- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 continues.
No. 17: Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford
2012 numbers: Thomas was second on Stanford's defense with 71 total tackles, including 7.5 sacks, 14.5 tackles for a loss with an interception, a forced fumble and two fumbles recovered.
Preseason ranking: No. 6
Making the case for Thomas: While he posted more total tackles in 2012 than he did in 2011, his sacks and tackles for a loss were slightly down. There is a logical reason for this -- respect. Teams did their best to run away from Thomas (usually into the waiting arms of Trent Murphy). Still, when he had the opportunities, he was dominant. There were only three linebackers named to the first-team all-league squad -- and Thomas was one of the three -- which speaks to how highly he's respected by the coaches around the league. He was a key cog in the most feared front seven in the Pac-12 and one of the best defenses in the country. He helped headline a unit that led the league in scoring defense (Stanford was the only team in the conference to average fewer than 20 points allowed per game at 17.2), total defense and rushing defense. Every other team in the Pac-12 yielded more than 100 rushing yards per game -- by a wide margin. Stanford allowed just 97 yards on the ground per game. Utah was the second closest with 128.2. Thomas' fingerprints are all over those numbers.
No. 18: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
No. 19: David Yankey, OL, Stanford
No. 20: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
No. 21: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
No. 22: Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
No. 23: Michael Clay, LB, Oregon
No. 24: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
No. 25: Reggie Dunn, KR, Utah