We all have our favorite defensive lineman. Mine is Steve Lattimer.
Good morning and Happy Hump Day, Cougs! It's good to be back in the saddle after a week off for the Fourth of July. I'm feeling refreshed and ready to close out the conference position rankings as we start to enter the home stretch toward the kickoff of another college football season. These things were coming fast and furious for a while. When it comes to ranking quarterbacks, receivers and running backs, there is a certain advantage from, you know, having heard of most of the principles involved. Today, it's time to get into the trenches, where the slightly more anonymous roam. Fear not, though. The Pac-12 has it's share of "Star" power so let's take a look, shall we.
1. Utah - Star Lotulelei, Dave and Joe Kruger, Nate Fakahafua, Niasi Leota, Joape Pela, Seni Faounuku
See? "Star" power! Get it? Oh come on, that's funny. Aaaaanyhew, any time you have the best defensive linemen in the conference on your team, any rankings list will look favorably upon you. When you boast names like Lotulelei, Fakahafua and Faounuku, you KNOW that a Huddy ranking will look extra favorably upon you. In all seriousness, Utah's line is big, versatile and deep. It all starts with them for one of the conference's best defenses.
2. Oregon - Dion Jordan, Taylor Hart, Isaac Remington, Wade Keliikipi, Ricky Heimuli, Jared Ebert, Arik Armstead
First, some semantics to get out of the way. For the purposes of this ranking, I considered Dion Jordan a lineman, but when it comes to Wazzu's ranking, I'm going to consider Travis Long a linebacker. Why, you ask? I don't really know. Jordan just seems more end-y to me. Cool? Cool. With that settled, here comes some analysis: Oregon's defensive line is good. For all the well deserved attention the Ducks' high powered offense gets, the guys on the other side of the ball aren't too shabby. What jumps out at me when I watch them is the speed and even the line is included in that. Of course, there are some big anchors in the Haloti Ngata mode as well, in Remington, Keliikipi and Heimuli. Armstead was the prize recruit in this year's class and doesn't figure to redshirt.
3. USC - Wes Horton, Devon Kennard, George Uko, J.R. Tavai, Antwuan Woods, Kevin Green, Robert Townsend, Leonard Williams
This is a group that is somewhat light on experience, but it's largely because of the caliber of players that departed LA last year. Kennard and Horton figure to be in the mix for all conference honors now that it is their opportunity in the spotlight. As is the case with many positions at SC, virtually everyone listed in the rotation on the defensive line was among the elite prospects at their position in high school. Talent is not an issue for this group.
4. Stanford - Ben Gardner, Terrence Stephens, Josh Mauro, Henry Anderson
Ben Gardner returns with second team all conference accolades and one great head of hair to his name. Matt Masifilo will have to be replaced at the opposite end, with Mauro and Anderson the leading candidates. Stephens anchors the middle and is a baaaaaaaaad looking dude (see above). Seeing that I'm already out of things to say, I'm concerned that this ranking may be inflated because of Gardner's hair, but I'm confident Stanford's line is strong.
5. Cal - Deandre Coleman, Aaron Tipoti, Mustafa Jalil, Gabe King, Todd Barr, Kendrick Payne, Villi Moala
Cal has been stockpiling talent across the line for the last few recruiting classes and this should be the year for much of that talent to break out. It'll be interesting to see how this unit performs without their former position coach, Tosh Lupoi financially incentivizing coaching them up.
6. UCLA - Datone Jones, Brandon Willis, Cassius Marsh, Iuta Tepa, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Ellis McCarthy
This may come as a surprise, but the UCLA defensive line is a position group where the expectations associated with talent have not parlayed into production. This could be the year that Jones and Marsh make "the leap". They've got help on the way to get there in the form of UNC transfer Brandon Willis, who obviously has a big thing for light blue, and freshman Ellis McCarthy (who happened to be the second best high school DT in the country last year according to Scout). If you don't think I'm a huge fan of Owamagbe Odighizuwa, you haven't been around these parts for too long.
7. Washington - Hau'oli Jamora, Josh Shirley, Danny Shelton, Talia Crichton, Semisi Tokolahi, Andrew Hudson, Sinone Potoa'e
In theory, this is a talented group, but their primary talent to date has been getting scored on a whole bunch. If he's back fully healthy, Jamora looks to be the best of the bunch, while Shirley has elite skills as a pass rusher. I've seen reports of Shelton being unblockable at times, but it's not entirely clear if this is a reference to practice or to trying to keep him from the front of the line at Dick's Drive-In. UW is one of several teams switching to a 3-4 this year so this group will have to perform because there will be less of them on the field and because linebacker is probably linebacker is probably their worst position. At least they'll have Tosh Lupoi their to financially incentivize them coach them up.
8. Oregon State - Scott Crichton, Castro Masaniai, Andrew Seumalo, Dylan Wynn, Mana Rosa, Rudolf Fifita
The Beavs look to have a couple of excellent young up-and-comers on the outside, in sophomores Crichton and Wynn. It gets a little iffy up the middle, though. If man-mountain Masaniai can bounce back from a broken leg, he could help shore things up. At 6'3'', 351 lbs, who am I to say he can't come back and be a force? You got this, Castro. You the man, buddy! To our young readers out there, let this be a life lesson. Do not antagonize the dudes who are 6'3", 351. You're welcome.
