Recently, our colleagues at the Big Ten blog determined the five best players at each position in the history of their conference. We thought it was interesting, so we're following suit.
A couple of notes: We'll be basing these lists on the college careers of the players, not on how they fared in the NFL. And with apologies to LaDainian Tomlinson and Pat White, only players that wore Big 12 logos at the time they played -- and only the seasons they played while part of the Big 12 -- were considered to keep this consistent.
Our rankings continue with the Big 12’s best-ever defensive linemen:
1. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09): Few defensive linemen have dominated games like Suh did during his time in Lincoln, Nebraska. The 2009 Outland Trophy winner finished his stellar college career with 85 tackles including 20.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks as a senior, becoming a Heisman finalist and earning AP College Player of the Year honors in his final season. Suh finished his career with 215 tackles including 57 tackles for loss, 24 sacks and 38 quarterback hurries.
2. Tommie Harris, Oklahoma (2001-03): The Sooners’ great started his career with a bang, recording a tackle for loss on his first play in crimson and cream. Harris went on to earn All-American honors twice during his career along with the 2003 Lombardi Trophy. As a senior, he had 37 tackles including 10 tackles for loss and five sacks despite facing constant double teams. He was a quick and explosive force in the middle for Oklahoma during his three seasons in Norman, Oklahoma.
3. Grant Wistrom, Nebraska (1996-97 in Big 12, 1994-97 overall): Even through Wistrom spent only two seasons with a Big 12 logo on his jersey, he was a dominant force, earning All-American honors and the Lombardi Trophy in 1997. He finished his Big 12 career with 126 tackles including 37 tackles for loss, 40 quarterback hurries and 18 sacks (208 tackles, 58.6 tackles for loss, 26.5 sacks, 64 quarterback hurries total).
4. Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma (2007-09): An active force for Oklahoma for three seasons, McCoy
started all 40 games of his career and finished with 83 tackles including 33 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks. Overshadowed by the excellence of Suh during his final season, McCoy was a Lombardi finalist and All-American in 2009.
5. Brian Orakpo, Texas (2005-08): One of the best pass rushers in Big 12 history, Orakpo was the Lombardi Trophy winner and earned All-American honors after finishing with 42 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss, 30 pressures and four forced fumbles in 2008. He finished his Longhorn career with 132 tackles (93 solo), 22 sacks, 38 tackles for loss, 62 pressures and six forced fumbles.