Dallas Colleges: Lance Dunbar
Here are the rest of the position rankings.
Now that we've finished ranking the complete units, we'll start ranking the top 10 at each position very soon leading into the 2011 season.
This is a decent position for the Big 12 this season, and the top half of the league should feel pretty good about their group. There aren't many studs in this group, but there are a whole lot of solid players.
2. Oklahoma -- Oklahoma's defensive tackles are somewhat suspect, but the defensive end combo of Ronnell Lewis (provided he is eligible come fall camp) and Frank Alexander is on par with the best in the Big 12. Both were preseason All-Big 12 selections, but Jamarkus McFarland needs to make good on his potential. Stacy McGee and Casey Walker should both get time at the other tackle spot.
3. Texas -- Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat is loaded with potential as the nation's former No. 1 recruit. He had a big impact early last season before being slowed by an ankle injury. Alex Okafor moved outside from defensive tackle just before spring and had five sacks in the spring game. Inside, Kheeston Randall is an All-Big 12 favorite, but Ashton Dorsey had a strong spring and could help out with Reggie Wilson opposite Randall.
4. Texas A&M -- The Aggies have one of the best linemen in the league in Tony Jerod-Eddie, but Jonathan Mathis, Eddie Brown Jr. and Ben Bass have a lot to prove around him after the loss of Lucas Patterson, who was outstanding in 2010.
5. Texas Tech -- Sam Fehoko has moved to defensive end from middle linebacker, and should provide some good speed to the front line. Scott Smith looked on his way to an All-Big 12 campaign last season, but was suspended for the remainder of the season by coach Tommy Tuberville and has yet to be officially reinstated. For now, Dartwan Bush and Aundrey Barr will help out at defensive end, outside of Donald Langley, Kerry Hyder and Pearlie Graves. The Red Raiders did snatch a big pickup from departed UNC signee Delvon Simmons, a defensive tackle that could have an impact immediately.
6. Oklahoma State -- Defensive line is the biggest weak spot for the Cowboys, who have a decent set of ends in Jamie Blatnick and former heralded recruit Richetti Jones, but an even bigger question mark at defensive tackle where Christian Littlehead and Nigel Nicholas enter fall camp as starters.
7. Kansas -- Top rusher turned defensive end Toben Opurum came on strong late last season and should be one of the most exciting Jayhawks to watch in 2011, but the rest of the line leaves a bit to be desired. Keba Agostino has the other starting spot at defensive end ahead of Pat Lewandowski, who had a great spring. Patrick Dorsey and John Williams enter fall camp as starters at defensive tackles.
8. Kansas State -- K-State recruited this position hard in its 2011 class. For now, defensive end Brandon Harold will try to bounce back from a disappointing 2010 after a promising 2009. Lance Dunbar and Taylor Martinez think this group is ranked too high, but Meshak Williams could start opposite Harold, while Ray Kibble and Raphael Guidry should be the tackles inside.
9. Baylor -- Tevin Elliott was limited this spring because of offseason shoulder surgery, and Terrance Lloyd exited spring practice as the starter, but I'd expect Elliott to regain the spot by the time the season arrives. Phil Taylor, a first-round pick, is a big loss, but Gary Mason Jr. will try to fill his spot next to Nicolas Jean-Baptiste.
10. Iowa State -- Having a pair of linebackers combine for 241 tackles is a good and bad thing. They've got outstanding linebackers, but the defensive line was the Big 12's worst last season for a unit that ranked 10th in rush defense and had just 11 sacks. That was the fewest sacks in the Big 12 and more than just three teams in all of college football. The good news is all four starters return, but for now, this is where the Cyclones start. Stephen Ruempolhamer has some promise, but Cleyon Laing, Jake McDonough and ends Patrick Neal and Roosevelt Maggitt have a lot to prove. Jacob Lattimer ran into offseason trouble, but re-appeared atop the depth chart released by the Cyclones on Wednesday.
Two TCU running backs made the list: Matthew Tucker and Ed Wesley. SMU's Zach Line and North Texas' Lance Dunbar also represent DFW schools.
Texas A&M's Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael were also tabbed. Nebraska back and Plano product Rex Burkhead also appears.
Last season's recipient, Oregon junior and Texarkana native LaMichael James, returns to the watch list after leading the nation in scoring and rushing in 2010.
Semifinalists will be named Nov. 11, and finalists will be determined Nov. 21. The winner will be announced Dec. 8 on ESPN.
Senior linebacker Craig Robertson, junior running back Lance Dunbar and senior offensive linemen Victor Gill and Esteban Santiago were all voted to the first team by Sun Belt head coaches and media.
Only Sun Belt Conference regular-season champion Florida International had more players named to the first team with six. This is also the most players North Texas has placed on the Sun Belt first team since 2004 when it had seven.
North Texas needs to win at least seven games to save coach Todd Dodge's job.
"All of us that grind here day in and day out, we realize that," Dodge said. "But that’s not our motivating factor, to save each other's jobs. It's just to get us all where we think that we can be. If we do hit on the goals that we've set for ourselves, it would be about the most excited group of players and coaches that anybody's ever hosted at a bowl game."
A glance at the Mean Green:
2009 record: 2-10 (eighth in Sun Belt)
Starters returning: 19
Offensive starters returning: 9
Defensive starters returning: 10
Key offensive returners: RB Lance Dunbar rushed for 1,378 yards and 17 touchdowns despite starting just the last eight games of the season. He averaged 6.9 yards per carry, which ranked second in the nation among backs with at least 200 carries. His 19 total touchdowns ranked seventh in the nation. … RT Esteban Santiago is one of four offensive linemen who have at least two seasons of starting experience. The 6-3, 285-pound Santiago, a second-team All-Sun Belt selection, has 35 career starts. … UNT's top six receivers return, led by Jamaal Jackson (71 catches, 701 yards, six TDs).
Will be missed: Riley Dodge is still on the team, but arm problems prevented him from continuing his career as the Mean Green’s starting quarterback. He'll play receiver and take about 10 to 12 snaps per game as a Wildcat quarterback.
Key defensive returners: LB Craig Robertson led the team with 107 tackles last season. He has eight career interceptions. … Safety DaWaylon Cook ranked second on the team with 85 tackles. He had two fumble recoveries. … CB Royce Hill had three of UNT's seven interceptions last season. … DE Brandon Akpunku bulked up 15 pounds to 240 after leading the Mean Green with 11.5 tackles for losses and six sacks last season.
Will be missed: MLB Tobe Nwigwe’s injury midway through the season was a devastating blow to the defense. He ranked third on the team with 57 tackles as a senior despite playing only six games.
On the rise: Transfers Christopher Bynes (Coffeyville CC) and Tyler Stradford (Oklahoma) step in as starting receivers despite the depth at that position. … Redshirt senior Nathan Tune takes over as the starting quarterback. He completed 69 of 107 passes for 646 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions last season.
Toughest schedule stretch: Sept. 4 at Clemson; Sept. 11 vs. Rice; Sept. 18 at Army.
By the numbers
5: Blown leads in the fourth quarter in 2009
7: Consecutive years in which the Mean Green opened the season with a different starting quarterback
58: Years of playing in Fouts Field, which will be replaced by a new $78 million stadium next season
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