Last year we saw some of the best defensive tackles to ever play college football. Now, they’ve taken their talents to the NFL. Quinnen Williams, Ed Oliver, and Christian Wilkins all stole the spotlight. Jeffrey Simmons, Dre’Mont Jones, Jerry Tillery, and Dexter Lawrence all proved to be great as well. All seven are gone. New stars must emerge. Though there won’t be as much top tier talent as last year, there are plenty of defensive tackles who have tremendous potential.
25. Jashon Cornell, Ohio State
2018 Stats: 15 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sacks
No Dre’Mont Jones means a new force in the middle is needed. Cornell and Robert Landers are charged with replacin Jones. Cornell, a former four star, showed glimpses of what he can do last year. Now, he gets a full year of snaps to show his potential.
24. Khyiris Tonga, BYU
2018 Stats: 30 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks
Sione Takitaki and Corbin Kaufusi are gone, so the Cougars need new playmakers. Tonga’s a solid force up the middle, and he was a part of a defense that helped BYU upset Wisconsin.
23. Marlon Tuipolotu, USC
2018 Stats: 33 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks
Only four starters return on the Trojans defense, but Tuipolotu is one of them. He’ll pair up with Jay Tufele to plug up the middle. USC’s defensive line will be the most experienced group, and that is a good start for a team who’s coach is on the hot seat.
22. Tyler Shelvin, LSU
2018 Stats: 10 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks
As we mentioned before, Rashard Lawrence could play this position. However, Shelvin allows Lawrence to move outside. At 362 pounds, good luck moving this man around. LSU’s defense aided a successful 2018 campaign, and should be one of the best in the country this year.
21. Jordan Davis, Georgia
2018 Stats: 25 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks
Davis’ biggest obstacles remains weight control and conditioning, but he’s a force when on the field. ESPN tabbed him as a potential breakout star, which is possible. You can’t break out if you’re not on the field, so Davis must prove he can stay accountable to himself and his team.
20. Channing Hames, Marshall
2018 Stats: 45 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks
Hames didn’t start last year, but his stats proved he can handle a starting role. He will get his shot in 2019. The Thundering Herd continue to thrive under Doc Holliday, and should do so again this season. Hames plays a big role in the defense now, and should improve his statistics this year.
19. Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
2018 Stats: 34 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks
Washington’s defense returns….well…..not a lot. That means they’ll be bad right? Wrong. Chris Petersen’s brought in talent to reload, and that’s once again the case for the Huskies Onquzurike is just the latest defensive lineman to be inexperienced bud dangerous. Greg Gaines is gone, the Washington’s defense needs a run stuffer.
18. John Penisini, Utah
2018 Stats: 38 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks
Utah’s front four will be one of the best in the country. It becomes a matter of how many tackles and sacks there are to go around. While the offense gets a lot of love, their defense should also receive recognition. Penisini pairs up with Leki Fotu to give the Utes a tough tandem at defensive tackle.
17. Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma
2018 States: 50 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks
Oklahoma doesn’t play great defense, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have talent. Gallimore is one of eight returning starters for the Sooners defense. One that needs to prove it was better than last year showed. In a conference loaded with offensive talent, it’s tough to stick out defensively. So that should tell you how good any player on here is from this conference.
16. Jordon Scott, Oregon
2018 Stats: 29 tackles, 3.5 TFL
He’s big (6’1″, 329 pounds), but he’s also quick. Scott’s an explosive player off the snap (something defensive tackles aren’t usually known for), and many interior lineman aren’t ready for that. He knows how to use his size, but it’s his quickness that becomes his greatest asset. Oregon’s defensive line received a jolt when freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux signed with the Ducks, but it’s Scott who will cause a ton of problems.
15. Marvin Wilson, Florida State
2018 Stats: 41 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks
Defensive tackles who wear different numbers are fun. Wilson fits into that category by wearing number 21. It’s tough to miss him on the field, and he adds to a Seminoles defense that might be the tallest in the country. All four projected starters this year are 6’5″ or taller. Willie Taggert’s seat heats up entering this year, but his defense shows some promise. That is thanks to Wilson’s return and a solid secondary.
14. Glen Logan, LSU
2018 Stats: 45 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks
A potential move to defensive end is possible, especially with the aforementioned Shelvin ready to play. Logan gives the Tigers another weapon and one of the best defensive tackles in the country.
