Thursday, March 22, 2012
Pac-12's most intriguing players this spring
By ESPN.com staff
There are plenty of stars back in the Pac-12 this spring. And there are plenty of interesting competition and young guys about to break through.
But here's a team-by-team list of the Pac-12's most intriguing players this spring. These are guys who could be ready to emerge, redeem themselves or are simply critical for their team's success.
Arizona: LB Brian Wagner
The senior transfer was a tackling machine at Akron and he's likely to start for a rebuilding Wildcats defense. But can he keep up with Pac-12 offensive skill?
Arizona State: QB Michael Eubank
The redshirt freshman was recruited by new Sun Devils coach Todd Graham when Graham was at Pittsburgh, so Graham obviously believes Eubank has what it takes to run his no-huddle, spread offense. Impressive athlete.
California: WR Maurice Harris
The redshirt freshman is the top candidate to become the No. 2 receiver behind All-American candidate Keenan Allen.
Colorado: OT Stephane Nembot
Recruited as a defensive end, the redshirt freshman has an NFL frame -- 6-foot-8, 310 pounds -- and tons of athletic ability. He's green, but that might not stop him from earning a starting spot.
Oregon: WRs Devon Blackmon, B.J. Kelley and Tacoi Sumler
All three are redshirt freshmen. All three were touted recruits. At least one needs to step up at a position that is questionable for the Ducks.
Oregon State: OT Michael Philipp
Philipp was a touted recruit -- everybody in the Pac-12 wanted him -- and he won the starting left tackle spot as a true freshman in 2009, earning Freshman All-American honors. But, in large part due to injuries, his career has regressed. Will he take a step forward this spring? It would be huge for the Beavers if he did.
Stanford: CB Wayne Lyons
While coach David Shaw said Lyons was only about "85 percent" during the Cardinal's first of two spring sessions due to his on-going recovery from the broken foot that ruined his freshman season, Shaw also said he believes Lyons is a future All-American.
UCLA: QB Brett Hundley
While Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut both are back with significant starting experience, it wouldn't be surprising if Hundley, a redshirt freshman, won the starting job. Or at least earned playing time next fall.
USC: LB/RB Tre Madden
Madden is a beastly good athlete who is going to play on one side of the ball or the other. Maybe both. He backed up Dion Bailey at strongside LB last year, but the 6-foot, 220-pounder may end up bolstering the backfield depth.
Utah: DE Thretton Palamo
Palamo flashed potential in the running back competition last preseason, but that same athletic ability might make the 6-foot-2, 250 pounder a dangerous pass-rusher. No question about ability to tackle, seeing that he's a former rugby star.
Washington: DT Danny Shelton
The 6-1, 334-pound sophomore looks like a nice fit at nose tackle if the Huskies move to a base 3-4 with new D-coordinator Justin Wilcox. But whatever the defense is, Shelton showed signs during his true freshman season that he can be an All-Pac-12 defensive lineman.
Washington State: DE/OLB Travis Long
Long is a three-year starter at defensive end, and during that span has mostly been the Cougars' best defensive player. It's interesting, however, because new coach Mike Leach said he's intrigued with Long playing outside linebacker in a new 3-4 scheme. Can the 6-foot-4, 256-pounder make that transition work?