Nose - Ta'amu is the best interior defensive lineman in the conference. I believe he will be unstoppable during year four. The conditioning, coaching, and experience have paid off and this guy is ready to dominate in a way we haven't seen since the days of Emtman and Farr. RS Lawrence Lagufiana who happens to be built like a fire hydrant is going to be his backup. I could see Danny Shelton contributing here if needed.
Key Insight - Alameda Ta'amu is going to end up being a first round draft pick in next years NFL draft.
Three Technique - The coaches would prefer to play Everrette Thompson at DE but if depth becomes a concern they have no problem moving him back to start at the three technique. Semisi Tokolahi who can play either the nose or three technique is going to be limited early this season. Sione Potoae will also be limited due to sore knees. Freshmen Danny Shelton and Taniela Topou are expected to be thrown into the fire immediately.
Key Insight - Keep your fingers crossed concerning Tokolahi and Potoae. If Thompson can stay outside it gives the coaching staff a lot more flexibility.
Defensive End - Haouli Jamora is up to 260 lbs and that should cement his elite status among Pac 12 DE's. Either Everrette Thompson or Talia Chrichton will start on the other side. Chrichton was starting to do some pretty nice work before he was injured last season. Josh Shirley and Andrew Hudson debut this season and they are going to bring some serious speed off the edge. Holt is really going to be able to experiment and have fun with these guys. I expect Jarrett Finau and Connor Cree to red shirt.
Key Insight - Rush end Josh Shirley was almost unstoppable at practice this spring. Pound for pound he may be the strongest kid on the team.
MLB - Cort Dennison returns for one final season to quarterback this defense. A lot depends on how he helps the young guys playing beside an behind him along. Juco transfer Thomas Tutogi will back him up. Victor Burnett and Tim Tucker have had promising moments in practice and will contribute.
Key Insight - Cort Dennison is the straw that stirs the drink for this defense. Nobody plays harder or smarter than this kid.
WLB and SLB - We are combining these two positions because it is a free for all right now on who will start and how they will line up. Jon Timu and Princeton Fuimaono are the favorites going into camp. Timu has grown into quite a specimen after sitting out last year as his knee healed. Princeton saw immediate playing time as a backup. Garrett Gilliliand, Cooper Pelleur, Jamal Kearse, and Jordan Wallace are all in the mix.
Key insight - There is plenty of talent stocked and ready to go at these two positions. The only question is how long of a learning curve will they have to click? Matching the production of Foster and Aiyewa won't be easy.
Corner - Quinton Richardson and Desmond Trufant were both extremely solid by the end of last season. Lets hope that carries over to 2011. Greg Ducre who sat out the spring with a shoulder injury is the key backup at this position. Newcomers Antavius Sims and Marcus Peters will vie for immediate playing time. Adam Long will miss the season with a torn ACL. Persley and Gobern return to battle for the back up positions.
Key Insight - The lack of depth behind the starters in a huge concern. Ducre is a quality corner but Sims and Peters need to show they are ready to play.
Safety - Nate Fellner and Sean Parker are the starters and they have plenty of starter worthy depth behind them. Justin Glenn should be close to 100% and he can help out at either safety or CB. Taz Stevenson stepped up and earned some quality game experience when Parker was dinged up last season. Will Shaumburger is another guy that has impressed the coaches. Blue chip recruit James Sample will play right away.
Key Insight - There is plenty of talent and depth at these positions. I think Glenn may end up being the defensive backfield's most important backup due to his speed and flexibility. Taz is an incredible athlete who is really going to push Parker for that starting job.