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Athlon Sports ranks the best Big 12 defensive linemen of the BCS Era.
The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.
The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.
So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.
One name stands above the rest when it comes to dominance along the defensive line in the Big 12. It also feels like a few schools — shockingly, Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska — have dominated the all-conference teams for the last 16 seasons.
Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.
1. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09)
That one name that stands above the rest is the Boy Named Suh. The star defensive tackle from Portland, Ore., won the 2009 Outland and Nagurski Trophies as well as the Lombardi, Bednarik and Willis Awards. He was the first defensive player to win AP Player of the Year honors since its inception in 1998 and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in ’09. That year Suh claimed the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award and he came just seconds shy of leading the Huskers to their first conference championship since 1999. He finished his career with 215 tackles, 57.0 for a loss, 24.0 sacks and six blocked kicks.
2. Brian Orakpo, Texas (2005-08)
The trophy case for the former Longhorn defensive end is packed with a Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Nagurski, Lombardi, and Hendricks trophies. He was an All-American who played in 47 career games in Austin, posting 132 tackles, 38.0 tackles for a loss, 22.0 sacks and six forced fumbles in his tenure. The Big 12 Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-American saw his career slowed by a knee injury in 2007 or else his totals would be even higher. He was a contributing member in all 13 games of the 2005 BCS national championship run and was taken 13th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft.
3. Tommie Harris, Oklahoma (2001-03)
Harris was a dominant interior lineman for three of the better Sooners teams of the BCS Era. He helped lead his team to the BCS championship game in 2003 while claiming the Lombardi and Willis Trophies. He was a two-time consensus All-American selection as the Sooners went 35-6 during his three-year tenure. Oklahoma won the Cotton and Rose Bowls before losing in the Sugar Bowl in his final season. Harris was downright unblockable in Norman and was the 14th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.
4. Casey Hampton, Texas (1996, 98-00)
From 1997-2000, Hampton started 37 straight games for the Horns and finished with 54 tackles for a loss — fifth all-time in Big 12 history. He posted an absurd 329 tackles from his line position and forced nine fumbles. He was a consensus All-American, two-time, first-team All-Big 12 pick and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2000. The All-Pro Super Bowl champion was taken in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft with the 19th overall pick.
5. Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma (2007-09)
After redshirting, McCoy was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year after playing in all 13 games on the Big 12 championship squad. He was a two-time All-American as a sophomore and junior, helping to lead Oklahoma to the 2008 BCS National Championship Game against Florida. He finished his career with 83 tackles, 33.0 for a loss and 14.5 sacks from the tackle position while winning two Big 12 titles. McCoy was taken with the third overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by Tampa Bay.
6. Justin Smith, Missouri (1998-00)
The Mizzou standout has developed into one of the NFL’s most consistent and productive players for two teams. He left Columbia after a huge junior season that featured 97 total tackles, 24 tackles for a loss — good for eighth all-time in Big 12 history — and 11 sacks. He was an All-American that year and also was a two-time All-Big 12 selection. His 53 career tackles for a loss in just three seasons ranks seventh all-time in league history as well. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft by the Bengals.
7. Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma (2007-10)
Beal is one of just two players in Big 12 history to rank in the top five in both career sacks and career tackles for a loss. He finished his collegiate career third all-time with 58.5 TFL and fifth all-time with 29 sacks — good for second all-time in school history. His 10 forced fumbles rank third in Big 12 history and he helped the Sooners capture three Big 12 titles and earn one trip to the BCS title game in 2008. Beal was a model of consistency, posting three straight seasons with at least 60 tackles, 15.5 TFL and 8.5 sacks. The three-time all-conference selection finished with 224 total tackles.
8. Rod Wright, Texas (2002-05)
The big fella inside made an instant impact, starting nine games as a true freshman and earning Freshman All-American status and claiming Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors as well. He went on to start 36 more games over the next three years, earning All-Big 12 honors in three straight years (first team his final two seasons). He was a consensus All-American and started every game for the 2005 BCS national champions and finished as a Lombardi Trophy finalist. Wright finished with 227 tackles, 42 tackles for a loss and 17.5 sacks.
