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Scipio's 2008 All-Big 12 Team: Defense

When coaches (ahem, SIDs) select these teams, there's an understanding that they will reward seniors and program guys. They'll even ask their colleagues who they should vote for to reward "the right guys" on their team. That's how Jon Cooper - a bottom of the top 20 O-lineman - is awarded OL of the year. If you played high school football and shook your head at some of the All-District selections, you know the dynamics at play here. In our everyone-gets-a-trophy-society coaches (err, SIDs) love to suggest 1st Teams with 19 starters. They're also not above playing politics.

Journalists tend to rely on the opinions of the coaches, each other, statistics, and, in the case of linemen and DBs, simply filling in the players tabbed in the preseason, irrespective of their actual play. Reputation rules all. They also like to select 4 OTs on the 1st Team OL and 4 safeties starting on the 1st Team at DB. Wonderful. Their offense is a swinging gate and the defense is a prevent.

Many fans tend to rely on a n of 1. How did that player do against my team? And could this player be featured in an Under Armour commercial? They also like to surf NFL draft projection websites and use that as the crux of their argument no matter how the guy actually performed on the field. Please observe Longhorn fans and Leonard Davis. There's a persistent mythology that he was a consistently dominant player here.

I look at production, I look at what they bring within their respective system, I tend to overweight their performance in games that matter, I discount garbage time, I forgive normal human error, and I try to rely on my eyes rather than the safety of collective opinion. This is a dangerous road and it may lead to some contrarianism, but I hope it's not of the mindlessly provocative variety. I find that just as annoying as you probably do. I also realize the folly of trying to compare Marlon Winn's contribution at OT vs. that of Russell Okung - so I try to grade someone within their system as well as on a relative basis.

Most of all, I'm trying to pick a bunch of dudes that I'd want to go play the New York Giants with - and hope to keep it within 30.

1st Team Defense

DE Brian Orakpo Texas Sr
DT Gerald McCoy Oklahoma So
DT Roy Miller Texas Sr
DE Jeremy Beal Oklahoma So

Orakpo requires no explanation. Jeremy Beal does. He got better every game. In his last three, he was the second best defensive player in the league. I'm comfortable taking him over Tech's Brandon Williams, who is a pass rushing specialist and disappeared in some big games (no, not ours). Nebraska DT Suh is a tough cut to the 2nd team because of his insane physical talent, but you'd have difficulty convincing me that he offered the consistency of Miller and McCoy.

LB Travis Lewis Oklahoma Fr
LB Joe Pawelek Baylor Jr
LB Sergio Kindle Texas Jr

Travis Lewis is all about production - 10 tpg, 4 interceptions. A no-brainer and a great example of player development. Joe Pawelek led the league in tackles and interceptions at his de facto MLB role. Sergio Kindle may be a LB in name only, but his athletic ability and motor off of the edge made him a significant force - 3rd in the league in sacks, 1st in the league in 45 yards across the field hustle plays.

CB Cha'pelle Brown Colorado Jr
CB Dominique Franks Oklahoma So
S Darrell Stuckey Kansas Jr
S Darcel McBath Texas Tech Sr

The state of cornerback play in the Big 12 is a travesty, but Franks was the best of the lot. Diminutive Cha'pelle Brown is certainly not a great player and he struggled against big receivers who bodied him, but he was effective in space and offenses generally avoided his aggressive little ass. Darrell Stuckey might be the most underrated defender in the league. Darcel McBath is a savvy veteran and he tied Pawelek for the interception lead. He has been at Tech forever and he plays like it.

2nd Team Defense

DE Brandon Williams Texas Tech Jr
DT Ndamukong Suh Nebraska Jr
DT Colby Whitlock Texas Tech So
DE Stryker Sulak Mizzou Sr

Sulak has NFL-level DE skills trapped in an average athletic package. Brandon Williams is a good DE who didn't always show up in all phases. Suh could easily be on the 1st team, but DT is a position that demands consistency and I won't compromise. Whitlock is a brawler who stuffs the run adeptly. I like him a lot as a 1 gap center molester.