13. Corey, Bethley, TCU
2018 Stats: 27 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 5.0 sacks
Gary Patterson finds himself in need of answers on offense, but he seems alright defensively. His defensive tackles should be two of the best in the nation, and that’s just the beginning of the good news on that side. Bethley was disruptive in 2018, and pairing up with Blacklock only makes him more dangerous this season.
12. Carlo Kemp, Michigan
2018 Stats: 20 tackles, 4.0 TFL 1.0 sacks
Don Brown lost two of his best players on the defensive line when Rashan Gary and Chase Winovish went pro. Yet he still gets Kemp for another year. With questions surrounding the back end of the defense (after Ohio State torched them), Brown also must address questions up front. Kemp’s a leader now, and the Wolverines need to produce for head coach Jim Harbaugh.
11. Lorenzo Neal, Purdue
2018 Stats: 30 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 1.0 sacks, two forced fumbles
Neal arguably possesses the most potential of anyone on this list. He’s extremely gifted and has tons of NFL upside. The question remains his discipline. He made two critical mental mistakes last year that cost Purdue chances to win those games. Still, he’s a player scouts will have their eyes on, and gets a chance to redeem himself.
10. Emmit Gooden, Tennessee
2018 Stats: 33 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 1.0 sacks
Gooden was featured on the latest production of Last Chance U, and there were times when he took over. Yet there were also times when he took costly and unnecessary penalties. Jeremy Pruitt’s fixing that, and we saw that last year. Gooden has the potential to be great, and Tennessee could be headed upward because of him.
9. James Lynch, Baylor
2018 Stats: 40 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks
While the Bears address their need for pass rushers on the edge, Lynch will lead the middle. He’s a leader on the defense, and also a reason many believe Baylor improves this year.
8. Ray Lima, Iowa State
2018 Stats: 34 tackles, 3.5 TFL
Lima didn’t produce the stats to impress anyone, but his game isn’t about that. Iowa State’s run defense was elite last year because Lima and JaQuan Bailey plugged up the line of scrimmage. Both return, giving the Cyclones a formidable front again in 2019.
7. Tanner Karafa, Boston College
2018 Stats: 47 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks
Boston College continues to produce great yet underrated defensive players. Karafa returns as the latest player to add to that list. The Eagles defense typically gives them a chance weekly, but this year could be the first year they get success on both sides of the ball consistently.
6. Benito Jones, Ole Miss
2018 Stats: 34 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks
Matt Luke continues to move the program in a better direction after the Hugh Freeze (who somehow is allowed to coach again) debacle. Jones will help with that. He returns 21 career tackles for loss to give the Rebels defense a force inside.
5. Leki Fotu, Utah
2018 Stats: 34 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks
Some thought he would go pro, but he decided to return. Utah’s thankful he did, and Fotu’s draft stock only improves with another year under his belt. One of the best defensive tackles works with another Top 25 tackle we mentioned above, and Utah’s middle two will be a problem for offenses.
4. McTelvin Agim, Arkansas
2018 Stats: 45 tackles, 10.0 TFL, 4.5 sacks, three forced fumbles
Arkansas won’t win the conference (or even come close), but they return a couple players worth watching. Agim is one. His knack for the football is evident, and he’s one of the toughest in the conference to block.
3. Raequan Williams, Michigan State
2018 Stats: 50 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks
Kenny Willekes receives most of the attention, and for good reason. However, Williams is just as big of a problem for offenses as his partner. He’s started 29 consecutive games, and gives the Spartans another star up front.
2. Justin Madaubuike, Texas A&M
2018 Stats: 40 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles
Another player who’s a natural finding the football. He’s a physical player, which allows him to shed blocks quickly and tackle the ball carrier in the backfield. Texas A&M displays dark horse potential, but finding starters to help one of their defensive tackles will be a priority.
1. Derrick Brown, Auburn
2018 Stats: 48 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks
Calling Brown one of the best defensive tackles in the country is almost insulting. He’s big (6’5″, 318 pounds) and displays great length to keep blockers off of him. Double teams almost always come his way, but that’s not always effective. There’s a reason why NFL teams will scout him heavily this year, and we will find out quickly just how good he is when Auburn faces Oregon.
Others to Watch
Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina: Good luck passing over him (6’6″), and good lock blocking him (nine tackles for loss, four sacks).
DJ Dale, Alabama: Freshman who’s getting rave reviews at the position. Taking over for Quinnen Williams won’t be easy, but Dale’s already the favorite.
Ross Blacklock, TCU: Returning from injury. Blacklock had 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks in 2017.