As we dive deeper into the college basketball season, it’s also worth taking a moment to look ahead to the 2024 college football season. While the focus is currently on the NFL Draft and the upcoming Senior Bowl, let’s shift our attention to the top returning defensive players in the Big 12, according to Pro Football Focus grades.
Starting with the defensive tackles, one name that stands out is T.J. Jackson from West Virginia. After spending four seasons at Troy, Jackson brings his skills to Morgantown. Last year, he had an impressive run grade of 91, ranking third among all defensive tackles. Additionally, he was the fifth-highest-graded interior player in 2023. West Virginia made a smart move in acquiring one of the best defensive players from the Sun Belt.
Moving on to defensive end, Iowa State’s Kenard Snyder caught our attention. He joined the Cyclones as a transfer portal player from ULM. Snyder had a productive season, racking up 60 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Interestingly, Snyder transitioned from linebacker to defensive end during fall camp, showcasing his versatility on the field. His performance earned him a spot on our list of top returning defensive players.
In the linebacker position, Caleb, from Iowa State, made quite an impact last season. Finishing as the sixth-highest-graded linebacker, Caleb’s specialty lies in stopping the run. His impressive run defense grade of 91.3 demonstrates his ability to shut down opponents’ ground game. As we look ahead to 2024, Caleb is poised to continue his success and solidify his place as one of the top linebackers in the Big 12.
Shifting our focus to the secondary, Liberty’s Preston Hodge stood out as one of the top returning cornerbacks. Last season, Hodge boasted impressive stats, earning him the title of the sixth-highest-graded cornerback in all of college football. With 13 pass breakups and over 60 tackles over the last two years, Hodge has proven himself as a valuable asset to any defense. His strong performance prompted his transfer to Colorado, where he will continue to make an impact in the Big 12.
Finally, we come to the safety position, where West Virginia’s Aubrey Banks caught our attention. Banks recorded 48 total tackles last year, including four tackles for loss. He also showcased his ball-hawking skills with four interceptions and a forced fumble. Banks’ contributions to the Mountaineers’ defense did not go unnoticed, earning him a spot among the top returning defensive players in the Big 12.
As we eagerly await the start of the 2024 college football season, these standout defensive players are sure to make a significant impact on their respective teams. Keep an eye out for T.J. Jackson, Kenard Snyder, Caleb, Preston Hodge, and Aubrey Banks as they continue to excel in the Big 12 conference.