Clelin Ferrell and Nick Bosa broke through offensive lines and challenged quarterbacks in the backfield in 2017. Good luck stopping them this season as they continue to collect sacks and disrupt offenses. There are many talented pass-rushers to watch out for this season, but who will be the best? Our college football insiders decide, and you can make your pick by voting below.
Andrea Adelson: Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
Every Clemson defensive lineman returns, and it’s difficult to point out which player is best among them. But if the question is about the best pass-rusher on the best defensive line in the nation, Ferrell gets the nod. Last year he finished with 9.5 sacks and 12 quarterback pressures, but that wasn’t enough for him. During spring practice, Ferrell talked about wanting to be dominant, and leaving a legacy as one of the best linemen in school history. He’s got that chance now.
Ed Aschoff: Nick Bosa, Ohio State
Everyone who doesn’t pick Nick Bosa is just trying to be cute. He’s already better than his brother, and he might challenge Ed Oliver for the top pick in next year’s NFL draft. He’s an insane mixture of athleticism and strength, and it’s really not a question of if he’ll get to the quarterback, but when. You’re standing on the tracks, and he’s the train coming through.
Chris Low: Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
It’s almost unfair the collection of talent Clemson has returning on its defensive line this season. The Tigers have a little bit of everything up front defensively, but nobody in the country gets after the quarterback the way 6-foot-5, 260-pound junior defensive end Clelin Ferrell does with his blend of size, power and explosiveness. He had 9.5 sacks last season and should easily finish in double figures in 2018.
Adam Rittenberg: Sutton Smith, Northern Illinois
Surprised? You shouldn’t be if you caught any of Smith’s games last season. A natural rush end, he lived in opposing backfields with 14 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss. The defensive line projects to be a strength again, and although NIU went through a coordinator change, it promoted from within with Jeff Knowles. Smith could be even more disruptive as a fourth-year junior.
Alex Scarborough: Ed Oliver, Houston
The great thing about Houston’s Oliver being the best pass-rusher in the country is that he’s not even a pure pass-rusher. If his only job was to clog running lanes, he’d be the best at that too. But that’s what happens when you have his size and quickness. The 6-foot-2, 290-pound junior is the best player in college, regardless of position.
Jake Trotter: Nick Bosa, Ohio State
Playing on one of the deepest defensive lines in the country, Ohio State end Nick Bosa will have ample opportunity to drop opposing quarterbacks. And Bosa, a near lock to go in the top five of next year’s NFL draft, is the biggest reason why the Buckeyes will beat out Clemson for the nation’s top sack total.
Tom VanHaaren: Nick Bosa, Ohio State
I really want to say Sutton Smith from Northern Illinois, who had 14 sacks last season, but I think Nick Bosa is going to keep building off of what he did in 2017. The Buckeyes lose Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes this season, which means that Bosa is going to have more opportunities to improve on the 8.5 sacks he had for Ohio State last season. Now a junior, Bosa should be one of the leaders of this defense in 2018.