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Breaking It Down: Big 12 D-Line Position Rankings

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Its time to rank the "Big Uglies" on the defensive side of the ball as we finish up our Big 12 Position rankings. At the end of the day, games are won and lost in the trenches. Just as an offense sputters without a solid line to give the plays time to develop or open a running lane the same is true on the defensive side of the ball. It doesn't matter how good your linebackers or defensive secondary is if your defensive line can't get pressure into the backfield. Here's a quick look at who's going to do the best job of making that happen.

1. Missouri - The Tigers are both good and deep along the line. Defensive ends Brad Madison and Jacquies Smith are more proven and solid than anyone else in the conference while Michael Sam and Kony Ealy give quality depth. Dominique Hamilton returns from a broken leg he suffered last season to line up next to Terrell Resonno at defensive tackle.

2. Oklahoma - Ronnell Lewis and Frank Alexander should be on par with Missouri's starting defensive ends but the depth behind them isn't quite as experienced. The rotation of Casey Walker, Stacy McGee and Jamarkus McFarland has great potential but its time for this group of juniors to live up to their hype.

3. Texas - Like Oklahoma's defensive tackles the Longhorns are hoping that defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat will come into his own and live up to his recruiting hype. He is a year younger than the Sooner DTs but Texas doesn't have any time to waste. Former defensive tackle Alex Okafor is transitioning to play DE opposite Jeffcoat. He had a stellar spring game but the question looming is was he that good or the o-line that bad? On the inside Kheeston Randall could be an all conferen tackle.

4. Oklahoma State - The Cowboys are decent at defensive end with Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones but tackle could be a concern for them with experience and depth both lacking.

5. Texas A&M - Tony Jerod-Eddie is one of the best linemen in the country but the Aggies need to find him a supporting cast. The potential is there in guys like Ben Bass and Jonathan Mathis but they've yet to prove themselves.

6. Kansas - The Jayhawks have a defensive line full of players who are either unproven or underperformed in 2010. The exception to that is defensive end Toben Opurum who was solid last season.

7. Texas Tech - The uncertainty over the status of Scott Smith is what has the Red Raiders so far down this list. Should he be reinstated then Tech moves up a few spots. However, the way it is now they've got a linebacker moving to defensive end in Sam Fehoko which should be a successful transition. Replacing Colby Whitlock and Brian Duncan is going to be a challenge.

8 . Baylor - Nicholas Jean-Baptiste and will miss his friend in the trenches after Phil Taylor was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft by Cleveland. Gary Mason Jr. is slated to step into Taylor's spot but it means that it will be Jean-Baptiste taking the double teams this season.

9. Kansas State - Defensive end Brandon Harold failed to live up to expectations last season and will be looking to silence his critics and doubters in 2011. The Wildcats will send a revamped and retooled defensive line out on the field with him.

10. Iowa State - Its a bad news/bad news situation for the Cyclones along the defensive line. They return every starter from 2010 but it was a unit that was 10th in the Big 12 against the rush and produced a conference low 11 sacks. Only three other teams in the country finished with fewer sacks.