November 27, 2022
College Football's 15 best defensive tackles of 2021

Ohio State plays Nebraska on Saturday, October 24, 2020. Photo courtesy of Ohio State Athletics

What they do on the field doesn’t jump out on stat sheets.

However, defensive tackles and nose guards handle all of the blue-collar work from the interior. These huge space-eating, hole-clogging, brick walls eat ball carriers for breakfast and dominate in the trenches. The elite players are often double-teamed and hold their own in the red zone.

They’re the first line of contact and the last to emerge from the pile up. These 15 individuals have proved why they’re the real deal and will frustrate offenses all season long this fall.

15. McKinnley Jackson, Texas A&M: The former four-star prospect was one of the Aggies top recruits last season. Although Jackson only started once, he dove right into SEC action and played in all 10 games. He broke up two passes in the win over Mississippi State and tallied two tackles against Arkansas. The six-foot-two, 335-pounder had two solo stops and a sack in the bowl win over North Carolina. Jackson showed a lot of potential and earned Freshman All-SEC honors. This fall the Mississippi native will be a full-time starter and an anchor of Texas A&M’s front four on defense.

14. Damion Daniels, Nebraska: The Dallas native rocks the same jersey number that former Husker star Ndamukong Suh made legendary. Daniels had a breakout season in 2020 and played in all eight games. He had four tackles, including three solo and one for loss against Minnesota. The six-foot-three, 335-pounder recorded a tackle for loss at Purdue and against Illinois. Daniels also tallied five total tackles, including three solo at Iowa. The former three-star prospect has 45 tackles over the past three seasons with Nebraska and is due for an All-Big Ten caliber year this fall.

13. Kurt Hinish, Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish finished 16th in the FBS against the run last season and he’s a big reason why. The former three-star prospect started every game for Notre Dame and made his presence felt right away. Hinish had two tackles for loss and a sack in the opener against Duke. The six-foot-one, 296-pounder also tallied two tackles for loss and a sack in the victory over Boston College. Hinich made a stop behind the line of scrimmage against Louisville and Florida State. Not to mention the Pittsburgh native recorded three total tackles in the win over Clemson.

12. PJ Mustipher, Penn State: The Maryland native tackled every ball carrier that crossed his path, and finished 2020 with 35 total stops. Mustipher is a six-foot-four, 300-pound brick wall, who often requires a double-team. He generated eight total tackles, including two solo against Ohio State. He also made seven stops, including three solo at Nebraska. The former four-star prospect had five total tackles against Michigan and a sack in the win over Illinois on Senior Day. With three of last year’s starters gone from Penn State’s defensive line, Mustipher will have to hold down the middle.

11. Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma: The former junior college transfer made an immediate impact for the Sooners in 2020. Winfrey had two solo tackles apiece in three different games. He racked up four total tackles, including two solo and broke up a pass in the win over Baylor. The Illinois native recorded a tackle for loss against Iowa State, TCU, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Winfrey also earned second-team All-Big 12 honors. Oklahoma will boast one of the best defensive lines in the country this fall, and the six-foot-three, 297-pounder will be right in the thick of the action.

10. Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Notre Dame: He’s a versatile defensive lineman, who can play the interior or along the edge. The Hawaii native is expected to move to defensive end this spring. He made four total tackles, including three solo and one for loss in the opener against Duke. Tagovailoa-Amosa had three solo tackles and a sack in the win at Pittsburgh. The six-foot-two, 282-pounder also recorded three solo tackles, a sack and forced a fumble in the victory over Syracuse on Senior Day. The former three-star prospect finished 2020 with second-team All-ACC honors.

9. Jordan Davis, Georgia: The Charlotte native is massive, standing six-foot-six and weighing 330 pounds. Davis is just one part of a two-headed monster the Bulldogs’ line will have in the middle this fall. He only played in seven of Georgia’s games last season, but made a name for himself. Davis had four tackles apiece against Alabama and Auburn. The former four-star prospect generated two solo stops in the victory over Tennessee. Davis racked up thee solo tackles and a sack in the bowl win over Cincinnati. Not to mention he has 59 tackles and five sacks over the past three years.

