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Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 2

8/29/2012

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.

2. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

2011 numbers: Recorded 44 total tackles, with nine coming for a loss. He had 1.5 sacks, a pass break-up, forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

2011 postseason ranking: No. 7

Making the case for Lotulelei: Lotulelei, 6-foot-3, 320 pounds, is not only the best defensive lineman in the Pac-12, he might be the best defensive lineman in the nation. The consensus preseason All-American won the Pac-12's Morris Trophy last year, an award voted on by opposing offensive linemen. He also, of course, was first-team All-Pac-12. But, I know, Pac-12 fans like numbers, and the above numbers -- or numbers for any interior defensive lineman -- won't blow anyone away. So we have to go with what folks think of Lotulelei's chances at the next level. Here's what ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper writes about Lotulelei after ranking him the No. 9 overall NFL draft prospect: "Safest DT in class right now based on consistency. Demands double-teams, clogs up the middle of the field. A great sense for disrupting the run game, with power to bull rush. Explodes off the ball, with great upper-body strength."

Scouts Inc. ranks him sixth overall, giving him a grade of 94, which is the same grade they give the No. 1 prospect, a certain USC QB. In its evaluation, it praises Lotulelei's skills as a run stopper and his "motor." A popular comparison? Former Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. He has been named to the Bronko Nagurski, Outland Trophy, Lott Trophy and Maxwell Award watch lists.

No. 3: De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon

No. 4: Robert Woods, WR, USC

No. 5: Keith Price, QB, Washington

No. 6: Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford

No. 7: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State

No. 8: Keenan Allen, WR, California

No. 9: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

No. 10: T.J. McDonald, S, USC

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

No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford

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