Big 12 Mail Bag – Who Is the Big 12’s Best Defensive Player Next Season?
Big 12 Mail Bag
Keith Fletcher – FOXSportsSouthwest.com
With the departure of Ndamukong Suh, who do you think will be the top defensive player in the Big 12 next season? Is it Von Miller from Texas A&M?
Ken – Burleson, Texas
When Gerald McCoy announced that he would skip his senior year at Oklahoma and enter the NFL Draft, Von Miller became the undisputed top-returning defensive player in the Big 12 Conference for 2010.
Realize that Ndamukong Suh never had more than 1-and-1/2 sacks in a single game last year. Double- and triple-teams limited, yes limited, Suh to just 12 sacks. That’s less than one a game. Suh’s dominance had to be spread out and felt in other areas – like 26 quarterback hurries, 10 pass breakups, four interceptions, and maybe the most fascinating stat that made him a respected all-around player were his three blocked kicks.
If Miller wants to be the top defensive player in the country he’ll need to create new numbers beyond the sacks and tackles that are normally spotted All-American-type linebacker/rush-ends. And he’ll need his efforts to be contagious. Sometimes on sheer priniple alone, elite national accolades will not be showered on a great defensive performer if that performer is on a defense that ranks dead last in its conference for scoring defense and total defense, which is exactly what the Aggies did in 2009. If the Aggies can at least ascend to the top-half of the Big 12 defensive ranks and Miller is on the field for 80% of the action, he’ll get the credit.
John F. Kennedy made popular the phrase “A rising tide raises all ships”. Suh had Jared Crick (9-and-1/2 sacks) and Larry Asante (125 solo tackles, 15 pass breakups). Miller needs a partner in crime, an all-Conference presence somewhere else on defense for his numbers and the team’s overall success to thrive. If Miller becomes another one-act play in low tide, look for Crick or Oklahoma LB Travis Lewis to be the chief contenders for post-season defensive awards from the Big 12.