Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Who has the Big 12's best defense?
By David Ubben
West Virginia ran away with our poll on the Big 12's best offense, but what about the other side of the ball?
Who will have the Big 12's best defense? Let's look at the real candidates.
The Longhorns have led the Big 12 in total defense in each of the past four seasons, and coordinator Manny Diaz has a great unit coming back in 2012. Linebackers Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho are gone, but cornerbacks Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs might be the best and second-best in the entire Big 12. Pass-rushers Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat provide a unit well-equipped to slow the league's best offenses.
Bill Snyder's unit has lots of raw talent and brings back seven starters from a defense that ranked fifth in the Big 12 last season. Linebacker Arthur Brown holds it all together in the middle, but cornerback Nigel Malone could emerge as the Big 12's best by season's end. Fellow defensive back Ty Zimmerman and linebacker Tre Walker are both very underrated.
TCU had a rough 2011 season, and lost former All-American Tanner Brock before the season when he was arrested in a campus drug sting. The Horned Frogs have a tried and true defensive system, though, and safeties coach Chad Glasgow returns after a season at Texas Tech. Under coach Gary Patterson, the Horned Frogs led the nation in total defense in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
The Cowboys came under fire last year under the national microscope, but OSU still forced 44 turnovers in 13 games, six more than any team in all of college football. Eight starters return, including an outstanding cornerback duo in Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown. Linebacker Shaun Lewis could be due for a breakout season, too. There are some questions on the defensive line, but Alex Elkins and Caleb Lavey fill out a strong set of linebackers.
The Sooners' back line caught a lot of criticism last season, but Mike Stoops is back, 11 years after helping carry Oklahoma to its seventh national title, pitching a shutout of Florida State in the 2001 Orange Bowl. He'll help revitalize the secondary in Norman, and has plenty of talent at his disposal to do so, highlighted by Tony Jefferson, who looks like he's found a home at the traditional safety spot after spending two seasons as nickelback. Corey Nelson and Tom Wort give the Sooners one of the best sets of linebackers in the league.
So, who are you taking?