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Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 10

8/27/2012

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.

10. T.J. McDonald, S, USC

2011 numbers: Recorded 67 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss and also had a team-high three interceptions while deflecting two passes. He also recovered a fumble and had one punt block.

2011 postseason ranking: No. 19

Making the case for McDonald: Returning first-team all-conference, returning All-American, tapped as the best returning safety in the country by Mel Kiper: there isn't much more of a case that needs to be made. The 6-3, 205-pound safety is one of the most feared hitters in the league. And while the debate will rage all season whether McDonald or Oregon's John Boyett (No. 16 on the 2012 preseason rankings) is the top safety in the league, it's probably a safe bet that both will appear on the all-conference first team at the end of the season. Now in his third season as a starter, McDonald is on the Thorpe Award and Lott Trophy watch lists. He has six career interceptions, so the ball instincts are there. He understands the rules you have to play by, but makes no apologies for his aggressive style. And that's why many NFL draft projections have him going in the first round in 2013.

No. 11: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon

No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford

No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon

No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon

No 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC

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