Ranking the defensive lines for FBS teams in the state of Texas entering the 2023 season

Texas Tech athletics

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Ranking defensive lines in modern college football is tough because each group isn’t always tasked with the same chores. The programs utilizing the four-man fronts ask defensive ends, and even the three-technique defensive tackles, to get up-field and rush the passer. Some of the odd-man fronts ask bigger-bodied defensive linemen to crowd spaces to create room for linebackers to roam. 

The FBS ranks in Texas grow to 13 teams in 2023 with the arrival of Sam Houston to Conference USA. Here is how we see the defensive lines across Texas stacked up. 

Previous rankings: QB | RB | WR/TE | OL |

TOP 5 


The players: DT McKinnley Jackson, DT Walter Nolen, DE Shemar Turner, DE Fadil Diggs 

No team in Texas, and maybe America, can match the sheer talent stored in College Station. The interior of the defensive line includes Jackson, Nolen, Isaiah Raike, Albert Regis, and Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy. And that doesn’t include five-star freshman DJ Hicks. The edge has a two-deep of Turner, Diggs, Shemar Stewart, and LT Overton. Sophomore Malick Sylla could also make noise off the edge. 


The players: DT Jaylon Hutchings, DT Tony Bradford, DE Steve Linton, DE Myles Cole 

Joey McGuire’s squad plans to field one of the best defensive lines in the Big 12 even without NFL draft pick Tyree Wilson on the edge. The reason for optimism begins in the middle thanks to the returns of super seniors Jaylon Hutchings and Tony Bradford. Transfer Quincy Ledet Jr. and young pus E’Maurion anks and Trevor Alpine provide depth with upside. The only question marks exist on the edge, but the staff loves the defensive end combination of Cole and Linton. Joseph Adedire and Isaac Smith are also pass rushing options. 


The players: DT Byron Murphy, DE Barryn Sorrell, DT T’Vondre Sweat, DE Ethan Burke 

The potential return of Texas football to national relevance hinges on the play in the trenches. The offensive line figures to be the best in the Big 12 – and the Lone Star State – but the defensive line provides more potential than production heading into the year. Players like Byron Murphy, Alfred Collins, and Ethan Burke could become all-conference talents that make the Longhorns ranking appear low. The interior should still be salty regardless of if elite pass rushing options emerge. Sorrell might be the breakout player of 2023. 


The players: DE TJ Franklin, DT Gabe Hall, DE Byron Vaughns, DT Jerrell Boykins 

The Bears are another program that did a great job balancing returning experience with transfer portal upside. Franklin and Hall are tried and true Baylor defenders who can handle the physicality required to play for Dave Aranda. Boykins should help plug the middle, while Vaughns, a one-time Longhorn, arrives from Utah State with a reputation as a pass rushing specialist.


The players: DT DeVere Levelston, DT Jordan Miller, DE Elijah Roberts, DT Elijah Chatman 

A combination of inherited talent and transfer portal additions put the Mustangs amongst the top defensive lines in the AAC. Roberts and Miller came over from Miami and should slide into starting positions. Levelston and Chatman, one of the strongest players in college football, remain. The further development of a pass rusher like Paul Nelson and/or David Abiara would only increase the upside of the Mustangs defense. 


6. UTSA Roadrunners
7. Houston Cougars
8. TCU Horned Frogs
9. North Texas
10. UTEP
11. Rice 
12. Texas State
13. Sam Houston

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