We had Andrew from "Corvallis, TX" who sent in a list of 25 Oregon State players, noting he "clearly demonstrates that there wasn't any bias involved when assembling this list." And "006Shy" from Los Angeles did the same for USC. An Oregon fan listed QB Marcus Mariota 23 times then typed, "24. Alejandro Maldonado 25. Everyone Else."
His thoughts: It was a lot harder to come up with serious gripes about this year's list (and where'd the fun be if you couldn't critique!). I think you have to flip Carey and Mariota. If you asked any serious Pac-12 fan who the signature player of 2013 was, they would say Carey. That earns him the top spot. I can buy into your philosophy that pro potential can make a difference, so I left Barr ahead of Murphy, even though I think Murph had the slightly better season. But following that same logic, I moved Williams ahead of Sutton because it's pretty well established that he's going to be a top-10 pick in 2015 (and his stats were better to boot). Hundley and Kelly go back-to-back because they were that close in performance. And being a USC guy, I desperately wanted to get one or two of Hayes Pullard/Dion Bailey/Josh Shaw/Devon Kennard on the list, but I just couldn't figure out a guy on the list who should come off. In the end, the real star of the Trojans D (other than Leonard Williams) was Clancy Pendergast, and unfortunately he couldn't go on this list. That concession comes with the understanding that Hayes definitely belongs on the preseason top 25 in 2014. I wish the grading system had a B+/A- option, because it was definitely better than the B I gave it. Well done, gents.
My take: I have no problem with those who'd flip Mariota and Carey, as that was a perfectly reasonable debate we also had. I still think if you were putting a team together and were drafting from the Pac-12, Mariota would be the consensus first pick. I think Williams has more upside than Sutton, but I'm not sure he was a better player this past season. The coaches did make Sutton a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. And I'd guess a few USC guys are going to make the 2014 preseason list.
David from Tucson, Ariz., writes: 1) Ka'Deem Carey (of course, I'm biased, but he was the U of A team. All of it. B.J. Denker played to his potential more than ANYONE in FBS, but who were defenses scheming to stop and failing to stop?) 2) Anthony Barr 3) Trent Murphy 4) Will Sutton (Why three defensive players after Carey? Simple: Seattle's defense. What beat Peyton's Broncos? Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush. These 3 players exemplify what the NFL, NCAA and all defenses are about: QB pressure, and O-Line dominance.) Also elite players, but with some performance problems: 5) Marcus Mariota (What else needs to be said? He was the best QB in the country -- yes, better than Jameis Winston, in my opinion -- and his knee injury made him almost pedestrian compared to his previous outings, but he's BY FAR the best returning player in the country -- yes, better than Jameis, in my opinion.) The best of the rest: 6) Bishop Sankey (Talk about making a name for yourself, Sankey was a workhorse, a crazy talent and he'll do well at the next level.) 7) Brandin Cooks 8) Marion Grice 9) Brett Hundley 10) David Yankey 11) Paul Richardson (He was, again in my opinion, the only reason Colorado was watchable football this year) 12) Taylor Kelly (I hate admitting how good he is, but, shoot, he's fantastic) 13) Jaelen Strong (His presence alone made the Sun Devils one of the most potent offenses in the Pac-12. ASU needed a receiver who can make great plays and boy howdy did they get one.) 14) Deone Bucannon (Reminds me of Kam Chancellor, who happens to be my favorite NFL player right now.) 15) Tyler Gaffney 16) Ifo Ekpre-Olomu 17) Xavier Su'a-Filo 18) Hroniss Grasu 19) Shayne Skov 20) Sean Mannion 21) Trevor Reilly 22) Austin Seferian-Jenkins 23) Josh Huff 24) Scott Crichton 25) Bralon Addison
My take: So adding Jaelen Strong and Bralon Addison and cutting Myles Jack and Josh Huff. As noted, Strong was seriously considered but, in the end, Huff had better overall numbers and really finished, er, strong. I also think Huff was the Ducks' No. 1 WR over Addison. Appreciate the defensive-first sensibilities.
Luke from Seattle writes: 1. Marcus Mariota 2. Ka'Deem Carey 3. Bishop Sankey 4. Trent Murphy 5. Will Sutton 6. Deone Bucannon 7. Danny Shelton 8. David Yankey 9. Anthony Barr 10. Paul Richardson 11. Leonard Williams 12. Brandin Cooks 13. Brett Hundley 14. Dion Bailey 15. Myles Jack 16. Taylor Kelly 17. Xavier Su'a-Filo 18. Tyler Johnstone 19. Ifo-Ekpre Olomu 20. Shaq Thompson 21. Shayne Skov 22. Scott Crichton 23. Austin Seferian-Jenkins 24. Terrance Mitchell 25. Sean Parker
My take: Five Huskies! Hmm. And no Hau'oli Kikaha, a Husky who was my toughest cut? Danny Shelton at No. 7? Though a fine player -- and a heck of a space-taker -- Shelton only earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors. You leave off some really good players: Marion Grice, Tyler Gaffney, Trevor Reilly, Sean Mannion, Josh Huff and Hroniss Grasu.
