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 each position group, 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.
|Heartland Sports Consensus Offensive Line Rankings|
|1. West Virginia||36|
|3. Iowa State||29|
|4. Oklahoma State||28|
|7. Texas Tech||16|
|8. Kansas State||14|
Unanimity – Nope! Not this time. We didn’t agree across the board on any of the teams.
Almost Agreed – The closest we came to having a unanimous pick was Kansas who received three out of four votes for #10. The other vote for the Jayhawks was at #9.
All Over The Place – We’re pretty much all over the place with all of the teams. Iowa State was ranked as high as #1 and as low as #7. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were also was a bit stretched with the highest vote being #1 and lowest #5. For perspective…four different teams received first place votes. That means each all four voters have a completely different idea of who the best defensive line in the Big 12 is.
Individual Thoughts And Rankings
1. West Virginia | The Mountaineers will be returning 6 players from their defensive line rotation from a year ago. Most notably, Darius Stills who was nominated as the pre-season Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. The combination of Stills and the returning experience will make West Virginia tough to beat in the trenches.
2. Iowa State | Iowa State will look to JaQuan Bailey to lead their defensive front. Bailey was selected to the pre-season All-Big 12 Football Team after missing nearly all of last season. If he can bounce back with a healthy year, the Cyclones will be dominant on the defensive line.
3. Oklahoma | The Sooners only return 4 players from their two-deep rotation from last season. However, the key here is Ronnie Perkins. He accounted for 38 total tackles and 6 sacks as a sophomore in 2019. Oklahoma will look to Perkins as the leader of the defense in 2020.
4. Oklahoma State
7. Texas Tech
8. Kansas State
9. Baylor | The Bears aren’t returning much to their defensive line this season. With only two upper class-man on the roster, Baylor will have to rely on some young guys in 2020.
10. Kansas | The Jayhawks find themselves in a similar position as the Bears. They’ve only got one returning senior, so they will be looking for a few guys to step up as well.
1. Iowa State Cyclones | Losing the stout wall in the middle of the line going by the names of Ray Lima and Jamahl Johnson, the talent behind the two must be ready to step up. Adding Latrell Bankston, the JUCO National Defensive Player of the Year helps to fill the void in a major way. Combined with the likes of Jaquan Bailey (who returns from a season-ending injury), Zach Peterson, and Will McDonald, this group is clearly the best in the league.
2. Oklahoma Sooners | The program loses a single player who saw significant playing time last year in Neville Gallimore on a defense that paced the rest of the conference in run defense. While it’s a glaring issue to address, the Sooners added the top two JUCO prospects in the middle of the line to step in and help immediately. Looking at the rise of Jalen Redmond as well as the talent of Ronnie Perkins, the duo will draw plenty of attention on each snap. Regardless, Redmond collected a team high 6.5 sacks as a freshman and Perkins added six of his own in 2019. Expect those number to trend upward once again with another year of experience in the books.
3. West Virginia Mountaineers | There’s no denying the talent that sits on the WVU roster with the last name of Stills. In 2019, Darius and Dante Stills combined for 26.5 tackles for loss through twelve games as defensive linemen. The number equates to 33% of the statistical category of the entire team from last year. Returning both players in the upcoming campaign boosts the confidence level of this entire defense. With seven scholarship players returning to the unit, the depth is there to remain competitive throughout the duration of the year.
4. Texas Longhorns
5. Oklahoma State Cowboys
6. TCU Horned Frogs
7. Kansas State Wildcats
8. Texas Tech Red Raiders
9. Baylor Bears | Characterized by a physical style of play and the switch to a three man front, the Bears found success. But, gone are the days of James Lynch, James Lockhart, and Bravvion Roy. Waiting in the wings to replace the three are a few transfers as well as some sophomore that learned from sitting behind the starters. Regardless, it’s going to be a big ask knowing the standard that was set in 2019.
10. Kansas Jayhawks | The Jayhawks struggled mightily in run defense, holding down the last spot in the conference after altering the schematics to a 3-4. Turnover depleted the group leaving limited starting experience remaining on the roster. The outlook is bleak here moving forward once again.
1. Oklahoma | The Sooners defense is going to continue to improve under Alex Grinch, and the defensive line is a major reason why. Oklahoma led the Big 12 in rushing defense a season ago, and despite losing Neville Gallimore to graduation, expect the Sooners to be a force to reckon with down in the dirt.
2. West Virginia | Despite going 5-7 last season, the Mountaineers had a surprisingly stingy defensive line. Darius Stills is a star, and his brother Dante isn’t too bad, either.
3. TCU | The Horned Frogs consistently have a solid defense, and it typically starts with their front line. Senior defensive tackle Corey Bethley is a two-time All-Big 12 Honorable Mention, and with 25 consecutive starts under his belt, he will be the anchor for TCU.
5. Iowa State
6. Oklahoma State
7. Kansas State
9. Texas Tech | The Red Raiders have never been known for their defensive capabilities, and stopping the run is not exactly their forte. However, Senior Eli Howard brings a lot of experience to the table, and Texas Tech will rely heavily on his leadership if they want to be successful.
10. Kansas | The Jayhawks are what they are. Even in their best years, the defense has never led the way, and after giving up over 200 rushing yards per game last season, don’t expect them to be much better this year.
1. Oklahoma State | This is a numbers game and the Cowboys have them. With four returning starters along the defensive line OSU will have one of the most experienced defensive lines in the conference. They are young as well with Cameron Murray being the line senior of the group.
2. West Virginia | The Mountaineers lost Reese Donahue from last year’s defensive front but return preseason All-Big 12 nose tackle Darius Stills and three others along the defensive line.
3. TCU | The big loss for the Horned Frogs was Ross Blacklock but TCU does return three other starters along the line including stud defensive tackle Corey Bethley.
4. Texas Tech
7. Iowa State
8. Kansas State
9. Kansas | I’m pretty high on defensive end Malcolm Lee but, as of now, it looks like he’s alone on that defensive line.
10. Baylor | James Lynch going early to the NFL hurt the Bears. Baylor will enter the 2020 season with an empty cupboard in terms of experienced defensive line talent.
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