Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Pac-12's top interceptors
By Ted Miller
Just as the Pac-12 features a strong crew of defenders who will be chasing quarterbacks this fall, there's also a deep group of guys trying to provide those quarterbacks' desperate throws an unhappy ending.
Two of the top three and eight of the top 12 conference leaders in interceptions in 2012 will be back this fall.
You probably are starting to see why the Pac-12 blog believes defenses will step forward in 2013.
Five players who intercepted at least four passes are back:
- Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford: 6 (three returned for TDs; four if you ignore horrible officiating).
- Erick Dargan, S, Oregon: 5
- Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State: 5
- Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon: 4
- Dion Bailey, LB/S, USC: 4
So who might join the ranks of top interceptors in 2013?
Arizona: LB Marquis Flowers and CB Jonathan McKnight both had three picks last year for a defense that only had 12 picks total. A healthy McKnight is an elite cover corner, so it's possible teams will throw away from him.
Arizona State: Safety Keelan Johnson led the Sun Devils with five interceptions last year, but he's gone. Safety Alden Darby was second-team All-Pac-12 last year and had three picks. CB Robert Nelson also had three INTs as a backup. The Sun Devils ranked second in the conference with 21 interceptions.
California: Cal is replacing three-fourths of its starting secondary, including both corners, but the guys slated to move up this fall are experienced. Both CB Kameron Jackson and S Michael Lowe -- listed behind Alex Logan on the post-spring depth chart -- had three picks last year. Injuries have held back talented CB Stefan McClure, but he should be healthy in the fall.
Colorado: Just two teams in the nation had fewer than the three interceptions the Buffaloes had last year. The hope is some younger players who got pushed around a bit, such as sophomore CB Kenneth Crawley, will step up. The competition in the secondary seems pretty wide open for fall camp.
Oregon State: The Beavers are replacing first-team All-Pac-12 CB Jordan Poyer, who led the conference with seven interceptions last year. But three starters are back, including CB Rashaad Reynolds who had three picks.
UCLA: The Bruins are replacing all four starters from a 2012 secondary that was inconsistent at best. The competition is wide open as veterans try to fight off younger players. Ishmael Adams and Anthony Jefferson appear to be first in line after spring practices at the corners, while Brandon Sermons and Randall Goforth stepped up at safety.
Utah: The Utes are replacing their top three cornerbacks but both safeties are back, though Brian Blechen returned to linebacker in the spring. Further, the Utes grabbed just eight interceptions last year, which ranked 11th in the conference. No returning player had more than one pick. Junior S Eric Rowe is a good candidate to lead the pass defense, but he was listed as an "Or" with JC transfer Tevin Carter after spring practices.
Washington: The Huskies lost only one starter from their secondary but he was a big one: CB Desmond Trufant, a first-round NFL draft pick. That noted, Trufant only had one interception last year. CB Marcus Peters, often targeted opposite Trufant, and LB Shaq Thompson, both tied for the team lead with three picks.