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Who Will Win Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2013?

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Who Will Be The Best Defensive Player In The Big 12 In 2013?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Big 12 conference has a great amount of depth on the defensive side of the ball, despite being known as an offensive focused league. The talent is there, but who will step up and become the defensive player of the year this fall? There are many options for the top defensive players of the year for the Big 12 conference, but these five are my picks for the top candidates for the award.

A few Big 12 teams have several candidates, and some have none. Every year, there seems to be a few frontrunners for defensive player of the year, but there are also unknown players who show up out of nowhere and become one of the biggest defensive producers for their respective teams. These players will take the conference by storm this fall with their pass rush, defensive pressure, tackling, interceptions and sacking abilities.

It's hard to judge exactly who will live up to their preseason hype, who won't, and who will become a surprise player for their team. But we do know which players have the skill sets and who is poised to become one of the conference, if not the nation's, best defensive players during the 2013 college football season

The following are my top five picks for the 2013 Big 12 defensive players of the year and the reasons why I think they will strive on the defensive side of the ball this fall. From defensive linemen to cornerbacks, each of these players will be huge playmakers for their teams and help guide them to successful seasons.

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No. 5 Ty Zimmerman

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Kansas State Wildcats safety Ty Zimmerman had a breakout year in 2012 with 39 solo tackles and five interceptions. He will be projected as the conference's best safety this fall and could see his NFL Draft stock soar even higher.

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No. 4 Kerry Hyder

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive end Kerry Hyder will be a force to be reckoned with this fall. Last year, he had 41 solo tackles and 5.5 sacks, which really helped improve the Texas Tech Red Raiders defense. This year as a senior, Hyder will be looking to improve both numbers and give the Red Raiders a shot at the Big 12 championship.

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No. 3 Jordan Hicks

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Texas Longhorns linebacker Jordan Hicks was hurt for the majority of the 2012 season, but he had 10 solo tackles in the three games that he did play and has the biggest upside of any linebacker in the conference. If Hicks can stay healthy, he could be a Butkus Award finalist this fall.

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No. 2 Jackson Jeffcoat

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Senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat also missed out on a lot of the 2012 season, but he showed that when healthy he can be the most disruptive defensive lineman in the Big 12. Jeffcoat had 24 solo tackles and four sacks in six games last year. This year, if healthy, he has the potential to be one of the best pass rushers in the country.

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No. 1 Devonte Fields

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The returning Big 12 defensive player of the year Devonte Fields should be the favorite for the same award this year. The junior defensive end will miss one of the Texas Christian Horned Frogs' biggest games of the 2013 season as he has to sit out the season opener against the Louisiana State Tigers after being suspended for a violation of team rules. Fields will need to make up for this lost game with the rest of the season, but he has the talent to make a run at a repeat as the best defensive player in the conference in 2013.