Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Pac-12 top 25 for 2011: No. 5
By ESPN.com staff
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.
5. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
2010 numbers: Burfict led the Sun Devils -- and was ninth in the Pac-10 -- with 90 tackles, including 8.5 for a loss. He also forced two fumbles.
2010 ranking: No. 13
Making the case for Burfict: Burfict might be the best linebacker in college football. The true junior might be the first linebacker taken in this spring's NFL draft. And the "might" qualification has nothing to do with talent questions. When Burfict is just playing football, he's a dominant, physical presence who plays sideline-to-sideline with uncanny speed and instincts on a solid 6-foot-3, 252-pound frame. But Burfict still hasn't mastered his own emotions. For the most part over the previous two seasons, that's been about stupid penalties -- unsportsmanlike conduct and personal foul penalties. The talk during the spring and offseason was of newfound maturity and leadership. But a locker room fight with 200-pound receiver Kevin Ozier the first week of preseason camp clouded that a bit. Is Burfict ready to grow up and into a great player, one who could win the Butkus Award? Burfict, though only second-team All-Pac-10 in 2010, earned All-American attention last fall and is a consensus preseason All-American. ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper ranks Burfict the No. 1 junior linebacker in the country, writing, "There are some scary hitters on this list, starting with Burfict, who was most productive against ASU's toughest competition last season. The guy was a force, quite literally, the moment he stepped on campus." But can Burfict become an entirely positive force, one who always helps the Sun Devils win? Or will he continue to do things that help them lose?
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