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Ranking the Pac-10's top 25: No. 8

6/24/2010

Our countdown of the Pac-10's top 25 players continues.

No. 8. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA

2009 numbers: The 6-f00t-4, 254-pound junior recorded 75 tackles with 14.5 coming for a loss. He also had six sacks, four interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Most recent ranking: Ayers was not ranked in our final Pac-10 top-30 list last year.

Making the case for Ayers: The above sentence hurt to type. Just so wrong. Ayers should have been not only on our list last year, he probably should have been in the top half. This year, he might rank among the nation's top 25 players. The Pac-10 blog wasn't the only one who skulled an evaluation of Ayers. League coaches only gave him honorable mention all-conference honors. So what can we say about Ayers? Start with this: He was involved in 10 turnovers. Then consider this: Of those 10, he turned three into TDs (two interception returns, one fumble return). Go here and see how many Bruins scored more TDs last year than Ayers. And, of course, UCLA fans are recalling those two interceptions -- vs. Oregon and vs. Temple in the Eagle Bank Bowl -- which might have been the two most-spectacular defensive plays in the nation last year. Ayers makes spectacular plays because he's a spectacular athlete who might bolt a year early and end up a first-round NFL draft pick in 2011. He already was named first-team preseason All-American by Phil Steele, while The Sporting News tapped him second team. He's also on the watch list for the Nagurski Award, given annually to the nation's best defensive player.

No. 9. Mike Mohamed, LB, California

No. 10. Trevin Wade, CB, Arizona

No. 11. Mason Foster, LB, Washington

No. 12. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona

No. 13. Kenny Rowe, DE, Oregon

No. 14. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC

No. 15. Cameron Jordan, DE, California

No. 16. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona

No. 17. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State

No. 18: Colin Baxter, C, Arizona

No. 19: Chase Beeler, C, Stanford

No. 20. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State

No. 21. Matt Barkley, QB, USC

No. 22. Owen Marecic, LB/FB, Stanford

No. 23. Kristofer O'Dowd, C, USC

No. 24: Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon

No. 25 Kai Forbath, K, UCLA