USC star Drake Jackson returns in 2021 to lead a resurgent defense.
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Article by WestCoastCFB
1. Drake Jackson (USC)
USC's Drake Jackson is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential and should be one of the most dominant pass rushers in the country in 2021. Since enrolling at USC in 2019, Jackson has been largely overshadowed by the dominant play of Kayvon Thibodeaux but projects as a Top 10-15 Draft pick in 2022. Jackson made the All Pac-12 2nd Team in both 2019 and 2020, while racking up a combined 66 tackles, 17 for loss and 7.5 sacks.
2. Zion Tupuola-Fetui (UW)
Washington has become known for their player development and ZTF is the latest example. Just a 3 star out of high school, ZTF burst on the scene in 2020 as arguably the most dominant pass rusher in the conference. The UW Edge Defender had the highest pass rush grade among Pac-12 players last season according to PFF with a 91.8 grade. Kayvon Thibodeaux earned a 72.9 grade while Drake Jackson was at 66.6 for reference. The Husky star unfortunately suffered an injury this offseason and may miss all of next season, however, there is a slight possibility he could be back by November. In 2020, ZTF led the Pac-12 in sacks per game and was named an All-American by the AP while also earning 1st Team All-Pac-12 honors.
3. Carson Wells (Colorado)
Carson Wells was one of the most disruptive players in conference last Fall with a ridiculous 16 tackles for loss in just 6 games. The 6-4 250 edge has NFL size and should begin to garner national publicity with another huge season in 2021.
4. Mitchell Agude (UCLA)
Mitchell Agude transferred to the Bruins from Riverside CC and quickly made an impact off the edge. The 6-4 Linebacker was disruptive in both the pass and run games and was graded by PFF as the best edge defender in the conference in 2020. Agude finished last season with with 9 tackles for loss in just 7 games.
5. Ryan Bowman (UW)
Ryan Bowman walked on to the Huskies out of High School but has been one of the best players in the conference since his Freshman season in 2017. Bowman will be coming off an injury that limited his playing time in 2020 but in the brief time he was on the field, the physical and tough Bowman had the 3rd highest run defense grade among edge defenders in 2020 according to PFF. For his career, Bowman has 102 tackles, 24.5 for loss and 14 sacks
6. Merlin Robertson (ASU)
Robertson came to ASU as a physically talented prospect and proved the hype was real his first season while earning Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year. The sure tackler is a natural fit on the outside and is projected as a top 50 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
7. Cam Goode (Cal)
Cameron Goode returns to lead the Bears' defense in 2021 and brings vast experience with 26 career starts. Over the past two seasons Good has become a dominant edge defender with 22 tackles for loss. Goode's 2020 season was good enough to earn All-Pac-12 2nd Team honors.
8. Mase Funa (Oregon)
Mase Funa was a big time prospect in high school ranking 68th overall nationally by 247. Over Funa's first two seasons with the Ducks he has 57 tackles and 12 for loss. Funa and Thibodeaux should form one of the best pass rush combinations in the conference.
9. Kuony Deng (Cal)
Deng has freakish size at 6-6 245 and will move from inside linebacker to the outside in 2021 where he should be a more natural fit with his length being utilized to rush the passer. Over the past 2 years, Deng has 150 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
10. Darien Butler (ASU)
Darien Butler and Merlin Robertson have formed quite the tandem over the past few seasons and will lead what may be the best defense in the Pac-12 in 2021. After starting all 13 games as a True Freshman, Butler was the 1st True Sophomore captain in program history. For his career, Butler has 175 tackles and 16 for loss.
Hunter Echols (USC)
Gabe Reid (Stanford)
Andrzej Hughes-Murray (OSU)