Big 12 Power Rankings: defense

Texas wide receiver John Harris tries and fails to catch a pass as junior safety Dante Barnett prevents him from doing so during the second quarter of the Wildcats' 23-0 shutout of the Texas Longhorns Oct. 25, 2014, in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. (File Photo by Parker Robb | The Collegian)

1. Shawn Oakman, Defensive End, Baylor

At 6 feet 9 inches and 275 pounds, Shawn Oakman is the most intimidating and forceful defensive player in the Big 12.

A returning All-American and first team Big 12 defensive member, Oakman sacked the quarterback 11 times in 2014, tying for second in the conference and ranking 15th nationally.

Oakman is a clear favorite for the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, and he is set to help Baylor achieve what they did not in 2014: claiming a spot in the College Football Playoff.

2. Emmanuel Ogbah, Defensive End, Oklahoma State

Becoming the first player in Oklahoma State history to be recognized as a Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the year in 2014, Ogbah will be a nightmare for offensive lines throughout the conference.

Having a career year in 2014, the Cowboy’s star defensive end is just getting started in his incredible college football career.

3. Andrew Billings, Defensive Tackle, Baylor

The Bednarik and Nagurski award candidate is set to have another huge year for the Bears.

A selected member of the all-conference defensive first team in 2014, Billings recorded a tackle in all 13 games for Baylor last season. He hurried the quarterback nine times and will work to live up to the preseason All-American honors and preseason Defensive Player of the Year candidate in the Big 12.

4. Eric Striker, Linebacker, Oklahoma

Eric Striker is a dominant force and one of the most consistent players on any defense in college football.

A two-time Big 12 all-conference selection, Striker produced 68 total tackles, including 17 tackles for loss, ranking him tied for third in the Big 12.

Striker also sacked the quarterback nine times in 2014, ranking him fourth in the conference. He was named to the Third Team All-American roster by the Associated Press and was honorable mention for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

5. Zack Sanchez, Cornerback, Oklahoma

While the Sooners did not have much to celebrate in 2014, Zack Sanchez did. The redshirt junior picked off six passes, finishing second in the Big 12 in interceptions.

Sanchez stopped receivers all season, recording 43 tackles as a sophomore and defending 14 passes, which placed him sixth on the Big 12 stat sheet.

Once again on the preseason watch list and a preseason first team favorite, he could be holding up a trophy if he can give Oklahoma a successful season.

6. Pete Robertson, Linebacker, Texas Tech

It is crazy to think that the Big 12’s league leader in sacks made second-team all-conference for defense in 2014. Robertson’s impact was much greater than he was credited for.

Robertson sacked the quarterback 12 times last season, averaging one sack per game. Along with finishing 19th in total tackles with 81, he forced three fumbles for the Red Raiders and added 14.5 tackles for loss.

7. Karl Joseph, Safety, West Virginia

Joseph plays more like a linebacker than a defensive back. He stopped offensive players 92 times in 2014, ranking 16th in total tackles in the conference last season.

The school record holder for forced fumbles at West Virginia, Joseph tied for fourth in the conference, forcing three fumbles last season. Joseph continued to show his sparks in the Liberty Bowl, producing 10 tackles, seven solo and forcing a fumble in the Mountaineer’s defeat.

8. Dante Barnett, Safety, K-State

After being awarded the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Defensive MVP, Barnett did not slow down his junior year.

Barnett finished the 2014 season with 77 tackles and three interceptions. He was tied at 14th in the nation for passes defended and fourth in the Big 12 after defending four passes against Texas. With seven career interceptions, Barnett is only three away from cracking K-State’s top 10 list.

With Barnett stepping into his final season with the Wildcats, the preseason first team member might have his best season in a K-State uniform.

9. Nick Kwiatkoski, Linebacker, West Virginia

Last season, Kwiatkoski showed the Big 12 why he was one of the most under-looked defensive players.

Kwiatkoski ranked fifth in the Big 12 for solo tackles with 71 and ninth in total tackles with 103. Along with his 11.5 tackles for loss, Kwiatkoski reached double digits for total tackles four times for the Mountaineers.

Even though it was the first game of the 2014 season, Kwiatkoski stopped No. 2 ranked Alabama a total of 11 times, seven tackles being unassisted.

Making Big 12 Honorable Mention a year ago, Kwiatkoski could make a huge jump on a first-team ballot in 2015.

10. Danzel McDaniel, Cornerback, K-State

McDaniel might not be one of the highest statistically ranked players for the Big 12 defense. He is, however one of the most under-looked defensive players in the Big 12, making tremendous stops for the Wildcats.

Obtaining 59 tackles last season with two forced fumbles, McDaniel earned a spot on second-team Big 12 defense.

The Wildcats have one of the most experienced and hard-hitting backfields in the conference. If McDaniel has another great year, we will once again see his name on an all-conference team.