Pac-12 Power Rankings: The Defensive Lines

Scott Olmos-US PRESSWIRE

We start our Pac-12 defensive rankings with a list of the top defensive lines in the conference.

1. Arizona State (Five first place votes)

Arizona State received all five first place votes in our defensive line rankings. The Sun Devils bring back the defending Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in defensive tackle Will Sutton. The All-American had a breakout junior season with 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss.

Beside him in the middle of the Arizona State defensive line is Jaxon Hood, who was a freshman All-American selection in 2012 and Marcus Hardison, a high profile junior college recruit.

Outside, Arizona State is led by seniors Junior Onyeali and Gannon Conway and graduate student Devon Coleman. Kisima Jange, Corey Smith and Demetrious Cherry are all newcomers that could contribue right away next season. What puts Arizona State at the top of our rankings is the depth the Sun Devils have along the defensive line.

2. USC

USC brings back an experienced defensive line that falls just behind Arizona State in our rankings. Leonard Williams posted 64 tackles and eight sacks as a true freshman in 2012 and senior Morgan Breslin amassed 62 tackles and 13 sacks last season.

In the middle the Trojans bring back George Uko, who had five sacks and 31 tackles last season and Antwuan Woods who was used primarily as a backup in 2012. USC continues to recruit well, especially in the state of California, so expect true freshmen Kenny Bigelow and Jason Hatcher to have impacts in 2013.

3. Oregon

Like USC and Arizona State, Oregon boasts an incredibly deep defensive line. Senior defensive tackle Taylor Hart returns after having 36 tackles and eight sacks last season. Wade Keliilipi and Ricky Havili-Heimuli return to provide depth and big bodies at the defensive tackle position.

Arik Armstead and Deforest Buckner are poised for breakout seasons in their second years in Eugene. Oregon has one of the tallest defensive line units in the conference, boasting seven players over 6-5.

4. Stanford

The Cardinal bring back both of their starting defensive ends from last season. Ben Gardner posted 49 tackles and 7.5 sacks in 2012 on his way to becoming a second team All-Pac-12 performer. Henry Anderson, another second team All-Pac-12 selection in 2012, made 51 stops and and 5.5 sacks in last season.

David Perry looks likely to win the starting nose tackle job in Stanford's defense. Look for Ikenna Nwafor and Josh Mauro to give Stanford some depth on the defensive line.

5. UCLA

The Bruins defensive line took a hit when Owamagbe Odighizuwa suffered a hip injury in May and could be lost for the season. Senior Cassius Marsh returns after starting all 14 games in 2012. Marsh made 50 tackles with eight sacks last season. Senior nose guard Seali'i Epenesa returns in the middle of the UCLA defensive line.

Ellis McCarthy, Brandon Willis and Jeremy Castro provide UCLA depth along its line. Like Stanford and ASU, UCLA plays with a primarily three-man front.

6. Oregon State

The Oregon State defensive line features one of the most underrated players in the conference in Scott Crichton. Last season, Crichton racked up 44 tackles and nine sacks and was named a first team All-Pac-12 performer. The other defensive end on Oregon State is Dylan Winn, who finished the year with 49 tackles last season.

The Beavers lost both of their starting defensive tackles from last season and it looks like Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau are the favorites to win starting jobs. Mana Rosa and Ali'i Robins will also compete for playing time up the middle.

7. Washington

The Washington defense struggled to get to the quarterback last season, ranking 10th in the conference in sacks last season. Danny Shelton emerged last season along the interior of the line, being named honorable mention All-Pac-12. Juniors Andrew Hudson and Josh Shirley will likely be the starting defensive ends when the season starts.

Josh Banks, Connor Cree and Sione Potoa'e will provide depth for the Huskies and look out for newcomers Joe Mathis and Elijah Qualls.

8. Cal

The California defensive line features one of the better tackles in the Pac-12, senior Deandre Coleman. As a junior, Coleman racked up 48 tackles and three sacks. Coming off knee problems in 2012, junior Mustafa Jalil is a candidate to play next to Coleman at defensive tackle.

On the outside, Cal will feature two guys transitioning from outside linebacker to defensive end. Chris McCain started 10 games last season, compiling 50 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Brennan Scarlett missed three games due to injury last season, however he still racked up 40 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

9. Utah

Utah lost Star Lotulelei to the NFL and in steps defensive end Trevor Reilly as the leader of the Utah defense. Reilly racked up 69 tackles and 4.5 sacks in his junior season. Junior defensive end Nate Orchard enters 2013 as the only returning starter.

Senior Tenny Palepoi looks to be one of the starting defensive tackles tasked with replacing the All-American Lotuelei. Senior LT Tuipulotu and junior Sese Ianu will complete for the other starting tackle.

10. Arizona

The Arizona defense, which finished last in the conference in yards allowed last season, returns all 11 starters. Tackles Tevin Hood and Sione Tuihalamaka return in the middle with Justin Washington on the outside. Reggie Gilbert and Dan Pettinato will be in the mix as well, however overall the Arizona defense lacks depth.

11. Washington State

Defensive tackle Xavier Cooper returns for his sophomore year after a freshman campaign that saw him make 34 tackles and three sacks in 11 games. Ioane Gauta will play alongside Cooper in the middle of the Washington State defensive line. Matthew Bock, Logan Mayes, Destiny Vaeao will provide depth at defensive end in WSU's 3-4 scheme.

12. Colorado

The Colorado defense gave up an incredible 46 points per game last season. The Buffaloes recorded just 19 sacks as a team in 2012. Chidera Uzo-Diribe led the team with seven sacks last season and there are not many other players worth mentioning.

Previous Power Rankings

The Quarterbacks

The Running Backs

The Tight Ends

The Wide Receivers

The Offensive Lines

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