It’s time, once again, to work our way through the summer with our Big 12 position rankings. With these posts we give our opinions on each of the offensive and defensive position groups and rank them from first to worst. We only defend our top three and bottom two in the rankings and while we’re sure to say something that’s out of this world crazy it’s also a great way to get football conversations going. So, enjoy and make sure to sound off with your opinions in the comments section below.
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 14 points, second place is 13 points, and they continue in descending order with tenth place equaling 1 point.
Heartland Sports Consensus Linebacker Rankings
|3. Oklahoman State||35|
|5. Kansas State||28|
|10. Iowa State||15|
|12. Texas Tech||10|
|14. West Virginia||7|
Unanimity – The Big 12 has expanded to 14 teams but we couldn’t agree across the board on any of them.
Almost Agreed – We were really close on our top five with each of them receiving two, out of three, similar votes. We were pretty close with Iowa State and West Virginia.
All Over The Place – Once again, we didn’t really know what to do with Houston. We have the Cougars at last, next to last, and then at number eight.
Individual Thoughts And Rankings
1. TCU | Johnny Hodges and Jamoi Hodge will both return for the Horned Frogs this season. Both recorded 45 solo tackles in 2022, and will look to bump those numbers up a bit in 2023. There’s no doubt that TCU might have one of more dangerous linebacker duos in the country.
2. Texas | The Longhorns are losing a lot in DeMarvion Overshown, but they’ll be just fine with Jaylan Ford still on their hands. David Gbenda is entering his third year in the program and should have a big impact as well.
3. Oklahoma State | Collin Oliver was named to the 2023 Big 12 pre-season All American team after a great first two years in Stillwater. He started in five games last year and recorded 28 tackles. He also led the Pokes in sacks and had 12 quarterback hurries in his sophomore season. Oklahoma State will also have Xavier Benson who finished as OSU’s third leading tackler a year ago with 76.
5. Kansas State
8. Texas Tech
11. Iowa State
13. Houston | Houston finished 8th last year in total defense in the American conference. A large part of that is due to their performance at the linebacker position. They’re best returning linebackers in Cheeks and Robinson only combined for 24 tackles last year.
14. West Virginia | Let’s face it, the Mountaineers got torn up in the middle of the field last season. They finished dead last in total defense in the Big 12. If there’s any glimmer of hope for WVU it will come from Lee Kpogba who is coming off of a solid season with 44 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
1. TCU | The Horned Frogs may not tout a big name like some other schools in the conference, but they definitely have balance and depth like no other. Johnny Hodges and Jamoi Hodge combined for 169 tackles, and Namdi Obiazor added 49 of his own. Those three alone have a ton of experience, but Shadrach Banks brings some experience off the bench, and Marcel Brooks should be of some help as well.
2. Texas | Jaylan Ford might be the best linebacker in the conference, and that alone puts Texas near the top of these rankings. Ford racked up 119 tackles, 4 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries last season. Alongside Ford is David Gbenda, a fifth year player who has appeared in 32 games over the last few years. Also, incoming freshman Anthony Hill Jr. is arguably the best linebacker recruit in the nation, so the Longhorn linebacker crew has a lot of potential to do some damage.
3. Oklahoma | If Jaylan Ford isn’t considered the top linebacker in the Big 12, it’s because of Danny Stutsman. Stutsman had an incredible 125 tackles last season to go along with 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles, and he’s looking more and more like an NFL prospect. He will be the heart and soul of this Sooner defense, and with transfer Dasan McCullough coming in from Indiana, Stutsman is going to have some help. Don’t forget about Jaren Kanak. After playing in a reserve role last season, he’s ready to make an impact as just a sophomore.
4. Oklahoma State
7. Kansas State
11. Iowa State
12. West Virginia
13. Kansas | The Jayhawks return plenty of experience at linebacker, but they still have work to do to become an impactful player group on the defensive side of the ball.
14. Texas Tech | The Red Raiders have never really been known as a defensive team, and as is typically the case, they just don’t have a big name linebacker. While they do have a little bit of experience in their linebacker crew, I just don’t see them doing much to make a name for themselves.
1. Texas | Jaylan Ford is going to be pushing for back-to-back All-American seasons after being a selection in 2022. The Longhorns have the best linebacking corps in the conference but just how good they’re going to be depends heavily on the development of freshman Anthony Hill.
2. TCU | Texas may have the best linebacker in the Big 12 but it looks like TCU is going to have the best linebacker duo in the conference with Johnny Hodges and Jamoi Hodge.
3. Oklahoma State | I believe strongly in this group. For everything that is said about Jaylon Ford, you could also apply that to Collin Oliver. Xavier Benson is going to push for All-Conference status and adding Justin Wright from Tulsa may be the best portal pickups the Cowboys scored during the offseason.
5. Kansas State
8. Iowa State
11. Central Florida
12. West Virginia
13. Texas Tech | The good news for the Red Raiders is that their defensive line is going to be pretty strong. The next level, though, is very uncertain. Jesiah Pierre showed flashes in 2022 and San Diego State transfer CJ Bakersfield could prove to be a solid addition.
14. Houston | The Cougars have depth with Jamal Morris and Trimarcus Cheeks but replacing star linebacker Donavan Mutin (Indianapolis Colts) is going to be a huge challenge.
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