- David Ubben, College Football
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Big 12 defensive linemen, we need to have a talk. This isn't getting it done. This position may be the weakest of any in the league. The top five is solid, though there's a little bit of a dropoff after the top three. Beyond the top five, though? A whole lot of question marks, and not a lot of truly impressive talents.
I had some trouble even finding 10 guys who deserved spots on this list. This could be a banner year for quarterbacks. The only thing shallower than the defensive ends in the league this year is the defensive tackles. Sheesh. Unless we see some stars emerge from nowhere this year, this position's going to look a little raw all season long.
More position rankings:
Anyway, here goes.
One final note: No freshmen or newcomers allowed. Sorry, Brandon Moore.
1. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas: Jeffcoat is a freak and leads this list as the most talented linemen in the league. He's not as experienced as his teammate who also made this list, but the 6-foot-5, 245-pounder could play his way into the top 10 of next year's NFL Draft.
2. Alex Okafor, DE, Texas: Okafor may be a first-rounder, too. He's moved around along the line during his career, but he's found a home at end. He won the league's preseason Defensive Player of the Year honors after making six sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss last season.
3. Stansly Maponga, DE, TCU: Maponga was extremely productive last season, and we'll see how he does against bigger and better offensive lines in the Big 12. He had nine sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss, and forced five fumbles. He's the most talented player on TCU's defense.
4. Meshak Williams, DE, Kansas State: I'm a bigger proponent of Williams than most, but he's yet another fantastic juco find from Bill Snyder. Last year, he made 10 tackles for loss and seven sacks to tie for sixth in the Big 12 and earn second-team All-Big 12 honors.
5. Toben Opurum, DE/LB, Kansas: Opurum's unbelievable story is about to start its final chapter in 2012. He's played under three different coaches and transitioned from KU's leading rusher in 2009 to one of the league's best along the defensive line in 2012. Nobody else on this list has done anything like that, and he'll be a captain in Year 1 under Charlie Weis.
6. Nigel Nicholas, DT/DE, Oklahoma State: Nicholas sounds like he's moving to defensive end this season, but he's played both throughout his career. The 6-foot-3, 269-pounder is needed at end for the Cowboys, and made 10 tackles for loss last season and two sacks.
7. R.J. Washington, DE, Oklahoma: Washington's got the pedigree and the physical skills, but it's time to see the production after a disappointing 2011 season. He broke up five passes and had five sacks last season, but made just 16 tackles as a member of the DE rotation behind stars Ronnell Lewis and Frank Alexander.
8. Ashton Dorsey, DT, Texas: Dorsey has plenty of experience and is pushing 300 pounds in the middle of Texas' line. Jeffcoat and Okafor will attract plenty of double teams, but Dorsey's got the talent to be a wrecking ball in the middle. He had seven tackles for loss and a sack last year.
9. Jamarkus McFarland, DT, Oklahoma: McFarland's been a part-time starter the past two seasons, and could finally break through with a big year as a senior. The 6-foot-3, 288-pounder made 3.5 tackles for loss and had 20 tackles last season.
10. Jake McDonough, DT, Iowa State: McDonough holds down the nose tackle spot for Iowa State, and made 34 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss last season. The 280-pounder needs a big year to help out his talented set of linebackers.