The last position group that we looked at was the offensive line and not, as we turn the tables to defense, we're going to look at their counterparts along the defensive line. Just like offensive success is gained or lost based on the line the same is true with the defense. In the era of the Big 12 arms race, where speed is king, having the ability to push the offense backwards is more crucial than ever before. Here's how we're ranking the defensive lines around the conference.
1. Baylor - Curious as to how Art Briles is building his program at a rapid pace? Well check out where his offensive and defensive lines are ranked. The Bears return seniors Shawn Oakman and Beau Blackshear, along with junior Andrew Billings, and they get Jamal Palmer back from an ACL injury. They may be the best upfront on defense but they aren't the deepest. There is a lot of youth on Baylor's second unit.
2. TCU - Defensive end James McFarland led the team in sacks last season and returns in 2015 for his senior campaign. Davion Pierson and Terrell Lathan round out a senior-led defensive line where Nebraska transfer and junior Aaron Curry steps in as the only non-returning starter and non-senior.
3. Oklahoma State - Defensive end is the strong point for the Cowboys where Jimmy Bean and Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Emmanuel Ogbah are the returning starters. OSU will be young and limited on experience on the interior of their line.
4. Texas Tech - Rika Levi and Keland McElrath come in as new starters at the tackle position and are joined by returning starters Pete Robertson and Branden Jackson at defensive end to give the Red Raiders four senior starters along the line.
5. Texas - Sophomore Naashon Hughes is one of the most athletic defensive linemen in the conference and a solid building block for Charlie Strong as he looks to retool a defense that returns five starters from 2014. Junior defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway joins Hughes as a returning starter on the line.
6. West Virginia - Nose tackle Kyle Rose is the senior leader along the Mountaineers' line and one of two returning starters with end Noble Nwachukwu being the other. Junior Christian Brown steps in as the starter at defensive end opposite of Nwachukwu.
7. Kansas State - Junior Jordan Willis came on strong in the second half of 2014 and senior defensive tackle Travis Britz is healthy once again. They'll be joined by new starters Will Geary, at defensive tackle, and Marquel Bryant at defensive end.
8. Oklahoma - The Sooners have a big void in the middle of their line due to the absence of Jordan Phillips but they also have an All-Conference defensive end in Charles Tapper who is the only returning starter. Jordan Wade, Matt Romar, and Matt Dimon are among the front runners to earn a starting spot along the line.
9. Kansas - The Jayhawks return defensive end Ben Goodman as one of three 2014 starters among their defense. Seniors Andrew Bolton and Kapil Fletcher will anchor the middle and junior defensive end Damanu Mosby rounds out an inexperienced Kansas line.
10. Iowa State - Senior Trent Taylor is the only returning starter from 2014 and there's not a guarantee that he'll start again this fall. Former 2013 NJCAA Defensive Player of the Year, Demond Tucker, steps in as nose guard.