No. 1: K-State DE Ryan Mueller
Mueller is the reigning Big 12 defensive lineman of the year and had 11.5 sacks in his junior season. He is an elite pass rusher, as well as stout against the run. He registered 62 total tackles with 18.5 tackles for a loss. Mueller’s motor is what makes him stand out. He is a smart player who is good at getting leverage. He may not have the elite physical tools of linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, but Mueller’s mental skills and effort makes him effective.
No. 2: Oklahoma LB Eric Striker
Striker ended his 2013 campaign with his national coming out party – a three sack game in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama. He has arguably the highest ceiling of any Big 12 defensive player. Striker was scouted as both a safety and a linebacker out of high school, which helps with his ability to get off a block as he rushes the quarterback. Striker is also effective against the run, although it is not his greatest strength. His speed is his most powerful weapon.
No. 3: Texas DE Cedric Reed
Reed is the perfect image of a defensive end. He stands at 6-feet-6-inches and weighs in at 258 pounds. His size can dominate opposing linemen and it shows in the stat column. Last year, he accumulated 10 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss. He gets to the quarterback and disrupts plays in the backfield, but Reed has not learned how to fully use his tools yet. He does not have great moves at the line of scrimmage. When he learns the technical part of being a pass rusher, he could be unstoppable. He has the size and tenacity to become a force later in his career.
No. 4: Kansas LB Ben Heeney
Do not judge a player by a team’s overall record. Heeney is a force to be reckoned with for the Jayhawks. He had 88 tackles in 10 games last season, along with 11.5 tackles for a loss. He doesn’t get to the quarterback very often, but he is great against the run. Like Mueller, Heeney doesn’t have elite size or speed. His instincts make him fly to the ball and rack up tackles.
No. 5: TCU S Sam Carter
Carter is the best defensive back in the Big 12. He has 13 pass break ups in his career to pair with his nine interceptions. His stats aren’t flashy, but he does a good job of patrolling the deep part of the field. He is always able to get into the backfield when his number is called for a blitz. He had four sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss through his junior year. His defensive success is a result of his great physical assets and ability to read plays quickly. There’s nothing incredibly special about him, but he has no glaring weaknesses.