While the Big 12 Conference's quarterbacks are getting all the glory this season, it's going to be the defensive tackles that get the glory come NFL Draft day. With at least two projected top-10 draft picks at the position ? some might even argue top 5 ? the Big 12 is as loaded with interior linemen as any position in any conference. Today, Huskeronline.com ranks the Big 12's defensive tackles as we think they stand heading into fall camp.
There might not be a better player in the Big 12 at any position than Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh. With his rare combination of strength, quickness, speed and superb fundamentals, Suh has already been projected as a top-5 draft pick. If he can better or simply maintain his production from last season (team-high 76 tackles, 7.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss), there's no reason he won't be one of the first players off the board come April. In the meantime, the Huskers will once again have the luxury of boasting one of the top defensive players in all of college football.
2. Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma, 6-4, 295, Jr.
If Suh is the No. 1 defensive tackle in the conference, Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy is as close of a second as you could get. In fact, you could almost say he's co-No. 1. Like Suh, McCoy's quickness and speed off the line of scrimmage makes him a tremendous pass rusher (30 tackles, 6.5 sacks last year) who can single-handedly control a game when he's on. Also like Suh, don't be surprised to see McCoy's name come off the board within the first few picks of the NFL Draft.
3. Colby Whitlock, Texas Tech, 6-2, 281, Jr.
He may not get the same publicity Suh and McCoy have received recently, but that doesn't mean Texas Tech's Colby Whitlock is one of the most important fixtures on the Red Raiders' much improved defense. Though he's generally matched up against two blockers with Tech's 3-4 scheme, Whitlock's great strength and footwork allowed him to rack up 39 tackles and 5.5 tackles in spite of it. Here's a fun fact: He's the only Big 12 nose tackle with a jersey number in the single digits (6)
4. Lamarr Houston, Texas, 6-2, 279, Sr.
Texas's Lamarr Houston is another guy who doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves, mostly because he's had some injury issues that have held him back. If he can find a way to stay healthy for an entire season, though, watch out. While battling through a foot injury all of last season, Houston will managed 22 tackles and seven tackles for loss for the Longhorns. Last year was also his first season as a full-time defensive tackle, as he moved inside from end last offseason.
5. Phil Taylor, Baylor, 6-4, 355, Jr.
Baylor's Phil Taylor just might be the best kept secret in the Big 12 Conference. A transfer from Penn State, Taylor sat out last season and now joins a Baylor defense that's getting better and better under head coach Art Briles. At 355 pounds, Taylor is a load in the middle of the Bears d-line and has the ability to draw two or even three blockers to help free up his teammates. Though he hasn't even played a single down in Baylor uniform, Taylor has already locked up a starting spot and has some folks down in Waco projecting him as an All-America candidate and a potential first-round draft pick.