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Pac-12 top 25 for 2011: No. 2

8/26/2011

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

You can see the final post-2010 top 25 here. It doesn't, however, include players from Colorado or Utah.

2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon

2010 numbers: James led the nation with 1,731 yards rushing -- 144.25 yards per game -- and ranked second with 21 rushing touchdowns. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry. He also caught 17 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns.

2010 ranking: No. 2

Making the case for James: James probably would be No. 1 in any other conference. Why? Well, he was a 2010 Heisman Trophy finalist, a unanimous first-team All-American and the Doak Walker Award winner as the nation's best running back. But the guy ahead of him was the Heisman runner-up and will be rated No. 1 by the NFL next spring. James, a junior who also was first-team All-Pac-10 academic in 2010, set Ducks freshman and sophomore records for rushing and is on the short list of Heisman candidates this fall. He blends outstanding speed with good instincts and surprising physicality. He also became a better receiver last year, a part of his game that was missing in 2009. It's possible, however, that his numbers will go down this fall, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. He likely will be a better back in a bowl game if he doesn't carry the ball 294 times, which he did last year because talented backup Kenjon Barner missed significant action with injuries. With Barner back healthy, and some true freshmen who are too talented to sit, James might get fewer touches in 2011, which should help him not wear down as he did a bit in 2010.

3. Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon

4. Chris Polk, RB, Washington

5. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State

6. Matt Barkley, QB, USC

7. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona

8. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona

9. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon

10. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

11. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford

12. T.J. McDonald, S, USC

13. Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington

14. Matt Kalil, OT, USC

15. Delano Howell, S, Stanford

16. Mychal Kendricks, LB, California

17. Rodney Stewart, RB, Colorado

18. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington

19.
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford

20. Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

21. Robert Woods, WR, USC

22. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA

23. David Paulson, TE, Oregon

24. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

25. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State