It’s that time again! The summer months are upon us and our favorite way to pass the time is by speculating on how specific positions will shape up in the Big 12. The Heartland Sports writers give their take on a specific position, ranking them from first to worst. Then they are asked to defend their top three and bottom two rankings.
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.
Once again we’re a bit all over the place with the defensive line rankings. We agree unanimously on who should be #1 but then it’s a little bit of everything from there. I was prepared to give Craig the “Homer Award” for ranking Oklahoma at #3 but then I saw that Zack, an OSU writer, had them in the same spot.
|Heartland Sports Consensus Defensive Line Rankings|
|1. Iowa State||50|
|3. Kansas State||34|
|7. Texas Tech||23|
|8. West Virginia||17|
|9. Oklahoma State||10|
1. Iowa State | The Cyclones have two of the top defensive linemen in the conference in JaQuan Bailey and Ray Lima. Bailey and Lima were both selected to the Second Team All-Conference a season ago, and Bailey should be considered a pre-season defensive player of the year candidate.
2. TCU | The Horned Frogs are going to miss First Team All-Conference selections Ben Banogu and L.J. Collier, but they return All-Conference Honorable Mention Corey Bethley, as well as Ross Blacklock, who missed all of last season with an injury. Gary Patterson always has his team ready to stop the run, and this season should be no different.
3. Oklahoma | The Sooners allowed the most rushing touchdowns in the conference last season, but overall they were mediocre at stopping the run. They return plenty of experience, and with new Defensive Coordinator Alex Grinch at the helm, expect Oklahoma to take one step closer to becoming the defensive juggernaut of the old days.
5. Kansas State
7. Texas Tech
8. West Virginia
9. Oklahoma State | Even with First Team All-Conference selection Jordan Brailford leading the way, the Cowboys still finished dead last in rushing defense a season ago. Jarrell Owens, who was a Second Team All-Conference selection, is also gone, and with no returning starters, the Oklahoma State defensive front is a giant question mark.
10. Kansas | The Jayhawks weren’t very good at really anything a season ago, and this year looks like the trend could continue. They had no real impact players upfront on defense a year ago, so unless Les Miles pulls some type of magic trick, they’re likely to get run all over for another grueling season.
1. Iowa State | The Cyclones had the best defensive line a season ago, and in 2019 it won’t be any different. They are returning just about everyone from their rotation last season. In 2018, Iowa State averaged more sacks than any other team. Ray Lima will be back and the Cyclones will be no joke in the trenches.
2. TCU | The Frogs are returning both Corey Bethley and Terrell Cooper from a season ago. Not to mention they will get Ross Blacklock back on the field who was injured early last year. Adding a 329 pound defensive lineman to go with Bethley and Cooper will make the Horned Frogs dangerous up front.
3. Oklahoma | The Sooners will be returning three of the four starters from last season. Oklahoma had a ton of talent last year, but simply couldn’t put much together on the field. Now that Alex Grinch is in charge on the defensive side of the ball, it’ll be interesting to see how these guys perform.
4. Kansas State
6. Texas Tech
8. West Virginia
9. Kansas | The Jayhawks will be returning only one starter in Azur Kamara. Kansas does have four seniors starting on the line in 2019, but none of those guys have much experience.
10. Oklahoma State | A year after having the worst rush defense in the Big 12, the Pokes will not be returning any starters in 2019. It’s safe to say the biggest hole in the Cowboys defense is going to be in the trenches. Oklahoma State has the potential to be a contender this season, but they’ll have to figure things out on the line.
1. Iowa State | After leading the conference in sacks a year ago, the Cyclones return virtually all of the players on the two-deep. Behind an elite pass rusher in JaQuan Bailey and top notch tackle Ray Lima, Iowa State is primed to once again pace the league. It’s hard to argue with the production on the field from the group making the Cyclones an easy top pick here.
2. TCU | The Horned Frogs heard a bit of good news with the return of Ross Blacklock. Despite the losses up front, Gary Patterson continuously reload on the defensive side of ball. With three more than capable players to focus on in the upcoming season, it appears as though this defensive line will be a dominant force once again.
3. Kansas State | In the trenches, Reggie Walker remains a piece to build around in this time of transition. As a now senior and veteran, it’s time for the big man to live up to the expectations that following him after a freshman All-American year in 2016. Yet the rest of the unit is no slouch. Ranking second in rush defense a year ago, the program hopes to lean on the group once again heading into 2019.
6. Texas Tech
8. Oklahoma State
9. West Virginia | Losing the top two performers to the NFL, there’s much left to be desired at the position for the Mountaineers. Relying on youngsters and a transfer to build the strength of the line, West Virginia must prove themselves worthy of a higher ranking throughout the course of the year.
10. Kansas | The Jayhawks will likely field four seniors in the upcoming season. Yet, the one knock remains that the majority of the seniors come from the JUCO ranks. Without experience on the FBS level, can this group make waves in the conference?
1. Iowa State | The Iowa State defensive front is returning all their starters including two 2018 2nd team All-Big 12 players Ray Lima and JaQuan Bailey, in addition to being the Big 12 leader in rushing defense, evidenced by only giving up 115 yards per game and only 10 rushing TDs the entire season. For reference, OU gave up 33 TDs and OSU gave up 26 TDs. These factors make the Cyclone’s D-line an easy top choice.
2. TCU | Losing two All-Big 12 defensive linemen to the NFL is always difficult. However, Ross Blacklock returning from injury and incoming grad transfer Shameik Blackshear from South Carolina will be a boost in talent and experience on what would be considered an inexperienced defensive line.
3. Baylor | I believe that Baylor is set up to make the biggest step forward on the defensive line from last season. They have 2nd team All-Big 12 defensive lineman James Lynch coming back and a lot of quality experience around him, so it’ll interesting to see how they play as a unit this season.
5. West Virginia
7. Kansas State
8. Texas Tech
9. Oklahoma State | With the departures of Jordan Brailford and Jerrell Owens, the Oklahoma State defensive line has a lot to prove. They have experience returning but none that I would consider consistent impact players.
I’m going to keep an eye out for Mike Scott at defensive end. I believe he may surprise some people from around the league.
10. Kansas | With Daniel Wise, a two time All-Big 12 defensive linemen, going to the NFL, it leaves Kansas with the most unknowns on the defensive line front heading into 2019. Also, with Les Miles bringing in defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot to switch to the 3-4 scheme, it’ll be interesting to see how the personnel fits.
1. Iowa State | As high as I am on the Cyclones offensive line, I’m even higher on their defensive line. Matt Campbell has made it a habit to give Big 12 offesnes fits in his short tenure at Ames and this year he’ll enjoy the best defensive line he’s had since landing the job.
2. Kansas State | There isn’t a whole lot to get excited about this season if you’re a Wildcat fan but the defensive line will certainly be a bright spot. After finishing second in the Big 12 in run defense last fall, K-State is returning all four starters in 2019.
3. TCU | There may not be a better defensive minded head coach in the Big 12 than Gary Patterson. He will undoubtedly begin his strategy with 2017 Freshman All-American Corey Bethley and 2017 Big 12 Co-Defensive Freshman of the Year Ross Blacklock.
5. Texas Tech
8. West Virginia
9. Oklahoma State | The bad news is that the Cowboys were among the worst the Big 12 had to offer in the way of run defense last season. The good news is that the entire defensive line will be new in 2019. Completely unproven but new.
10. Kansas | As with just about every position on the field, Les Miles has his work cut out for him along the defensive line. The Jayhawks won’t experience a true football revival until this position group is solidified and Miles knows that.