Football is won in the trenches. Defense wins championships. Both are monikers often thrown around in football circles. When you combine the two, it sounds like defensive linemen are among the most important players on the field. While the Pac-12 is not necessarily known for its stout defenses, there are some big names that could make huge impacts not just at the conference level, but on the national stage. These Pac-12 returning defensive linemen should be on every fan’s radar heading into the new season.
Best Returning Pac-12 Defensive Linemen
3. Kyon Barrs, Sophomore, Arizona
Barrs is still a sophomore despite having 26 appearances in three seasons under his belt. Last season, the California native was named as an All-Pac-12 second-team selection. He recorded multiple tackles in each of his ten appearances in 2021 to bring his season tally to 33. Barrs added on to this with eight tackles for loss and five sacks.
His stats from last season are solid but do not really jump off the page. However, Barrs looks set for an even bigger 2022. His combination of high motor, strength, and speed makes him a threat on the defensive line.
2. Ron Stone Jr., Redshirt Junior, Washington State
Stone has quickly become a beloved name on the Palouse and for very good reason. In 2021, he earned All-Pac-12 first team honors, becoming the first Cougar to receive the honor since 2017. Stone racked up 63 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, and five sacks through the season. He also added a forced fumble, fumble recovery, and blocked kick.
Stone has shown the ability to be a do-it-all type of player on the Cougar front line. His continued growth will be crucial to Washington State’s hopes of putting together a solid 2022 campaign.
1. Tuli Tuipulotu, Junior, USC
Tuipulotu has been one of the very best in the Pac-12 trenches for a few years now. With the likes of Kayvon Thibodeaux and Mika Tafua now in the pro ranks, the Trojans’ front-line anchor now has the stage set to become the conference’s premier defensive lineman. Like Stone, Tuipulotu was named All-Pac-12’s first team last season. He recorded 48 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks in 12 games. Tuipulotu also recorded two forced fumbles and recovered a fumble for a touchdown against the Cougars in Pullman.
Tuipulotu looks to be ready for a massive 2022 season. He is going to be the star of the defensive line for a USC team that could see itself making a splash.