College Football News Preview 2022 preseason unit rankings, looking at the top ten defensive line situations and rankings by conference.
The defensive lines are going to be outstanding this season – there were at least 20 that could’ve made the preseason top 10 unit rankings.
There’s plenty of talent returning to some of last year’s top defenses, the lost parts on some of the powerhouses will quickly be replaced, and there’s more depth than usual – at least among the top defenses – thanks to the transfer portal adding more options.
As always, styles matter. Some programs know how to get into the backfield and hit the quarterback every year no matter who’s on the defensive front, and others know how to get big humans to clog things up with a three-man line.
Get the job done up front, and everything else on the defense will usually fall into place.
Again, this is a great year for the lines, and there are other options that probably should be here, but the top 10 defensive lines on this list are strong.
CFN Preview 2022 Preseason College Football Unit Rankings: Defensive Lines
It’s almost unfair how good this defensive line is – if everyone is healthy. The tackle combination of Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis are NFL-good right now, but Bresee hasn’t had any injury luck so far. Xavier Thomas and Myles Murphy are elite all-around ends, and the depth is there after getting plenty of work thanks to all the fill-in time for the injured parts last season.
But … but … Georgia lost Travon Walker and Jordan Davis. They’re off to the NFL, but tackle Jalen Carter might end up being the best all-around pro prospect from last year’s line – yeah, potentially even better than the No. 1 overall pick. There’s size among the front three, talent thanks to years of good recruiting classes, and a new wave of freshmen who might be too strong to keep off the field.
There aren’t any big-name superstars compared to what Bama brings with its phenomenal linebacking corps, but you know what’s coming. Three giant, NFL-caliber linemen who can all move. Byron Young can get into the backfield, DJ Dale is an elite anchor, and the backups are all more giant. NFL-caliber linemen who can all move.
There’s nothing flashy about the Badger front three, but the brick wall on the nation’s No. 1 defense of 2021 is once again loaded with tough run stoppers. The linebackers do the heavy lifting when it comes to getting in to the backfield, and the line takes care of everything between the hashmarks – there’s no moving Keeanu Benton on the nose.
The starting four was already good, and then it got Mekhi Wingo from Missouri to add even more to the interior. BJ Ojulari will be one of the SEC’s top playmakers in the backfield, Ali Gaye is ready to roll on the other side, and Maason Smith has huge upside at one of the tackle spots.
The tackles are experienced upperclassmen – they’ll be fine. The ends, though, will form a special rotation with almost all the parts back from the defense that led the nation in sacks and was second in tackles for loss. Collin Oliver, Brock Martin, and Tyler Lace are a good pass rushing end tandem as is, and now the rotation gets Trace Ford back after suffering a knee injury.
The Baylor back seven might be going through some reshuffling, but the line is once again going to be a problem for the Big 12. Siaki Ika is one of the nation’s best nose tackles, Gabe Hall is an all-star on the end, and in comes Jaxon Player from Tulsa as a good option in the rotation.
It’s Pitt, so you know what’s coming. The D will be among the best in the nation at getting into the backfield – it was second in sacks and fifth in tackles for loss – and it gets back Habakkuk Baldonado to lead the way on the end. Combined with tackle Calijah Kancey, the show goes on.
The pass rush needs to be more consistent throughout the season, and it could stand to be a wee bit better against the run – the team lost in the five games the D allowed 200 rushing yards – but the talent is there to be strong for what should be another statistically-solid defense. Zacch Pickens gets into the backfield from the interior and Jordan Strachan is a good pass rusher who can do even more.
There’s one giant question when it comes to Florida State’s defensive front living in the top ten – can Albany transfer Jared Verse translate his production to the next level with Jermaine Johnson and Keir Thomas gone? If so, the Noles are set thanks to a great group of tackles that should be a dominant against the run.