As part of a new series, we're taking power rankings from macro to micro. Instead of looking at the best teams that are dominating the college football landscape, we're focusing on something more specific in this series.
This week we're looking at a position that quarterbacks across the country fear: the pass rusher. Whether the rush is coming from a linebacker, defensive end or even defensive tackle, these 10 players will deliver a punishing hit if a signal-caller doesn't quickly get rid of the ball.
This isn't a look at the top NFL draft prospects nor a preview of edge-rusher rankings you'll see from scouts. It's simply a look at the best at the position in CFB. Without further ado, on to the rankings:
1. Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington
A fast-riser up draft boards, people need to know how to pronounce his name if they don't already (ha-OH-lee key-KAH-hah). The 6-foot-3, 245-pound outside linebacker leads the country in sacks (15.5) and tackles for loss (21.5) and has captured nearly every school record when it comes to rushing the passer. He's quick off the edge but is also plenty instinctive when it comes to finding his way to the quarterback while fighting off defenders with quality hand placement. In short, nobody has been better rushing the passer this season than Kikaha, and the numbers back that up.
2. Shane Ray, Missouri
Tied for second in the country in sacks (12), Ray was overshadowed last season by Kony Ealy and Michael Sam. That's no longer the case -- Ray has turned into one of the best at rushing the passer in the difficult SEC. Like many on this list, he gets off the line quickly and turns the corner to head toward the quarterback like few can. If you want to see how valuable he is, just watch tape of the Mizzou defense without him in the lineup, and you'll understand why he's a rare talent.
3. Randy Gregory, Nebraska
A knee injury slowed him down at the start of the season, but he's rounded into form recently as Nebraska has entered the College Football Playoff picture behind a tough, underrated defense. He might have the most NFL upside of anybody on this list, and he's already adept at coming off the edge as a defensive end. Athletic as can be, he gets off at the snap quickly no matter if he's standing up or putting his hand in the ground. Gregory's motor will be mentioned frequently when his name comes up, but his long arms and active hands are what make him an elite player.
4. Vic Beasley, Clemson
Another hybrid player to make this list, Beasley generates a substantial pass rush despite often being double-teamed. Speed is an important part of his game, but Beasley really finds success by using his quickness combined with some polished moves he's picked up the past few seasons. There's some debate over what scheme he fits best, but the bottom line is he makes a beeline toward opposing quarterbacks and often gets there before they realize he's coming.
5. Eric Striker, Oklahoma
His sack numbers (5.5) are not quite comparable to some on this list, but make no mistake -- he's a stud when it comes to getting to the quarterback. In fact, he might be the best player with a nose for the football at Oklahoma since Roy Williams. Utilizing his rare quickness, Striker has done his damage from a number of spots on the field and he's so versatile that he's even experimented playing as the Sooners' nickel corner. Ask any quarterback in the Big 12 who they keep an eye on at all times, and the unanimous answer will be this linebacker.
6. Joey Bosa, Ohio State
The Buckeyes' defensive line has flown a bit under the radar this season after that Virginia Tech loss, but Bosa remains highly regarded. He makes a living beating opposing tackles and has really started to pick things up the last couple of weeks. Like others on this list, he gets off the line quick, but it's his strength that separates him from those who exclusively run around folks (just ask Penn State players after he single-handedly ended the Oct. 25 game with his bull rush).
7. Scooby Wright III, Arizona
The Pac-12's best-kept secret might be the lightly recruited linebacker in Tucson. He has been a revelation for the Wildcats' defense. He's second in the conference in sacks (12) and tackles for loss (18.5) and is tied for the FBS lead in forced fumbles (five). He's in a unique position with Arizona's 3-3-5 scheme, but it's been a perfect fit for Wright, who has exceptional burst and the strength to bring down any quarterback. He has a great motor no matter where he's at on the field, and his big-play ability has been timely in the team's key wins.
8. Nate Orchard, Utah
Utah leads the country in sacks, and Orchard is a big reason for the team's success in that area. He's either getting to the quarterback or drawing a double-team to help his teammates. He gets moved around the formation more than most and does his dirty work with a hand in the ground as well as standing up as an outside linebacker. His straight-line speed is tremendous, and his long arms allow Orchard to fight off any offensive tackle in the game.
9. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
Perhaps the lone bright spot for the Aggies' defense this season, Garrett has already broken Jadeveon Clowney's SEC record for sacks by a freshman, and we're only in early November. This might be his first college season, but he plays like a veteran, and teams are already starting to double-team him. However, he's not just a speed guy. Garrett employs his size and strength to get to the quarterback, too.
10. Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville
Last year it was Marcus Smith who made a name for himself (and turned into a first-round pick) rushing the passer for the Cardinals off the edge, and this season it's Mauldin (who has been ruled out for Saturday's game at Boston College with a hamstring injury). He's adapted well to playing outside linebacker and has caused far more havoc than his still-impressive stat line indicates (6.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss). He's a blur jumping off the line but also adds some flair when he does reach the quarterback thanks to his colorful dreadlocks.