1) Alvin “Bud” Dupree”-Defensive End, Kentucky: Alvin Dupree is one of the best pass rushers that no one knows or talks about. Last season, Kentucky suffered through a miserable 2-10 season. Dupree was one of the bright spots on defense and he collected a team leading 6.5 sacks. Dupree has been voted All-SEC the past two years and along side fellow defensive end Za’Darius Smith they should wreck havoc against offenses in the SEC come fall.
2) Eric Striker- Outside Linebacker, Oklahoma: If you don’t who Eric Striker is then just ask the Alabama Crimson Tide in last January’s Sugar Bowl. He recorded 3 sacks in that game and couldn’t be contained by Alabama’s offensive linemen. Striker started every game last season for Oklahoma and made an impact on tenacious defense that will be in the hunt for the Big 12 Title come December. Striker collected 56 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Look for this 1st team All-Big 12 performer to be a focal part of Oklahoma’s defense this season.
3) Markus Golden- Defensive End, Missouri: Missouri lead the SEC in sacks last yr with 41. They no longer have Kony Ealy and Michael Sam who have left for the NFL but they still have Markus Golden. Despite playing in a reserve role, Golden notched 6.5 sacks along with 13 tackles for loss. Golden will be counted on heavily against the run and puss rushing wise for the Missouri Tigers this season.
4) Hau’oli Kikaha- Defensive End, Washington: Hau’oli Kikaha may have a hard name to pronounce but offensive linemen have an even harder time staying in front of this 250 lbs sack machine. Kikaha led the Huskies with 13 sacks last season and finished second in the the Pac 12 in sacks. Kikaha has the speed and quickness to get around o-linemen but enough power and strength to make plays in the running game. In Washington’s Bowl win against BYU, Kikaha racked up three sacks in a 31-16 victory over the Cougars. Look for Kikaha’s name to be Defensive Award’s watch list through out the season.
5) Ryan Mueller- Defensive End, Kansas State: To say Ryan Mueller is underrated would be an understatement. He was a walk on that had to fight his way up the depth chart ever since he set foot on campus in Manhattan, Kansas three years ago. He wasn’t recruited heavily coming out of high school and still plays with a chip on his shoulder every time he sacks a quarterback or tackles a running back. Mueller has blossomed into one of the best pass rushers in the nation. He finished last season with 11.5 sacks and earned 1st team All-Big 12 Honors along with being named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.