Pac-12: 2012 pac-12 preseason top-25

Pac-12's top 25 is coming!

January, 21, 2013
1/21/13
9:00
AM ET
On Tuesday, the Pac-12 blog will begin its countdown of the conference's top 25 players.

As we go on, send your complaints here. Kevin is in charge of those.

He made making this list much more difficult than previous years. From 2008 through this preseason, the list was always perfect because I made it alone. Now, the process has been injected with more intelligence, insight and discernment than past years. And, really, who the heck wants any of that?

It did lead to some amusing disagreements. I suspect many of you would be interested in our give and take, which was substantial, even at the very top of the list. That likely will be presented when the list is complete.

Both of us started with a list of about 35 players. It was mostly the same 35 players, but our pecking orders, from top to bottom, were very different. The compromise process was painful. Our "Michael Clay!" "Kiko Alonso!" back and forth was like an old Miller Lite commercial: "Great taste!" "Less filling." (Everyone knows "Great taste!" should prevail, but Kevin "Less filling!" Gemmell is a tenacious debater).

What is most interesting is that, more than any previous year, the postseason list is WAY different that the preseason list.

You can review the preseason top 25 here. And you can review the entire list of bios and notes here.

And here's the preseason list.

No. 1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
No. 2: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
No. 3: De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon
No. 4: Robert Woods, WR, USC
No. 5: Keith Price, QB, Washington
No. 6: Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
No. 7: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
No. 8: Keenan Allen, WR, California
No. 9: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 10: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
No. 11: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

I see little wrong with that list if I re-enter my August self. But from today's perspective, our expectations were way off.

You can imagine the USC presence goes down a bit this go-around.

Notes on the preseason Pac-12 top 25

September, 3, 2012
9/03/12
9:00
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Our listing of the Pac-12's top 25 players concluded on Friday, just in time for the season.

You can review the entire list here.

And here are some notes you might find interesting.

By unit
Offense
: 16
Defense: 9

The 2011 postseason list broke down with 19 offensive players and six defensive players. The league does feel like it will be better on defense this year.

By team
USC ... 8
Oregon ... 4
Stanford ... 3
California, Utah, Washington, Washington State ... 2
Arizona State, Oregon State ... 1
Arizona, Colorado, & UCLA ... 0

USC dominates the list, and really there's no one you could make a decent argument doesn't belong on the list. On the 2011 postseason list, Stanford had six and Oregon five. If I were a gambling man, I'd wager Oregon might add two or three players to the 2012 postseason list.

As for the teams with no players: Who would you make a case for? Kevin and I discussed Colorado offensive lineman David Bakhtiari, who was second-team All-Pac-12 in 2011, and UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin. Arizona has QB Matt Scott and a couple of nice guys in the secondary.

By position
QB ... 3
WR ... 4
RB ... 7
OL ... 1
TE ... 1
LB ... 3
DE ... 1
DT... 1
CB ... 2
S ... 2

There were five QBs and four running backs on the 2011 postseason list, so maybe the league will be more run-based this fall. There were three offensive linemen on the postseason list -- I bet you can name them. Every position group -- other than special teams -- got at least one player. That happens in large part because while making the list you think, "Who's the best guy in the conference at this position?"

Fourteen guys from the 2011 list are back, and five of them are from USC. Here they are with their old ranking.

2. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
5. Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
7. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
8. Robert Woods, WR, USC
11. Keith Price, QB, Washington
12 De'Anthony Thomas, WR-RB, Oregon
13. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
15. Keenan Allen, WR, California
16. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
19. T.J. McDonald, S, USC
20. Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
21. John White, RB, Utah
23. Nickell Robey, CB, USC
24. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford

New guys on the list include:

No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

So who moves up the list? Or gets knocked off? You can expect the postseason list to be very different.

And, by the way, far more meaningful. It will reflect actual performance rather than projection.

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 1

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
11:00
AM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 concludes today.

Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC

2011 numbers: Completed 69.1 percent of his throws (308 of 446) for 3,528 yards with 39 touchdowns to just seven interceptions.

