Big 12: James McFarland

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: DL

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
3:00
PM ET
As we wait for the start of spring ball, we’re examining and ranking the positional situations of every team in the Big 12, continuing Monday with defensive line. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see the defensive lines at the moment:

[+] EnlargeAmari Cooper
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesOklahoma end Charles Tapper will lead the Big 12's best defensive line in 2014.
1. Oklahoma: D-line began as a weakness but quickly turned into a strength under first-year position coach Jerry Montgomery. End Charles Tapper was an All-Big 12 selection as a sophomore, and tackle Jordan Phillips was on his way to earning similar honors before a back injury ended his season prematurely. Both players are back. So is Geneo Grissom, who had three sacks in the bowl win over Alabama. Nose guard Jordan Wade earned a starting role late in 2013, and Chuka Ndulue will be a starter for a third season. Basically, the entire rotation returns. If Phillips rebounds from the injury, this could prove to be Oklahoma’s finest D-line since 2009, when NFL All-Pro Gerald McCoy roamed the middle.

2. TCU: DE Devonte Fields, the Associated Press’ Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman in 2012, had an empty season in 2013 thanks to a suspension, then a season-ending foot injury. If Fields can return to the player he was, TCU will be formidable up front. Chucky Hunter was a second-team All-Big 12 pick inside last season, and he’ll be flanked by an array of experienced tackles in Davion Pierson and Tevin Lawson, who were all part of the rotation last season. Ends Terrell Lathan, James McFarland and Mike Tuaua, who combined for 11 sacks in 2013, all return as well. Even with DT Jon Lewis giving up football, TCU's D-line figures to be as deep as any in the league.

3. Texas: Cedric Reed, one of the best sack men in the Big 12 last season, returns after giving the NFL a cursory thought. The Longhorns have to replace Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year Jackson Jeffcoat on the other side, but ESPN 300 recruit Derick Roberson, the No. 8 DE in the Class of 2014, could help right away. The Longhorns should also be stout inside, with run-stuffing tackles Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson back to clog the middle.

4. Kansas State: Ryan Mueller, who was eighth nationally with 11.5 sacks last season, comes back after a breakout All-Big 12 season. Travis Britz is an all-conference-caliber tackle and gives K-State one of the better one-two punches on the D-line in the league. Joining them will be Terrell Clinkscales, who was the No. 4 junior college DT in the 2014 class. The Wildcats pried Clinkscales away from Nebraska, and at 315 pounds he could be the perfect complement to Britz, who relies more on quickness.

[+] EnlargeShawn Oakman
John Rivera/Icon SMIBaylor defensive end Shawn Oakman will play a bigger role next season.
5. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys lose two-time All-Big 12 tackle Calvin Barnett. James Castleman, however, will be a three-year starter, and end Jimmy Bean had a career night in the Cotton Bowl with three tackles for loss. The key to the Cowboys fielding one of the better lines in the league again will be whether Ben Hughes, Vincent Taylor and/or Vili Leveni can emerge inside after redshirting in 2013. All three are promising prospects, especially Taylor, who was an ESPN 300 recruit in the 2013 class.

6. Baylor: The Bears feature two of the more intriguing defensive linemen in the league. DE Shawn Oakman, a former Penn State transfer with tremendous length at 6-foot-9, finished sixth in the league with 12.5 tackles for loss last season, but he tailed off in Big 12 play. Baylor will ask him to play a much bigger role along the line, and he has the potential to give the Bears a unique playmaker there. On the inside, Baylor will lean more on Andrew Billings, who was part of the DT rotation as a freshman. If both Billings and Oakman play up to their vast potential, Baylor could be a handful up front.

7. West Virginia: The Mountaineers lose two of three starters along the D-line, including second-team All-Big 12 end Will Clarke. West Virginia is hoping for big things from DE Kyle Rose, who played a lot as a sophomore. Dontrill Hyman will likely fill a starting role on the other side, though he could get pushed for time by Eric Kinsey and Noble Nwachukwu, who both will be in their third year in the program. The Mountaineers will lean on Christian Brown and Darrien Howard at nose guard. Howard was an ESPN 300 recruit last year and played as a freshman. There’s some talent and potential here.