9. Arizona State - Junior Onyeali, Will Sutton, Mike Pennel, Davon Coleman, Carl Bradford, Corey Adams, Jake Sheffield
If Onyeali and his seemingly ever-present belly button don't return, this may be among the worst units in the conference, but it appears from all indications that Junior the Junior end is on track to be reinstated for the fall. Pennel will be expected to clog up the middle, but you never quite know what you're going to get from a JC transfer in the middle of the line. Cue Bryan Tarkington, Bernard Wolfgramm and Brandon Rankin all chiming in with a collective, "Yup."
10. Arizona - Sione Tuihalamaka, Justin Washington, Willie Mobley, Jowyn Ward, Karifi Taula, Tevin Hood
Ladies and gentlemen, it's happened each and every week I've done this. We've reached the point in the rankings where I can't think of a single instance of watching one of the players listed above or seeing his name in an article and thinking, "Huh. That's impressive." That's not to say Arizona's defensive line isn't or can't be good. It's mostly to say that I'm only an expert in the sense that I could tell people I'm an expert and hope they believe me because I write on a blog. I am, however, an expert at squeezing out a paragraph when there is truly very little to say.
11. WSU - Xavier Cooper, Anthony Laurenzi, Lenard Williams, Toni Pole, Adam Coerper, Justin Clayton, Matthew Bock, David Davis
Honestly, there's not a great deal to love here, but there is plenty to like. There is some depth to rotate in and plenty of versatility with a handful of guys that could play either as an end or inside (Laurenzi, Cooper, Pole, Davis, Bock). There just isn't anyone that particularly jumps out as potentially being a star in this group. Laurenzi is probably the most consistent, but would need to evolve more as a playmaker to become an all-conference type. Cooper could be the best player in the bunch, but hasn't played a down in an actual game yet, so that could say all we need to know about the bunch.
12. Colorado - Juda Parker, Josh Tupou, Will Pericak, Nate Bonsu, the fresman class
I am of the belief that Colorado will not rank last in at least one category at some point in this process, but not today. Athlon used a delightfully blunt description to tell the tale of the Buffs' d-line: "This is the most depleted area of the team." Alrighty then! In fairness, Pericak is a terrific player, but that's probably about all to be excited about. To further outline the situation, CU's 2012 recruiting class features nine defensive linemen and many of them will be expected to contribute this year. Nine! Things are looking up for the line in 2014, though!
You forgot Ioane Gauta for the Cougs. As you said, you never know what you are going to get with a JC transfer, but he will certainly help out with the Hair Raid.
@Selahcoug I can't believe I forgot my main man, Ian. Bad job by me. That probably puts us around #4 now. Well not really, but it is another piece to like thrown in the mix.
This is easily my area of greatest concern for this team, even more so than the O-line. Our LB corps is a bit depleted, but I think it's got enough speed to make plays. I think our DB's are better than they've shown, but don't impress because of our lack of pass rush.
The D-line, though? Like you said, no one that really scares you if you're an opposing team. I don't know how much Travis Long will end up rushing the passer, but he's the only guy on D that has any chance of providing a pass rush, from what I've seen.
My hope for the D-line is that they are effective in stopping the run/holding the point of attack. I don't think our front 7 will generate much pass rush this year, but I really feel we'll be much better at stopping the run; we have a couple more bigger bodies in the line than we did last year. I'm excited to watch Toni Pole and David Davis develop over the next few years.
First off many props for the lovely lavender for the muttlakes. Secondly before the firstly the yellow you used for U$C made me have to pee. Fourthly, before the omitted thirdly but after the a fore mentioned sendondly, you forgot to mention the hair factor other than the party back, all business in the front.
HEY! WSU should be no.1....then everybody else. DUH! pfft.
Seriously....I think our D line will be better this year.
you absolutely nailed the Cougs D-line, "Nothingt to love, but plenty to like". We finally have some adequate bodies to move around up there, but nobody screams DOMINATION and I still don't feel confident we'll get a pass rush out of the front 3. BUT... I am happy that we can at least hold the line from time to time and make the other teams O-line break a sweat.
@Longball LB the idea is to get some push from the front three and free up the crazy LB/FS/SS/DB schemes that I am HOPING for from Breske. That and I think Coach Salve'a will somehow find a way to get another year of eligibility and get in there his'self.
Really liked your rationale. Before reading, I put my jotted down picks (so I couldn't "mis-remember" after being educated). I had Utah, USC and Cal tied for #1. Thought Cal just has more potential than Stanford and Oregon is overrated because of style of play (besides, I hate the Ducks) . I ranked the Cougars a little higher than you, probably because I think you have to take LBs into account with a 3-4 and I really like the WSU Bucks -- into the three deep.
Nice job, Huddy. I actually think I'm with you 1-12....
However, time will tell if that a good thing for you...My sense: The haters are going to want USC higher. But, I'm totally with you on Oregon and Utah...
@Sutra That top 3 could probably shake out in any order, but putting USC number one would have been very damaging to my horrendous "Star Power" joke.
@Huddy @Sutra Oregon's front 7 is going to be tough as hell this year, they have serious talent up front. And I love what SC brings to the table, just full of nfl guys. I also realize how far behind with our d-line. I am not sure we have a single player in the front lines who could even be third string for SC, Utah, or Oregon. The gap in size and talent is awfully vast. But with the 3-4 D it is all about the linebackers making the bulk of the plays. We just need the front 3 to HOLD THE LINE, and let the athletes in the lb and secondary flow to the action!