- David Ubben, College Football
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The defensive side of the ball is infinitely more difficult to predict. Injuries come into play and schemes shift. Offenses play away from certain defenders. Still, some keep racking up stops.
Nine players in the Big 12 had 100 tackles last season. Here are my picks to do it in the Big 12 this year:
1. Bryce Hager, LB, Baylor: Baylor's defense should be improved this year, and the Bears shouldn't have three 100-tackle guys. With a stronger defensive line and good play at linebacker, both of the Bears' 100-tackle guys will be at the second level of the defense. No safeties needed this year.
2. Ben Heeney, LB, Kansas: KU coach Charlie Weis says Heeney shouldn't need to make 112 tackles anymore or something's wrong. The Jayhawks should be a whole lot better on the defensive line this year, but Heeney's got tons of speed and great instinct. He'll be all over the field once again.
3. Eddie Lackey, LB, Baylor: Lackey doesn't have Hager's speed, but he developed a weird nose for the ball last season, and the Bears still need playmakers at the second level of the defense. That's where Lackey will step in. He had 104 stops last year, but with Ahmad Dixon moving to traditional safety, he should be in position to make a few more.
4. Jeremiah George, LB, Iowa State: A.J. Klein and Jake Knott were amazing players for the last three years, and George has gotten some time behind them. He stepped up for Knott last season and finished the year with 87 tackles. He'll hit triple digits this year with a greater responsibility in ISU's defense as a senior in 2013.
5. Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas: Hicks' 2012 was marred by a hip injury that basically erased his season. Texas' defense struggled, and Hicks' absence was a huge reason why. He'll be back this season and the 6-foot-2, 235-pounder should be a big fix for the Longhorns defense. Look for him to rack up stops.
6. Corey Nelson, LB, Oklahoma: Nelson has never had more than 58 tackles in a season, but the Sooners saw how poorly having no linebackers on the field worked last year. I wouldn't expect them to do that nearly as often, and Nelson's by far the most talented player in the Sooners' front seven. He'll have opportunities for a big season.
7. Isaiah Bruce, LB, West Virginia: Bruce has tons of speed at 6-foot-1 and 231 pounds and had a huge breakout with 16 tackles in the Mountaineers' season opener. His production slowed over the rest of the season once Big 12 play hit, but as a sophomore, he'll top his 90 tackles from 2012.
We looked at the offensive side of the ball last week, tagging my picks as the Big 12's 1,000-yard receivers, 1,000-yard rushers and 3,000-yard passers.