8. Iowa State: Like Texas Tech, Iowa State loaded up on immediate defensive line help, signing three juco defensive ends in Dalyou Pierson, Terry Ayeni and Gabe Luna, who is enrolled already for spring ball. Those three together with All-Big 12 honorable-mention selection Cory Morrissey and sophomore Mitchell Meyers should give Iowa State a solid rotation at end. Rodney Coe, who started the last four games, will anchor the Cyclones inside.

9. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders lose their two best defensive linemen in Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush, and Tech got pushed around up front anyway last season. Coach Kliff Kingsbury recognized this deficiency and signed four juco defensive linemen, all of whom have a chance to play immediately. Of the returning linemen, Branden Jackson was by far the most productive, totaling nine tackles for loss and four sacks as a starter.

10. Kansas: Despite also losing two starters, the Jayhawks have experience up front. Defensive captain Keon Stowers is back after manning the middle in 2013. Ben Goodman returns as well in Kansas’ “buck” role, and he is coming off a very solid sophomore season. Goodman’s backup, Michael Reynolds, and rotation players Tedarian Johnson and Ty McKinney give the Jayhawks depth.
We looked at the biggest needs for each team in the Big 12 last week. Now it's time to see who filled them.

BAYLOR

Baylor needed a quarterback and defensive tackle, and delivered in both positions. Javonte Magee is on the way as the nation's No. 20 tackle, and the Bears grabbed former Kansas commit Seth Russell, the nation's No. 47 quarterback, from outside Dallas. The Bears also added the No. 78 defensive tackle, Zorrell Ezell, and Joey Sercy from junior college.

IOWA STATE

The Cyclones needed receivers and got them. Two of the team's top four signees are receivers, P.J. Harris and Quan West. The duo was just outside the top 100 nationally at the position and came from Florida and Texas, respectively.

KANSAS

The raw rankings won't tell you the strength of Kansas' recruiting class. Quarterback has been a huge weakness the past two years, and passers Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps arrive as transfers from Notre Dame and BYU, respectively. It also fulfilled a need by adding Tyler Holmes, the nation's No. 105 tackle.

KANSAS STATE

The biggest need filled for K-State is simple: defensive line. Two of the team's top signees (Travis Britz, Demonte Hood) are along the line, and the team added two more signees (Chaquil Reed, Wesley Hollingshed) from the juco ranks.

OKLAHOMA

The Sooners clearly filled their biggest need. The team's top three recruits (Trey Metoyer, Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal) are all receivers, which is huge for a team that found out it wasn't very strong at the position after Ryan Broyles' injury. It also added the nation's No. 19 receiver, Derrick Woods, to the class.

OKLAHOMA STATE

The Cowboys added a whole lot of volume at receiver. Time will tell how much noise it makes. OSU added six receivers in this class, but none ranked in the top 85 at their position. The team's top recruit, Dominic Ramacher, is the nation' No. 3 tight end and will surely be able to catch a few passes.

TEXAS

The Longhorns lost two starters at linebacker, and filled the void extremely well. The nation's No. 1 inside linebacker, Dalton Santos, is coming. As is Peter Jinkens, the nation's No. 5 outside linebacker, and the No. 12 outside linebacker, Torshiro Davis. It also added Tim Cole, the No. 27 outside linebacker and Alex De La Torre, the No. 11 inside linebacker.

TCU

The Horned Frogs' top two commits in their top-25 class are both on the defensive line, filling a big need. That includes Devonte Fields, an ESPNU 150 signee and the No. 11 defensive end. Joey Hunt is the nation's No. 18 defensive tackle. Both hail from Texas. The Horned Frogs also added James McFarland and Terell Lathan, two defensive ends in the top 85 at the position.

TEXAS TECH

The Red Raiders got big-time reinforcements at receiver, adding two of the nation's top 15 at the position. Dominique Wheeler and Reginald Davis are two of Tech's three ESPNU 150 signees in the top-20 class.

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