Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Pac-12 preseason position reviews: DEs
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
Our position reviews move on to Pac-12 defensive ends.
Everyone wants a great edge rusher. Some teams are surely excited about their edge guys. Some teams, well, as you've heard us say before "we'll see."
By the way, if you want to review previous position reviews, go here.
Wes Horton, along with Devon Kennard, gives USC a veteran presence at defensive end to help the young defensive tackles along.
USC: Nick Perry is gone, but Wes Horton, who was second-team All-Pac-12 in 2011, and Devon Kennard are the best returning end combination in the Pac-12. While neither has been highly productive getting sacks during previous seasons, that could change this fall. Redshirt freshman Greg Townsend, Kevin Greene and JC transfer Morgan Breslin will provide depth.
Oregon: Dion Jordan is the best returning defensive end -- first-team All-Pac-12 in 2011 -- but his position has looked more line an outside linebacker of late. So he doesn't get a full chit here (the Ducks would have been an easy No. 1 here if he did). Taylor Hart, who mostly played tackle last year, Isaac Remington, Jared Ebert and touted freshman Arik Armstead give the Ducks a strong foursome.
California: The Bears lost both starting ends, so how are they this high? Well, let's put it this way: The Pac-12 blog believes it's highly possible -- perhaps even likely -- that by the end of the season we will judge Cal as having the best DEs in the conference. Deandre Coleman and Mustafa Jalil are 300 pounders with athleticism and tremendous upside. Todd Barr and Keni Kaufusi provide depth. And Aaron Tipoti could see some time at end.
Oregon State: The Beavers have a strong start with sophomores Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn. They are undersized playmakers. Crichton, honorable mention All-Pac-12, had six sacks, 14.5 tackles for a loss and six forced fumbles last year. Wynn recovered five fumbles. So why are the Beavers not at the top? Both struggled against the run at times and the depth is questionable.
Utah: 6-foot-7 Joe Kruger is back at one end. He had three sacks last year and moves to the right end spot where Derrick Shelby was productive last fall. Sophomore Nate Fakahafua takes over Kruger's spot on the opposite side. He only had four tackles last year. Depth is a bit of a question. Converted RB Thretton Palamo flashed promise and Niasi Leota is a JC transfer.
UCLA: The Bruins are hard to figure: Plenty of big names, but they ranked 11th in the conference in run defense in 2011 and their measly 14 sacks also ranked 11th. Perhaps a switch to a 3-4 scheme will help? Datone Jones and Owamagbe Odighizuwa are on the left side, while Cassius Marsh and Odighizuwa are Nos. 1 and 2 on the right side, meaning the coaching staff feels good about three guys.
Washington: The critical element for the Huskies is getting back a healthy Hau'oli Jamora. He was highly productive in 2010 but blew his knee out last year and missed spring practices. Josh Shirley led the Huskies with 8.5 sacks, and he's slated to play a hybrid outside linebacker-rush end spot in the Huskies new, and apparently mostly 3-4 scheme. Senior Talia Crichton and Andrew Hudson are also in the starting mix, while redshirt freshmen Jarett Finau, Connor Cree and Corey Waller are battling for reps.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils new defensive scheme is a hybrid 3-4/4-3. It features one true end -- Davon Coleman was No. 1 on the post-spring depth chart -- and a "devil-backer," who's a hybrid end/OLB. Carl Bradford was No. 1 there on the post-spring depth chart, but he'll likely have to fight off a challenge from Junior Onyeali, who was suspended after he followed a promising freshman season with an lackluster, injury-riddled 2011 campaign. Gannon Conway could provide depth.
Washington State: Travis Long has moved to outside linebacker in the Cougars new 3-4 look, but he at least gets acknowledged here. Senior end Lenard Williams (6-2, 250) is a returning starter and redshirt freshman end Xavier Cooper flashed promise this spring. Ioane Gauta and David Davis look like good bets to provide depth.
Colorado: The good news is junior end Chidera Uzo-Diribe, who had 5.5 sacks last year. Sophomore Juda Parker is the likely starter at the other end. He had six tackles last year as a freshman. After that, it's mostly crickets. Defensive coordinator Greg Brown has made no secret about his believe that incoming freshmen will provide depth. And potentially win starting jobs.
Arizona: The bottom line is Arizona is replacing both starting DEs from a unit that tied for 116th in the nation last year with just 10 sacks. But things aren't completely hopeless here. There is experience, though it's all about tackles transforming into ends as the Wildcats switch to a 3-3-5 scheme. That means Justin Washington will move outside from tackle to end. After a miserable sophomore season, the once promising Washington is trying to regain his form. Sophomore Kirifi Taula, also a former tackle, is the likely starter at the other end, though sophomore Dan Pettinato also is in the mix.