As previously stated, successful defense starts up front but you have to have linebackers that can fill gaps and flow to the ball to continue that success. The top three teams in our rankings are honestly interchangeable but we gave the nod to the Sooners who honestly may be one of the top linebacker corps in the nation. That said, there's a good argument to be made for both Texas and TCU being at the top of the rankings as well.
1. Oklahoma Sooners - Oklahoma returns their top two leading tacklers in Frank Shannon (92 tackles) and Dominique Alexander (80 tackles), and the best news is that they younger guys. Former defensive end Geneo Grissom (41 tackles/4.5 sacks) has moved to the Jack linebacker spot and junior Eric Striker (50 tackles/6.5 sacks) may be one of the fastest pass rushers in the nation at coming off the edge.
2. Texas Longhorns - You could make a case for Oklahoma and Texas being #1 and #1a in the conference and no one would bat an eye at it. The Longhorns return three starters, from 2013, at the linebacker position in seniors Jordan Hicks (41 tackles) and Steve Edmond (73 tackles, 1 sack), along with junior Peter Jinkens (49 tackles).
3. TCU Horned Frogs - Okay, perhaps we should look at adding a #1c. Paul Dawson (91 tackles) and Chris Hackett (88 tackles/2 sacks) were the top two tacklers for the Frogs last season and senior Jonathan Anderson (66 tackles/1.5 sacks) was fourth on the team.
4. West Virginia Mountaineers - The linebacker position will be the strength of the Mountaineer defense going into the season. With nine guys who started at the position in 2013 it is safe to say that they have guys returning with starting experience. Juniors KJ Dillon (28 tackles), leading tackler Nick Kwiatkoski (86 tackles/2 sacks), Isaiah Bruce (43 tackles) and senior Brandon Golson (41 tackles/4 sacks) are the favorites to start.
5. Kansas State Wildcats - Senior Jonathan Truman (89 tackles) was second on the team in total tackles last season but you have to question who will fill the void left by the departure of their 2013's top tackler Blake Slaughter. Juniors D'Vonta Derricott and Charmeachealle Moore are frontrunners to start alongside Truman.
6. Texas Tech Red Raiders - Tech has moved 2013 leading rusher Kenny Williams to linebacker in the spring which may or may not be a good thing. Senior Sam Eguavoen (70 tackles) was third on the team in take downs and will be the leader of this corps from the Mike position.
7. Oklahoma State Cowboys - The Pokes took a significant hit in losing First Team All Conference linebackers Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis. They are starting over in 2014 with junior Ryan Simmons (67 tackles/1 sack) as the lone returning starter and most seasoned linebacker. Sophomore Seth Jacobs and junior Kris Catlin are the two guys most likely to start with Simmons.
8. Kansas Jayhawks - With seniors Michael Reynolds (37 tackles/6.5 sacks) and Ben Heeney (88 tackles/2 sacks) joining junior Jake Love (58 tackles) as returning starters, there is no way KU should be ranked this low at the end of the season.
9. Baylor Bears - Senior Bryce Hager (71 tackles/1 sack) started nine games in 2013 and was a Second Team All Conference selection. The Bears must find a suitable replacement for Eddie Lackey who led the team with 108 tackles last season.
10. Iowa State Cyclones - Luke Knott (45 tackles) is returning from a season ending injury in 2013 and Jared Brackens (61 tackles/2 sacks) are returning but there's a big hole in the middle where Jeremiah George's 133 tackles in 2013 must be absorbed.