions about depth. Failing to put up numerous sacks, this group has the most room for improvement among the ten. For now, WVU remains at the bottom of my rankings at the position.
1. TCU | The Frogs are returning defensive end Ben Banogu who placed second in sacks last season. He’ll be lined across from L.J. Collier who many believe is just as talented as Banogu, giving TCU what could be the top defensive end duo in the conference.
2. Iowa State | Yes, I agree, its weird seeing the Cyclones ranked so high here but you can’t argue that the ISU defense was one of the best in the conference last season, holding opponents to just 128 yards per game. Iowa State is returning all but just two players from last year’s two-deep along the defensive line.
3. Texas | Granted, this ranking is based more on potential than actual on the field success but the Longhorns have both depth and talent along the defensive line. Breckyn Hager and Charles Omenihu are the stars of this unit but if guys like Malcolm Roach and Gerald Wilbon play up to their expectations then Texas could easily have the top defensive line in the conference.
4. Oklahoma State
7. Texas Tech
8. Kansas State
9. Baylor | Ira Lewis led the team in sacks last year and the Bears are hoping that a pair of JUCO transfers can help put a stop to their woes against the run.
10. West Virginia | The Mountaineers are going to be scoring a lot of points this year but the question that will determine their legitimacy in the Big 12 title race is, how many points will they be giving up? Depth will be an issue up front for West Virginia and they were one of the worst in the conference with this position group a year ago.