Top Returning Big 12 Defensive Tackles For 2017

    A pair of Texas Longhorns make of the top returning Big 12 defensive tackles for the 2017 season.

    March 9, 2017

    A pair of Texas Longhorns make of the top returning Big 12 defensive tackles for the 2017 season.


    The Big 12 didn’t have a whole lot of success stopping the run in 2016, with only Kansas State limiting opponents to less than four yards per carry. Based solely on the limited talent pool of interior defensive linemen, it figures to be more of the same in 2017. No returning tackle rose above honorable mention all-league last fall, and the best of the lot consists predominantly of undersized, try-hard types, as opposed to elite defenders who’ll make NFL GMs pant with anticipation.

    Top Returning Big 12 Defensive Tackles

    5. Ira Lewis, Baylor

    Lewis played well in his first full season as a regular in the rotation for the Bears. He started seven games at the nose, making 36 tackles, 7.5 stops behind the line, three sacks and three hurries. Lewis moves well at 6-3 and 300 pounds, giving Baylor a lineman who can apply pressure from the interior of the line. He and DE K.J. Smith will give Matt Rhule, Phil Snow and the rest of the new staff a couple of proven options at the point of attack.

    4. Chris Nelson, Texas

    Nelson began fulfilling some of his potential in Charlie Strong’s final season. The junior will look to keep building under the guidance of a new staff. Nelson started eight games at nose tackle, earning honorable mention All-Big 12 for making 45 stops, including six behind the line. He closes quickly and is able to get penetration. But as is the case with all of the Longhorn linemen, head coach Tom Herman is looking for more physicality and assertiveness from his first line of defense.

    3. Daniel Wise, Kansas

    Wise is one of the more underrated defensive linemen in the Big 12, a distinction he’ll attempt to shed in 2017. He’s a 6-3, 285-pound former two-star recruit who picked up honorable mention all-league in his sophomore season. Wise fires off the snap, fights through traffic and doesn’t stop hustling until the whistle blows. Ideally suited to complement DE Dorance Armstrong from tackle, he posted 10 tackles for loss, three sacks and a pair of blocked kicks in 2016.

    2. Will Geary, Kansas State

    With DE Jordan Willis set to begin a promising NFL career, Geary is the new leader of the Wildcat front wall, a role he relishes. The self-made 6-0, 298-pound former is one of the hardest workers in Manhattan, both on the field and in the weight room. And his approach to the game is contagious at K-State. Geary will brawl in a phone booth, yet has also flashed the quickness to make plays in the backfield over the past two seasons.

    1. Poona Ford, Texas

    Nah, Ford doesn’t quite look the part at 5-11 and 303 pounds. But the ability to play low and use his leg strength have served him well in Austin. Ford is especially good at defending the run by occupying multiple blockers and creating congestion in potential running lanes. As an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection a season ago, he ranked fourth on the Horns with 54 stops, including 5.5 for loss, four quarterback hurries and two blocked kicks.

    MORE: Top Returning Defensive Tackles In College Football For 2017

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