The Big XII Conference had a significant breakthrough this past season. For the first time since the 2014 season, the Oklahoma Sooners didn’t a conference championship title. The Baylor Bears and the Oklahoma State Cowboys were the representatives of the Conference Championship game mostly because of their defense. Oklahoma State finished first in the Big 12 in sacks (57), while Baylor finished second (44). The Big XII will have several elite defensive linemen that could impact the conference this 2022 College Football season. This season, these playmakers will be leaders of their teams’ defense as they look to get to the CFB Playoffs. Here are the best four Big XII defensive linemen heading into the 2022 season.
Best Big XII Defensive Linemen Returning for 2022
Fourth-Best Returning DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah (Kansas State)
There weren’t a lot of bright spots for Kansas State in 2021, but the brightest is their star pass rusher. Anudike was one of four Wildcats to be named first-team All-Conference last season. He was also co-defensive lineman of the year. Aundike accumulated 50 total tackles, 36 solo tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, and six forced fumbles in his sophomore season. Anudike accounted for 11 of the Wildcats’ 24 sacks in the 2021 season. Finally, he finished second in the conference and tenth in the nation in total sacks accounted for. He had a huge breakout year as he will be the main defender for the Wildcats this 2022 season. Anudike’s leadership and breakout performance was a big reason why Kansas State’s defense ranked 23rd in the nation in points allowed per game (21).
Third-Best Returning DE Brock Martin (Oklahoma State)
Much like Anudike, Cowboys defensive Brock Martin was not on any major preseason watchlist. After a good junior season in 2020, Martin took a huge step up in the 2021 season. Martin finished the season accumulating 41 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and nine sacks. He finished the season as a first-team All-Conference selection. Martin’s leadership and experience were significant reasons the Cowboys had the ninth-ranked scoring defense (18.1 points) and fifth-ranked rushing defense (87.6). He was one of four defenders for Oklahoma State who were named to the first-team All-Conference last season. With Martin coming back as a redshirt senior, the Cowboys look to have another strong defense this 2022 season, making them legitimate contenders again for the College Football Playoffs.
Second-Best Returning DE Will McDonald IV (Iowa State)
McDonald has been one of the best and most consistent pass rushers in the conference for the past two seasons. He will look to finish his collegiate career strong and boost his 2023 NFL Draft stock. McDonald accumulated 71 total tackles, 44 solo tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 22 sacks, seven forced fumbles, and three pass breakups in the past two seasons. He led the nation in sacks accounting for (10.5) in the 2020 season. He can set his mark as the all-time conference sack leader as he has accounted for 29 total sacks. McDonald is five sacks away from passing Texas A&M Von Miller (33 sacks). His height and frame, speed, strength, and ability to get to the quarterback through the edge make him one of the reliable edge rushers in college football.
Best Returning DT Dante Stills (West Virginia)
West Virginia’s Dante Stills has been a menace in the interior defensive line for four seasons. Stills has accumulated 111 total tackles, 74 solo tackles, 44 tackles for loss, 20 sacks, three forced fumbles, and three pass breakups in the four seasons at West Virginia. He was a second-team All-Big 12 selection in his sophomore and junior seasons. Last season, he was a first-team All-Conference selection after accounting for 36 total tackles, 29 solo tackles, 15 tackles for loss, and seven sacks. Stills is a defensive tackle that doesn’t get dominated on double-team blocks and crashes into the backfield with aggressive bullrushes. He is also athletic enough to squeeze inside and slip past the offensive linemen.