Big names on defense not getting to quarterback

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Here's a list of players: defensive end Dexter Davis and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy -- both from Arizona State -- Arizona defensive end Brooks Reed, California defensive end Cameron Jordan, Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea and Washington defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim.

That is a stout crew. Each is a likely NFL draft pick -- a few on the first day -- when their time comes to go pro.

Yet those six defensive linemen, each a contender for all-conference honors, have combined for just two sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss.

Meanwhile, USC freshman Nick Perry, who's not even a starter and mostly missed the California game due a bruised knee, has six sacks and seven tackles for loss.

Arizona's "other" defensive end, Ricky Elmore, has 4.5 sacks. Stanford end Thomas Keiser has 4.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss.

In other words, the big names aren't hanging up big numbers while more obscure guys are.

What gives?

Apparently lots of double-teams. And toss in a few injuries.

One thing is clear, however: No coach was ready to rip his putative defensive star.

"Brooks is playing phenomenal," Arizona coach Mike Stoops said. "Sometimes statistics don't tell the whole story, and in Brooks' case that's certainly evident. You just turn the film on. He's a very productive player."

It also hurts that Reed has been hurting. He sprained his ankle against Iowa, missed the Oregon State game and is questionable for Saturday at Washington.

Stoops also said Elmore, a junior like Reed, isn't simply benefiting from offenses focusing on Reed.

"I think Ricky's gotten better as a player," Stoops said.

Davis is a four-year starter with 27.5 career sacks but he has zero sacks thus far in 2009, with only one tackle for loss.

"He's not playing bad. He's getting doubled a lot, which we expect," Sun Devils coach coach Dennis Erickson said, before adding. "We're not getting to the quarterback with those other guys. It's not so much Dexter as the other three guys -- or five guys or six guys who play -- when they double him and they are one-on-one."

One of those "guys" is Guy, who had 10 tackles for loss last year. He's only made five tackles this season with 0.5 TFL and zero sacks. He's also been battling a biceps injury that knocked him out of the season -opener.

Still, it's noteworthy that Arizona State, which is tied for last in the conference with three sacks, ranks third in the nation in total defense. If they maintain an elite overall ranking, then there's not much to gripe about, even if Davis and Guy fail to hang up big numbers.

The situation is not the same at Oregon State, which is tied with the Sun Devils with just three sacks. While the Beavers' defense took a step forward at Arizona State last weekend, it's still not the high-pressure unit of years past.

Coach Mike Riley doesn't blame Paea for that, though.

"I think he's doing a great job," Riley said. "He's getting a lot of attention. He is a disruptive force in the middle."

Paea had five sacks and 11 TFL last year, but he's got two new defensive ends flanking him who aren't stressing the opposing offensive line as much as Slade Norris and Victor Butler did a year ago.

As for Jordan (one sack), the junior been overshadowed by the Bears' other end, senior Tyson Alualu, who's recorded 26 tackles -- tops among conference D-linemen -- with 4.5 sacks. At Washington, Te'o-Nesheim (one sack) is much like Davis and Reed -- he's getting lots of attention from opposing offenses.

Of course, Te'o-Nesheim commanded lots of attention last year. He got off to a slow start but still ended up with eight sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. In fact, he got his first three sacks of 2008 in Game 5 against Arizona.

Guess who's coming to Husky Stadium on Saturday?

In other words, there's plenty of time for the "name" guys to still live up to their, er, names.