Baylor, OU, UT top Big 12 teams in returning tackles

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The twitching you may see the next couple of weeks from the most devoted college football fans might be attributable to Phil Steele's soon-to-be-available preseason football guide. Look for the indispensable annual compendium of all things about college football at newsstands early next month.

Until then, Steele keeps packing his blog with interesting tidbits. Earlier this week, he ascertained the percent of tackles that will be returning for each defense across the country.

Defending national champion Florida ranks No. 1 nationally with an incredible 98.9 percent of its total tackles back from last season's defense. That statistic doesn't sound promising for the other 119 schools hoping to unseat the Gators from their national title perch.

Here's a look at how the Big 12 ranked:

  • Baylor 80.8 percent (ninth nationally)

  • Oklahoma 79.8 percent (15th nationally)

  • Texas 75.6 percent (24th nationally)

  • Kansas State 70.4 percent (35th nationally)

  • Iowa State 69.6 percent (42nd nationally)

  • Texas Tech 68.9 percent (47th nationally)

  • Oklahoma State 68.1 percent (52nd nationally)

  • Nebraska 61.5 percent (75th nationally)

  • Kansas 60.4 percent (81st nationally)

  • Colorado 58.2 percent (87th nationally)

  • Texas A&M 58.0 percent (89th nationally)

  • Missouri 56.5 percent (95th nationally)

Baylor ranks ninth nationally and third among schools in FBS-affiliated conferences behind only Florida and Alabama in the percent of returning tackles.

That Baylor group struggled last season, ranking 85th in total defense, 84th in sacks, 87th in scoring defense, 90th in pass efficiency defense, 103rd in pass defense and 109th in tackles for losses.

But Brian Norwood's unit also ranked fourth nationally in turnover margin and will add massive transfer tackle Phil Taylor to the lineup along with another year of playing together. So it will be interesting to see how much that experience will enable the group to improve those numbers -- particularly against the potent offenses in the Big 12 South.

Next are Oklahoma and Texas, which both return a lot of experience but also many stellar players. Oklahoma's front seven is arguably the best in the country. Texas' secondary is in the same category. It's one of the major reasons I elevate both teams above the rest of the Big 12.

I also think it's interesting that the four so-called power teams in the North -- Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and two-time consecutive title-game participant Missouri -- all rank no better than 75th nationally and among the bottom five teams in the conference in returning tackles.

Will that cause the division of powers between the North and South to expand?

We'll see as the season plays out.