After having two players selected in the first three picks of the NFL Draft last April, one would think the crop of talent at defensive tackle in the Big 12 Conference would have taken a major hit. Think again. As it turns out, the league is loaded with even more stars in the interior defensive line. HI.com breaks down the defensive tackle position in the Big 12 heading into fall camp.
Nebraska may have lost one of the greatest collegiate defensive tackles ever in Ndamukong Suh, but it's replacing him with someone who could just just as good when all is said and done. Following a breakout sophomore season, Jared Crick returns as one of the most dominant defensive players in the Big 12. He'll have to adjust to the extra attention from opposing offensive lines that will come without having Suh next to him, but if he can even come close to replicating his production from last year, the Blackshirts should be just fine in the middle.
2. Adrian Taylor, Oklahoma, 6-4, 303, Sr.
Oklahoma's Adrian Taylor also has some huge shoes to fill this season, as he'll be given the task of replacing Gerald McCoy, the No. 3 pick in the draft after Suh. Taylor has started 27 straight games, but underwent off-season surgery on a dislocated ankle he suffered in OU's Sun Bowl win over Stanford. Assuming he comes back fine in the fall, Taylor should be able to take his game to the next level and help fill the void left behind by McCoy.
3. Colby Whitlock, Texas Tech, 6-2, 287, Sr.
Senior Colby Whitlock returns not only as Texas Tech's best defensive lineman, but also its leading pass rusher from last season. Take it how you will that he only had three sacks in 2009. Either way, Whitlock will anchor a Tech defense that will be looking to make some big strides under new head coach Tommy Tuberville. If the Red Raiders can find some sort of pass rush to go along with Whitlock, he could see boost in his sack total this year.
4. Phil Taylor, Baylor, 6-4, 355, Sr.
After getting as much hype as any Big 12 defensive player coming into last season, Phil Taylor was arguably a fairly large disappointment. With just 2.5 tackles for loss and ½ sack, the Penn State transfer didn't come close to living up to the preseason All-Big 12 honors he earned coming in. Even so, the ceiling is still as high as ever for this guy. With his size and strength, as long as he can put it together mentally there's no reason he can't at least prove to be one of the better defensive linemen in the conference.
5. Kheeston Randall, Texas, 6-5, 295, Jr.
Texas's Kheeston Randall is another guy who will be charged with the task of replacing NFL talent this season, as he takes over for Oakland Raider draftee Lamarr Houston. Randall flashed some of his potential last season, starting 10 games on a defense that was one of the best in the country. His combination of size and quickness should make him more than capable of being the next star defensive tackle for the Longhorns.