2011 postseason ranking: No. 2

Making the case for Barkley: Drum roll please. ... No? No drum roll? We don't have that sound file? OK, so this isn't exactly a "who shot J.R. moment" for the Pac-12 blog. I think it's safe to say we all saw this coming. And why not? Matt Barkley is by far the most complete quarterback in the country. With A-list wide receivers flanking him on either side, a phenomenal ground attack that includes two 1,000-yard rushers, fantastic tight ends, a solid offensive line and a stellar defense to get him the ball back, Barkley should produce credentials worthy of Heisman consideration and a high first-round NFL draft pick. He put the spotlight on himself when he made his declaration of "unfinished business," but if you know Barkley, you know he's not one to shrivel in the spotlight. And there is a bright one on him and his team this year as they enter the season ranked No. 1 in the AP poll. He earned second-team all-conference last year and is on every major preseason All-America team this year. Assuming all goes to plan, Barkley will be in New York for the Heisman presentation. He can go a long way toward making his case if he can produce similar numbers to last year and keep his team atop the rankings all season.

No. 2: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
No. 3: De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon
No. 4: Robert Woods, WR, USC
No. 5: Keith Price, QB, Washington
No. 6: Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
No. 7: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
No. 8: Keenan Allen, WR, California
No. 9: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 10: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
No. 11: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 2

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
5:30
PM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 continues.

Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

2. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

2011 numbers: Recorded 44 total tackles, with nine coming for a loss. He had 1.5 sacks, a pass break-up, forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

2011 postseason ranking: No. 7

Making the case for Lotulelei: Lotulelei, 6-foot-3, 320 pounds, is not only the best defensive lineman in the Pac-12, he might be the best defensive lineman in the nation. The consensus preseason All-American won the Pac-12's Morris Trophy last year, an award voted on by opposing offensive linemen. He also, of course, was first-team All-Pac-12. But, I know, Pac-12 fans like numbers, and the above numbers -- or numbers for any interior defensive lineman -- won't blow anyone away. So we have to go with what folks think of Lotulelei's chances at the next level. Here's what ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper writes about Lotulelei after ranking him the No. 9 overall NFL draft prospect: "Safest DT in class right now based on consistency. Demands double-teams, clogs up the middle of the field. A great sense for disrupting the run game, with power to bull rush. Explodes off the ball, with great upper-body strength."

Scouts Inc. ranks him sixth overall, giving him a grade of 94, which is the same grade they give the No. 1 prospect, a certain USC QB. In its evaluation, it praises Lotulelei's skills as a run stopper and his "motor." A popular comparison? Former Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. He has been named to the Bronko Nagurski, Outland Trophy, Lott Trophy and Maxwell Award watch lists.

No. 3: De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon
No. 4: Robert Woods, WR, USC
No. 5: Keith Price, QB, Washington
No. 6: Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
No. 7: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
No. 8: Keenan Allen, WR, California
No. 9: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 10: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
No. 11: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 3

August, 29, 2012
8/29/12
6:00
PM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 continues.

Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

3. De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon

2011 numbers: Rushed for 595 yards and seven TDs, averaging 10.8 yards per carry. He caught 46 passes for 605 yards and nine TDs. He averaged 27.3 yards per kick return with two TDs.

2011 postseason ranking: 12th (tied with Oregon QB Darron Thomas!)

Making the case for Thomas: Thomas was very good last year as a true freshman -- you saw the Rose Bowl, right? -- but this high ranking here is more a projection forward. If Thomas doesn't get invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony this winter, he should in 2013. Simply, Thomas is the most explosive player in the conference, perhaps the nation. If you asked a defensive coordinator who you'd least like to see in open space, it would be Thomas. In that Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin, he probably previewed things to come with a team-high 314 all-purpose yards, carrying the ball twice for 155 yards and two TDs, including an are-you-kidding-me? 91 yard bolt. He was the Pac-12 co-offensive freshman of the year and earned first team All-Conference honors as a kick returner. He was the only player in the nation with at least 400 yards rushing, receiving and kick returning. He ranked 11th nationally in all-purpose yards with 147.8 ypg. He earned numerous freshman All-American honors. The expectation here is he will take a big step forward in 2012. Heck, he might even move up this list.

