RETURNING STARTERS: Cameron Jordan, Derrick Hill
WHO TO WATCH OUT FOR: DeAndre Coleman
POSSIBLE SURPRISE: Keni Kaufusi
THE BREAKDOWN: No player will be harder to replace this season than defensive Tyson Alualu, who not only was one of the Pac-10’s top defensive linemen but a player who commanded respect among the team. There should be some good competition to replace him.
Junior Trevor Guyton figures to be the next in line. He was the next defensive end off the bench last season and held his own when he got his chances. But it also isn’t like he clearly proved he is Alualu’s heir apparent.
Ernest Owusu had a sensational season-opener against Maryland with two sacks, but you didn’t hear too much from him the rest of the way. But Owusu still got consistent playing time in a backup role and that experience should help him moving forward.
The wild card in this mix could be redshirt freshman DeAndre Coleman, a 6-foot-6, 309-pound man with the athletic ability to play outside. He will be given every opportunity to compete with the others in the spring, and the coaching staff is excited about his potential.
The Bears pretty much have their depth established at nose tackle, and with Derrick Hill’s injury history, that depth has been needed in recent years. Hill, who has been limited at times the past two years with knee and stinger injuries, says he’s in great shape and feels 100 percent healthy heading into spring ball. Kendrick Payne and Aaron Tipoti each saw extensive playing time last year to spell Hill and should be called upon again to play a vital role.
Despite that depth, redshirt freshman Keni Kaufusi should get a hard look during the spring. He isn’t a realistic possibility as a starter, but could work his way up the depth chart.