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 linebackers 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 Linebacker Rankings|
|1. Iowa State||40|
|3. Oklahoma State||33|
|4. Texas Tech||24|
|8. West Virginia||11|
|8. Kansas State||11|
Unanimity – We agreed across the board on that Iowa State has the best linebacker unit coming into the season. We also agreed that Texas was in the middle of the pack and that Kansas is at the bottom of the Big 12.
Almost Agreed – We came close with TCU as the #7 spot but we had one defector. The Frogs ended up in the seven spot anyway though.
All Over The Place – This was a pretty crazy vote. We were close on everything here with three teams tying at the #4 spot and two tying at #8. We were all over crazy here here but really not all over the place in terms of where our votes ended up.
Individual Thoughts And Rankings
1. Iowa State | The Cyclones are the obvious choice here with three senior linebackers returning. Leading the way will be Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Mike Rose. The three seniors will be accompanied by a list of guys who could probably start at most other Big 12 schools. Iowa State will be extremely tough on the defensive side of the ball in 2021.
2. Oklahoma | Oklahoma is the only school that will give Iowa State a run for their money at the linebacker position. I’m excited to see what David Ugwoegbu can bring to the table for the Sooners this season. They are also returning their leading tackler in 2020 in Brian Asamoah.
3. Oklahoma State | The Pokes will have a pair of senior linebackers this year in Malcom Rodriguez and Devin Harper. In a year in which Oklahoma State will try to bring their defense back to what it’s been in years past, these two guys will need a big season.
6. Texas Tech
8. Kansas State
9. West Virginia | The Mountaineers will look to replace Tony Fields II who was selected in the fifth round of this year’s NFL draft. Those are big shoes to fill and West Virginia fans better hope Exree Loe can do the job.
10. Kansas | Is anyone really surprised that the Jayhawks are last on this list? They’ve been last on pretty much every list. That’s just what happens when you are coming off of a season with no wins. Kansas is simply short handed on talent at the linebacker position. Pretty much everyone will be running the ball all over the Jayhawks this year.
1. Iowa State – The Cyclones remain in a very fortuitous situation at linebacker. Returning the Defensive Player of the Year in Mike Rose alongside two other senior backers, this group will undoubtedly anchor the defense. With unrivaled experience on the field, it’s hard to imagine a better group out of the gate.
2. Oklahoma – Nik Bonitto certainly made a name for himself as a Sooner. Quite possibly the conference’s best individual linebacker in 2021, there’s plenty to look forward to in Norman. Depth isn’t a concern but experience keeps this group from the top spot.
3. Oklahoma State – Once again, this unit is littered with familiar names including Trace Ford and Malcom Rodriguez. A stellar duo in their own right, these are the building blocks for a stout defense. The group will need to buckle down once again as much of the pressure sits on their shoulders.
4. Texas Tech
7. West Virginia
9. Kansas State – Losing both starters is a tough pill to swallow. However, KSU has provided a burst of energy on defense in a similar situation though. For me, I’ll wait to see it before moving them up the list.
10. Kansas – There are a lot of unknowns in terms of performance here. The group failed to post a win and stopping the run must be a priority. Can KU turn it around and garner some attention this year?
1. Iowa State | The Cyclones are the clear no. 1 here as they return all of their starters from an impressive group a year ago. Reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Mike Rose is back, and after racking up 96 tackles last season, he’s got a good chance to repeat this year.
2. Oklahoma State | Malcolm Rodriguez is one of the better linebackers in the country, and he led the Cowboys with 7.5 tackles per game last year. Devin Harper added 3.4 tackles per game. The two redshirt seniors will be key leaders for the Cowboy defense, and I’m talking more than statistics.
3. Oklahoma | The Sooners had one of their better defenses in a while last season, and the linebacker crew was a big reason. Brian Asamoah tallied 6.0 tackles per game, and Nick Bonnito was 5th in the Big 12 with 8 sacks. Both return in 2021, and they are a big reason that Oklahoma is expected to win yet another Big 12 title.
6. Texas Tech
8. West Virginia
9. Kansas State | The Wildcats are usually strong on the defensive front, but their linebackers are just inexperienced. Cody Fletcher and Daniel Green enter the season with a combined 5 starts, so they will need to get used to the pressure in a hurry if they want to help their team.
10. Kansas | The poor Jayhawks are at the bottom yet again, and if they want to have any chance at actually winning a game this season, then their linebackers are going to have to lead from the front. They’re similar to the Wildcats in terms of inexperience, with only 9 career starts between Nick Channel and Gavin Potter, while Jay Dineen will see his first start this season.
1. Iowa State | The Cyclones have the Big 12’s returning Defensive Player of the Year in Mike Rose. He’ll be joined by fellow seniors O’Rien Vance and Jake Hummel joining him on the second level of the defense.
2. Oklahoma | The Sooners legitimately have seven possibilities at linebacker and each one of them has potential to be a starter. Nik Bonitto has early round NFL Draft potential and David Ugwoegbu is a rising star.
3. Oklahoma State | Defense will lead the way for Mike Gundy in Stillwater this season and the linebacker corps may be the best unit on that side of the ball. Led by Malcolm Rodriguez and Trace Ford, this crew will be more than a handful for opposing offenses this season.
4. Texas Tech
8. Kansas State
9. West Virginia | The Mountaineers have a lot of question marks after the departure of Tony Fields.
10. Kansas | Yeah…Kansas.
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