Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Most every fan knows if his team's starting quarterback -- or leading rusher -- is coming back next season.
Some, of course, know the name of every returning starter. And some have even memorized the two-deep depth chart. Or three.
For most fans, however, defense often becomes a nameless blob of "10 starters back ... yippee!" Or "just three guys back? Yikes!"
(Oregon State fans upon finding out they only have three defensive starters back merely write 15,000-word essays about why this doesn't matter, based on a complicated series of mathematical equations and coordinator Mark Banker's ability to teach his players to breathe through their eyelids).
So I went through each team to figure out how many of the top-four tacklers from last season are coming back in 2009.
Some of these surprised me (my suspicion that UCLA will improve significantly next season got another boost).
Arizona: Lost three of top four
Top returner: S Cam Nelson (third)
Arizona State: Lost two of top four
Top returners: LB Mike Nixon (first); LB Travis Goethel (third)
California: Lost two of top four
Top returners: LB Mike Mohamed (third); CB Syd'Quan Thompson (fourth)
Oregon: Lost two of top four
Top returners: S T.J. Ward (first); LB Spencer Paysinger (second)
Oregon State: Lost three of top five (tie for fourth-leading tackler)
Top returners: LB Keaton Kristick (second); LB Dwight Roberson (tie fourth)
Stanford: Lost two of top four
Top returners: S Bo McNally (first); CB Kris Evans (tied for third)
UCLA: Lost one of top four
Top returners: LB Reggie Carter (first); CB Alterraun Verner (second); S Rahim Moore (fourth)
USC: Lost four of top four
Top returner: FS Taylor Mays (fifth)
Washington: Lost zero of top four
Top returners: LB Mason Foster (first); S Nate Williams (second); LB Trenton Tuiasosopo (third); LB Donald Butler (fourth)
Washington State: Lost one of top four
Top returners: FS Xavier Hicks (second); CB Romeo Pellum (third); SS Chima Nwachukwu (fourth)