The defensive lines in the Big 12 do not inspire awe this season, and with scant few exceptions, neither do the linebackers. There are a few very good units in the conference, and a few quality linebackers sprinkled about here and there, but in general, offensive coordinators will not need the Grecian Formula 16 because of what Big 12 defenses are fielding in the front seven.
1. Baylor: Probable starters are Eddie Lackey and Bryce Hager. Actually, make that certain starters because Lackey and Hager may be the top two linebackers in the Big 12. Iowa State had a pair of superb ones in A. J. Klein and Jake Knott, but Lackey and Hager may well be better. Lackey is a physical specimen who can make all the plays, while Hager is a tackling machine, just like his dad Britt who starred at Odessa Permian, the University of Texas and with the Philadelphia Iggles.
2. Oklahoma State: Probable starters are Shaun Lewis, Caleb Lavey and Ryan Simmons. Lewis is a speedy playmaker who will contend strongly for All Big 12 honors. Lavey, who may have been better as a sophomore than a junior, is nevertheless a smart, tough linebacker who only helps his team.
3. Texas: Probable starters are Peter Jinkens, Steve Edmond and Jordan Hicks. Edmond and Hicks are returning starters. Edmond is a big, physical linebacker who sometimes looks like a star. But he is just inconsistent enough that Dalton Santos will challenge him strongly for the starting position in the middle. Hicks started the first three games of 2012 before being felled by a hip injury.
4. Kansas: Probable starters are Courtney Arnick, Ben Heeney and Jake Love. Heeney is a returning starter and is one of the very best linebackers in the Big 12. If he played for Texas or Oklahoma, people would be talking him up as an All America candidate. Jake Love was a very effective backup last season, and he'll get the chance to work fulltime in 2013.
5. TCU: Probable starters are Joel Hasley and Marcus Mallet. Hasley is a returning starter and a darned good one. He may not be quite first team All Big 12 material, but second team status looks to be in his future.
6. Texas Tech: Probable starters are Micah Awe, Terrance Bullitt, Sam Eguavoen and Pete Robertson. Returning starters are Bullitt and Eguavoen. Bullitt has spent more time in the training room nursing injuries than he has on the field making tackles. Not his fault at all, but Bullitt's history of injury does not inspire confidence. Eguavoen is still learning the game of football, but the light bulb appeared to come on for him in the spring. Awe and Robertson also looked excellent in the spring, but neither have proved it on the field as linebackers against Big 12 competition.
7. West Virginia: Probable starters are Isaiah Bruce, Nick Kwiatkoski, Wes Tonkery and Dozie Ezemma. The lone returning starter is Bruce, and he is one of the conference's best. Ezemma is a converted defensive end, and Tonkery, although tough and hard-nosed, is still a bit raw.
9. Iowa State: Probable starters are Jared Brackens, Jeremiah George and Jevohn Miller. George is a returning starter and looks like he could develop into an excellent player. Still, this is hardly the glory group that A. J. Klein and Jake Knott in their prime made famous.
10. Kansas State: Probable starters are Blake Slaughter, Tre Walker and Jonathan Truman. Walker started most of the season last year before going down with an injury against Texas Tech. His productivity as a starter was not exceptional, however. None of KSU's other linebackers really register, and that is bad news for a team whose defensive line looks porous as all get out.