College News & Analysis

Top 10 returning edge defenders in college football for the 2023 season

Tallahassee, Florida, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive end Jared Verse (5) lines up against Duquesne Dukes offensive lineman Chris Oliver (59) during the first half at Doak S. Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

  • Florida State’s Jared Verse: The redshirt sophomore leads this list and would’ve likely been a top-20 pick in the 2023 Draft had he declared.
  • Washington’s Bralen Trice: The redshirt sophomore is second on this list and led the nation with 70 pressures this year.
  • Penn State’s Chop Robinson: The sophomore rounds out the top three and led all Power Five edge defenders with a 90.6 grade this season.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

It’s officially time to hit the reset button.

The 2022 college football season has come and gone, and so has the deadline to enter the 2023 NFL Draft. Now that we know who will continue playing on Saturdays next fall, let's take an early look at the top returning players at every position.

Here are the top 10 interior defensive linemen returning to college football next season. Please note that NFL projection is not taken into account here. 

1. Jared Verse, Florida State Seminoles

Arguably the most surprising returner in college football, Verse was a projected top-20 pick in the 2023 draft before announcing that he’d stay in Tallahassee for another season. 

The former Albany edge dominated in his first season at the FBS level, as the redshirt sophomore’s 24.4% pass-rush win rate ranked fourth among Power Five edge defenders while his 10 tackles for loss/no-gain were tied for sixth. 

2. Bralen Trice, Washington Huskies

For the first time since 2019, Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. didn’t lead the nation in total pressures.

Trice set the pace this year with 70 pressures and was college football's most productive pass-rusher. The redshirt sophomore also led all FBS edge defenders in pass-rush win rate (29.5%) and was second in pressure rate (22.4%).

3. Chop Robinson, Penn State Nittany Lions

After seeing limited playing time at Maryland as a true freshman, Robinson transferred intradivision to Penn State and broke out as a sophomore. 

He led all Power Five edge defenders in overall grade (90.6) and pass-rushing grade (92.4). For his efforts, he was the fourth-most valuable Power Five edge defender according to PFF’s wins above average metric.

4. Dallas Turner, Alabama Crimson Tide

It’s not easy to stand out when your counterpart is Anderson, whose 207 career pressures are the most in the PFF College era.

That’s the predicament Turner has been in over the past two seasons, but the spotlight will be fully shining on him with Anderson now off to the NFL. Over Turner’s first two years, his 14 sacks are tied for the second most among returning Power Five edge defenders.

5. Mykel Williams, Georgia Bulldogs

As just a true freshman, Williams started for a defense that went on to win the national championship. 

The former five-star recruit’s 75.9 run-defense grade ranked fourth among SEC edge defenders and led all FBS true freshmen edge defenders. Williams’ six sacks tied for the most among true freshmen while his 33 pressures were tied for the second-most. He’s one of the biggest breakout candidates for the back-to-back champions next season.

6. J.T. Tuimoloau, Ohio State Buckeyes 

If you want to see what Tuimoloau is capable of, turn on his tape against Penn State. 

In that contest, the sophomore earned a career-high 93.5 grade while recording two sacks, two interceptions (one of which he returned for a touchdown), a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a tackle for loss, a batted pass and three pressures. He’ll need to improve his consistency as a run-defender though, as the former top-five recruit only earned a 59.8 grade in that area. 

7. Laiatu Latu, UCLA Bruins 

If there was a comeback player of the year award in college football, Latu would have been a top candidate.

The redshirt junior missed the last two seasons at Washington after he was forced to medically retire with a neck injury. He resumed his career this past season at UCLA and was one of the most productive edge defenders in the country. Among Power Five edge defenders, Latu was tied for second in pressures (64), third in pressure rate (21.7%) and tied for third in sacks (12).

8. Brandon Dorlus, Oregon Ducks

At 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds, Dorlus blurs the line between edge defender and interior defensive lineman. He spent his sophomore season in 2021 lined up more on the interior before playing out on the edge more this past season.

Regardless of where he lines up, the junior produces at a high level. Dorlus’ 88 pressures over the last two years lead all returning Power Five edge defenders.

9. Gabriel Murphy, UCLA Bruins 

Latu wasn’t the only transfer edge defender who excelled for UCLA.

Gabriel Murphy and his twin brother, Grayson both joined the Bruins after they dominated at North Texas. While Grayson still excelled as a pass-rusher, Gabriel was the more well-rounded of the two this season, as he was one of three Power Five edge defenders who earned 80-plus grades as both a pass-rusher and run-defender. 

10. Princely Umanmielen, Florida Gators

Umanmielen’s 88.1 pass-rushing grade over the past two seasons ranks fourth among returning Power Five edge defenders.

The junior can do more than just get after the quarterback,as his 21 run-defense stops this year also ranked top 10 among Power Five edge defenders. 

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