UCLA LB/RB Myles Jack's inclusion in the top 25 sparked plenty of debate.
His thoughts: Something that has bothered me a little is that Myles Jack is considered the best offensive AND defensive freshman in the Pac-12. For the sake of complaint, I thought Su'a Cravens (injury and all) was at least his equal, probably already the most opportunistic playmaker on the defense outside of Leonard Williams. But I'd settle for a draw on that side of the ball; Jack's numbers are decent. HOWEVER, on offense, I cannot shake that his RB stint was primarily a gimmick. And he had more than half of his TDs against one team. His numbers came primarily against the weaker teams in the Pac-12, and he also had the element of surprise for a game or two, emerging midway through the season. In any case, sour grapes, but I feel I could make a case that Justin Davis (also injured) was even better when he was running the football, as a true freshman.
My take: Well, Jack was at his best against Arizona, Arizona State and Washington, teams that combined for 27 victories. I understand you could make a case that it was dubious that Jack was BOTH offensive and defensive Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, but his contribution on both sides of the ball was truly notable. I can't think of a more distinguished two-way player in FBS football off the top of my head. (Yes, he played a bigger role than former Stanford FB/LB Owen Marecic.) I like how a Trojan shows respect for Brett Hundley at No. 3. Guys like Hayes Pullard and Carl Bradford were among those we seriously considered.
Evan from San Diego writes: 1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon 2. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA 3. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona 4. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA 5. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State 6. Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington 7. Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford 8. David Yankey, OL, Stanford 9. Leonard Williams, DE, USC 10. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State 11. Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State 12. Xavier Su'a-Filo, OL, UCLA 13. Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State 14. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford 15. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon 16. Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford 17. Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State 18. Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado 19. Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State 20. Trevor Reilly, DE/OLB, Utah 21. Myles Jack, LB/RB, UCLA 22. Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State 23. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington 24. Hroniss Grasu, C, Oregon 25. Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
My take: Evan has taken our 25 and tweaked the order a bit, which seems pretty reasonable. I think Kevin and I would certainly have slightly different top 25s if asked to do them solo.
Nat from Portland writes: Here is my Top 25 based on what I observed this year. 1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (besides Andrew Luck, best QB I have seen in person since I have been attending games in 1999 as an 11-year-old) 2. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona 3. Brandin Cooks, WR, OSU (the records and the constant coverage tough to ignore) 4. Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford (most unstoppable defender this year) 5. Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington 6. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA (has great potential but didn't see as much "wow" this year as in '12) 7. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon (he is a psychic, I am sure of it) 8. David Yankey, OL, Stanford 9. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA 10. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State (was he just always double-teamed, thus not having much of a statistical impact?) 11. Taylor Kelley, QB, Arizona State (impressed with his accuracy all year) 12. Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State 13. Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado (he had some underwhelming QBs throwing him the ball and still produced) 14. Leonard Williams, DE, USC (I thought Hayes Pullard/George Uko were almost as important all year) 15. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford (gonna miss this guy, felt like he was around eight years, though) 16. Scott Crichton, DE, OSU (biggest Beavs loss in a few years, no one will match his productivity in '14) 17. Deone Bucannon, S, WSU 18. Xavier Su'a-Filo, OL, UCLA 19. Myles Jack, LB/RB, UCLA 20. Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford (almost wanted to leave him off as he benefited from a strong O-line, but he was quite the workhorse) 21. Trevor Reilly, DE, Utah (probably should be higher, he never stopped) 22. Marqise Lee, WR, USC (Just from a danger factor he has to be on the list, even with injury issues. Didn't go as AWOL as De'Anthony Thomas.) 23. Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State (I want to see more from him with pressure in his face against big-time opponents and no Cooks) 24. Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State (gave Beavs fits, works well in their system) 25. Keith Price, QB, Washington (not overwhelming statistically but adjusted well to new hurry-up system). Hard to put more than a couple O-linemen on there (no Grasu). Huff was a little inconsistent for my liking, as was ASJ. Ben Gardner when healthy was top-25 worthy. Shaq Thompson was also tough to leave off. Trevor Romaine wins Most Photogenic Player of 2013. Go Beavs!
My take: So Nat removes Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Josh Huff and Hroniss Grasu and replaces them with Strong, Marqise Lee and Keith Price. In terms of talent, Lee would be near the top of any Pac-12 list, but our list was more about production. Injuries and inconsistency at QB were Lee's biggest issues, but he also seemed to press this year, dropping too many balls. Price was certainly worthy of consideration after posting a strong bounce-back season.