It’s that time again! As we try to navigate through the next few weeks that lead up to the start of the college football season we’ll continue looking through the various Big 12 position rankings and discussing which teams have advantages and which teams have a lot of work to do.
This time around the Heartland Sports writers give their take on the defensive lines across the conference, ranking them from first to worst. Then they are asked to defend their top three and bottom two rankings.
The consensus rankings below 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|
|2. Oklahoma State||26|
|3. Iowa State||25|
|6. West Virginia||17|
|7. Texas Tech||10|
|9. Kansas State||9|
Unanimity – We agreed across the board on two defensive line units. Ironically they are the same two units that we also agreed upon with the offensive lines. Oklahoma was #1 and Kansas was #10.
Almost Agreed – We came close with multiple schools, including Oklahoma State and Iowa State where one vote would have flopped their positions within the rankings.
All Over The Place – We struggled with Texas. The Longhorns received three different placement votes from the three different writers. They were the only program to receive three different votes.
Individual Thoughts And Rankings
1. Oklahoma | The Sooners should have one of the best defensive lines in the country if everything goes according to plan. Oklahoma will be returning one of the best defensive linemen in college football in Nik Bonitto. He will be accompanied by second team All-Big 12 D linemen Perrion Winfrey and Isaiah Thomas. The list goes on and on for the Sooners as you can add Jalen Redmon who opted out of the 2020 season in there as well. The bottom line is that Oklahoma should dominate the trenches this year.
2. Oklahoma State | The Cowboys are looking solid on the defensive line for the 2021 season. They are only losing one starter from a year ago. The Pokes will also be returning Jayden Jernnigan who sat out in 2020 after having a fantastic freshman season in 2019. I do think they will be one of the better D lines in the Big 12, but they just don’t quite have the star power that Oklahoma has to come in at number one.
3. Iowa State | Iowa State took a couple of big blows to their D line that kept them out of coming in higher on my list. They lost both Latrell Bankston and Joshua Bailey to the transfer portal. Will McDonald will be the guy that holds the line together for the Cyclones. He put up some big numbers last year, and they will need him to do it again for their championship run in 2021.
6. West Virginia
8. Texas Tech
9. Kansas State | The Wildcats are returning a couple of starters from last year, but they lack a big time player in their D line group. Who knows, they could surprise some teams. But, I just don’t see Kansas State getting to the quarterback much this season.
10. Kansas | The Jayhawks didn’t have a lot of talent on the defensive line, and the little talent they did have is no longer in the program. Marcus Harris led the team in tackles for loss in 2020, but transferred to Auburn this summer. Kansas will struggle to replace Harris and ultimately struggle to pass rush this season as well.
1. Oklahoma | The Sooners had one of the best defenses in the Big 12 in 2020, and the defensive line was a big reason why. Seniors Isaiah Thomas and Perrion Winfrey were both second-team All-Big 12 selections a season ago. Add senior LaRon Stokes to the mix, and you get 24 total starts from last season among the 3 of them.
2. Iowa State | The Cyclones return their core defensive line after a successful season in 2020 at stopping opposing offenses. As a sophomore, Will McDonald IV led the Big 12 with 10.5 sacks, and Eyioma Uwazurike added 3 sacks of his own. The two defensive ends could end up in opposing backfields A LOT this year.
3. Oklahoma State | The Cowboys return a ton of experience up front on defense between seniors Israel Antwine and Brendon Evers, as well as juniors Trace Ford and Tyler Lacy. The 4 defensive lineman accounted for 31 starts and 43 games played a season ago, and they very well could end up the best group in the conference by the end of the 2021 campaign.
6. West Virginia
8. Texas Tech
9. Kansas State | The Wildcats were pretty solid at the defensive line category a season ago, but they lost their two best pass rushers, leaving them in a tough spot. Wyatt Hubert, who left for the NFL, racked up 8.5 sacks, good for 4th in the conference, and Drew Wiley added 4.5 of his own, which was T-10th in the league. That’s nearly half of the team’s total (28), and it’s going to be a struggle without them.
10. Kansas | The Jayhawks reign supreme as the Big 12’s worst in just about every category, and after surrendering a whopping 236.2 rushing yards per game and 24 rushing touchdowns last season, there’s just not a great chance that they improve enough to move from this spot.
1. Oklahoma | The Sooners return Perrion Winfrey, Josh Ellison, and Isaiah Thomas to a unit that was dominating at times last season. They’re also adding 2019 sack leader Jalen Redmon back to the field after sitting out the 2020 season.
2. Oklahoma State | The Cowboys return a star-studded cast up front as well with Brock Martin, Tyler Lacy, Trace Ford, and Israel Antwine. This could be the strongest position unit on the entire Oklahoma State team.
3. Iowa State | With the departure of JaQuan Bailey to the NFL, Will McDonald becomes the unquestioned leader of the Cyclone defensive front. Despite not starting a single game in 2020 he led the conference in sacks (10.5) and fourth in tackles for loss (13.5), earning him First Team All Conference Honors.
4. West Virginia
7. Texas Tech
8. Kansas State
9. Baylor | The Bears were terrible up front in 2020 and have lost their best defensive lineman, William Bradley-King, to the NFL. There will be a lot of familiar faces in the trenches for Baylor this fall, the hope is that the production will be much better.
10. Kansas | Any hope the Jayhawks had of not being last left when defensive end Marcus Harris transferred to Auburn.
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