Nate Landman comes back to lead the Colorado defense as the Pac-12's top inside linebacker.
Photo: Colorado Athletics
1. Nate Landman - Colorado
Over the past 2 years, Nate Landman has been highly productive and returns for his senior season to lead the Colorado defense one more time. The star linebacker boasts prototypical size at 6-3 230 and shows great instincts. Landman is a preseason 1st Team All-Pac-12 selection by Athlon and should be one of the favorites to win Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
2. Palaie Gaoteote - USC
Gaoteote came to USC as a 5 star recruit (15th Nationally) and may be the most talented inside linebacker in the conference. The Trojan linebacker is 6-2 250 and should be on the radar as an early round NFL Draft pick in 2021. In 8 games, Gaoteote had 58 tackles and 3 TFL last season.
3. Colin Schooler - Arizona
No current Pac-12 linebacker has had a more impressive career than Colin Schooler. During Schooler's first 3 seasons he managed to total 312 tackles, 46 TFL and 9 sacks. The Arizona linebacker has a valid case to be number 1 on this list but the overall weakness of the Wildcat defense has led to him being undervalued across the media landscape. Schooler is a tackling machine and don't be surprised if finds a way to be in the running for Pac-12 DPOY.
4. Kuony Deng - Cal
Deng likely projects as an outside linebacker at the next level due to his size at 6-6 250, but for the Cal defense he will line up on the inside in 2020. Deng finished 2019 with 119 tackles and 7.5 TFL after transferring from a Junior College. The talented linebacker has a high ceiling and should continue to develop into an NFL Draft pick next spring.
5. Darien Butler - ASU
Darien Butler was named the first true sophomore captain in ASU program history, which speaks to the leadership he provides and the trust the coaches have in the linebacker. Butler made an instant impact for the Sun Dev
ils as a freshman in 2018 when he finished with 70 tackles and 8 tackles for loss. He followed his Freshman campaign with 88 tackles and another 6 tackles for loss as a Sophomore.
6. Omar Speights - OSU
Omar Speights is one of the young stars in the Pac-12. The Beaver standout came in as a freshman and made 6 starts while finishing with 73 tackles and 7.5 TFL. That production was good enough to land him on the USA Today Freshman All-America Team. Big things will be expected for the sophomore in 2020 as the Beavers will look to improve their defense and reach the postseason.
7. Isaac Slade-Matautia - Oregon
Slade-Matautia was an underrated stud on the Oregon defense last season. The inside linebacker checks in at 6-1 232 and is the only returning FBS linebacker to have 60+ tackles and 10+ pass breakups. Slade-Matautia will need to hold off Oregon's freshmen 5 star linebackers, but his experience should be valuable in leading the Duck defense.
8. Avery Roberts - OSU
Avery Roberts transferred to Oregon State from Nebraska and proceeded to lead the Beavers in tackles with 83 and finished the season with 6.5 tackles for loss. The Beaver linebacker unit will be one of the best in the nation in 2020.
9. Edefuan Ulofoshio - Washington
Ulofoshio walked on at Washington but quickly proved he would be an impact player. The Huskies couldn't keep him off the field in 2019 as he ascended the depth chart while starting the last 3 games of the season. Despite the limited playing time, Ulofoshio racked up 47 tackles, 3.5 TFL and 3 sacks.
10. Tony Fields - Arizona
Tony Fields has put together an outstanding career for the Wildcats with 287 tackles, 17 TFL and 8.5 sacks. The Wildcats' linebacker unit will be sneaky good in 2020 and could lead a defensive resurgence for the program.