LB Roddrick Muckelroy Texas Jr
LB Brian Duncan Texas Tech So
LB James Holt Kansas Sr

Muck is a great striker and hustle guy and he cleaned up a lot of messes for our defense. No LB in the league hit harder. MLB play in the Big 12 is weak. Brian Duncan is, and I'm not damning with faint praise, really competent. Smart football player. He was swallowed up against OU, but judging him by that game alone is grossly unfair. James Holt is another underrated KU defender. Every time I saw him, he was making a play off of the edge or a hustle play downfield. He led the league in forced fumbles. He singlehandedly destroyed a somewhat dangerous KSU offense.

CB Jacob Lacey Oklahoma St Sr
CB Jamar Wall Texas Tech Jr
S William Moore Missouri Sr
S Lendy Holmes Oklahoma Sr

Lacey is a really good athlete who would feel comfortable at LSU: great play, great play, bonehead move. He's the Dexter Manley of Big 12 corners. Jamar Wall is an excellent athlete and no one really abused him. You could easily replace Cha'pelle Brown with him on the 1st team and I won't debate you. William Moore didn't live up to his billing, but he's still a reliable run support guy and an occasional disruptor in an athletic 230 pound package. He disappointed me a bit, but not as profoundly as, say, Nic Harris, who is a well-orchestrated fraud. Lendy Holmes plays a nice deep safety. Very few holes in his game.

3rd Team Defense

DE McKinner Dixon Texas Tech Jr
DT Ziggy Hood Missouri Sr
DT George Hypolite Colorado Sr
DE Kurtis Taylor Iowa St Sr

Dixon is super-sound across the board. Mr Fundamental. Not the player I expected given his background. Ziggy Hood was horrific against Texas and I immediately struck him from consideration, but in watching him over the course of the year he worked his way back. Barely. George Hypolite is a good player, but rarely did he play to the level promised by pre-season hype. Poor Kurtis Taylor is a very solid DE playing on a horrendous defense. He edged out Nebraska's Zach Potter and KU's Jake Laptad because I have a strict limit on slow white DEs on my All-Big 12 teams. Call it the Gray Mosier Rule.

LB Sean Weatherspoon Missouri Jr
LB Jeff Smart Colorado Jr
LB Andre Sexton Oklahoma St Jr

Sean Weatherspoon - how can someone with so many statistics make so few actual plays? Sexton is a classy player in his hybrid safety/LB role and you get the sense that he was the only guy on OSU's team who knew what the hell was going on any given down. Jeff Smart is a productive player. No more, no less. We're scraping the bottom of the barrel for MLB play.

S Earl Thomas Texas Fr
S Daniel Charbonnet Texas Tech Sr
CB Castine Bridges Missouri Sr
CB Ryan Palmer Texas Sr

When Castine Bridges zones or has safety help, he is a solid football player. He'll knock you out. But when he's on an island...hmmm. Ryan Palmer - what can I say? He was really solid over the second half of the season. You don't want him on a primary receiver, but who in the Big 12 do you want on Crabtree? Three interceptions, three sacks, a sure tackler. Earl Thomas was one of the best safeties in the league by year's end and 3rd team may be shortchanging him. Good speed, good instincts, fearless in run support, forced six turnovers. Daniel Charbonnet is one of the best sorry players ever. Great instincts. Sometimes you wonder who issued him a helmet and then he runs an interception back for a touchdown.

There are some really good football players omitted from these teams. Had Chykie Brown remained healthy, he'd have been 1st Team All Big 12 at CB. Henry Melton, Zach Potter, Auston English & Jake Laptad get strong honorable mentions at DE. If Melton had played the DE position since his freshman year, look out. I loved KSU DE freshman Brandon Harold, but he's surrounded by a tragic group of players and he's still a pup. OU LB Keenan Clayton made a lot of plays, but he's not physical enough for my tastes to ditch Andre Sexton.

Your thoughts?