Posted on June 11, 2021
Pac-12 defensive lines might be the weakest unit group of any in the Conference coming back.
The shortened 2020 COVID season was not kind to them, and there isn’t a ton of young talent just waiting to pop though.
That could change, though, and there’s a good amount to like about my Top Five groups.
1. UtahMika Tafua | Utah Athletics
Defensive Ends: Mika Tafua, Xavier Carlton, Max Tupai
Defensive Tackle: Viana Moala, Hauati Pututau, Devin Kaufusi, Tennessee Pututau
There are no stars on Utah’s DL, but they were one of the few units who could defend the run anywhere in the nation at all last season.
Of course, the Utes have a track record of developing stellar offensive lines without elite recruits year-after-year.
Plus, Tafua is a First-Team All-Pac-12 talent, and players like Moala, Tupai, and the Pututaus have shown well when on the field.
2. WashingtonRyan Bowman | Mike Siegel/Seattle Times
Defensive Ends: Ryan Bowman, Zion Tupuloa-Fetui, Jeremiah Martin
Defensive Tackles: Tuli Letuligasenoa, Sam Taimani, Faatui Tuitele
As noted above, it’s a very down year for Pac-12 defensive lines, with a huge lack of star talent, depth and experience.
I’m giving Washington this ranking because Bowman is a First-Team All-Pac-12 type talent; ZTF may be coming back late in the season after being the Conference’s best DL in 2020; and the Huskies have good depth at DT, with players who were good recruits and now have experience.
3. OregonKayvon Thibodeaux | The Athletic
Defensive End: Kayvon Thibodeaux
Defensive Tackles: Kristian Williams, Popo Aumavae, Brandon Dorlus, Keyon Ware-Hudson
The Ducks are up here mostly for Kayvon Thibodeaux, who has been mentioned as being more of an OLB in 2021, but who is still listed as a DE on their roster, so I’m considering him DL.
The Ducks run-defense struggled in 2020, but there’s a nice group of young talent who showed some ability late in 2020 with players like Dorlus and Williams, who should be the new rocks for them in the middle.
4. Arizona StateJermayne Lole | Sun Devil Athletics
Defensive Ends: Shannon Forman, Michael Matus, Travez Moore, Tyler Johnson
Defensive Tackles: Jermayne Lole, DJ Davidson
I really like this unit and really like Lole, who has quietly become one of the best defensive players in the Conference.
Johnson and Davidson are guys who could easily be All-Pac-12, and LSU transfer Moore adds some nice talented depth.
5. USCNick Figueroa | Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images via LA Times
Defensive Ends: Nick Figueroa, Tuli Tuipulotu, Korey Foreman
Defensive Tackles: Brandon Pili, Ishmael Sopsher, Jamar Sekona
The Trojans lose a lot up front, but return some nice pieces.
Figuera and Tuipulotu are borderline All-Pac-12 guys, and Pili has a lot of reps looking solid.
True freshman Foreman, who was ranked as the top overall player in the Class of 2021, could be an instant star.
6. UCLAOtito Ogbonnia | Joe Robbins/Getty Images via Go Joe Bruin
Defensive Ends: Datona Jackson, Odua Isibor
Defensive Tackles: Otito Ogbonnia, Tyler Manoa, Martin Andrus Jr.
A huge drop-off in proven talent here, but the Bruins were actually good at defending the run and rushing the passer last year, so I’m giving them the top spot in the rest of the field.
Ogbonnia is the best player returning of the group.
7. Washington StateBrennan Jackson | 247Sports
Defensive Ends: Brennan Jackson, Dallas Hobbs, Willie Taylor III, Amir Mujahid, Gabriel Lopez, Ron Stone Jr.
Defensive Tackles: Ty Garay-Harris, Ahmir Crowder
This group was quietly pretty good against the run last year when compared to other schools, and Jackson looks like he could become a great pass rusher consistently.
Players like Taylor, Hobbs, and Stone have a lot of experience now and are solid veterans.
8. CalJH Tevis | Al Seremeno/KLC Fotos
Defensive Ends: Aaron Maldonado, Erick Nisich, JH Tevis
Defensive Tackles: Gunnar Rask, Ricky Correia, Stanly McKenzie
This group was hit hard by losing Brett Johnson, who could have been the best DT in the Conference, had he been healthy.
The rest of the group has some familiar and experienced names but lacks star power.
Justin Wilcox and his staff have gotten a lot out of defensive lines in recent years, though.
9. ColoradoTerrance Lang | Colorado Athletics
Defensive Ends: Terrance Lang , Justin Jackson
Defensive Tackles: Jalen Sami, Janaz Jordan, Jeremiah Doss
The Buff DL was solid last year.
I don’t have the highest of hopes for them this year, but Lang is one of the best defensive ends in the Conference, and he could easily turn into a monster with his size.
10. StanfordThomas Booker | Stanford Athletics
Defensive Ends: Thomas Booker, Ryan Johnson, Trey LaBounty
Defensive Tackles: Dalyn Wade-Perry, Tobin Phillips
The Cardinal front was not good last year and there isn’t too much to get excited about other than Booker, who is a talented edge player.
They have a lot to improve in 2021.
11. Oregon StateIsaac Hodgins | Karl Maasdam/Oregon State Athletics
Defensive Ends: Isaac Hodgins, Cody Anderson, Simon Sandberg, James Rawls
Defensive Tackle: Alexander Skelton
The Beavers keep improving on the defensive line, but they’re still not up there with the best in the Conference.
Hodgins is a potential Second-Team All-Pac-12 guy.
12. ArizonaKyon Barrs | Arizona Athletic
Defensive Ends: Trevon Mason , Jalen Harris, Dion Wilson Jr., Regen Terry
Defensive Tackles: Kyon Barrs, Aaron Blackwell
The Wildcats need to figure out a way to get better up front. Not much more to it than that.
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