No. 1: Texas DT Malcom Brown (Last week: unranked)
Brown leads the Big 12 with 3.5 sacks through three weeks of play. He has also racked up seven tackles for loss. He has been an absolutely disruptive force.
The Longhorns (1-2) have endured some struggles so far this season, but Brown has had no part in that. His team needs him to continue to produce if they are going to sustain any level of success. As it has been told many times before, a dominant pass rusher can cover up a lot of holes in a defense.
No. 2: TCU LB Paul Dawson (Last week: unranked)
Dawson has been all over the field for the Horned Frogs in their two games. He averages 9.8 tackles per game, which is first in the league. His four tackles for loss rank him second in the conference.
Not only does Dawson provide help in the run game, but he’s created takeaways for his team as well. He has recovered two fumbles, forced a fumble and intercepted one pass. Behind his stellar early-season play, TCU is ranked second in the Big 12 in takeaways.
No. 3: Iowa State DL Cory Morrissey (Last week: unranked)
Morrissey has been almost as disruptive as the players ahead of him in these rankings. He is second in the conference in sacks and fourth in tackles for loss. He has four sacks which includes two against in-state rival Iowa. Morrissey’s defensive effort in the Cyclones’ 20-17 win over the Hawkeyes helped lead them to their first victory of the year.
Iowa State’s run defense has struggled this season, ranking eighth in the Big 12. Morrissey, who has 12 tackles in the Cyclones’ three games, must get better in that part of the game if he wants to become an elite player.
No. 4: Kansas LB Ben Heeney (Last week: unranked)
Heeney leads the Big 12 in tackles per game. He is not flashy, but he is a sure as they come in tackling. Heeney proved that he is a good player in 2013-14 and he continues to build on his track record. He had 15 tackles against Duke on Saturday.
Without Heeney, no one can predict how bad Kansas’ defense would really be. They already allow the second-most yards per game in the conference. Heeney must play at the top of his game in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance at stopping their opponents.
No. 5: TCU S Sam Carter (Last week: 5)
Sam Carter is still holding on strong to a spot in the power rankings. He had four tackles and an interception against Minnesota. The TCU defense was fierce, allowing the Golden Gophers to pass for just 169 yards.
Carter is the leader of the Horned Frogs’ secondary, who has allowed the fewest passing yards per game in the Big 12 this season. Between Carter and his teammates, moving the ball through the air against this defense is a daunting task.