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2018 preseason Pac-12 defensive line units: Washington and USC defensive fronts best in conference

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Ranking the Pac-12 defensive units going into the 2018 season.

NCAA Football: Utah at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
  1. Washington (DT Greg Gaines Sr. DT Jaylen Johnson Sr. DE Benning Potoa’e Jr. DT Levi Onwuzurike So. DE Shane Bowman Sr.) The Huskies lost Vita Vea to the NFL, but there cupboard is still stocked. Gaines has been Vea’s bash brother the past two years and is close to just as good as the departing first round pick. Johnson is an underrated player who could easily be first-team All-Pac-12 as a senior and Potoa’e is one of the conference’s best returning DEs.

2. USC (DE Christian Rector Jr. DE Porter Gustin Sr. DE Malik Dorton Sr. DT Brandon Pili So. DT Marlon Tuipulotu Fr.) Porter can be an OLB or DE, but I’ll stick him on the defensive line here. He’s the conference’s best DE if healthy and a lethal pass rusher. Rector is right there with him and Pili might be the best young DT in the conference.

3. Utah (DE Bradlee Anae Jr. DT Leki Fotu Jr. DT Pita Tonga So. DE Caleb Repp Jr. DE Maxs Tupai So.) There are no proven stars here, but tons of players who are ready to break out and be the next All-Pac-12 Utah defensive linemen. Anae and Fotu Might be the conference’s best DE/DT combo and they’ve only just started to show what they can do.

4. UCLA (DE Jaelan Phillips So. DE Rick Wade Jr. DE Keishawn Lucier-South Jr. DT Osa Odighizuwa So. DT Boss Tagaloa Jr.) This is all about Phillips, who could turn into a first-team All-American as a sophomore, he has that much potential. Wade and KLS are strong veterans as well and Odighizuwa and Tagaloa are emerging young talents.

5. Oregon (DE Jalen Jelks Sr. DT Jordon Scott So. DT Drayton Carlberg Jr. DT Austin Faoliu So. DT Gary Baker Jr.) The Ducks have come a long way up front, fast. Jelks is the conference’s best returning healthy defensive end and has elite NFL size. Scott is a massive run stuffer who emerged last year as a great plug in the middle of their defense. The rest of the players in the unit provide solid experience and skills.

6. Stanford (DE Dylan Jackson Sr. DE Thomas Schaffer Jr. DT Michael Williams Jr. DE Jovan Swann Jr. DT Bo Peek Jr.) The Cardinal have the impossible task of replacing Harrison Phillips who held down their front all by himself sometimes last year. There is a lot of talent here though and watch out for Swann to potential turn into their next defensive line stud.

7. Arizona (DE Kylan Wilborn So. DE Justin Belknap Jr. DT Kurtis Brown So. DT Finton Connolly Jr. DT Dereck Boles Sr.) Arizona isn’t known for great defensive lines, but these young standouts are changing that. Wilborn was one of the best freshmen pass rushers in the nation last year and Belknap, Brown and Connolly are putting it together and playing a huge role in improving Arizona’s defensive reputation.

8. Washington State (DE Nnamdi Oguayo Jr. DT Kingston Fernandez Sr. DT Nick Begg Sr. DT Hunter Mattox Jr.) The Cougars have quietly started churning out great defensive lines with unheralded recruits. That could keep going with this group, but they will have to prove it in 2018.

9. Cal (DE Luc Bequette Jr. DE Chinedu Odeogu So. DT Chris Palmer Sr. DE Tevin Paul So.) This group doesn’t have any household names, but Justin Wilcox will get them them to play to their highest potential.

10. Colorado (DE Chris Mulumba Sr. DT Jase Franke Sr. DE Terriek Edwards So. DT Mustafa Johnson So.) Another group that doesn’t have much proven production and has to replace experience, but Mike MacIntyre and company have done a great job of putting more talent on the shelf here.

11. Arizona State (DT George Lea Jr. DT Renell Wren Sr. DE Jalen Bates Jr. DE Dougladson Subtyl Sr.) The Sun Devils have to completely rebuild. They have a lot of raw talent though.

12. Oregon State (DT Kalani Vakameilalo Sr. DT Elu Aydon Jr. DE LaMone Williams Sr. DE Thor Katoa Jr.) The Beavers may be at the bottom here, but they have size and talent and could easily sneak up a bit if their defensive coaches are able to get some progress out the gate.