2024 MAC DT Rankings: Toledo’s Darius Alexander Bull Rushes to the Top

    The top of the 2024 MAC DT Rankings looks quite different from last year, but the talent pool is no less filled.

    The transfer portal, NFL Draft, and graduations have robbed the conference of several top defensive tackles from last year. However, as the 2024 MAC DT Rankings show, there is still talent on the interior of the defensive line.

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    MAC 2024 DT Rankings

    10) Dylan Shelton, Eastern Michigan Eagles

    Tim Grant-Randall, Adrian Gonzalez, and Alex Merritt are all gone from Eastern Michigan’s DT room. As a result, the Eagles brought in DII transfer Dylan Shelton from the University of Indianapolis.

    At 6’1″ and 273 pounds, his natural leverage, proportional length, and burst off the line allow him to knife through gaps, leading to 30 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks across the last three seasons.

    9) Devonte O’Malley and Skyler Gill-Howard, Northern Illinois Huskies

    Devonte O’Malley (6’2″, 288 pounds) and Skyler Gill-Howard (6’1″, 285) have similar body types occupying the B gaps. O’Malley has been a mainstay on the Huskies’ defensive front for the past four years, averaging 4.5 TFLs and 3.5 sacks.

    Meanwhile, the 2023 season was Gill-Howard’s first with significant playing time, and the former high school wrestler flashed when on the field. With more reps and another offseason to develop, he could lead the unit in most statical categories in 2024.

    8) George Wolo, Buffalo Bulls

    George Wolo is four seasons, 90 total tackles, 14 TFLs, and 11.5 sacks into his career. The 6’0″ DT routinely gets under opponents’ pads, clogging rushing lanes.

    MORE: Could More Teams Join UMass in the MAC?

    His smaller stature means he’ll never be an elite run defender, but his get-off and hand usage allow him to generate pressure and defeat blocks with regularity.

    7) Mason Nelson, Western Michigan Broncos

    The 2023 season was Mason Nelson’s first as a starter, and he proved to be a stalwart on the D-line. He split his time between 1 and 3-tech, limiting his opportunities as a pass rusher, but he still pushed the pocket at a higher rate than expected. And despite his shorter arms, Nelson is a sure tackler and stuffs runs toward his gaps.

    6) Rayyan Buell, Ohio Bobcats

    Update April 21: Buell has officially transferred to the Colorado Buffaloes  

    Rayyan Buell didn’t play as many snaps as many of the top DTs, but he recorded 12.5 TFLs and 4.5 sacks from the interior. While he’s obviously a strong pass rusher, Buell makes his money as a run defender, shedding blocks and splitting O-linemen to get to the RB.

    5) Jason Williams, Central Michigan Chippewas

    With nearly half of his snaps coming at nose tackle, Jason Williams won’t ever produce eye-popping sack totals. Yet, that doesn’t stop him from collapsing pockets from the inside out, forcing QBs to move off their spot.

    Although his pass-rushing abilities are better than the numbers show, Williams thrives against the run, using his dense frame and high motor to produce stops at the line of scrimmage.

    4) Dontrez Brown and Anthony Hawkins, Bowling Green Falcons

    The tone-setters for Bowling Green’s defense, Dontrez Brown and Anthony Hawkins have impressed in their own ways. Brown, a three-time Academic All-MAC member, carries the unit in the pass-rush department, with the ability to single-handly take over games (see: Georgia Tech and Ball State last season).

    Hawkins is the run stuffer, working the A and B gaps to his will. He won’t post gaudy sack numbers, but he plays his role efficiently.

    3) Peyton Price, Eastern Michigan Eagles

    Shelton’s addition should only propel Peyton Price to new heights in 2024, and that’s saying something after an impressive 2023 campaign. He “only” secured four sacks last season, but he generated pressure alongside the best in the conference, even when seeing noteworthy reps as a nose tackle. Oh, and he’s no slouch in run defense, either.

    2) CJ West, Kent State Golden Flashes

    CJ West may never be a multiple-pressures-per-game defender, but he doesn’t have to be. He used all 6’2″ and 315 pounds of his frame to accumulate seven tackles for loss and several more stops near the line of scrimmage, and his presence up the middle frees up those around him to get after the QB.

    1) Darius Alexander, Toledo Rockets

    While West is in a tier of his own at No. 2 on the 2024 MAC DT Rankings, so is Darius Alexander at No. 1. What Alexander brings as a pass rusher just isn’t easily replaceable inside. His four sacks don’t seem impressive, but that’s why you have to turn on the tape.

    KEEP READING: 2024 MAC QB Rankings

    Alexander has pack-a-punch hands and an imposing lower half, bullying linemen into the QBs lap. But he isn’t just raw power — he has showcased several pass-rush moves (club rip, arm over, etc.) en route to the backfield. Another year of dominant play will land Alexander on the first-team All-MAC team and, ultimately, the NFL.

    2024 MAC DT Rankings | 11-20

    11) Nathan Kapongo, Akron Zips 
    12) Riley Tolsma and L’Cier Luter, Ball State
    13) Bralen Henderson, Ohio
    14) Demond Taylor Jr., Northern Illinois
    15) Oliver Billotte, Kent State
    16) Cavon Butler, Toledo
    17) Isaiah Green, Western Michigan
    18) Evan Branch-Haynes and Dierre Kelly, Bowling Green
    19) Cade Haberman, Northern Illnois
    20) Jonah Pace, Central Michigan

    Miss any action from the top college QB Rankings during the 2023 football season? Want to track all the movement with the college football transfer portal? College Football Network has you covered with that and more!

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