Who's got returning production on D?

March, 9, 2012
3/09/12
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It's always good to have experience and production coming back.

On Tuesday, we looked at returning offensive production. But what about defense?

Glad you asked.

Only Oregon State and UCLA welcome back their leaders in tackles, sacks and interceptions. Only Arizona State has zero defensive leaders back. Four teams, Arizona, California, Colorado and Utah, have just one.

Here's the tally.

Arizona
Tackles
: No (Derek Earls)
Sacks: No. (C.J. Parrish)
Interceptions: Shaquille Richardson (4)
Reaction: Sorry, but I'm still getting over recalling that Arizona had just 10 sacks last year. Wow, that's turrible. It all starts in the fall with getting more pressure on opposing QBs.

Arizona State
Tackles:
No (Colin Parker)
Sacks: No (Vontaze Burfict)
Interceptions: No. (Clint Floyd)
Reaction: The Sun Devils are rebuilding a defense that massively underachieved in 2011. The return of LB Brandon Magee will help. And it will help if DT Corey Adams can stay healthy.

California
Tackles
: No (Mychal Kendricks)
Sacks: No (Trevor Guyton)
Interceptions: Two of the five players who had two picks are back: CBs Steve Williams and Josh Hill.
Reaction: Kendricks was a beast at ILB and Guyton was steady and underrated at DE. There's a lot of young talent but that experience will be missed.

Colorado
Tackles
: Jon Major (85)
Sacks: No (Josh Hartigan)
Interceptions: No (Jason Espinoza)
Reaction: The return of Douglas Rippy will bolster the defense, and Chidera Uzo-Diribe has potential as a pass rusher. The secondary must get more than seven interceptions. Seven!

Oregon
Tackles
: John Boyett (108)
Sacks: Dion Jordan (7.5)
Interceptions: No (Eddie Pleasant)
Reaction: Replacing Pleasant is one of the big competitions this spring. Second-leading tackler -- and budding All Pac-12 pick -- Michael Clay is also back.

Oregon State
Tackles
: Anthony Watkins (85)
Sacks: Scott Crichton (6.0)
Interceptions: Jordan Poyer (4)
Reaction: These are three reasons to be hopeful the Beavers improve in 2012 -- and second-leading tackler Michael Doctor also is back. But it's the interior D-line that's the concern, which really isn't measured here.

Stanford
Tackles
: Jarek Landcaster (70)
Sacks: Chase Thomas (8.5)
Interceptions: No (Michael Thomas)
Reaction: Six of seven are back from what could be the best D-front in the conference in 2012. The issue is the secondary. It loses three starters, including both safeties, and Thomas has three of the Cardinal's conference-low seven interceptions.

UCLA
Tackles
: Patrick Larimore (81)
Sacks: Datone Jones (3)
Interceptions: Andrew Abbott (4)
Reaction: Larimore has potential to be a top-shelf LB. Jones had a hugely disappointing 2011, and it will be interesting to see if the new staff plays him more at end than tackle. Count me surprised to learn Abbott, who started just seven games, had four picks.

USC
Tackles
: Hayes Pullard, Dion Bailey (81)
Sacks: No (Nick Perry)
Interceptions: T.J. McDonald (3)
Reaction: Pullard and Bailey, both rising sophomores, are budding stars. McDonald is the best safety in the Pac-12, and one of the best in the nation. The HUGE question is who replaces Perry's 9.5 sacks, which ranked first in the Pac-12 in just 12 games? The likely starting ends -- Wes Horton and Devon Kennard -- combined for six sacks.

Utah
Tackles
: No (Chaz Walker)
Sacks: Trevor Reilly is back; Derrick Shelby is not. Both had five sacks.
Interceptions: No (Conroy Black)
Reaction: There are plenty of reasons to believe Utah will have one of the best defenses in the conference, particularly due to A-list talent on the D-line. But this should provide pause: Some productive players from 2011 won't be back, so guys will have to step up.

Washington
Tackles
: No (Cort Dennison)
Sacks: Josh Shirley (8.5)
Interceptions: Sean Parker (4)
Reaction: Dennison was a hard-nosed overachieving player who will be missed from a highly questionable crew of linebackers. Shirley and Parker, however, are young players who provide hope that a woeful defense can improve in 2012.

Washington State
Tackles
: No (Alex Hoffman-Ellis)
Sacks: Travis Long (4)
Interceptions: Damante Horton (4)
Reaction: After two likely starting LBs were kicked off the team this offseason -- C.J. Mizell and Sekope Kaufusi -- the Cougs are thin at LB. Long will be a four-year starter in 2012.

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