On the defensive side of the ball there may be more star power in the Big 12 than any other position. Oklahoma, Iowa State, Texas, Missouri, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State will all feel like their guys deserve to be first team all conference by the end of the season and with the number of upperclassmen playing the linebacker position this fall the Big 12 is sure to hear several names called during next spring's NFL draft.
1. Oklahoma - Travis Lewis has led the Sooners in tackles for three consecutive seasons now and is both the vocal and emotional leader of the defense. He was selected as the Big 12's defensive player of the year and will be looked to for leadership. Tom Wort is a hard hitter who is learning the game but was good enough last season to be named as a freshman All-American. He will anchor the middle in between Lewis and Tony Jefferson who was also a freshman All-American and the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. That said, the coaches will have to find a way to put Corey Nelson on the field as well.
2. Iowa State - Jake Knott and A.J. Klein combined for a total of 241 tackles last season and will certainly be the brightest spot of the Cyclone defense this fall. The overall success of the Iowa State linebackers may hinge on how well middle linebacker Matt Tau'fo'ou bounces back from last season's knee injury.
3. Texas - Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho we solid last year with a combined 187 tackles. They're back again and will be the leaders of the retooled Texas defense but there's a bit of a question mark around the progress of Jordan Hicks who sat out the spring with a broken foot.
4. Missouri - Had it not been for multiple injuries to Will Ebner and Luke Lambert the Tigers might be ranked higer on this list (although fourth isn't bad). Weakside linebacker Zaviar Gooden is one of the best in the business and the Tigers are also loaded with depth at linebacker as well.
5. Texas A&M - The Aggies have lost their sack master in Von Miller along with 2010's leading tackler Michael Hodges. Sean Porter recorded 74 tackles last season and Garrick Williams should jump into the spotlight as well.
6. Oklahoma State - The Cowboys lost their defensive leader in Orie Lemon whom Caleb Lavey is tasked with replacing. Shaun Lewis is a star in the making after sharing the Defensive Freshman of the Year honors with Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson last season. The big question mark for the Cowboys is on the weakside where its not clear who will be the starter but LeRon Furr may have a slight lead.
7. Kansas State - Arthur Brown steps in as the new leader of a Wildcat defense that struggled against the run last season and may quickly figure out that making up for KSU's defensive shortcomings is more than a one man job.
8. Kansas - The Jayhawks return their leading tackler from 2010 in Steven Johnson but are looking for two new replacements to line up beside him. Huldon Tharp appears to have one of the open positions but the jury is still out on the other.
9. Texas Tech - The Red Raiders are shifting to a 4-2-5 scheme this fall which should take some of the pressure off the linebackers but the necessity to perform at a high level will obviously still be there. The first hurdle will be replacing Brian Duncan and Bront Bird but the list of candidates including Cqulin Hubert, Blake Dees, Daniel Cobb, Zach Winbush and Terrance Bullitt is impressive.
10. Baylor - All you need to know about the current status of Baylor's linebackers is that former third string quarterback Brody Trahan is now slated as a starting linebacker. The Bears have talent in Chris McAllister and Elliott Coffey but there isn't a lot of depth there.