Key losses: Dorian Smith (first team All-Pac-10, 42 tackles, 10.5 for loss, 6 sacks), Jeff Van Orsow (second team All-Pac-10, 43 tackles, 7.5 for loss, 2 sacks, 1 interception), starting DTs Gerald Lee, Curtis Coker
Sackmasters Victor Butler and Slade Norris will assume defensive end starting duties in the spring after each turned in superb junior years. But their starting spots are far from secure as junior college transfers Simi Kuli, the top JUCO player in the nation, and Ben Terry are coming in the fall looking for a starting spot.
Junior Latu Moala, who redshirted a year ago, has a quick first step and will be in the rotation. Keep an eye on local products Kevin Frahm and Carl Sommer whom coaches like a lot. Redshirt freshman Kyle Bell and Tonu Tuimalealiifano will also get a shot at the two deeps. Sophomore Tom Hansen has been in the system for several years and this is his year to make a run at the depth chart.
Taylor Henry is a grayshirt who will redshirt. Sophomore Keo Camat, who started his career at linebacker, may switch to defensive end as the coaches say he is too good of a talent to bury on the depth chart.
Tackle Pernell Booth is the lone returning defensive tackle with experience. Junior Sioli Nau, who redshirted a year ago, senior Keith Robertson, who added weight and switched from end to tackle midway through 2007, and sophomore Mitchel Hunt will compete for the other starting tackle position and help round out the two deeps.
Junior college transfer Stephen Paea arrives in the fall and will immediately compete for playing time. Ideally grayshirts Jesse Fifita and Castro Masaniai will redshirt but will be pushed in the spring due to lack of depth.
Key losses: Derrick Doggett (second team All-Pac-10, 93 tackles, 14 for loss, 3 sacks, 4 interceptions, 3 pass breakups), Alan Darlin (second team All-Pac-10, 62 tackles, 4 for loss, 2 sacks, 3 pass breakups,2 fumble recoveries), Joey LaRocque (second team All-Pac-10, 86 tackles, 10 for loss, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, 3 pass breakups)
Cornell will patrol the middle with Oregon product Will Darkins as his backup. Kristick will man the strong side with either Keith Pankey, a special teams standout, or David Pa'aluhi III, a smart player that the coaches think has a good upside, as his backup.
The weakside will be handled by Dwight Roberson a big, strong powerful athlete with either the super experienced Cook or Christopher as his backup.
Sophomore Walker Vave may be buried on the depth chart while grayshirt Anthony Watkins will redshirt.
Key losses: None
Senior Brandon Hughes was absolutely fantastic as a junior becoming a lockdown corner while also supporting the run defense. He is easily the best cornerback in the program. One of the most interesting spring battles will take place at the other corner position between senior Keenan Lewis and the up and coming Tim Clark. The loser of the battle will be the first corner off of the bench.
Junior Patrick Henderson is the odd man out and it is his time to put up or shut up.
Key losses: None
A strong trio of seniors with loads of experience in Bryan Payton, Al Afalava, Greg Laybourn return with Afalava starting at strong safety and Laybourn and Payton at free safety. Unfortunately Afalava was recently cited for a DUI after running into a bus shelter and leaving his car at the scene. He will miss at least one, and most likely, two games.
The coaches really like redshirt freshman Cameron Collins and Lance Mitchell who are both smart, athletic players that will figure into the rotations and on special teams. Afalava's mistake really opens the door for Collins and Mitchell to be big time contributors this season.
Sophomore James Dockery has played both corner and safety and the coaches still don't know where to put him. He is undersized, but talented and the coaches want him on the field.
Aggressive sophomore Suaesi Tuimaunei had some big hits on special teams in '07 and will once again serve in a similar capacity. Grayshirt Josh LaGrone will reshirt.
Key losses: None
Western New Mexico transfer Sean Sehnem, who averaged 37.5 yards per kick at WNM, will take a run at punting duties with redshirt freshman Kyle Harper as his backup.