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.
We only had three writers participate in this set of rankings so the scores are a bit lower than usual. Zack definitely gets the “homer award” here for having Oklahoma State at #3. We’ll also go ahead and throw in the “head scratcher award” for him putting Oklahoma at #2.
|Heartland Sports Consensus Linebacker Rankings|
|1. Iowa State||30|
|2. Texas Tech||24|
|5. West Virginia||17|
|7. Oklahoma State||13|
|9. Kansas State||10|
1. Iowa State | The Cyclones are once again a no-brainer as they earn the top spot in the linebacker rankings. Last season they were a dominant unit, and Marcel Spears Jr. and Mike Rose are both returning to lead the way. Good luck trying to run the ball against this defense.
2. Oklahoma | Kenneth Murray should be considered an early favorite for defensive player of the year, and with new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch at the helm, expect the Sooners to be scary on defense.
3. Oklahoma State | The Cowboys were pretty awful on defense a season ago, but Calvin Bundage is one of the few bright spots. He’s the clear leader of the defense, and his level of success will be key to turning around the defensive woes from last year.
5. Texas Tech
8. Kansas State
9. West Virginia | The Mountaineers have a lot of experience as a linebacker unit, which could prove me wrong here, but after losing leading tackler David Long Jr. to the NFL, West Virginia does not have a standout player at the position.
10. Kansas | The lack of experience is the problem for the Jayhawks at the linebacker position, and considering the defense was a train-wreck last season, the only direction they can go is up…and that’s because they are firmly planted at the bottom of the Big 12.
1. Iowa State | The Cyclones will be returning two out of their three starting linebackers from last season. Marcel Spears Jr. and Mike Rose were both ranked in the top 5 returning linebackers for the 2019-2020 season. Iowa State just needs to find one more guy to fill in the third spot and they will be set.
2. Texas Tech | The Red Raiders will be returning both of their leading tacklers from a season ago. Jordyn Brooks and Riko Jeffers are both upper class-men who will be the leaders of the Texas Tech defense.
3. Texas | Jeffrey McCulloch will be the only returning starting linebacker for Texas, but he does have three years of experience under his belt. The Longhorns won’t have to search too hard to find talent to replace the other two spots. Joseph Ossai started two games last season and should fit into the lineup with no problems.
4. West Virginia
8. Kansas State
9. Oklahoma State | The cowboys had the worst rushing defense in the Big 12 last season. To make matters worse, they are only returning one starter in Calvin Bundage. The good news is you can really only go up from here if you’re OSU, right?
10. Kansas | The Jayhawks will be starting two guys at linebacker who combined for six tackles last season. Kansas is obviously in a rebuild phase with Les Miles taking over. It’s clear he will need to put and emphasis on the linebacker position moving forward.
1. Iowa State | In a conference full of explosive offenses Matt Campbell is making his mark on the defensive side of the ball. His Cyclones will have the best front-seven in the league which is why many are expecting them to push Oklahoma and Texas for a spot in the Big 12 championship game.
Marcel Spears Jr. and Mike Rose combined for 144 tackles last year and had 17 tackles for loss.
2. Texas Tech | Jordyn Brooks and Riko Jeffers were Texas Tech’s top two tacklers last season, and they’re both back again this fall. Brooks has averaged 84 tackles per season in his first three years in Lubbock. He and Jeffers will be the foundation for new defensive coordinator Keith Patterson to build on.
3. West Virginia | The four-game suspension of VanDarius Cowan is going to hurt the Mountaineers through the first third of the season. That said, WVU has a deep group of linebackers that just needs experience.
Middle linebacker will be their most experienced spot in this position group. Dylan Tonkery and Shea Campbell will battle it out to start there and its possible that the loser of that position battle could end up filling in during Cowan’s suspension.
7. Kansas State
8. Oklahoma State
9. TCU | Developing defensive talent has been Gary Patterson’s specialty his entire coaching career. He’s got plenty of opportunity this fall as the Frogs lost nearly their entire two-deep, at the linebacker position, from last fall.
10. Kansas | This is where I typically insert a “basketball season is coming” joke for the Jayhawks, but I’m a believer in Les Miles. He has zero experience returning at the linebacker position which will make for a monster of a challenge in 2019.
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