Today, we continue on with the Big 12 defenses. Enjoy.
Big 12 Team Defensive Rankings:
1. Kansas(Starters returning: 9)
The Jayhawks are returning three starters on the defensive line and everyone at linebacker. They also have three returning starters in the secondary, though the free safety spot will likely see Justin Thornton as starter. This unit led the Big 12 in total defense a year ago, and they're led by middle linebacker Joe Mortensen. Russell Borsen and John Larson form a solid duo at both defensive end spots.
2. Oklahoma(Starters returning: 6)
With middle linebacker Curtis Lofton gone, Ryan Reynolds will have to stay healthy in replacing him. Gerald McCoy, DeMarcus Granger, Auston English, and Jeremy Beal form what could be the nation's best defensive line. Both Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes return at the safety spots, but inexperience could be an issue at the outside linebacker and cornerback spots.
3. Missouri(Starters returning: 9)
Three starters are back on the defensive line and three return in the secondary. All-American William Moore is coming into the season off surgery, but should be ready for the opener at free safety. Brock Christopher returns to man the middle linebacker spot as does leading tackler Sean Weatherspoon at the weakside linebacker spot. They should improve on the 96th ranked pass defense from a year ago.
4. Texas Tech(Starters returning: 8)
The defensive line returns all starters, and Rajon Henley and Colby Whitlock are tough to block in the middle. Linebackers Brian Duncan and Marlon Williams are back as is free safety Darcel McBath, who has plenty of game experience. Jamar Wall, who led the Red Raiders in intereptions last year, is back at cornerback. This was the best defense in the Big 12 the last eight games of 2007.
5. Texas(Starters returning: 5)
The Longhorns come back with three starters on the defensive line, and Roy Miller has a chance to breakout at defensive tackle. Rashad Bobino returns at middle linebacker as does cornerback Ryan Palmer, but both safety spots will have new starters. The team needs to get a better pass rush and consistent play out of the back seven to help hide weaknesses from a defense that ranked 109th against the pass last season.
6. Kansas State(Starters returning: 6)
Ian Campbell is moving from linebacker to defensive end in the 3-4 scheme, and no one else has experience on the defensive line. If Antwon Moore, who missed all of last season, comes back strong this defense should improve. The secondary has experience and are led by safeties Gary Chandler and Chris Carney. They don't get many favors having to play Louisville, Texas A&M, Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri on the road as well as Oklahoma at home.
7. Colorado(Starters returning: 8)
The defensive line is strong and returns three starters led by tackle George Hypolite. Jordon Dizon, and All-American linebacker in 2007, is gone but there is depth to replace him with players on the current roster seeing time last season. The biggest concern is the secondary where free safety Ryan Walters is their best player, but the pass-happy Big 12 might be too much for this inexperienced unit in 2008.
8. Nebraska(Starters returning: 6)
This was one of the worst defensive units in the country last year ranking 112th in total yards per game. They do return the entire defensive line, but no experienced linebackers behind them. Ndamukong Suh is expected to stuff the run at nosetackle. Safety Larry Asante and cornerback Armando Murillo are the only returning starters, so the front seven will have to play better to help them.
9. Iowa State(Starters returning: 7)
The secondary returns all four starters, while the front seven has only three returning starters. Both defensive ends, Kurtis Taylor and Rashawn Parker, are back, but defensive tackle will be a problem. Linebacker Jesse Smith is the Cyclones best player, and he's expected to be even better in 2008. Free safety James Smith was the team's leading tackler last year.
10. Texas A&M(Starters returning: 4)
The only returning starter in the front seven is defensive end Cyril Obiozor, likely the team's best defensive player. Von Miller and Jonathan Hayes are athletic linebackers, but the experience is lacking from the group. The secondary should be good with Alton Dixon and Devin Gregg leading the way at the safety spots. The defense will be faster, but they could be a year away from being an effective group.
11. Baylor(Starters returning: 6)
The defensive line shows promise and end Jason Lamb returns to give the team a much needed pass-rush. Linebacker Joe Pawelek returns to lead a good linebacking corps after he led the team in tackles a season ago. Dwain Crawford moves to cornerback from safety and Krys Buerck is a converted wide receiver now playing corner. The Bears have an ultra tough non-conference and conference schedule.
12. Oklahoma State(Starters returning: 6)
The 101st ranked defense a year ago only sees one starter along the defensive line returning. Andre Sexton is moving from safety to linebacker while corner Jacob Lacey is the best player returning in the secondary. The team expects JC transfers, defensive tackle Swanson Miller and safety Lucien Antoine, to help improve the defense, but it's asking alot to vastly improve much after last year.
Stud defenses: Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas Tech
Rising defense: Kansas State
Falling defense: Texas A&M
Overall analysis: This is a pass-happy conference, so teams won't likely be shutting each other down that much. Kansas, Missouri, and Texas Tech have enough experience coming back to handle passing teams while Oklahoma will likely drop off a little, but they have too much talent and favorable schedule to drop off a lot. Kansas State should improve, but it likely won't show with the schedule they see. If Texas doesn't improve against the pass, they'll have trouble stopping anyone in this conference. Other teams like Nebraska, Baylor, and Oklahoma State were lit up too much last year while Colorado has too many holes in the secondary. Outside of the first four team units, it's probably best to avoid the others until proven otherwise.
Today, we continue on with the Big 12 defenses. Enjoy.