- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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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.
No. 22 Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
2011 numbers: Rushed for 1,005 yards and six touchdowns on 145 carries -- boasting an outstanding 6.9 yards per carry. He also caught three balls for 19 yards.
2011 postseason ranking: Unranked.
Making the case for McNeal: Yes, Ted and I formulated this list (after reading tea leaves and backpacking through Greece on our way to consult with the Oracle at Delphi) before Silas Redd decided to join USC. And no, Redd's presence doesn't take away from McNeal being on this list. After being academically ineligible in 2010, McNeal worked his way back on to the team and eventually was starting at the end of last season. There's something to be said for a guy who has everything taken away and then works his tail off to get it back. He didn't buckle -- he buckled down -- and became one of seven Pac-12 running backs to clear 1,000 yards. McNeal is a worker. And his 6.9 yards per carry, second only to LaMichael James' 7.3 yards per last season, is evidence of his talents and explosiveness. Naturally, Redd's presence will take some carries away from McNeal. And he might even be relegated to "change-of-pace" back. But Redd still has to prove himself to his teammates. McNeal has nothing to prove in USC's locker room. Whether it's McNeal or Redd who gets the majority of the carries, neither will be facing eight-man fronts because of who the Trojans have at quarterback and the wide receiver positions. And with four starters returning to the offensive line, McNeal is a good bet to break 1,000 yards again -- especially since he'll have a 13th and possibly 14th game to do it.