Poll: Pac-12 defensive player of the year

Last year, Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea was the Pac-10's Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year. His numbers weren't eye-popping, but he was the guy who required the most attention from opposing offenses.

No defensive player who earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2010 is back -- Arizona State cornerback Omar Bolden blew out his knee this spring. But that doesn't mean there aren't a plethora of returning defensive stars. Expect at least a couple of Pac-12 players to earn All-American honors.

The first question is who's the best inside linebacker? Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict might be the most fearsome defensive player in the nation, but by the end of the 2010 season few were better than Stanford's Shayne Skov.

Of course, neither matched the numbers put up by California's Mychal Kendricks -- 8.5 sacks, 15 tackles for a loss -- last year.

While he USC safety T.J. McDonald was a bit under the radar because the Trojans defense struggled in 2010, that defense is expected to dramatically improve and McDonald is a big reason why.

But, really, what happens if Oregon's big-play cornerback Cliff Harris becomes consistent -- while still maintaining his ball hawking ways?

Lots of good choices. But who's going to be the best?