- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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We stay with defense and look at the leading sack men from 2011 for each team. The bolded guys return in 2012.
Nick Perry, DE, USC: 9.5
Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford: 8.5
Josh Shirley, DE, Washington: 8.5
Josh Hartigan, DE, Colorado: 7.0
Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon: 7.5
Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State: 6.0
Trevor Guyton, DE, California: 5.5
Derrick Shelby, DE, Utah: 5.0
Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State: 5.0
Travis Long, DE, Washington State: 4.0
C.J. Parrish, DE, Arizona: 3.0
Datone Jones, DE, UCLA: 3.0
Lots of guys coming back who can get to the quarterback. Here's a team-by-team look.
Arizona: The Wildcats were terrible rushing the passer last season (just 10 sacks) and no obvious answer came to the fore this spring. As noted in the spring wrap, expect defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel to get creative with how he gets a fast guy near the line of scrimmage to rush the quarterback.
Arizona State: While Carl Bradford lined up in the pass-rushing "devil-backer" position this spring, the Sun Devils' pass rush will get a substantial boost from the expected return of the suspended Junior Onyeali, the 2010 Pac-12 defensive freshman of the year.
California: The Bears spread out 34 sacks last season among 16 players, and their front seven, though young, is stocked with talent. End Deandre Coleman may be the guy, or it could be outside linebacker Chris McCain. Expect, however, a handful of guys to have between three to five sacks.
Colorado: End Chidera Uzo-Diribe could blossom as a junior. He had 5.5 sacks last season. Only problem may be a middling supporting cast allowing offensive coordinators to use two guys to take care of him.
Oregon: Jordan could be a double-digit sack guy, and the Ducks have a lot of athletic guys who can make things hard on a quarterback. They led the conference with 45 sacks last season, and their front seven looks like it will be stouter this fall.
Oregon State: The Beavers only had 24 sacks last year, but guys who recorded 18.5 sacks are back. Critchton has a chance for a nice year, but he needs some guys to step up inside.
Stanford: The Cardinal should have a fearsome pass rush, and not just because of Thomas. Don't forget the underrated Trent Murphy at the other outside linebacker spot (6.5 sacks) as well as defensive end Ben Gardner (4.5 sacks). Don't be surprised if the Cardinal and Ducks pile up more than 40 sacks.
UCLA: Is this the year Jones finally breaks through? Maybe. There's a pretty talented cast around him, though one that has decidedly underachieved. Here's a hunch that Jim Mora and coordinator Lou Spanos have some ideas about how to get to quarterbacks, formed during their NFL days.
USC: Defensive end Wes Horton had four sacks last year, and fellow defensive end Devon Kennard has plenty of ability to be a good pass rusher. Weakside linebacker Hayes Pullard also had four sacks in 2011 as a redshirt freshman.
Utah: Expect Utah to record more than the 30 sacks it had in 2011. With defensive tackle Star Lotulelei taking two blockers inside, things should open up on the edges for guys like end Joe Kruger and linebacker Trevor Reilly.
Washington: The Huskies have some potential here, particularly if they get a healthy return from end Hau'oli Jamora. Shirley and Andrew Hudson are both capable pass rushers. Further, new coordinator Justin Wilcox is pretty creative when it comes to making things tough for opposing QBs.
Washington State: Long has been a good player for three years, so there is good reason to expect him to transition from DE to OLB smoothly in the Cougs new 3-4 scheme. DE Xavier Cooper showed promise this past spring.