We continue our unit ratings of the Pac Ten Conference. The Pac Ten isn't really known for it's defense, the last great defensive teams in the conference were in the 1990's. The Steve Emtman led National Champion Huskies may have been one of the best defensive teams in the history of college football.
Since those days the conference has opened up. The West Coast formation, and now Spread offense variations have taken over from the days of the "I" formation, and student body right. The Pac Ten is a high scoring, free wheeling, pass the ball all over the field type of conference.
All that being said this may be the year that defense has a big say about who is going to win the conference. Oregon, USC, and Arizona State are all picked to be at the top of the conference this year, and one thing they have in common is the ability to slow the high speed offenses of the other conference teams down.
Team Defensive Ratings
Defense wins championships, and that is why USC will be most writers favorite to win the Pac Ten in 2008, and contend for a national championship despite declining offensive production.
The Trojans only concerns will be filling some holes at cornerback, and on the defensive line. Keep an eye on Taylor Mays who is a man among boys, and his backfield mate at safety Kevin Ellison. Oregon is going to be right behind these guys with what I think is one of the best defensive backfields in college football led by Patrick Chung.
Oregon State graduated a lot of their defense, but they have some quality experienced depth stepping in. California's LB's are second only to USC. Dennis Erickson at ASU is known for his offensive coaching prowess, but he also has fielded hard hitting defenses at all his stops.
Washington had one of the worst defenses in the country in 2007, but will improve significantly in 2008 with the addition of new DC Ed Donatell and the arrival of a lot more talent, experience, and depth.
Keep an eye on Stanford, the Cards one of the best young LB corps in the conference, and plenty of players who gained experience the hard way last year.
- USC....The talented Trojans LB's give them a slight edge over the Ducks. This could end up being the nations best defense.
- Oregon....The Ducks aren't that far behind the Trojans on this side of the ball. The cornerbacks could be the nations best, and while Patrick Chung lacks the flash of a Taylor Mays, or Kevin Ellison, he is just as effective.
- Arizona State....The Sun Devils will continue to field a well coached and over achieving defense in 2008. Erickson teams know how to hit, go after the ball, and make adjustments that win football games.
- California....The Bears are led by one of the top group of linebackers in the nation. They young and talented depth at DB. The question marks are up front, but they have the bodies to fill in.
- Oregon State....One of the nations top defenses will be almost completely rebuilt in 2008 and still be potentially pretty good. The questions are mostly at LB. The DL is being rebuilt by some kids that played quite a bit last year.
- Washington....The Huskies should be significantly improved with a new DC, and an influx of some good young talent. Expect a lot of growth from this unit in 2008 even though there are questions on the interior of the defensive line.
- Stanford....Harbaugh is getting some good traction going. The Card's hung with a lot of teams early in the season, and as depth improves they are going to start winning some games.
- UCLA....The Bruins have some holes to fill here and there. As usual they have great young talent on the roster, plus a very good DC, but there will be some growing pains.
- WSU...The Cougs are installing a 4-3 defense that will attack and stack the box in order to stop the run. I think they will be pretty weak on the inside.
- Arizona....Not a great year to have to rebuild the defense without many spare parts when you are going to sporting one of the more high powered offensive teams in the the West.
Why are we picking USC in the top slot? They have some holes to fill but they do it with some of the best young players in the country. I don't see any Outland Trophy winners in this group as most of the Pac Ten is rebuilding the interiors of their lines, but there will be some very good DE's in the league this year led by Washington's Daniel Teo Nesheim, and Oregon's Nick Reed.
- USC....DT Fili Moala and DE Everson Griffen return with the other spots being filled by the usual consumate HS All Americans. Griffen is a guy to watch because he had an excellent spring.
- Oregon....DE Nick Reed is probably the best DE on the coast this year. He isn't fancy, but he gets the job done. On the inside the Ducks are filling some holes in the depth with JC's.
- Arizona State...David Smith, Dexter Davis, Luis Vasquez have the experience and talent to be one of the better lines on the coast. Davis is one of the top DE's on the coast this year.
- Oregon State....DE's Victor Butler and Slade Norris, played a ton last season. Pernnell Booth and a newcomer will man the inside. Keep an eye on Simi Kuli who could be a stud.
- UCLA....Brigham Harwell is great when healthy. Brian Price is a rising star, but the Bruins are thinner than you like to see outside. Incoming freshmen Damien Holmes and Datone Jones probably will be in the rotation right away out on the ends.
- California....The Bears are switching to a 3-4 to take advantage of one of the better LB corps in the country. Tyson Alualu and Rulon Davis will man the ends, and Derrick Hill, and Mika Kane will rotate inside. Keep an eye on DE Cameron Jordan who is ready to break out.
- Stanford...The Cardinal returns five letterman to the defensive line, led by a couple of All-Pac-10 candidates, senior DE Pannel Egboh and junior DT Ekom Udofia. Egboh is just a stud and will be a very high draft pick.
