The Pac-10's Top Five Defensive Players By Position

Clifton BlevinsContributor IMay 20, 2009

LOS ANGELES - NOVEMBER 29:  Taylor Mays #2 of the USC Trojans gestures as he lines up against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on November 29, 2008 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  USC won 38-3.  (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)

When it comes to college football, the Pacific 10 has always been known as an offensive conference. But with many teams in transition offensively (especially at the QB position), it will be the defensive units that lead the way in 2009.

Here are my top five defensive players at each position entering into the 2009 season.

Defensive End: A strong group of pass rushers lead their respective defenses

1) Dexter Davis, Arizona St. (returning sack leader in the Pac-10)

2) Will Tukuafu, Oregon (17.5 tackles for loss in 2008)

3) Tyson Alualu, CAL (second team All-Pac-10 last season)

4) Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Washington (productive defender for Huskies)

5) Everson Griffen, USC (freak athlete; great spring session)

Ones to Watch: Tie—Cameron Jordan, Cal (11 tackles for loss in sophomore season) and Brooks Reed, Arizona (eight sacks in 2008)

Defensive Tackle: Big men specialize in stopping the run

1) Brian Price, UCLA (quick and strong, tough to single block)

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2) Stephen Paea, Oregon St. (JC transfer made immediate impact for Beavers)

3) Lawrence Guy, Arizona St. (true frosh had 10 tackles for loss in '08)

4) Earl Mitchell, Arizona (Honorable mention honors last season)

5) Derrick Hill, Cal (run stuffer in the middle for the Bears)

One to Watch: Jurrell Casey, USC (youngster has claimed starting NT spot)

Linebacker: This crop of LBs is a fast and active group

1) Mike Nixon, Arizona St. (five INTs in 2008)

2) Mason Foster, Washington (led Pac-10 in tackles per game last season)

3) Reggie Carter, UCLA (physical defender was second team All-Pac-10 in 2008)

4) Keaton Kristick, Oregon St. (14 tackles for loss in 2008)

5) Mike Mohamed, Cal (will be one of Bears’ defensive leaders)

One to Watch: Spencer Paysinger, Oregon (highly productive sophomore season)

Cornerback: Deepest defensive position group for Pac-10 in 2009

1) Alterraun Verner, UCLA (excellent cover man and good tackler)

2) Syd'Quan Thompson, Cal (returning first team All-Pac-10 selection)

3) Walter Thurmond, Oregon (five INTs in 2008)

4) Darian Hagan, Cal (good size and speed on this rangy athlete)

5) Devin Ross, Arizona (13 pass break-ups last season)

One to Watch: Kevin Thomas, USC (underrated cover man for Trojans)

Safety: Solid, if not spectacular, group of safeties this upcoming season

1) Taylor Mays, USC (top 10 pick in the 2010 NFL draft)

2) Cam Nelson, Arizona (will be a three-year starter)

3) Nate Williams, Washington (honorable mention selection in 2008)

4) T.J. Ward, Oregon (100-plus tackles last season)

5) Bo McNally, Stanford (led Cardinal with four INTs last season)

One to Watch: Rahim Moore, UCLA (true frosh gave a boost to Bruin defense in 2008)


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