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Ranking the Top 12 SuperWest Defensive Linemen for 2024

Stephen Vilardo's assessment of the best DL from the former Pac-12, the Mountain West & BYU

Posted on June 18, 2024

  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

The SuperWest footprint certainly is not devoid of talented defensive linemen.

In this installment of our quest to highlight the best players at each position among the 25 schools we cover, we will look at the defensive line.

Selecting the top dozen players at a position from among 25 schools is always a difficult and subjective endeavor.

Inevitably and inadvertently, I have likely left out, overlooked, or misjudged a player or two during the process. This list reflects my current assessment and is sure to change once the games have been played.

And with that, here are SuperWest’s Top 12 Defensive Tackles and Edge Rushers.

Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports

1. Bear Alexander, USC
Alexander had an impact on the Trojan defensive line in 2023 and was a consistent force in the backfield.

He led USC with four QB hurries last season, collecting 1.5 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss (TFLs), and forced a couple of fumbles.

In D’Anton Lynn’s defense, he should make plenty of plays in the backfield and be a constant menace to opposing QBs.

Lindsey Wasson/AP

2. Ahmed Hassanein, Boise State
During his junior season, Hassanein collected 12.5 sacks, the sixth most in the nation and the sixth most in a single season in Boise State history.

He will be the anchor up front for the Broncos.

Rick Bowmer/AP

3. Junior Tafuna, Utah
Tafuna opened his career in Salt Lake City by being named Pac-12 Freshmen Defensive Player of the Year.

He could end his time in SLC as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

He has started 36 consecutive games for the Utes and last year contributed 3.0 TFLs and 1.5 sacks and played some of his best football in Utah’s biggest games. Look for a huge senior season for Tafuna.

4. Jordan Burch, Oregon
Burch has the potential to be a dominant edge rusher for the Ducks this season.

In the first five games of 2023 he racked up three sacks and six TFLs. He finished the season with 7.5 TFLs and 34 total stops.

Fresno State Athletics

5. Devo Bridges, Fresno State
Bridges had 3.5 sacks and 8.0 TFLs for the Bulldogs in 2023.

He can potentially wreak havoc in the backfield on any play.

The sixth-year senior should be a dominant force on the edge in his final campaign in Fresno.

Troy Babbitt/Wyoming Athletics

6. Jordan Bertagnole, Wyoming
The Cowboys are going to play tough hard-nosed defense and Bertagnole is the epitome of that at the DT spot.

A lot of times DTs don’t get the statistical recognition they deserve, but Bertagnole did more than take up space.

In 2023 he led the Cowboys with 5.5 TFLs and added 2 sacks and six QB hurries.

James Snook/USA TODAY Sports

7. Tyler Batty, BYU
Batty is coming off a career-best 4.5 sacks in 2023 and will enter his senior season as one of the top returning edge rushers in the Big 12 thi season.

Batty could establish himself as the top edge rusher in the Big 12.

If the Cougars are to move up in the expanded conference, Batty will need another career year in 2024.

Trevor Stamp/Los Angeles Daily News

8. Jay Toia, UCLA
The UCLA defensive front was explosive in 2023 and Toia was the force clogging up the middle and allowing the guy on the edge to make plays.

The 325-pounder still managed to make plays of his own with 4.0 stops behind the line as a mainstay at DT.

This season the UCLA defense will look a little different, but Toia is a good place to start in the middle of the front.

UNLV Rebels Athletics

9. Jalen Dixon, UNLV
Since entering the starting lineup as a sophomore, Dixon has produced a total of 12.5 TFLS and 4.5 sacks over the last two seasons.

In 2023 he averaged 4.25 yards lost on his 6 stops behind the line.

SJSU Athletics

10. Soane Toia, San Jose State
As the Spartans ran off six straight wins to close out the 2023 season, Toia started heating up. 6.5 of his 7 TFLs last season came during that five-game run and 4.5 of his 5.0 sacks were also during that stretch.

As he got hot so did San Jose State.

Look for the All-MW performer to continue that hot streak into 2024.

Keith Srakocic/AP

11. Dayon Hayes, Colorado
Hayes was a very good get in the transfer portal for Deion Sanders.

The Buffs get a 6-3 260-pound edge rusher who will make plays. He left his hometown team, Pitt, because he did not think they would win.

Colorado was not among the elite of the FBS in getting stops behind the line in 2023, ranking 83rd. Hayes will immediately bolster the front of the defense as CU moves to the Big 12.

Rob Schumacher/The Republic /USA TODAY NETWORK

12. BJ Green, Colorado
Green was one of the best linemen in the Pac-12 last season with Arizona State and is another huge score in the portal for Sanders and the Buffs.

He was originally headed to Washington before their coaching change.

Green has had a nose for the QB since arriving in college, and, along with Hayes, gives the Buffs a pair of edge rushers that could cause foes problems.

Honorable Mention

Korey Foreman, Fresno State

Foreman transfers to the Valley after spending the first three seasons of his college career at USC. After being the number one ranked recruit in America his time at USC did not quite live up to the billing. A change of scenery could do him some good, the talent is there, and he could have a big year for the Bulldogs.

Simote Pepa, Utah

Pepe is a spaceeater for the Utes. A run stuffer at the DT spot he had 27 tackles with six for loss in 2022 but was a bit limited in 2023. Expect a big rebound campaign in 2024.

Payton Zdroik, Air Force

A bit undersized in the middle of the line but he still makes plays. That is standard for the Air Force Academy. Versatile enough to get in the backfield and make plays while still being primarily a run stuffer. He ended 2023 with 1.5 sacks in the last three games and played a big role in the bowl victory over James Madison.

—More from Stephen Vilardo—