2006 Unit Rankings – Defenses

Posted Aug 27, 2006

Preview 2006 Unit Rankings Defenses  

Offenses | Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers | Offensive Lines
Def. Lines | Linebackers | Secondaries | Spec. Teams

1. Miami

The defense will once again be among the best in the nation with size, speed, and backups that would start for about 100 other teams. The safeties are among the best in Miami history with Brandon Meriweather and Kelly Phillips each deserving of All-America consideration and Anthony Reddick and Lovon Ponder more than good enough to step in without missing a beat. Cornerback is the X factor needing Glenn Sharpe to be ready to roll after suffering a knee injury last year and Randy Phillips needing to step up and be a consistent playmaker. There are too many great defensive ends and linebackers for the starting spots, and the tackles have the potential to be a strength after a little bit of starting experience.

2. Texas
Lost in the dominance of the 2005 offense was how good the defense was finishing tenth in the nation and eighth in scoring D. There are only four losses, but safety Michael Huff, corner Cedric Griffin, linebacker Aaron Harris and tackle Rodrique Wright were All-America caliber players. The cupboard is hardly bare with a tremendous end tandem of Tim Crowder and Brian Robison sure to be among the best in the country and more than enough talent in the back seven to fill up the All-Big 12 team. The big question marks are at tackle next to Frank Okam and at middle linebacker, where Rashad Bobino and Roddrick Muckelroy will battle it out, but there's not a lot to be worried about.

3. Oklahoma
The defense should be among the best in America even though there aren't too many sure-fire, household name All-Americans. It begins on the end with the return of Larry Birdine and Josh Williams to join Calvin Thibodeaux and C.J. Ah You to improve upon the nation's fourth best sacking D. Rufus Alexander is an All-America-to-be at outside linebacker, and Zach Latimer in the middle isn't far behind. The secondary will be a lot better than it'll get credit for.  

4. Nebraska
All the press seems to be about the offense, but it's the defense that'll carry the Huskers to a big season. The front seven is loaded with talent, depth, and NFL prospects led by ends Adam Carriker and Jay Moore. Nebraska led the nation in sacks and tackles for loss, and should be among the best in the nation with all the great players up front and so many fantastic linebackers that the D might use a little 3-4. The question is the secondary that has speed, but needs to be more productive after starting to come on over the second half of last year.

5. Florida
Most of the publicity will be focused on the offense, but it'll be the defense that carries the Gators. The front seven should be terrific as long as injuries don't strike the linebackers. There are plenty of options on the line with tackle Marcus Thomas and ends Ray McDonald, Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey all good enough to be in the hunt for all-star honors. If corners Reggie Lewis holds up, the secondary will be fine even after losing three starters. Safety Reggie Nelson is about to emerge as an all-star.

6. USC
What the D lacks in overall experience it makes up for in ridiculous talent and athleticism. The linebacking corps is one of the best in America with a third string that would form a killer starting trio for about 95 other teams. The secondary doesn't have any big names, but that will change quickly if some of the superstar freshmen play well right away and if there's good competition for the safety spots. End Lawrence Jackson and tackle Sedrick Ellis are great players to build around on a line that should have few problems getting into the backfield. The return of former defensive coordinator and former Idaho head coach Nick Holt adds even more punch.

7. California
Eight starters return to a defense that should just now be hitting its stride with speed, athleticism and lots and lots of talent. The front seven should be a rock if all the top prospects come through as expected. The ends are deep, talented, and should have few problems getting into the backfield all season long, while Brandon Mebane is one of the nation's best tackles. The linebacking corps is one of the best in the nation with last year's recruiting class about to become tremendous. Cornerback is set with Daymeion Hughes and Tim Mixon sure to earn all-star honors, but the safeties are a big concern with no developed depth and two new starters. 

8. Auburn
If you liked last year's Auburn defense, you'll enjoy more of the same. The key move is the position switch of star safety Will Herring to linebacker, but there are players to fill in on the weakside if the experiment doesn't work out. The D is stronger on the outside than the middle with tremendous tackling corners David Irons and Jonathan Wilhite returning, and defensive ends Marquies Gunn and Quentin Groves sure to be among the league's best pass rushers. There's not a lot of size in the linebacking corps, but that's by design going with smaller, more athletic players. There could be big problems if there are any early injuries at tackle.

9. Virginia Tech
The Hokies led the nation in total defense last season and finished second in scoring defense. While there are some major losses to overcome, the same blitzing, attacking style that made the D so successful last season should work again. Everything will revolve around the back seven led by the 1-2 linebacking punch of Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi. The secondary should be solid even with top corner Jimmy Williams off to the NFL. The concern is on the line that loses three all-stars and needs some tackles to step up and shine right off the bat. Chris Ellis will be one of the ACC's new star ends.

10. Michigan
New defensive coordinator Ron English will be the man under the microscope as he attempts to unwrap the athleticism and talent that have been hiding behind the just-safe-enough-to-get-beat D. There won't be wild blitz schemes or anything crazy, but there'll be a bit more aggressiveness in an attempt to come up with more big plays. The potential is there to be great with a fast back seven with too many good safeties to get on the field at once. The line should be better with the likely emergence of Alan Branch as a star tackle and LaMarr Woodley about to blow up as a pass rushing terror on the outside.

12 Penn State Big Ten
13 Ohio State Big Ten
14 Clemson ACC
15 Georgia Tech ACC
16 Florida State  ACC
17 Tennessee SEC
18 South Florida Big East
19 Georgia SEC
20 Boston College  ACC
21 Missouri Big 12 
22 Colorado   Big 12 
23 Wisconsin Big Ten
24 NC State ACC
25 Mississippi   SEC
26 TCU M-West
27 Mississippi State SEC
28 Alabama SEC
29 West Virginia Big East
30 Arizona   Pac 10
31 Pitt Big East
32 Louisville  Big East
33 Iowa   Big Ten
34 Maryland ACC
35 Connecticut Big East
36 Syracuse Big East
37 Arkansas   SEC
38 Tulsa CUSA
39 Utah   M-West
40 Notre Dame Ind
41 Iowa State Big 12 
42 North Carolina ACC
43 Washington State Pac 10
44 Texas Tech Big 12 
45 Arizona State Pac 10
46 Virginia ACC
47 Kansas Big 12 
48 Kansas State Big 12 
49 Baylor Big 12 
50 Cincinnati Big East
51 Fresno State WAC
52 Michigan State Big Ten
53 Southern Miss  CUSA
54 Boise State WAC
55 Wake Forest ACC
56 Texas A&M Big 12 
57 Oregon Pac 10
58 Houston CUSA
60 Toledo MAC
61 UCLA Pac 10
62 South Carolina SEC
63 Oregon State  Pac 10
64 Oklahoma State Big 12 
65 Minnesota Big Ten
66 Washington Pac 10
67 East Carolina CUSA
68 San Diego State M-West
69 Colorado State M-West
70 Duke ACC
71 Purdue Big Ten
72 Rutgers Big East
73 BYU M-West
74 Vanderbilt SEC
75 Kentucky SEC
76 Illinois Big Ten
77 Marshall CUSA
79 Indiana Big Ten
81 Navy Ind
82 Akron MAC
83 Northern Illinois MAC
84 Stanford Pac 10
85 Nevada WAC
86 Northwestern Big Ten
88 New Mexico M-West
89 Wyoming  M-West
90 Memphis CUSA
91 Kent State MAC
92 Arkansas State Sun Belt
93 Miami Univ. MAC
94 Western Michigan MAC
95 Troy Sun Belt
96 Hawaii WAC
97 Bowling Green MAC
98 Air Force M-West
99 UNLV M-West
100 Louisiana Tech WAC
101 Ohio MAC
102 Central Michigan  MAC
103 Tulane CUSA
104 Rice CUSA
105 Army Ind
106 UL Lafayette Sun Belt
107 Eastern Michigan MAC
108 MTSU Sun Belt
109 FIU Sun Belt
110 Idaho WAC
111 Ball State MAC
112 UL Monroe Sun Belt
113 Buffalo MAC
114 North Texas Sun Belt
115 Utah State WAC
116 Florida Atlantic Sun Belt
117 San Jose State WAC
118 New Mexico State WAC
119 Temple Ind