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Defensive Line

Southern California

When fans think of USC, they usually think of Heisman candidates on the offense. In 2007, it is the defense that reigns supreme in Los Angeles, and the Trojan defensive front includes two seniors on the Preseason All-American list. One, DE Lawrence Jackson, begins his fourth season as a starter (20 career sacks). The other, NT Sedrick Ellis, starts again for the third time. Both are legitimate first round NFL picks and are capable of earning most of the collegiate postseason awards handed out to defensive players. Junior DT Fili Moala will anchor the other interior spot on this line after receiving All-Pac Ten Honorable Mention in 2006. The nation's ninth ranked run defense is bolstered with a premium set of LBs as well (see LB unit rankings), making this the nation’s best front four (and front seven), by far.

Louisiana State

USC is No. 1 in most of the preseason team polls while LSU slides in at No. 2. There is very little difference in the DLs of these teams. To win in the grindstone of SEC country, a team must possess size and speed up front, and LSU has as much, if not more, than any in the land. Led by consensus All-American DT Glenn Dorsey, who ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit tabbed "the best player in college football", this unit returns the gist of what made them the No. 14 run defense a season ago. They also know how to rush the passer (T-6th nationally in sacks). On the outside is 6'5, 292 pound DE Tyson Jackson, the team leader with 8.5 sacks. This group is athletic and aggressive; they are the defensive component which has stood out most with the rise of LSU football this millennium.


Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz make up one of the top DE combinations in the country. Both have been named to the All-MWC two years in a row and both stand to make their final seasons big ones in Fort Worth. These qualities also underscore the overall style of play inside - through ample rotations, the DTs stay fresh enough to remain strong against larger 300 lb. opponents. Recent recruiting classes have brought enough DLmen into the program so this year’s team is now stacked three-deep. TCU is no stranger to finishing in the Top 25 at season's end, and 2007 will be no different. The nation's No. 2 run defense from a year ago will play a big role, once again.


USC is not the only team from the city of angels with talent across the DL. UCLA returns seven of eight players on the two-deep. In ’06, this group improved drastically - they went from allowing 233 ypg rushing in 2005 to just 91 ypg last season. The Bruins also were one of 14 teams to allow foes less than three yards per rushing attempt. Now you see why this line was so complicit in UCLA’s 13-9 upset win over rival USC (gave up only 55 rushing yards). All four starters are seniors, led by Preseason All-American Bruce Davis (tied for Pac Ten lead with 12.5 sacks). Prep All-Americans exist at both tackle spots in Kevin Brown and Brigham Harwell. Brown is another defensive leader; his huge comeback after missing the entire ‘05 season due to injury will inspire even more improvements. (Tied for) the nation’s No.6 total in sacks assures them this ranking.


The Horns allowed just 61 ypg rushing (No. 3 nationally) last fall despite losing DT Derek Lokey to a broken leg after eight games. Their 10th-ranked sack total reflects the complete approach usually seen here. Junior Roy Miller, as well as seniors Frank Okam and a healthy Derek Lokey, represent one of the best tackle rotations in the land. The Sporting News named explosive DE Brian Orakpo Defensive Freshman of the Year two seasons ago. Joining him on the outside are some extremely talented youngsters - RS Frosh Eddie Jones (#1 rated DE out of high school) and true frosh Dre Jones, who enrolled early (green shirted) to participate this spring. RB Henry Melton has also been moved over to the defensive side. The depth is overwhelming as this line reaches its full potential in ’07.

Just Missed: Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Miami FL, Rutgers, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Virginia, Virginia Tech