Running Back Defensive Line
Wide Receiver Linebacker
Offensive Line Defensive Back
Penn State
Scary is the only word to describe just how good State will continue to be here. Paul Posluszny is the returning Butkus winner, and the senior has both Conner and Shaw back to make this as good a (returning) starting trio – if not better - than last year’s Buckeye group. The entire two-deep is a svelte corps with no weaknesses. The only chink in the Nittany Lion armor is how thin they could be spread with so many new faces at all the other defensive positions. But in leading by example, the entire D will shine as these LBs are the glue that keeps the entire team together.

Southern California
Only one departure in the two-deep means the Trojans rank second with their big, fast group. All six started at one time in ’05, speaking volumes for how competent each is. And though none boast huge numbers, their ability to work as a solid unit is why this D comes up big at just the right moments to keep Southern Cal winning. Keith Rivers and Brian Cushing are two names that are sure to open eyes on the post-season lists before 2006 is complete. These guys will step up big to keep coach Carroll in games as the offense struggles for new identity in the new post Leinart-Bush-White era.

Virginia Tech
Tough as linemen and fast as DBs, starting juniors Hall and Adibi return as the main reason why Tech was 2005’s No.1 total defense (a mere six rushing TDs allowed). Developing the depth behind them would seem key, but the other defensive dimensions also return most of their best guys to keep these two from being overused. Coach Beamer’s schemes will keep this group of Hokie LBs shining, regardless of who is in.

This is as good of a starting trio in I-A as they come. Everett drops into coverage while holding down any weakside runs, and Siler penetrates for optimum results (seven fumbles recovered). Senior Crum finally earns his deserving spot as main guy on the strongside, and he may turn out to be the best of the three. There is little proven depth - the only weakness of their entire front seven - but the potential is there in the newbies Meyer has recruited. The best run stuffers of 2005 in the SEC (which is the best defensive conference, by far) says it all for the talent of this seasoned corps.

All-American Rufus Alexander could have been a top NFL pick, but he returns with starter Zach Latimer as the crews’ senior anchors. The numbers will continue to pile up with such a great DL in place. Former-starter Baker will see the field early and often, but is the lone experienced sub. Like UF, being the best LBs in their tough conference makes them an easy top five pick.

Just Missed: Colorado, Florida State, Michigan, Texas