Ranking the Best Defensive Lines for the 2019 College Football Season
2. Utah Utes
Key players: Bradlee Anae (51 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks), Leki Fotu (33 tackles, 3.0 sacks), John Penisini (38 tackles, 2.0 sacks), Maxs Tupai (32 tackles, 3.0 sacks), Mika Tafua (23 tackles, 2.0 sacks), Hauati Pututau (19 tackles, 1.0 sacks), Pita Tonga (12 tackles, 2.5 sacks)
The star: Most teams are lucky to have either an outstanding pass-rushing defensive end or an outstanding lane-clogging defensive tackle, but Utah has one of each. DE Bradlee Anae and DT Leki Fotu both could have bypassed their upcoming senior seasons to jump to the NFL. Instead, they decided to return in hopes of completing some unfinished business: getting Utah its first Pac-12 conference championship.
Synopsis: Utah did not lose a single noteworthy lineman from a group that ranked fifth nationally in both yards allowed per carry and rushing yards allowed per game. The Utes also tallied 37 sacks in 2018, tied for the 19th-highest total. It seems safe to expect them to win the battles in the trenches once again.
The wild card here is the linebacking group. Cody Barton and Chase Hansen anchored this defense with a combined 231 tackles last year, including 33.5 for loss and 9.0 sacks. The Utes lost both of them, but they've reloaded via the transfer market with Manny Bowen (Penn State) and Mique Juarez (UCLA). If those once-highly touted linebackers are able to thrive in Salt Lake City, it'll make the defensive line that much better.
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