- Utah - This might be the best Utah defense in the Pac-12 era, and that’s saying a lot. Bradlee Anae, Leki Fotu and the talent and experience they have up on their defensive line is scary and Jaylon Johnson and Julian Blackmon are my two top candidates for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in one secondary. Linebacker is the big question where they have to replace Chase Hansen and Cody Barton, but there’s great candidates in there, led by former BYU transfer Francis Bernard and Penn State grad transfer Manny Bowen.
- Cal - The Bears are unbelievably stacked on defense and well-coached. They quietly had a defense that was good enough to win them 10 games last year if they would have had any kind of offense or quarterback. Their four starters in the secondary are in the Top 10 DBs in the conference, Evan Weaver might be the consensus leader to be Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and they have built up depth and experience across the board.
- Washington - The Huskies have earned the right to always be considered the top defense in the Pac-12 even if they lose almost every starter from 2018. They also arguably have more raw talent than they did a few years ago. Myles Bryant is a first-team All-Pac-12 DB, Levi Onwuzurike is a budding start at defensive tackle and they have players waiting in the wings who have been getting spot time the past two seasons who are ready to blow up.
- Oregon - The Ducks have come of age on defense the past few seasons and are now ready to at least be a good unit. The secondary is loaded with talent and experience and senior linebacker Troy Dye is another P12DPOY candidate. The defensive line also has a lot of depth and experience and all world freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux could be an impact player right away.
- Washington State - The Cougars taking off under Mike Leach has had to do with the consistent success of their defense almost as much as the explosion of their offense. They have a lot of talent and experience coming back, led by linebacker Jahad Woods.
- Stanford - The Cardinal don’t have the defenses they did earlier in the David Shaw era and it’s holding the program back. There are really nice pieces still around, notably CB Paulson Adebo, and the experience and talent here is solid, though not remarkable.
- Arizona State - The Sun Devils took a step forward on defense last year under Herm Edwards. They should be able to at least maintain their improvement with talents like Merlin Robertson, Chase Lucas, and Darien Butler coming back, even if they need to rebuilding on the defensive line.
- Arizona - We might always write off Arizona’s defense because of how much of an afterthought they were under RichRod, but this unit is actually pretty solid. Led by first-team All-Pac-12 talent Colin Schooler at linebacker, I actually really like the back 7/8 of the Wildcat D and think they should improve from 2018 to 2019.
- USC - The Trojans should always have enough talent to never be this low, but they lose a ton of experience and don’t have that towering talent anymore. Their defensive line is lights out with young studs, but there’s not much else other than that to get excited about.
- Colorado - This is all about a couple of stars on Colorado’s defense - DE Mustafa Johnson and LB Nate Landman. They’re first-team All-Pac-12-caliber players. They’re surrounded by a few nice pieces on a solid D.
- UCLA - Jim Mora left some talent on the defensive side of the roster and it’s pretty good for being ranked this low. I really like their linebacker core, led by Krys Barnes, Keishean Lucier-South, and Josh Woods.
- Oregon State - The Beavers have a lot of work to do on defense, especially up front, where they were horrible in run defense in 2018. I like some of their pieces though, particularly at linebacker.
Ranking 2019 Pac-12 defenses: Utah has the top defensive unit in the conference
Ranking the 2019 Pac-12 overall defensive units from top to bottom.
By Jack Follman