With spring practice underway at many Pac-12 destinations, it's time to do our annual position-by-position breakdown.
Here's a look at North Division defensive lines.
California: If things fall into place, the Bears should be much improved up front, despite the loss of Brennan Scarlett to transfer. (We won't say where.) Of course, that depends on young guys stepping forward after being forced into action last year and some newcomers living up to high expectations, starting with JC transfer DeVante Wilson, a former USC signee and potential replacement for Scarlett, and tackle James Looney, a transfer from Wake Forest. If Looney proves stout, he should form a nice tandem with the capable Mustafa Jalil inside. The return of Kyle Kragen and development of sophomores Noah Westerfield and Tony Mekari also should bolster the end position, which is critical because the Bears' pass rush last year was anemic and exposed a weak secondary.
Oregon: The Ducks' D-line took a couple of hits with end Arik Armstead entering the NFL draft a year early and top DE/NT backup Sam Kamp opting to retire. The good news is end DeForest Buckner, the Ducks' best and most productive lineman in 2014, is back, as is solid NT Alex Balducci. The expectation is Tui Talia, who had 18 tackles last year, will replace Armstead opposite Buckner. The second unit features T.J. Daniel and Henry Mondeaux at the ends and Austin Maloata inside. Of course, more than a few folks will be curious about how quickly touted recruit Canton Kaumatule, an end who will participate in spring practices, adjusts to the college game.
Oregon State: The Beavers are rebuilding their defense after losing nine starters, including three of four on the D-line, as well as two top backups. So new coordinator Kalani Sitake, late of Utah, has a mostly blank slate with which to work. End Jaswha James is the lone returning starter, but there are other players with experience, including ends Luke Hollingsworth and Lavonte Barnett and tackle Jalen Grimble. Senior tackle Kyle Peko, who missed last year with academic issues, is practicing this spring with the hopes of being eligible in the fall. If available, he's a likely starter. Ali'i Robins also is a possibility inside, as is Devan Filipe.
Stanford: Stanford lost all three 2014 starters, including workhorses Henry Anderson and David Parry, so this is a complete rebuilding job of one of the Pac-12's best units. Further, injuries have clouded things this spring, with only three healthy bodies available for full-contact work, a crew that included Harrison Phillips, Nate Lohn and Jordan Watkins. The hope is Aziz Shittu and Solomon Thomas will return from injuries, and Cal transfer Brennan Scarlett should immediately be in the mix, if he can stay healthy. Still, the Cardinal are as questionable along the D-line as they have been in a long time.
Washington: No team in the nation lost more from its front seven than Washington, a crew that included two All-Americans on the D-line in nose tackle Danny Shelton and end/OLB Hau'oli Kikaha. Also gone are Andrew and Evan Hudson, so the Huskies will feature three new starters in 2015, none of whom had more than 13 tackles last year. On the plus side, the Huskies almost certainly will rotate more players than they did in 2014 because those guys were too good to take off the field. NT Elijah Qualls and DE Joe Mathis both saw action last year and are likely starters, while Taniela Tupou was Evan Hudson's backup at defensive tackle. Jarett Finau, Damion Turpin and true sophomore Will Dissly figure to be in the rotation, and a crew of youngsters -- Shane Bowman, Greg Gaines, Jaylen Johnson and Vita Vea -- could challenge the upperclassmen for playing time.
Washington State: The Cougars will again run a 3-4 under new coordinator Alex Grinch, though that often simplifies what might turn out to be a quirky scheme. We also know Grinch won't be working with the Cougs' two best D-linemen in 2014, tackle Xavier Cooper, who is expected to be an NFL draft pick this spring, and Toni Pole. Darryl Paulo and Destiny Vaeao split four sacks among them, and LB Ivan McLennan, who had 4.5 sacks, might offer a pass-rushing option on the line. Expect JC transfer Jeremiah Mitchell to be in the mix at end. Daniel Ekuale and Robert Barber were backups last year, but they only combined for 14 tackles. In the youngster category are Kingston Fernandez, Ngalu Tapa and Hercules Mata'afa, a name that is a lot of fun to say.