While Lobendahn, a sophomore, played in all 13 games, he never jumped on the scene quite like many imagined or projected. He finished with 23 tackles.
Hopoi, on the other hand, instantly became the defensive line's most productive player. As a partial qualifier out of Valley High in Sacramento, Calif., Hopoi was forced to sit out 2001. Entering 2002 as a sophomore yet to appear in a game, he started every game while recording seven sacks and 38 tackles.
His breakout game, a three-sack performance against a San Jose St. team with a unique offensive gameplan, put his name on the map for good.
It also got it in the paper, where the 6-foot-4, 260-pound lineman stole the headlines.
"(San Jose St.) ran a weird offense where the offensive line sometimes didn't block me, so the runningback had to block me," Hopoi said. "The runningback was pretty small so I tried to run him over and if he didn't block me I'd have an open lane to the quarterback. I was pretty lucky."
That was great because that week they put me in the newspaper and my parents were pretty excited."
But his parents weren't the only family members in Husky Stadium that day in early September. Hopoi says that day was just like every other home game last season, where around 100 of those closest to him - friends and family – made the trek up to Seattle to watch No. 56 chase down opposing quarterbacks.
Now a junior (with a chance to gain an extra year of eligibility if he's on track to graduate in four years), Hopoi is anxious to get back on the football field and let all the recent drama surrounding the Husky football team fade away.
"I just want to get out there and play football," the defensive end said. "I got a scholarship here to play football and go to school, and that's what I'm here to do. The coaching and everything changes, but that doesn't change my mentality."
With Josh Miller and Junior Coffin, two of the veterans interior players on the defensive front, out for the season with career-threatening injuries, the outlook is a bit questionable. Hopoi knows that's going to mean that those left standing are going to have to pick up the slack.
"Those two – Coffin and Miller – were two of the veterans of the defensive line and I know that they were going to put in a lot of effort and commitment to the team," said Hopoi.
With them gone, some of the other guys are going to have to step it up. We are going to have to show some of the young guys how to hold it down and how you have to play in order to win."
Judging by the hard work Hopoi and the rest of the defensive linemen put in over the summer, the third-year California native envisions little let-down once the season starts.
With returners Terry Johnson, Jerome Stevens, Tui Alailefaleula, Stan Daniels, Jordan Reffett, Dan Milsten, Donny Mateaki, Brandon Ala and Graham Lasee, there remains plenty of competition despite the loss of Miller and Coffin.
Now a proven commodity on the Husky defense, the goal becomes improving for Hopoi.
"I had a pretty good summer," he said. "I feel like I worked harder than I did last summer. This summer, we worked on more offensive line versus defensive line drills, agility drills, and worked harder on getting off blocks."
I'm pretty comfortable with my techniques right now. I just need to continue to work hard and get better every day."
With only 24 days remaining until the long-awaited matchup with the defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes, every day counts.