1. Southern Cal

The Trojans welcome back all of their starters from a defensive line that was considered one of the best in the country. Both defensive ends are outstanding, with Kenechi Udeze bringing power to the left side with his 280-pound frame. Omar Nazel, a glorified linebacker, will play the other defensive end spot, using speed as his main weapon. In the middle, Mike Patterson comes in as one of the best defensive tackles in the Pac-10 along side the talented Shaun Cody. Cody hopes to stay healthy all year after missing the 2nd half of last season due to injury.

Why they're #1? : No one in the country has a front-four with as much talent.

2. Ohio State

For the second year in a row Ohio State's defensive strength will once again be on the line. A big reason for that has to do with returning three of 2002's starting four. Darion Scott, a defensive end last year, will join Tim Anderson in the middle to form a duo that will be better than most. Anchoring one of the ends will be All-American candidate Will Smith, who decided to stay in school instead of moving on to the NFL. Opposite of Will Smith will probably be Simon Frazier, while a young group of very talented players including, Mike Kudla, Marcus Green, and Quinn Pitcock provide depth.

Why they're #2? : While this group is great, it just doesn't have the same star-power as USC.

3. Oklahoma

After a disappointing 2002 season, the Sooner defensive line looks to bounce back with plenty of experience and talent to spare. Everything starts in the middle with Tommie Harris. The usually disruptive Harris looks to bounce back to his freshman form after having his sophomore slump due, in part, to a groin injury suffered early. Joining Harris in the middle is the dependable trio of starters - Kory Klein, and reserve tackles - Lynn McGruder and - Dusty Dvoracek. Despite the loss of Jimmy Wilkerson, Oklahoma reloads with a substantial amount of talent and depth returning at end. Both Jonathan Jackson and Dan Cody have started in the past, while the younger Larry Birdine and Calvin Thibodeaux are too talented not to see the field and some quality playing time.

Why they're #3? : While depth and talent are non-issues, the outsides could use some more experience.

4. Virginia Tech

The Hokie DL, when healthy, was a wall. Before injuries took their toll, 2002's front-four gave up a meager 325 rushing yards in eight games. Fortunately for Frank Beamer, all four starters return with a ton of quality depth. The combination of Nthaniel Adibi and Cols Colas might be tops in the nation, while tackles Jason Lallis and Kevin Lewis look to plug up the middle. Just in case injuries become a problem again, experience won't be, with Tech's backups gaining experience from 2002.

Why they're #4? : Depth is always good until you need it. The Hokie D-Line is top notch on the outsides, but overall durability and size in the interior could be something of a concern.

5. Georgia

The Bulldogs defensive front may not end up missing tackle Jonathan Sullivan as much as one may think. SEC "Defensive Player of the Year" David Pollack returns after having a monstrous 2002 campaign, while fellow end Will Thompson man's the spot next to him. In the middle, tackle Ken Veal will play along side last year's freshman standout, Kedric Golston. Golston saw plenty of action as a reserve while starting in three games. In the mix as well will be another super sophomore in Darrius Swain who will provide excellent depth for the Bulldogs.

Why they're #5? The Bulldogs basically have talent everywhere, but inexperience could be an issue early on.


Just Missed: Maryland

The Terrapins front four is not only the ACC's best, but one of the better defensive lines in the country. Everything starts in the middle with All-American candidate Randy Starks, who fills in at tackle. Occupying the other tackle spot will be C.J. Feldheim, who along with ends Scott Smith and Jamahl Cochran, combined for 13.5 tackles for loss. As a group, Maryland gave up an impressive 129 rushing yards a game, including a 45-yard defensive gem vs. Tennessee's rushing attack in the Peach Bowl.

Could be there: Miami

Not even the Miami Hurricanes could withstand the loss of five NFL draft picks (six players all together) without suffering some kind of drop off. Still, the Hurricanes were able to reload their interior line, where they arguably have the best group of tackles on one team. 340-pound Vince Wilfork grabs most of the headlines with his cat like quickness, need for double-teams, and hole plugging girth, but its players like Santonio Thomas and Orien Harris who could play pivotal roles. Both already have the attention of many NFL scouts. If the young talent at defensive end can pick up the slack, then the Hurricanes could have one of the more formidable lines in the country. Virtual unknowns like Baraka Atkins, John Square, Thomas Carroll and Alton Wright will have to step up if that is to happen.