The Utes lost three starters from last year, but are reloading on the defensive line with what could end up being one of the best lines in the country. Tackle Star Lotulelei is going to be the anchor in the middle. He's big, quick, and anticipates well. He'll be on the short list for first team All Pac 12 by the end of the season. Next to him is the duo of James Aiono and Dave Kruger, who will battle for the starting spot throughout the year. Kruger has been the starter the past two seasons, but Aiono has been impressive in the off-season after a disappointing 2010. Outside, the Utes have a dynamic pair of rushers in Joe Kruger and Derrick Shelby. Shelby has battled injuries the past few seasons, but is an NFL talent. Joe Kruger is a giant at almost 6-8 with speed and could end up being the best lineman the Utes have this season. He's a first round NFL draft pick waiting to happen. Behind them is Tevita Finau who had spot starts in 2010 and will help provide depth at both ends. Michigan State transfer David Rolf is also a talented player who has shown a penchant for picking up sacks in camp and Lei Talamaivao is coming back after missing 2010 with an injury. The biggest wildcard could end up being true freshman Nate Fakahafua, who has been very impressive in his short time on campus and has unreal athleticism for a defensive lineman. Inside the Utes will also get help from LT Tuipulotu, who has really emerged as a viable backup.
Utah may be at the top of the list, but the Trojans aren't far behind, with only a lack of serious depth like the Utes have, and few players coming off of injuries keeping them from the otp spot. Junior Nick Perry lines up at end coming off an injury filled four sack season in 2010. If healthy, he might be the best rush end in the conference. Wes Horton lines up at the other end spot, also coming off an injury and had 4 sacks as well. These two could be pushed by Devon Kennard, who made the move from linebacker in the offseason. Senior Dajohn Harris returns as is the rock in the middle. Whether Christian Tupou is able to return from injury or George Uko takes the spot opposite Harris, the Trojans line is going to be very good.
Hau'oli Jamora started 7 games as a freshman racking up 8 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. He's a high energy guy that could really break out this season. Everette Thompson started 2010 at tackle, but moved back to his more natural position of end halfway through the year finishing with 1 and half sacks with 5 tackles for loss. With a full season at the same spot, the senior should be much more productive in 2010. Junior Talia Crichton and freshman Andrew Hudson will provide depth. Redshirt freshman Josh Shirley looks like a Jerry Hughes clone and could end up a pass rushing terror and will be used in third down situations. At the tackle spots, Alameda Ta'amu is coming off of an All Pac 12 season and is a giant, while highly regarded sophomore Sione Potoa'e will line up opposite Ta'amu. There's a lot of talent on this line and they will have periods where they look like the best line in the conference.
4. Arizona State
Defensive end Junior Onyeali returns and he was a beast as a freshman. Look for him to build upon that as a sophomore and be one of the best in the conference. Opposite Onyeali is another sophomore in Davon Coleman. Senior Bo Moos has been impressive and looks to have possibly won a starting spot at one of the tackle spots with junior Corey Adams at the other spot. This defensive line is big, fast, and athletic and will help keep the Sun Devils in a lot of games.
The Bruin defense gave up a lot of yards last year, especially on the ground, but much of that had to do with the inepptitude of their offense over the second half of the season and being on the field for so long. Returning this year after missing all of 2010 is end Datone Jones, who is poised to be one of the top ends in the country. Bruin fans will be disappointed if he doesn't make a push towards double digit sacks. Lining up opposite Jones is junior Damien Holmes who should be a run stuffing machine. Combine those two with sophomore Cassius Marsh at the tackle spot, who was a monster last season as a freshman and senior Justin Edison, and this might be the most improved starting unit in the conference. The Bruins are loaded behind the starters as well with Keenan Graham, Iuta Tepa, and Owamagbe Odighizuwa all looking like pass rushing terrors under new defensive coordinator Jim Tresey.
Cal is loaded with young talent on the defensive line, but they did lose first round pick Cameron Jordan to the NFL out of their 3-4 defense. Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu are seniors with talent outside, while the battle at defensive tackle will yield someone that can really play. Whether it's Aaron Tipoti, Keni Kafusi, Kendrick Payne, or massive incoming freshman Villami Moala, the Bears will be just fine. This unit could be very good by the end of the season.
With Colorado moving to a new 4-3 defense, players are being shuffled around with Josh Hartigan and Chider Uzo-Diribe at the end spots. Hartigan is experienced and Uzo-Diribe has tremendous athleticism. The tackle spots look to be locked up by COnrad Obi and Will Pericak, but there's plenty of depth behind them with Nate Bonsu and Curtis Cunningham sure to get reps.
The Ducks line was very good in the spring, led by defensive end Terrell Turner, their only returning starter. Brandon Hannah, Dion Jordan, and Tony Washington will all battle at the other spot. The tackle spot is loaded with talent, but short on experience. Ricky Heimuli looks to be the best of the bunch.
The Wildcats are replacing much of their defensive line after elite ends Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed headed off to the NFL. C.J. Parish and Mohammed Usman are the leading candidates to start at the end spots, but neither has a single career sack. The tackles do have some experience with Justin Washington and Sione Tuihalamaka returning to form a solid duo.
The Cardinal lost Sione Fua, the anchor of their 3-4 at the tackle spot. Terrance Stevens is expected to step into that role after spot duty last season. Matt Masifilo returns at one defensive end spot while sophomore Ben Gardner is expected to hold down the other spot. Both are huge ends that excel in stopping the run. Stanford does need to develop some depth though as their isn't a ton of experience on the roster currently.
11. Washington State
The Cougars couldn't stop the run at all last season, but do have a few returning players to build on. Toni Pole, Brandon Ranking, and Anthony Laurenzi will battle it out inside for the two tackle spots, with Rankin the returning starter. At end, Travis Long is coming off of an all conference season and will be helped on the opposite end by Jordan Pu'u Robinson and newcomer Ian Knight.
12. Oregon State
Oregon State was poor against the run last season and now the Beavs lose Pac 12 defensive player of the year in DT Stephen Paea. If Dominic Glover can get his academics in order, he'll slide into the spot previously occupied by Paea. Otherwise, Castro Masanani, Ben Motter, and Kevin Frahm should battle for the two spots. With Gabe Miller gone and Glover moving inside (if he qualifies), it's time to rebuild at the end spots. Taylor Henry and Scott Crichton are the leaders at defensive end.
Pac 12 Unit Rankings- Defensive Line
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