9. Dan Cody, Oklahoma (2001-04)
He began his career as a redshirt tight end on the scout team for the 2000 BCS champs but turned into a force on the defensive side of the ball. He helped lead his team to three Big 12 crowns and two appearances in the BCS title game. Cody was an All-American his senior season and finished his career with 42 games played, 117 tackles and is sixth all-time in Big 12 history with 25 sacks. No. 80 was a second-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.
10. Darren Howard, Kansas State (1996-99)
Other than Beal, Howard is the only other player in the Big 12 to be ranked in the top five of both career sacks and tackles for a loss. He finished tied for fifth with 54.0 TFL and is third all-time with 29.5 sacks. Howard was a big part of the Wildcats' success in the late '90s, as Kansas State went 42-7 during his four-year career, including two division titles and two postseason wins (Fiesta, Holiday). He played 10 years for the Eagles after being a second-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.
Just missed the cut:
11. Kevin Williams, Oklahoma State (1999-02)
K-Will was a huge part of the rebuilding that took place in Stillwater. He posted 160 tackles, 38 for a loss and 18.5 sacks during a career that saw the Pokes go from three wins to eight. The ninth overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft got OSU back to a bowl for just the second time in 14 seasons.
12. Shaun Rogers, Texas (1997-00)
Playing alongside Hampton, Rogers set a Big 12 record with 27.0 tackles for a loss in 1999. His 53 career TFLs rank tied for seventh all-time in Big 12 history. He also had 199 total tackles and 14 sacks before getting picked in the second round by the Lions in 2001.
13. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas (2010-13)
The son of Jim Jeffcoat made an instant impact in Austin, playing in eight games as a true freshman. He capped his outstanding career with Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year honors and the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation’s best defensive end. Jeffcoat posted 174 tackles, 49.5 for a loss and 26.0 career sacks — good for sixth all-time in Big 12 history — despite missing more than half of his junior season due to injury.
14. Jared Crick, Nebraska (2008-11)
The Cornhuskers' edge rusher missed most of his senior season or he would be higher on this list. He posted two monster seasons by combining for 143 tackles, 27.0 tackles for a loss and 19.0 sacks in 2009 and '10. The two-time All-Big 12 pick was an All-American and fourth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
15. Frank Alexander, Oklahoma (2008-11)
Alexander earned Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 2011 with 54 tackles, 19.0 TFL and 8.5 sacks to go with three forced fumbles. The fourth-round pick finished with 142 stops, 44.0 for a loss, 20.5 sacks and six forced fumbles. He played in one BCS title game and two BCS bowls on the back of two Big 12 titles (2008, '10).
Best of the rest:
16. Adam Carriker, Nebraska (2003-06)
Two-time All-Big 12 pick and 2006 Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year.
17. Brian Smith, Missouri (2003-06)
Big 12’s sack master with record 34 career QB sacks. Sixth all-time with nine forced fumbles.
18. Cory Redding, Texas (1999-02)
Fourth all-time in league history with 57 career TFL, including 24 in 2002.
19. Aldon Smith, Missouri (2009-10)
Big 12 Freshman of the Year, first-round pick and 17.0 sacks in only two seasons.
20. Mike Rucker, Nebraska (1995-98)
Played a key role on two national championship teams and is fourth in school history with 40 TFL.
21. Alex Okafor, Texas (2009-12)
Seventh all-time with 13 sacks in 2012. Two-time All-Big 12 pick and an All-American.
22. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M (2010-12)
Consensus All-American finished his career with 26.5 sacks in just three seasons in College Station.
23. Aaron Hunt, Texas Tech (1999-02)
Second all-time in Big 12 history with 34 career sacks.
24. Adell Duckett, Texas Tech (2001-04)
Fifth all-time in league history with 28 career sacks.
25. Kelly Gregg, Oklahoma (1996-98)
Tied for fourth all-time with 24.0 TFL in 1998 and is ninth all-time with 53.0 career TFL.