Spring football is over and the start of the 2021 season is less than 100 days away. So, it’s a great time to start breaking down what rosters are going look like come this Fall and decide how each one stacks up.
After reviewing each Big 12 team’s defensive line groups, here’s how I am ranking them for the 2021 season.
Having arguably two of the best defensive linemen in the country in Perrion Winfrey and edge Nick Bonitto puts OU at the top. Honestly, they’re one of the best defensive lines in the country this season.
In Winfrey and Isaiah Thomas, OU returns two second-team all-Big 12 defensive linemen from 2020. Oh, and Pro Football Focus ranks Bonitto as the best returning lineman in college football. Throw in Marcus Stripling on the edge and Jalen Redmon — who led the team in sacks in 2019 but opted out of the 2020 season — and you get why this group is No. 1.
2. Oklahoma State
The Cowboys essentially bring back everyone from their 2020 defensive line unit except for Cameron Murray. That includes Brock Martin, Tyler Lacy, Trace Ford, and Israel Antwine, and they add transfer Collin Clay who missed last season with an injury.
The Cowboys also get back Jayden Jernnigan — he sat out the 2020 season — who had 13 total tackles with two sacks and four tackles for loss as a true freshman in 2019.
3. Iowa State
Despite losing JaQuan Bailey to the NFL draft , as well as Latrell Bankston and Joshua Bailey to the transfer portal, this is still a strong unit. Will McDonald had a fantastic 2020 season despite not starting a single game, and was named a first team defensive lineman. He was second in the Big 12 in sacks and 8th in TFLs.
The Cyclones also return multi-year starter Eyioma Uwazurike who was All Big 12 honorable mention in 2020. That said, nose tackle is a bit of a question mark, but Iowa State has some really good options.
The Horned Frogs return two talented ends: second team All Big 12 lineman Ochaun Mathis — who led the Big 12 in sacks in 2020 — and Khari Coleman who was co-defensive freshman of the year and finished second in the Big 12 in TFLs.
The tackles were the issue in 2020. Can Terrell Cooper bounce back from a poor 2020? He’s expected to. TCU also gets Corey Bethley back. He only played four games in 2020 do to injury and the defensive line was better with him in the line-up.
5. West Virginia
Darius Still may now be a Las Vegas Raider, but Dante Stills and Big 12 2nd-teamer Akheem Mesidor are Mountaineers again this season. Mesidor was 9th in the Big 12 in sacks in 2020 as a freshman, and takes Dante’s starting spot. West Virginia also returns Jeffery Pooler who has started 17 games and was an honorable mention All Big 12 player last season.
This is a talented but young group. That said, if there is one team whos defensive line I think has the best chance to really rise up these rankings by season’s end, it’s the Longhorns.
Texas returns All Big 12 honorable mention Keondre Coburn, who has started 22 games at nose tackle, racking up 25 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss and a sack last season. Sophomore Alfred Collins and RS Junior Moro Ojomo are two guys who I expect to make a name for themselves this season.
The Bears lost their best pass rusher from 2020 in William Bradley-King to the NFL draft, but add former LSU interior lineman Siaki “Apu” Ika which should provide some major help.
Baylor is the perfect example of returning experience, not necessarily equaling a good thing. They weren’t great in 2020. Can they make up ground? COVID did more to Baylor than any other Big 12 school which certainly didn’t help them in year one of a new head coach and defensive scheme. This unit has a lot of ground to make up.
8. Texas Tech
Texas Tech brings back all but Eli Howard. Tony Bradford, an All Big 12 honorable mention, moves to nose guard which is a better spot for him.
Last season, Texas Tech had just 17 sacks, the second fewest in the Big 12. They pressured quarterbacks on 27-percent of dropbacks, which ranked seventh in the league, according to TruMedia.
All that said, I’m intrigued by Tyree Wilson. He transferred from Auburn last August and due to COVID, didn’t really have the time to adjust to everything. Now with a full offseason, how good can he be?
9. Kansas State
The Wildcats lost Wyatt Hubert and Drew Wiley, two incredibly product linemen who made a huge impact in 2020 and won’t be easy to replace.
They do bring back Bronson Massie (25th in Big 12 in sacks), starting defensive end Khalid Duke who had 3 TFLs and 5 QB hurries, and add Transfer defensive tackle Timmy Horne from Charlotte.
I actually had Kansas and Kansas State flipped when we recorded the podcast. Then, defensive end Marcus Harris — who led the team in TFLs last season — transferred to Auburn.
Kansas should be pretty good at nose tackle thanks to returning RS So Da’Jon Terry and super senior Sam Burt.
Feel free to check out the Defensive Line Rankings episode of the Ten12 Podcast and get the rankings from Adam Lunt of the Tape Doesn’t Lie Podcast and Joe Broback of Sixth Year Sports.