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Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 14

8/13/2012

Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 continues.

Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

14.Nickell Robey, CB, USC

2011 numbers: Posted 63 tackles, nine deflections and a pair of interceptions, including one for a touchdown. He also returned 12 punts for 132 yards.

2011 postseason ranking: No. 23

Making the case for Robey: What did Robey teach us last year? All together now ... never force the Venus on the backside of spider-3 y banana in a 27-27 game. And why? Because Robey will pick you off and take you to the house. With 24 starts under his belt, Robey is only going to get better -- and this year he seems poised to emerge as the Pac-12's premier lockdown cornerback, if he's not already. His special-teams skills make him a valuable asset as well. But there is more to Robey than just being a cover corner. He also had 5.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks last season -- meaning he's reliable in run defense and USC isn't afraid to unleash him on cornerback blitzes. He's a sure tackler with elite ball instincts. Don't be surprised to see his numbers decline, however, in 2012. And that's a good thing -- the ultimate sign of respect. That means teams aren't throwing his way. And exactly how much do Pac-12 coaches respect him? He was the only cornerback named to the All-Pac-12 first-team last season. The other three defensive backs were safeties.

No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah

No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon

No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State

No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC

No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State

No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC

No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford

No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC

No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington

No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California

No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State