The college football season is approaching. There is always debate over ranking the best players in the sport. Here are the top 25 college football interior defensive linemen heading into the 2022 season.
Note: While projection of what a player can be is taken into account, most rankings are from what has been seen on the field so far. These are not NFL Draft rankings, but rather focus on the best players in college football.
25. Robert Cooper, Florida State Seminoles
Cooper has been making plays for Florida State since 2018. He has 12 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in his career. Florida State has a few big games where Cooper will need to use his experience to his advantage.
24. Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin Badgers
Benton played well as a freshman, then had a down year as a sophomore and then bounced back last season. He had five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in 2021. Benton is a big piece for the Badgers as they try to win the Big Ten West.
23. Jermayne Lole, Louisville Cardinals
Lole started his college career at Arizona State before transferring to Louisville. He had 10 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 2020, but was able to play in just four games with a triceps injury. If he can prove he is healthy this season, he can rise up this list.
22. Byron Young, Alabama Crimson Tide
One of the most game-tested interior defensive linemen in college football is Byron Young. He had 7.5 tackles for loss and two sacks last season. A lot of the attention from opponents will go to the edge rushers, so Young has and will take advantage of that.
21. Cory Durden, NC State Wolfpack
Durden played two seasons at Florida State and now has played the last two for NC State. In 2021, he totaled 4.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. There are high hopes for NC State in the ACC and Durden’s presence can be huge, even if it doesn’t get a lot of coverage.
20. Mazi Smith, Michigan Wolverines
Smith doesn’t rack up all the stats, but he does his job well for Michigan. He had 2.5 tackles for loss as Michigan went to the College Football Playoff last season. Now, he will be the best defensive lineman for the Wolverines.
19. Jaquelin Roy, LSU Tigers
LSU has a good interior lineman in Roy, who had six tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks last season. The defensive line will be one of the strongpoints of LSU’s roster in 2022, as they have plenty of talent.
18. Jayson Ademilola, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Ademilola is entering his fifth season with Notre Dame. He had a huge season in 2021 with 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. Ademilola and Isaiah Foskey give Notre Dame a solid defensive line unit.
17. Tyleik Williams, Ohio State Buckeyes
There may not have been a better freshman defensive lineman than Williams. He registered 6.5 tackles for loss and five sacks for the Buckeyes in 2021. The Buckeyes are loaded with young talent on the defensive line, which can hopefully improve their defense as they make a run at the National Championship.
16. Jalen Redmond, Oklahoma Sooners
Redmond had a monster 2019 season, then sat out 2020 due to COVID. In 2021, he had eight tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He is one of Oklahoma’s better players and could improve his draft stock with another good season.
15. Jacob Slade, Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State had a great season in 2021 and Slade did as well. He had five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, as the Spartans went to a New Year’s Six Bowl Game. They will look for continuity and Slade will want to stack another year of production on top of last season.
14. Gervon Dexter, Florida Gators
Dexter is another player whose impact doesn’t always show up in the stat line. He has 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in his two seasons for the Gators. With interior linemen, the numbers don’t tell the whole story and Dexter can make an impact without putting up the numbers.
13. Brandon Dorlus, Oregon Ducks
After two solid seasons for Oregon, Dorlus really stepped up in 2021. He had seven tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Oregon has new leadership and the offense has some new faces trying to produce, so they will lean on Dorlus and the defense early on.
12. Colby Wooden, Auburn Tigers
Wooden has had two-straight great seasons for Auburn and helps give them a talented offensive line. He has 18 tackles for loss and eight sacks in his career. It looks like making a bowl game will be an uphill battle for Auburn, but Wooden and the defensive line should be solid.
11. Junior Tafuna, Utah Utes
Tafuna had a good freshman season that helped Utah win the Pac-12. He had 5.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. The experience he gained is going to be valuable for Utah this season, as they look to win the Pac-12 again.
10. Tuli Tuipulotu, USC Trojans
The Trojans got a good freshman year out of Tuipulotu, but his sophomore season was incredible. With 7.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks, Tuipulotu proved to be one of the best players in the Pac-12. USC has a lot of new parts this season, but one of the best returning players is Tuipulotu.
9. PJ Mustipher, Penn State Nittany Lions
In five games played last season, Mustipher had three tackles for loss and one sack. He is entering his fifth season in the Penn State program and if he can stay healthy, can produce well for the Nittany Lions.
8. Tyler Davis, Clemson Tigers
Davis is a unique player who may have been at his best during his freshman player. Staying healthy is a part of that, but he had 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks as a freshman and just 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks since. He is entering his senior season on one of the most talented defensive lines in college football.
7. Jaxon Player, Baylor Bears
Player played four seasons at Tulsa and improved every year. In 2021, he produced 15 tackles for loss and five sacks. He now joins Dave Aranda at Baylor, as the Bears look to repeat as Big 12 Champions.
6. Zacch Pickens, South Carolina Gamecocks
Pickens has garnered a lot of attention from opponents, but has still been a great defensive lineman. He had five tackles for loss and four sacks. South Carolina has a few star players with Pickens being one of the best.
5. Dante Stills, West Virginia Mountaineers
West Virginia will have stills for his fifth season in 2022. He had 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2021. That wasn’t even his best season with the program, as he had 14 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 2019. Stills will haunt Big 12 offensive lines again in 2022.
4. Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh Panthers
Kancey is a member of a good Pittsburgh defensive line. He had 13 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2021, which helped Pittsburgh make a New Year’s Six Bowl. If Pittsburgh is going to be as successful as last season, Kancey and the defensive line will have to live up to expectations.
3. Siaki Ika, Baylor Bears
Ika is a big nose tackle at 6-foot-4 and 350 pounds. After starting his career at LSU, he joined Baylor and had six tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in 2021. He wreaks havoc on offensive linemen and will pair with Player this year to form a great interior defensive line.
2. Bryan Bresee, Clemson Tigers
Bresee was injured in 2021 and played just four games. He had three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. As a freshman, he totaled 6.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. The stats don’t do him justice and he will be a part of this very good Clemson defensive line in 2022.
1. Jalen Carter, Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia had a great defense that led them to a National Championship last season. Carter was great for that team and with more playing time in 2022, should be able to show just how athletic he is for a player his size.
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