- Washington....Daniel Teo Nesheim could be an all league player at DE this year, but he will be flanked by three new starters led by DT Cameron Elisara, and DE Darion Jones. The Huskies actually could turn to a true freshmen to play beside Elisara at DT. The massive Fr Alameda Ta'amu could be the answer, but playing a freshman is a reach.
- Washington State....Andy Mattingly moves to DE from LB and will be flanked by Kevin Kooymann. A’I Ahmu and Matt Eichelberger take over the middle. No word yet on DT Andy Roof who was suspended for assault charges, and alcohol violations. Keep an eye on Kooyman who could surprise.
- Arizona....DE Jonathan Turner has been suspended indefinitely, no word on when he will return. Too bad because even though he is an underachiever he was the only kid with experience on this line. The interior is just a mess as the Wildcats struggle to fill the holes with position changes.
The Pac Ten is loaded at linebacker this season. Cal, and USC sport arguably the two best LB crews in the country. UW, Oregon, UCLA, and ASU aren't that far behind. Keep an eye on the young group at Stanford, those highly recruited kids can really play and may surprise in 2008.
- USC....Rey Malauga and Bryan Cushing are both potential first round draft picks, and most feel the Trojans have the most talented group of LB's in the country.
- California....Zach Follett, Anthony Felder, and Worrell Williams make up one of the better trio's in the country. In most years you would rate this group #1 in the conference.
- Washington....EJ Savannah, Mason Foster, and Donald Butler are a solid crew of LB's. The Huskies also have the luxury of experienced depth behind them. Trenton Tuiasosopo is starter 1-B in the middle, and will be a plus when the Huskies rotate into a 3-4 at times.
- Stanford...Clinton Snyder, Chike Amajoyi, Pat Maynor are the the strength of a young and improving Cardinal defense. This is a real promising group of young players.
- Oregon....Kevin Garrett, John Bacon, and Casey Matthews are solid on the outside, but the questions are in the middle.
- UCLA....Kyle Bosworth, Reggie Carter, and John Hale make up a solid group at LB.
- Arizona State....Four players with starting experience return, headed by junior Travis Goethel at strongside. Gerald Munn's, Ryan McFoy, Mike Nixon, and Morris Wooten will all compete for spots.
- Oregon State....Isaiah Cook, Bryant Cornell and Keaton Kristick have some big shoes to fill as OSU completely rebuilds one of 2007's best defenses.
- Washington State....The Coug's will start three seniors, Greg Trent, Kendrick Dunn, and Cory Evans, nothing special going on here as Andy Mattlingly moves to DE.
- Arizona....Ronnie Palmer is the lone returning starter. He will be flanked by Adrian McCovy and Xavier Kelley.
How many first round picks are you going to have out of this group? Mays, Ellison, Chung, Byrd, and Thurmond will all get that type of consideration in the spring.
- Oregon....Corners Jairus Byrd and Walter Thurmond team with Safety Patrick Chung to lead one of the nations best defensive backfields.
- USC....Taylor Mays and Kevin Ellison are the two best safeties in the country and likely first round draft picks. Cary Harris will help the Trojans rebuild at CB.
- Oregon State....Seven players who started a game last season are back in the secondary. The best of a strong group is 5-11, 182-pound CB Brandon Hughes. S Al Afalava, one of the most violent hitters in the Pac-10.
- Arizona State....CB Omar Bolden is expected to have a breakthrough year as he develops into a lockdown threat. S Troy Nolan led ASU's tough defensive backfield in 2007.
- California....The Bears return nine defensive backs who lettered last season. Syd’Quan Thompson, and Chris Conte will be at CB. Marcus Ezeff and Bernard Hicks will be the safeties.
- Washington....The Huskies finally have some depth, and talent to work with at DB. Results looked pretty good this spring. A very physical Quinton Richardson and Sr Byron Davenport will start at CB. The Huskies are deep and talented at safety with Nate Williams, and Victor Aieywa emerging this spring. A very solid Jason Wells returns after suffering a knee injury early in 2007 to try to regain his starting job.
- Stanford....The secondary returns seven lettermen from a year ago, including four defensive backs with starting experience. Junior Kris Evans and senior Wopamo Osaisai split time at one cornerback spot. Juniors Bo McNally and Austin Yancy are back at safety after starting all 12 games a year ago. This is a group that has some serious upside.
- UCLA....Alterraun Verner has potential lockdown talent at CB, but the Bruins are rebuilding back here. Keep an eye on CB Courtney Viney, he might end up being a real good one. Brett Lockett, and Aaron Ware take over at safety.
- Arizona....Marquis Hundley and Devin Ross take over at CB. Nate Ness and Cam Nelson are returning starters at safety. This isn't a marquee group at this point.
- Washington State....The Coug's have problems with talent, and depth in the secondary. Xavier Hicks, and Chima Nwachukwu are the projected safeties. Alfonso Jackson and Markus Dawes will be the CB's. Nothing but shallow unproven depth behind the starters.