8. Nyles Pinckney, Minnesota: He’s a veteran, with 80 total tackles over the past three seasons with Clemson. Pinckney earned third-team All-ACC in 2019, but only started two games for the Tigers last year. He still managed 27 tackles in the seven games he played in. The former four-star prospect had a tackle for loss and a sack in the win over Miami. Pinckney added another tackle for loss against the Citadel. The South Carolina native transferred to Minnesota last month. Pinckney brings instant credibility to a defense that finished ninth in the Big Ten in total yards allowed in 2020.

7. Phidarian Mathis, Alabama: The Crimson Tide’s defense lost a big chunk of their front seven to the NFL. However, Nick Saban’s team doesn’t rebuild, they reload, and in a big way. Mathis played in all 13 games for the National Champs last season. The Louisiana native had three solo tackles apiece in victories over Texas A&M and Tennessee. Mathis tallied four solo stop and forced a fumble in the Iron Bowl. Not to mention the six-foot-four, 312-pounder put the quarterback to the turf and broke up two passes against Mississippi State. He’ll be a legit full-time starter this fall.

6. Raymond Vohasek, North Carolina: The former junior college transfer is one of the most versatile defensive lineman in the ACC. Vohasek generated a sack in the opener against Syracuse. He racked up seven total tackles at Virginia, plus generated four stops apiece in wins over Wake Forest and Western Carolina. Not to mention the six-foot-three, 300-pounder also had a sack apiece against the Demon Deacons and Catamounts. Vohasek had three solo stops against Notre Dame, to go along with a tackle behind the line of scrimmage and a pass breakup in the loss to Texas A&M.

5. Jermayne Lole, Arizona State: In just four games the Long Beach native racked up 24 tackles. Not to mention 17 of those stops were solo. Lole generated six total tackles, a sack and broke up a pass in the opener at USC. He had seven total tackles, including six solo and forced a fumble in the victory over Arizona. The six-foot-one, 310-pounder also tallied seven tackles, including five solo and forced a fumble in the win at Oregon State. He’s arguably the best returning defensive lineman in the Pac-12, and the Sun Devils will be lethal in 2020 with him and Tyler Johnson up front.

4. Nesta Jade Silvera, Miami: The Florida native started 10 games last season and finished with 35 tackles. Silvera came out of the gates strong, with five stops, including one solo in the opener against UAB. He had two solo tackles and put the quarterback to the turf against Florida State. Not to mention the six-foot-two, 305-pounder tallied four tackles at Clemson, to go along with five more against North Carolina. Silvera left a lasting impression, with four tackles, including one for loss in the bowl against Oklahoma State. The Hurricanes are consistently cranking out elite defensive linemen.

3. Haskell Garrett, Ohio State: The former four-star prospect dominated in the trenches for the past two seasons with the Buckeyes. Garrett racked up 30 tackles, including six for loss and two sacks during that span. The Las Vegas native had at least two solo tackles in five games. Garrett recorded a sack in the opener against Nebraska. The six-foot-two, 299-pounder delivered three tackles and intercepted a pass at Michigan State. Garrett’s best performance was in the Big Ten Championship when he tallied five tackles and a sack. He finished 2020 with third-team AP All-America honors.

2. C.J. Brewer, Coastal Carolina: The Georgia native led the Chanticleers in tackles for loss and tied for fourth on the team in stops last season. Brewer dominated out of the gates with four solo tackles and two sacks against Kansas. He followed up that performance with seven total tackles, a sack and forced a fumble in the win over Campbell. The six-foot-two, 280-pounder also had seven tackles in the victory over Louisiana. Brewer delivered six total stops against South Alabama, plus a sack at Georgia State. His season-high came against Appalachian State, when he piled up 14 tackles and a sack. Brewer finished with third-team AP All-America honors.

1. Bryan Bresee, Clemson: The former five-star prospect was Clemson’s top recruit last season and lived up to his billing. As a true freshman Bresee started 10 games and earned first-team All-ACC honors. The Maryland native tallied four tackles and a sack against Virginia. He also made Boston College’s quarterback eat grass and recorded five tackles in the loss at Notre Dame. The six-foot-five, 300-pounder’s best performance came in the Playoffs against Ohio State. He generated six total tackles, including two for loss and a sack. After such a successful debut, College football fanatics are now wondering what Bresee has in store for an encore this fall. Regardless, the pipeline along the defensive line continues for the Tigers.

Honorable Mention

Jalen Carter, Georgia: He finished last season with 14 tackles, 10 quarterback hurries and earned Freshman All-SEC.