Kayvon Thibodeaux looks to make his case for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Photo: Oregon Athletics
1. Kayvon Thibodeaux - Oregon
Kayvon Thibodeaux came to Oregon as the #2 recruit in the nation and instantly became one of the most dominant defensive players in the Pac-12. His freshman campaign resulted in 14 tackles for loss and 9 sacks. Entering 2020, Thibodeaux has the tools to be the top defensive player in the conference and is starting to receive hype as the potential #1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
2. Levi Onwuzurike - Washington
Onwuzurike returning to Washington for his senior season was a huge win for Jimmy Lake and the Huskies. The star defensive tackle was a 2019 1st Team All-Pac-12 selection and enters 2020 as PFF's 2nd best returning interior defensive lineman nationally.
3. Jay Tufele - USC
Tufele is a top 2021 NFL Draft prospect with elite size at 6-3 315. The USC defensive line will be one of the best in nation with Tufele, Marlon Tuipulotu and Drake Jackson (who will be playing a hybrid DE/OLB role). In Tufele's first 2 seasons he has posted 65 tackles, 11 TFL and 7.5 sacks.
4. Jermayne Lole - ASU
Lole was an underrated Pac-12 performer in 2019 while posting 71 tackles, 10 TFL and 6.5 sacks as a sophomore. The 6-1 294 defensive lineman will help anchor the ASU DL in 2020 and will continue to pose problems in both the run and pass game for opponents.
5. Mustafa Johnson - Colorado
Johnson has been extremely productive over the past 2 years for the Buffs with 20.5 TFL and 12.5 sacks. The Colorado defensive end is ranked 9th nationally by PFF among returning interior defensive lineman.
6. Thomas Booker - Stanford
Booker has elite NFL upside with his 6-4 298 frame and came to the Cardinal as a 4 star recruit from Maryland. In his first two seasons with the Cardinal, Booker has 78 tackles, 12.5 TFL and 7.5 sacks.
7. Jordon Scott - Oregon
Jordon Scott's impact doesn't always show up on the box score but the defensive tackle is a dominant run defender. Scott landed on the 2018 AP All-Pac-12 2nd Team and has started 37 of Oregon's last 38 games. The 6-1 325 anchor has contributed 95 tackles, 11 TFL and 3 sacks over the past 3 seasons.
8. Mika Tafua - Utah
The Utah defense was loaded with talent in 2019 while finishing 6th nationally in points allowed and producing 6 defensive NFL Draft picks. Mika Tafua and Devin Lloyd are the only returning starters for the 2020 Ute defense and will need to be the leaders of an inexperienced unit. Tafua is a 2020 2nd Team All Pac-12 selection by Athlon and finished 2019 with 47 tackles, 8.5 TFL and 3 sacks.
9. Osa Odighizuwa - UCLA
Odighizuwa has garnered a lot of attention from NFL scouts entering his senior season in 2020 and CBS lists Odighizuwa as their 94th ranked overall prospect for the 2021 NFL Draft. The Bruin defensive lineman was a 2019 PFF 2nd Team All-Pac-12 selection and contributed 46 tackles, 10 TFL and 3.5 sacks last season.
10. Luc Bequette - Cal
Bequette received a 6th year of eligibility from the NCAA and will return to help lead what should be another dominant Cal defense that features 8 returning starters. Bequette has plenty of experience and should be at a point where he can physically dominate most opposing offensive lineman that he lines up against. For his career, Bequette has 130 tackles, 12.5 TFL and 10 sacks. The 6-2 290 defensive end is a preseason 3rd Team All Pac-12 selection by Athlon.
11. Marlon Tuipulotu - USC
Tuipulotu is one of the most physically gifted defensive lineman in the Pac-12 with a 6-3 305 frame. Over the past two years, Tuipulotu has 79 tackles, 11.5 TFL and 6 sacks. The gifted redshirt-junior could climb to the top of this list by the end of 2020.
12. D.J. Davidson - ASU
The Arizona State defense features 7 returning starters from a unit that allowed just 22.4 points per game. D.J. Davidson will be a key cog on the defensive line once again in 2020 and has outstanding size at size 6-5 306. Last season, as a sophomore he had 48 tackles, 4.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks.
13. Austin Faoliu - Oregon
If you haven't noticed yet, the Oregon defense is absolutely stacked. Faoliu is the 3rd Duck DL on this list so far and the Oregon DL unit is deservedly ranked 7th nationally by Athlon for 2020. Faoliu will be a senior this season and will start at defensive tackle. In his Duck career, Faoliu has 103 career tackles, 9.5 TFL and 5 sacks and was graded by PFF in 2018 as the 3rd best Pac-12 defensive lineman.
14. Brett Johnson - Cal
The Cal staff has high hopes for Brett Johnson after he started 9 games as a freshman in 2019. Athlon jumped on the Johnson bandwagon and made him a 2020 3rd Team All Pac-12 selection. The 6-5 285 nose tackle had 26 tackles, 3.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks in 2019 and should improve even further with another year under his belt.
15.. Terrance Lang - Colorado
The Colorado defense could be sneaky good in 2020 after returning 7 starters, including 3 along the defensive line. Lang has an imposing figure at 6-7 280 and has 12 career starts. As a sophomore in 2019, Lang managed 30 tackles, 6.5 TFL and 5.5 sacks.
16. Josiah Bronson - UW
Josiah Bronson came to the Huskies as a walk-on before being placed on scholarship prior to the 2019 season and put together a solid year while starting 11 games and posting 23 tackles, 4 TFL and 2 sacks. He will return for his senior campaign and don't be surprised if Bronson has a breakout season for the Huskies.
17. Will Rodgers - WSU
Will Rodgers is on the smaller side for a defensive tackle at 6-4 255 but has been an impact starter for the Cougs during his career. During his time on the Palouse, Rodgers has 51 tackles, 13.5 TFL and 8 sacks.
18. Zeandae Johnson - Cal
Similar to Bequette, Johnson was granted a 6th year of eligiblity for the Cal Bears. The Cal defense is deep and experienced and the defensive line could be the best unit on the team. Johnson has 51 career tackles, 9 TFL and 5.5 sacks.
19. Trevon Mason - Arizona
Mason came to Arizona as a Junior College transfer and made an instant impact for the Wildcats in 2019 with 44 tackles and 6 tackles for loss. The Arizona defense was frankly awful last season, but does have some talented pieces. Mason is 6-5 310 and could get on the NFL radar with an elite season.
T20. Popo Aumavae - Oregon
Aumavae will continue to be a reserve for the Ducks due to the talent ahead of him but has consistently made an impact during his time on the field. Last season, the defensive tackle had 5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
T20. Tuli Letuligasenoa - Washington
Tuli came to Washington as a 4 star recruit ranked 105th nationally and has a high ceiling for the Huskies. Tuli will play plenty of minutes for the Huskies in 2019 as they rotate lineman and should improve on a freshman campaign that resulted in 23 tackles, 2 TFL and 1 sack.