We're finishing our Pac-12 defensive triplet rankings with Washington at No. 1.
Here are the parameters: We've selected a trio of skill players from each team in the conference. And the rules: Each player comes from a different position group, so the defensive version of this series features a player from the defensive line, linebacker group and secondary. We then ranked each program's troika against the others in the Pac-12, and we'll be unveiling each in reverse countdown order.
DT Elijah Qualls: He only played in 10 games last year but the 6-foot-1, 311-pound tackle is a load. He finished with 26 tackles and 4.5 sacks and two QB hurries. He can plug the middle in the run game and he's athletic enough to rush the passer. The junior, if he stays healthy, is a safe projection for All-Pac-12 this fall.
LB Azeem Victor: This could have been fellow LB Keishawn Bierria, but Victor was honorable mention All-Pac-12 last year after leading the Pac-12's best defense with 95 tackles, so he gets the nod. He also added nine tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and an interception returned for a TD in the Apple Cup. The 6-foot-3, 244-pound junior is a physical presence in the run game who also can drop into coverage.
S Budda Baker: Baker and cornerback Sidney Jones were both first-team All-Pac-12 last year, and they should be cornerstones for what should be one of the nation's best secondaries. Baker, an exceptional athlete, had 49 tackles and two interceptions last year. It would be a surprise if he returns for his senior year instead of entering the 2017 NFL draft.
Evaluation: Notice the "either/or" theme here? That's why Washington stands atop this list without question. In fact, you might say that the Huskies second-team with this (Greg Gaines, Bierria, Jones) would also be tops in the conference. The Huskies had the best defense in the Pac-12 in 2015 and it would be surprising if they don't repeat this fall.