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 2023 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.
Top College Football Defensive Linemen
25. C.J. Clark, NC State Wolfpack
Clark battled injuries in 2021, but came back strong in 2022. He finished the season with 3.5 tackles for loss and three sacks.
24. Jaylon Hutchings, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Hutchings had a big season in 2021 with 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. While his production dipped to 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks last year, but he still is one of the better defensive linemen in the conference.
23. Deone Walker, Kentucky Wildcats
As a true freshman in 2022, Walker had 4.5 tackles for loss and one sack. The nose tackle has a bright future ahead of him.
22. Gabe Hall, Baylor Bears
Hall has two straight years of good production for the Bears. In 2022, he had 5.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
21. Aaron Lewis, Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Rutgers may not have had too much team success recently, but Lewis is a bright spot. He is coming off a season where he had eight tackles for loss and one sack.
20. James Rawls, Oregon State Beavers
Oregon State has a good run-defending tackle in Rawls, who had 10.5 tackles for loss last season.
19. Ricky Barber, UCF Knights
Barber has had production at both Western Kentucky and UCF. Last season, his second with the Knights, he had nine tackles for loss and three sacks.
18. Tony Bradford, Texas Tech Red Raiders
In four seasons at Texas Tech, Bradford has 25.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. He and Hutchings will create a great interior defensive line pair once again.
17. Braden Fiske, Florida State Seminoles
Florida State hit the transfer portal hard and went to Western Michigan to get Fiske. In 2022, Fiske had 12 tackles for loss and six sacks.
16. Byron Murphy, Texas Longhorns
Murphy has totaled 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in two seasons at Texas. His impact shows up on the field more than the box score and he can help the Longhorns improve this year.
15. Leonard Taylor, Miami Hurricanes
While his NFL Draft stock may be higher than this ranking, Taylor is still a good college defensive tackle. He has 19 tackles for loss and five sacks in his two collegiate seasons.
14. Keith Randolph, Illinois Fighting Illini
Randolph is half of a pair of great interior defensive linemen at Illinois. He had 13 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 2022.
13. Nazir Stackhouse, Georgia Bulldogs
Last season, Stackhouse had three tackles for loss, but he does a great job of taking on double and triple teams. He will step into a larger role on the defense this year.
12. Omari Thomas, Tennessee Volunteers
Thomas had five tackles for loss and one sack in 2021. His production dropped a little bit in 2022, as he had 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Thomas is a big part of Tennessee’s defense in 2023.
11. McKinley Jackson, Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies had a down 2022 season, but Jackson played well. He had seven tackles for loss and two sacks with room to grow this season.
10. DeWayne Carter, Duke Blue Devils
Carter has been one of the best players in the ACC over the last two seasons. In his career at Duke, he has 21 tackles for loss and 11 sacks.
9. Mekhi Wingo, LSU Tigers
Wingo started his career at Missouri before transferring to LSU. He had six tackles for loss and three sacks last season for the Tigers.
8. Junior Tafuna, Utah Utes
Tafuna has had two good seasons in a row for Utah. He has nine tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in that time and really improves the Utah defense.
7. Kris Jenkins, Michigan Wolverines
Although he had just 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks last season, Jenkins is one of Michigan’s best players. He has a chance to be one of the first defensive linemen selected in the 2024 NFL Draft.
6. Ruke Orhorhoro, Clemson Tigers
Orhorhoro broke into the defensive line rotation for Clemson in 2021 and has been a staple ever since. He has 16 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks over the last two seasons.
5. Dontay Corleone, Cincinnati Bearcats
The best player on Cincinnati’s roster as they make the move to the Big 12 is Corleone. He had 5.5 tackles for loss and three sacks last season and really opens things up for others to make plays.
4. Michael Hall, Ohio State Buckeyes
Hall made plenty of big plays for Ohio State last season, finishing the season with 7.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. He has unique athleticism for the position that has helped his draft stock.
3. Maason Smith, LSU Tigers
Smith had a good freshman season where he had five tackles for loss and four sacks. Unfortunately, he was injured last season in the first game and couldn’t return to the field. If healthy, Smith can have a great season for LSU.
2. Tyler Davis, Clemson Tigers
Clemson has quite a few defensive linemen that can create an impact and Davis is the best. He had 9.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks last season.
1. Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois Fighting Illini
Newton had an incredible 2022 season that culminated with him totaling 14 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Between Newton and Randolph, offenses will have to choose who to focus their attention on.
Other Notable Defensive Linemen Outside the Top 25
Fabien Lovett, Florida State Seminoles
Tuli Letuligasenoa, Washington Huskies
Simote Pepa, Utah Utes
Tobin Phillips, Stanford Cardinal
Ty Robinson, Nebraska Cornhuskers
T’Vondre Sweat, Texas Longhorns
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