Top Returning Group of Five, Independent Defensive Tackles For 2017

Houston sophomore Ed Oliver is easily the top Group of Five defensive tackle in 2017, but who’ll be in the hunt to be second-best later this fall?

In terms of defensive tackles, the Group of Five boasts one of the nation’s premier players at the position … followed by a precipitous drop-off. Yes, the collection of conferences can point to Houston’s Ed Oliver, an elite playmaker in just his second year, but who else, particularly outside of the American? While there’s a smattering of undersized, try-hard grinders who can plug holes, there is a noticeable shortage of NFL-caliber interior linemen who command double-teams. And that inability to attract such run defenders is one of the starkest personnel differences between Group of Five programs and their counterparts from the Power Five.

Top Returning Group Of Five, Independent DTs

5. Jamiyus Pittman, UCF

4. Deadrin Senat, South Florida

3. Cortez Broughton, Cincinnati

2. David Moa, Boise State

At just 6-3 and 268 pounds, Moa was hardly the prototype for a nose tackle last fall. But what he lacked in traditional size, he more than made up for with quickness and a nonstop motor. As a sophomore in 2016, Moa used his toughness and get-off to collect 10.5 tackles for minus yards, a team-high 8.5 sacks and four pass breakups. The First Team All-Mountain West selection has dropped weight and improved his strength metrics this offseason in anticipation of a shift from the nose to three-tech tackle.

1. Ed Oliver, Houston

Oliver was the most decorated recruit to ever sign with the Cougars. In his remarkable 2016 debut, he performed like it from wire-to-wire. Oliver delivered what will go down as one of the most dominant rookie seasons ever by an interior lineman. He toyed with much older opposing blockers, schooling them for 66 tackles, 23 stops behind the line, five sacks, nine pass breakups and three forced fumbles. At 6-2 and 290 pounds, Oliver operates with unsurpassed explosiveness, and his hunger for greatness is really bad news for American Athletic Conference blockers.