RANKINGS - DEFENSIVE LINE
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Why they're #5? The Bulldogs basically have talent everywhere, but
inexperience could be an issue early on.
Just Missed: Maryland
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
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.