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The Big 12's sack masters in 2013

5/28/2013

Double digits are something of a benchmark for pass-rushers, but we won't limit this list just to players who will be hitting double digits.

We talked top rushers, passers, receivers and tacklers this month, and I'll take a look at the guys fighting to get into the offensive backfield today. Here are my picks for the five best pass-rushers in the Big 12 for 2013:

1. Devonte Fields, TCU: Fields isn't short on question marks. His two-game suspension to start the season might cost TCU a huge win against LSU and isn't becoming of a future team leader. He also had just 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks in his final six games after a huge start to last season. At this time, though, I'd like to remind everyone that Fields has been on TCU's campus and part of the team for less than a year. He's way ahead of everybody else in his class, and even if he's still got some things to prove over the rest of his career, you can't argue with production. He's No. 1.

2. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas: Jeffcoat doesn't have the hardware of the man directly above him on this list, but for me, Jeffcoat is a more gifted pass-rusher who has been hampered by injuries. He definitely has a chance to be better than Fields this season. Jeffcoat can't seem to stay healthy for an entire season, but if he finally does, he's going to make a huge impact for the Longhorns and be on the short list for the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year.

3. Kerry Hyder, Texas Tech: Hyder came out of nowhere last season after an average 2011 to be one of the Big 12's best pass-rushers. He earned a bit of starting experience in 2010, and he's ready for what could be a huge season as a third-year starter and senior in 2013. The 6-foot-2, 281-pounder had 5.5 sacks last season and was fifth in the league with 14 tackles for loss. He'll be a lynchpin of a new defense in a new era of Texas Tech football.

4. Dartwan Bush, Texas Tech: Bush isn't far behind as Hyder's partner in crime. The 6-foot-1, 256-pound defensive end equaled Hyder's sack total last season with 5.5. He also added 12 tackles for loss. He had multiple tackles for loss in three games, and a tackle for loss in seven consecutive games. Bush helps Tech boast one of the Big 12's best overall defensive lines after the Red Raiders struggled along the defensive front for much of the past few seasons.

5. Chris McAllister, Baylor: McAllister is an underrated player in the league with almost no name recognition, but he's coming off a great first year as a starter in 2012, when he had six sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, six pass-breakups and two forced fumbles. His six sacks are second-most among returning Big 12 players, behind only Fields. He has a ton of quickness at 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, and has crazy-good instincts for getting his hands up and batting down passes.

6. Tyler Johnson, Oklahoma State: I'm taking a bit of a flyer here on Johnson, but I love his athleticism, instincts and nose for the ball. He was a one-man wrecking crew in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and he might be the best first-year starting defender in the Big 12 this season. Like former Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden, Johnson, now 27, played baseball after high school. The 6-foot-1, 245-pound defensive end didn't have a start in 2012, but had two sacks and two forced fumbles in the bowl game, finishing with six tackles for loss and an interception.