1. Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon)
Thibodeaux should need no introduction. In his sophomore season he was a third team AP All American and first team All Pac 12. In his two seasons (well, one and a half) at Oregon he’s generated 23.5 tackles for a loss and 12 sacks. Thibodeaux is excellent at using his size to frustrate lines and wrap up ball carriers. He’s also very fast, and with great direction changing speed to get by blockers. Many draft prognosticators have pegged Thibodeaux as one of the best players in next years class, so hopefully the Beavers will only have to see him one more time.
2. George Karlaftis (Purdue)
Karlaftis had a huge season for the Boilermakers in 2019, with 7.5 sacks, 54 tackles and 17 tackles for a loss. His 2020 was limited due to injury and contracting Covid-19, but Karlaftis looks set to bounce back this year. He has ridiculous speed and strength, making him capable of blowing past an offensive lineman or just knocking them over. He’s been an All Big 10 Second Teamer the past two seasons, but in 2021 expect him to make a much bigger name for himself.
3. Mika Tafua
Utah has perhaps the strongest defensive line in the conference, and while it’s tough to pick one player to single out, Mika Tafua stands a bit above the otehrs. Tafua has been a Second Team All Pac-12 Selection the past two seasons, and this year should ascend to first class. In 2020 he finished with 14 total tackles and 3 sacks, and has 8 career sacks as a Ute. With Tafua anchoring a very good Utah pass rush, this is going to be one of the scariest defenses Oregon State plays next season.
4. Thomas Booker (Stanford)
Unlike Utah, Stanford’s defense really needs to improve next season, and that’s going to be a tough order after they lose some of their top talent. New players will need to step up if the Cardinal want to start making a run at the top of the Pac-12 North. Booker will be one of those players. He broke through in 2020 when he was named to the All Pac 12 Second Team on D-Line, and first team on Special Teams. He’s the best tackler on the Stanford line, and arguably the entire defense, with more size then you’d typically see from an edge rusher.
5. Korey Foreman (USC)
Foreman is sight unseen at the moment, but the number one recruit in the country has a chance to make a big impact right away for the Trojans. He’s the best pass rusher the Trojans have signed in at least a decade, though with his frame USC could end up using him as an OLB instead of a defensive end. For now though, it looks like he’ll be lining up on the line, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him starting by the end of the season.