Every year, we crown an All-Big 12 team here at ESPN.com, but we also like to give some recognization to guys who don't get enough credit for just how good they really are. These are their stories.
DL: Jake McDonough, Iowa State
McDonough quietly put together a season that was definitely an All-Big 12 first-team type of year. His numbers aren't eye-popping (31 tackles, 5.5 TFL, two sacks), but you can't often grade nose guards on their statistics. The 280-pounder was a force in the middle of the line for the Cyclones.
DL: Kerry Hyder, Texas Tech
Hyder was a big piece of Texas Tech's defensive resurgence under Art Kaufman this year. The defensive tackle bulled his way to 13.5 tackles for loss, the same number as Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Meshak Williams. Tech needed help rushing the passer and slowing the run. Hyder did both.
DL: Adam Davis, Kansas State
Meshak Williams and Arthur Brown get all the press on K-State's defense, but Davis was a huge force, too. He had two sacks in the win over Miami, 1.5 sacks in the win over West Virginia and finished sixth in the league with 11.5 tackles for loss. He was fourth in the league with six sacks.
DL: Toben Opurum, Kansas
Opurum's got a well-chronicled road to his current spot on the D-line, leading KU in rushing in 2009 before switching postitions under Turner Gill. KU's defense was better this year, and so was Opurum. It's tough to put up big numbers when KU was getting beaten, but he made six tackles for loss and forced two fumbles.
LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor
Yes, when your offense is on the field, you get more opportunities to make tackles, but ask K-State what it thinks of Hager. He was a cruise missile against the Cats and seemed to be in Collin Klein's face all night. He led the league with 115 tackles and added eight tackles for loss and three sacks. He also forced two fumbles and had six games with double-digit tackles.
LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas
Heeney's another playmaker all over the field for a defense that struggled at times. He's a speedy, versatile playmaker for the Jayhawks, who made 112 tackles and 12 tackles for loss.
LB: Jarell Childs, Kansas State
Childs' biggest play of the season was the scoop and score against Oklahoma, but he was solid for the Wildcats all year, and filled in admirably after Tre Walker's knee injury forced him into more playing time. He recovered two fumbles and finished with 64 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss.
DB: Karl Joseph, West Virginia
Joseph broke out as a true freshman and was basically the lone bright spot on a deservedly maligned West Virginia defense this season. He forced three fumbles, intercepted two passes, made seven tackles for loss and racked up 95 tackles. There's a big career ahead of him.
DB: Bradley McDougald, Kansas
McDougald was the Jayhawks' best defender this season and one of the big reasons for KU's big improvement on that side of the ball. He picked off three passes, forced two fumbles, had four tackles for loss and made 92 stops at safety.
DB: Durrell Givens, Iowa State
Givens was a turnover machine this season. He forced four fumbles, picked off three passes and made 77 tackles. His money stat, though? He recovered a nation-high six fumbles for the Cyclones. That's just ridiculous and is good enough on its own to land him on this list.
DB: Cody Davis, Texas Tech
The Red Raiders' leader doesn't get the press of the league's elite safeties like Kenny Vaccaro, Tony Jefferson or even Ty Zimmerman, but he's solid, even if he doesn't have the physical skills of Vaccaro or Jefferson. He's still one of the league's brightest players. That shows up in his decision making and on-field discipline that kept Tech from giving up the bushels of big plays it did a year ago.