Others Considered (Alphabetical): Boise State, Georgia, Houston, Miami, Michigan State, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Penn State, South Carolina, Texas, Washington
#10 – TCU
Gary Patterson’s front four also return just two starters, but new starters Corey Bethley and LJ Collier have both had plenty of playing time in past years. Ross Blacklock was excellent as a freshman and will only improve, and ULM transfer Ben Banogu could contend for All-Big 12 honors.
#9 – Florida
With a 4-2-5 base formation, Florida’s defense has always intrigued me. The Gators return just two starters from the defensive line, but CeCe Jefferson put on a show as a gadget player last year, and Khairi Clark was a reliable hand on the inside. Last year’s backup, Jabari Zuniga, will step into a bigger role on the edge, and the second starter inside will be Tedarrell Slaton, a four-star prospect at guard transitioning to the other side of the ball.
#8 – Virginia Tech
Defensive tackle Tim Settle is now with the Redskins, but the other three starters return, including All-ACC contenders in DT Ricky Walker and DE Trevon Hill, who combined for 12 TFL and ten sacks last season. Vinny Mihota will shift inside after starting at end last year, and junior Houshun Gaines will take his place.
#7 – Florida State
This may be high for a team losing two starters, but Florida State’s recruiting has just been that good. Brian Burns and Demarcus Christmas will each provide a veteran presence on the outside and inside respectively, as each will take a five star sophomore under their wing, Marvin Wilson at D-Tackle and Joshua Kaindoh at end.
#6 – Auburn
Three out of the four starters from last year’s beastly defensive line are back for the 2018 campaign. Dontavius Russell and Derrick Brown will man the inside in one of the best duos in the country. The edge spots will be filled by Marlon Davidson, a returning starter, as well as a new face, four-star sophomore T.D. Moultry.
#5 – Michigan
The Wolverines will certainly miss Maurice Hurst, but Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich at the ends might be one of the best combos in football. The question will come inside as Michigan is likely to start five-star sophomore Aubrey Solomon, who was a little bit shaky in limited playing time last season. The other starter on the inside will probably be veteran Michael Dwumfour.
#4 – Mississippi State
All four starters return from a defensive line that helped make the Bulldogs one of the top ten defenses in the country in opponent YPG, including NFL prospects Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat, both of whom will contend for All-SEC honors. The other two starters will both be seniors with starting experience: Gerri Green and Braxton Hoyett.
#3 – Alabama
Alabama’s defensive line seem to churn out an NFL first rounder ever year and this year that player for the Tide is Raekwon Davis, who gobbled up 8.5 sacks last year, earning himself All-American honors. Four-star JUCO Isaiah Buggs will take the other edge spot, and the nose tackle spot will be filled (quite literally) by four-star sophomore Quinnen Williams
#2 – Ohio State
Two words. Nick. Bosa. Bosa led the Buckeyes, who ranked second in the country in sacks, with 8.5 in his sophomore season and will be looking to add more in 2018. Dre’Mont Jones will contend for All-Big Ten honors on the inside and the other edge spot will be taken by five-star Chase Young.
#1 – Clemson
It might not be an overstatement to say that this 2018 Clemson defensive line group might be one of the best ever. The Tigers return four All-ACC players from the group that led the ACC in rush defense and the NCAA in sacks last year including NFL prospects Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant.