2010 CFN Preview - Unit Rankings, Defenses
UNC's Robert Quinn, Marvin Austin & Bruce Carter
UNC's Robert Quinn, Marvin Austin & Bruce Carter
Posted Aug 16, 2010

CFN 2010 Preview Unit Rankings from top to bottom - Defenses

Preview 2010 - Unit Rankings


2010 CFN Preseason Rankings
- 1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50 | 51 to 60
- 61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 120
- CFN Preseason Rankings 2009 | 2008 | 2007

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CFN 2010 Unit Rankings
- Offenses | Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers | Offensive Lines
- Defenses | Defensive Lines | Linebackers | Secondaries  | Special Teams

Note: This is based on talent, returning starters, and skill. It's not necessarily based on what the final total defense statistics will be.

1. North Carolina
Sometimes a mob mentality isn't such a bad thing. All six of Carolina's defensive all-stars put off the NFL Draft for one more season, ensuring that the program will again boast one of the nation's nastiest and stingiest defenses. The group that allowed 17 points and an ACC-low 269 yards brings back All-America candidates at every level, Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin up front, Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter at linebacker, and Deunta Williams and Kendric Burney in the secondary. From creating turnovers to creating pressure, there's nothing this veteran unit doesn't do well, meaning the only offseason objectives are to build more depth and guard against overconfidence.

2. Texas
The Will Muschamp-led defense led the nation in run defense, finished third in total defense, and 12th in scoring D, and there won't be much of a drop-off. It might be a bit of a reach to finish second in the nation in sacks without Sergio Kindle, but there are more than enough good defensive end options, and speed at outside linebacker in Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho, to get into the backfield on a regular basis. The tackle situation is a wee bit iffy, for Texas, but only because there might need to be some shuffling done, and the backup middle linebacker situation is a bit of a question mark, but that's nitpicking. The secondary is loaded with NFL talent and might be the best in America (even without ball-hawking superstar Earl Thomas at safety), there's a slew of pro talent waiting in the wings from the latest recruiting class, and there's an elite coaching talent in Muschamp, who has gushed over the potential of this ultra-talented, ultra-athletic D.

3. Oklahoma
The defense flew under the radar last season with all the attention paid to the issues on offense. This will once again be a good enough defense to finish in the top ten nationally as long as the defensive interior is solid. There's star power to work around if DT Adrian Taylor's broken leg isn't a big deal and DE Jeremy Beal is the pass rushing terror he has been over the last two seasons. Replacements are needed at linebacker and corner, but the safeties, Quinton Carter and Sam Proctor, are solid, and Travis Lewis is an All-America caliber weakside playmaker who can clean up everything the other linebackers don't get to.

4. Nebraska
The defense went from soft in Bo Pelini's first year to a killer in Year Two. The Pelini brothers, Bo and defensive coordinator, Carl, will have everyone flying around and being disruptive. While there's no Ndamukong Suh to be the star of the show, and losing four of the top five tacklers is a problem for any defense, there's no reason to expect much of a drop-off after finishing seventh in the nation and No. 1 overall in scoring D. Jared Crick and Pierre Allen are back to star up front, but they have to show the can handle life without Suh. The defensive back seven will be the story as it'll often go into a five defensive back set called the Peso. The corners could end up being the best in the Big 12, and while there might not be a lot of star power at safety, there will be plenty of stats. The linebacking corps should be excellent with Sean Fisher about to blow up.

5. Iowa
The Norm Parker defense continues to work. The pass rush is fine, but nothing special, and the secondary doesn't gamble and keeps the big plays to a bare minimum … and the results continue to be terrific. Everyone hits, everyone goes full-tilt all the time, and everyone goes for the takeaway and gets around the ball. While there are a few key losses in linebackers Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds, and corner Amari Spievey, everyone else is back from the nation's tenth ranked defense including All-America playmakers Adrian Clayborn on the end and Tyler Sash at safety. The reserves are a bit green and there will be major problems if injuries strike, but if everything is working, this should once again be one of the nation's top defenses. 

6. Georgia
The Georgia defense picked off ten passes and forced two fumbles, but worse yet, it got bombed on by the better quarterbacks and was good, but not phenomenal against the run. Even with all the issues, finishing 38th in the nation in total defense isn't that bad. Changes needed to be made, though, and in comes Todd Grantham as the new defensive coordinator. With a pro background, most recently as the Dallas Cowboy defensive line coach, he's going to install a 3-4 with the idea to get even more aggressive. That means pass rushing terror Justin Houston will move to outside linebacker, while the huge front three will be in charge of shooting gaps to get into the backfield. The secondary loses three starters, but it has a world of upside with big safeties, speedy corners, and the potential to be far better and far more consistent with more pressure into the backfield.

7. Miami
With an all-star at each level and eight returning starters, Miami gets to build on the defensive success it had a year ago. The ‘Canes don't lose a ton from a group that ranked 29th and 37th nationally in total and scoring defense, respectively. From front to back, DE Allen Bailey, LB Colin McCarthy, and CB Brandon Harris will form the backbone, with a smattering of veterans and underclassmen building on that support. Barring injuries, this is a solid crew. However, elevating to higher ground will require someone, like Adewale Ojomo or Marcus Robinson, to support Bailey in the pass rush, and the defensive backs to parlay more tipped balls into takeways. The Hurricanes were No. 10 in the ACC in sacks and No. 9 in picks, results the team plans to address this fall.

8. Florida
Former Arizona Cardinals secondary coach Teryl Austin will take over the defensive coordinator duties from Charlie Strong, who took off to take over the Louisville head coaching gig, and he has a little bit of work to do. There might not be the star power of last year's defense with LB Brandon Spikes, CB Joe Haden, S Major Wright, and ends Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham are gone, but there's no reason to cry poor for a D that should still be great after finishing fourth in the nation in total and scoring defense, 12th in run defense, and second in pass defense. The excitement surrounds the freshmen with a loaded haul of defensive linemen, led by end Ronald Powell, coming in, and safety Matt Elam in the secondary, but they'll mostly work as key backups. The tackles are loaded with, arguably, the best depth in America, and there are enough solid linebackers to assume the overall production of the last few years won't fall off the map. The corner situation is a wee bit of a concern, and it could actually be a bit of a problem with no sure-thing pass rusher up front to hit the quarterback. Austin will make sure all the speed and athleticism across the defense swarms, is ultra-aggressive, and puts a premium on taking the ball away.

9. Ohio State
Considering seven starters return from the nation's fifth-ranked defense (and the best in the Big Ten), there are an awful lot of question marks. The pass rush was mediocre, and is likely to be again unless Nathan Williams and others emerge on the end to help out Cameron Heyward, the linebackers are small, and the secondary, while talented and athletic, lacks star power. Boo-hoo. The Buckeye defense might not have a slew of marquee names, it didn't last year, either, and it managed to do just fine. Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, while undersized, should be the Big Ten's best linebacking pair, Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence are veteran corners, and Cameron Heyward and Dexter Larimore are NFL linemen who just so happen to be playing for the Buckeyes. There's a slew of young talent waiting in the wings from great recruiting classes, there's speed and athleticism across the board, and the coaching, as always, will be rock solid.

10. Boise State
In his first year at the helm, defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatowski has inherited a heater. Ten starters return from a defense that finished 14th in the nation in both yards and points allowed, and it should be even better with excellent depth to go along with all the starting talent. To nitpick, the pass rush from everyone other than star end Ryan Winterswyk and tackle Billy Winn was non-existent, and the corner situation is a wee bit shaky with Kyle Wilson on the New York Jets. Whatever. The front seven will be a brick wall against the run, the safeties, helped by the use of a nickel (Winston Venable) will be phenomenal, and it'll be a shock if anyone on the schedule has any consistent success.


Alabama SEC
Arizona State Pac 10
Boston College ACC
Clemson ACC
Connecticut Big East
Missouri Big 12
Ole Miss SEC
Oregon Pac 10
Penn State Big Ten
Pitt Big East
Rutgers  Big East
South Carolina SEC
TCU M-West
USC Pac 10
Virginia Tech ACC
West Virginia Big East

Arizona Pac 10
Auburn SEC
California Pac 10
Colorado   Big 12
Florida State ACC
Georgia Tech ACC
Kentucky SEC
Michigan State Big Ten
Mississippi State SEC
Northwestern Big Ten
Notre Dame ind
Oregon State Pac 10
Purdue Big Ten
South Florida Big East
Stanford Pac 10
Syracuse Big East
Tennessee SEC
Texas Tech Big 12
UCLA  Pac 10
Vanderbilt SEC
Virginia   ACC
Wisconsin Big Ten


Air Force M-West
Arkansas SEC
Baylor Big 12
BYU M-West
Cincinnati Big East
Duke ACC
Illinois Big Ten
Kansas Big 12
Kansas State Big 12
Louisville  Big East
Maryland  ACC
Michigan Big Ten
Minnesota Big Ten
NC State ACC
Oklahoma State Big 12
Southern Miss C-USAE
Texas A&M Big 12
Utah   M-West
Wake Forest ACC
Washington   Pac 10

Akron MAC
Arkansas State Sun Belt
Army Ind
Buffalo MAC
Central Michigan MAC
Colorado State M-West
East Carolina C-USAE
FIU Sun Belt
Fresno State WAC
Hawaii WAC
Houston C-USAW
Indiana  Big Ten
Iowa State Big 12
Kent State MAC
Louisiana Tech WAC
Marshall C-USAE
Middle Tennessee Sun Belt
Navy ind
Nevada WAC
New Mexico   M-West
Northern Illinois MAC
Ohio   MAC
San Diego State M-West
San Jose State WAC
Temple MAC
Washington State Pac 10
Wyoming M-West

Ball State MAC
Bowling Green MAC
Florida Atlantic Sun Belt
Memphis C-USAE
Miami Univ. MAC
North Texas Sun Belt
Troy Sun Belt
Tulsa C-USAW
UL Monroe Sun Belt
Western Michigan MAC


Eastern Michigan MAC
Idaho WAC
New Mexico State WAC
Toledo MAC
Tulane C-USAW
UL Lafayette Sun Belt
Utah State WAC
Western Kentucky Sun Belt

CFN 2010 Unit Rankings
- Offenses | Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers | Offensive Lines
- Defenses | Defensive Lines | Linebackers | Secondaries  | Special Teams

2010 CFN Preseason Rankings
- 1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50 | 51 to 60
- 61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 120
- CFN Preseason Rankings 2009 | 2008 | 2007