Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Top returning tacklers in Pac-12
By Ted Miller ESPN.com
Tackling is important in football. We can all agree on that, right?
The top three tackles in the Pac-10 last season -- and four of the top five -- won't be back for Pac-12 play in 2011.
Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov figures to be one of the Pac-12's top tacklers next season.
So who has their top tackler back?
UCLA: Strong safety Tony Dye led the Bruins and ranked fourth in the conference with 96 tackles -- 8.0 per game -- last season.
Arizona: Linebacker Paul Vassallo led the Wildcats and ranked sixth in the conference with 102 tackles -- 7.8 per game -- in 2010.
Stanford: Linebacker Shayne Skov led the Cardinal and ranked eighth in the conference with 84 tackles -- 7.6 per game.
Arizona State: Linebacker Vontaze Burfict led the Sun Devils and ranked ninth in the conference with 90 tackles -- 7.5 per game.
USC: Safety T.J. McDonald led the Trojans and ranked 11th in the conference with 89 tackles -- 7.4 per game.
Washington State: Strong safety Deone Bucannon led the Cougars and ranked 15th in the conference with 83 tackles -- 6.9 per game.
Utah: Linebacker Chaz Walker led the Utes with 74 tackles or 5.7 per game.
So who is the leading returning tackler for the other five teams and who might lead in 2011?
California: Inside linebacker D.J. Holt is the Bears leading returning tackler with 7.2 tackles per game, but don't be surprised if a move inside for Mychal Kendricks makes him the Bears' leading tackler.
Colorado: Safety Ray Polk was the Buffaloes' second-leading tackler in 2010 with 6.0 per game, but if linebacker Jon Major is healthy all season -- he was the leading tackler through seven games before going down with a knee injury -- he could become a 100-tackle guy.
Oregon: Safety John Boyett ranked 23rd in the conference and second to Casey Matthews for the Ducks last season with 6.0 tackles per game (his 78 tackles were just one fewer than Matthews). Matthews' replacement at middle linebacker, Kiko Alonso, probably finishes with the most tackles for the Ducks, though.
Oregon State: Safety Lance Mitchell was the Beavers' third-leading tackler behind linebacker Dwight Roberson and fellow safety Suaesi Tuimaunei. The Beavers would prefer that a leader emerge from the on-going competition at middle linebacker, but weakside linebacker Michael Doctor, who's stepping in for Roberson, looks like a good candidate to lead.
Washington: Middle linebacker Cort Dennison ranked third on the Huskies and seventh in the conference with 7.7 tackles per game in 2010 behind linebacker Mason Foster, the Pac-10's leading tackler -- No. 2 in the nation -- with 12.5 stops per game and safety Nate Williams (8.1). If he stays healthy, it's likely he'll lead the Huskies in tackles, particularly with the lack of experience surrounding him at linebacker.