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Ranking the 2016 Pac-12 defensive lines: Utah has the best defensive line in the conference

Utah and Washington have the conference's best defensive fronts.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

1. Utah  (DT Lowell Lotuelelei Jr. DE Hunter Dimick Sr. DE Pita Taumoepenu Sr. DE Kylie Fitts Sr. DT Filipo Mokofisi Jr. DT Stevie Tuikolovatu Sr.) - The conference's best defensive lineman and All-American immovable object, Lotulelei leads the way. He might be the most valuable run defender in the conference and he is surrounded by talented depth. Dimick had 10 sacks in 2014, but was injured in 2015. Taumoepenu led the conference in sacks for a lot of early 2015 and players like Fitts and Mokofisi are experienced and All-Pac-12-level talent.

2. Washington (DE Elijah Qualls Jr. DT Greg Gaines So. DE Joe Mathis Sr. DT Vita Vea So. DE Jaylen Johnson So.) - This unit returns some serious talent from a group that keyed one of the nation's best defenses in 2015. Qualls was a first-team all-conference guy before he got banged up later in the season and Gaines is a nasty run stopper. The 335-pound transfer Vea could be a spark plug if he continues to progress.

3. UCLA (DE Eddie Vanderdoes Jr. DE Takkarist Mckinley Sr. DE Eli Ankou Sr. DE Jacob Tuioti-Mariner Jr. DT Matt Dickerson Jr.) - Getting Vanderdoes back healthy is the big key here are he could easily be the conference's best defensive player if healthy. Mckinley and Ankou are nice veteran starters and Tuioti-Mariner and Dickerson could break out and actually end up being the best compliments to Vanderdoes.

4. Washington State (DT Daniel Ekuale Jr. DE Hercules Mata'afa So. DT Robert Barber Sr. DT Ngalu Tapa So. DE Jeremiah Mitchell Sr.) - The Cougars have built up a nasty defensive line over the years and even after losing Destiny Vaeao and Darryl Paulo, they have an excellent unit here. Ekuale will take over Vaeao's role as the enforcer in the middle and Mata'afa should be an all-conference contender on the edge.

5. Stanford (DT Solomon Thomas Jr. DE Jordan Watkins Sr. DT Harrison Phillips Jr. DE Luke Kaumatule Sr. DE Eric Cotton Sr.) - Thomas is a first-team all-Pac-12 talent, but the key here is the players around him. Phillips could be a huge asset if he can get healthy and the rest of the players are talented, but haven't quite stepped up yet, keeping this from being the usual elite Stanford defensive front.

6. USC (DT Rasheem Green So. DT Noah Jefferson So. DE Porter Gustin So. DT Malik Dorton So.) - This unit has the potential to be a monster by the end of the season.  These sophomore are stars in the making and each could be a first-team all-Pac-12 before their careers are over.

7. Arizona State (DT Tashon Smallwood Jr. DE JoJo Wicker So. DT Viliami Latu Sr. DE Edmond Boateng Sr. DT Corey Smith Jr.) - Big drop off here, but Smallwood is an All-Pac-12 player and there is some depth with veterans like Boateng and Latu and developing stud Wicker.

8. Colorado (DT. Josh Tupou Sr. DE Derek McCartney Jr. DT Jordan Carrell Sr. DE Leo Jackson Jr. DE Samson Kafovalu Sr. DE Timothy Coleman Jr.) - The Buff defensive line is still a work in progress, but McCartney is on his way to becoming the best Colorado defensive lineman in a long, long time and getting Josh Tupou back after suspension is huge.

9. Oregon (DE Henry Mondeaux Jr. DE T.J. Daniel Sr. DT Rex Manu So. DE Canton Kaumatule So. DT Austin Maloata So.) - The Ducks defense got utterly ran over in 2015 and they have serious holes to fill with DeForest Buckner and Alex Balducci graduated, but there is some potential with the talent here if it can develop.

10. Arizona (DT Sani Fuimaono Sr. DE Luca Bruno Jr. DE Parker Zellers Jr. DE Jack Banda Jr.) - The Wildcats are not known for having good fronts lately, but this isn't a bad unit. A lot of experience here.

11. Cal (DE DeVante Wilson Sr. DT James Looney Jr. DT Tony Mekari Jr. DE Noah Westerfield Jr. DE Cameron Saffle So.) - The Bears haven't been known for defense lately, but this unit has the talent to make some strides in 2016.

12. Oregon State (DT Sumner Houston So. DE Baker Pritchard Jr. DT Noke Tago Sr. DT Kalani Vakameilalo So.) A lot of question marks here.