No. 4: Robert Woods, WR, USC
No. 5: Keith Price, QB, Washington
No. 6: Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
No. 7: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
No. 8: Keenan Allen, WR, California
No. 9: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 10: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
No. 11: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 4

August, 28, 2012
8/28/12
12:00
PM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 continues.

Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

4. Robert Woods, WR, USC

2011 numbers: Caught 111 balls for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns.

2011 postseason ranking: No. 8

Making the case for Woods: No one had more receptions in the Pac-12 last year than Woods. No one had more receiving touchdowns than Woods. And the scary thing is his numbers are probably going to get better. With quarterback Matt Barkley returning for another season, an A-list counterpart across from him in Marqise Lee and two tight ends that are the envy of most teams in the nation, Woods is going to see a lot of single coverage. And if you bracket Woods, you run the risk of getting beat deep by one of the others. And if you still decide to bracket Woods, chances are you are still going to get beat by one of the others. He's that good, and USC's offense is that good. There are maybe two guys in this conference who can run consistently with Woods in man-to-man ... and one of them already plays for the Trojans (see No. 14). And that's why Woods, a first-team All-Pac-12 and AP All-American last year -- headlines a talented group of wide receivers in the conference. At 6-1, 190 pounds, he's one of the truly special players in the Pac-12.

No. 5: Keith Price, QB, Washington
No. 6: Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
No. 7: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
No. 8: Keenan Allen, WR, California
No. 9: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 10: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
No. 11: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 5

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
5:30
PM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 continues.

Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

5. Keith Price, QB, Washington

2011 numbers: Threw for 3,063 yards on 242 of 362 passing (66.9 percent) with 33 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. He also rushed for three touchdowns -- all of them coming in the Alamo Bowl against Baylor.

2011 postseason ranking: No. 11

Making the case for Price: After a defensive detour to close out last week, we turn our attention back to offense and one of the most versatile quarterbacks in the country. There's a reason Prices' name is being whispered as a potential Heisman candidate -- it's because he's really good. Only Andrew Luck posted a higher efficiency rating in the conference last season -- which means Price makes the most of his attempts. Nagging injuries -- and the fact that Washington had an A-list running back in Chris Polk -- were two of the reasons we didn't really see Price show off his athleticism. That's likely going to change this year as the coaching staff finds new and exciting ways for Price to make plays with his feet while also distributing the ball. We at the Pac-12 blog are on record as saying that if Price can make it through the first six weeks of the season with solid numbers, he could springboard from dark horse to legitimate Heisman contender.

No. 6: Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
No. 7: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
No. 8: Keenan Allen, WR, California
No. 9: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 10: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
No. 11: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 6

August, 24, 2012
8/24/12
11:00
AM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 continues.

Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

6. Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford

2011 numbers: Posted 52 tackles (33 solo) including a conference best 17.5 tackles for a loss. He also had 8.5 sacks, four quarterback hits and was second in the conference in forced fumbles.

2011 postseason ranking: No. 5

Making the case for Thomas: It's time to break the stranglehold wide receivers have had on this list for the past three days and look to defense. Thomas is the best outside linebacker in the conference and many would argue in the country. He opted to return for another season to improve his consistency and up his draft status. And both should see significant improvement. Last year Stanford's run defense was tops in the conference, allowing less than 85 yards per game and it was the only team to hold opponents to an average of less than 100 yards per contest. Thomas was a big reason for that number. Expect him to be even better this year with the return of Shayne Skov at inside linebacker. When Skov went down, defenses were keying in on Thomas, which makes his production last year that much more impressive. With six of last year's front seven returning -- plus the return of Skov and young playmakers like James Vaughters and Noor Davis -- Thomas headlines a run-stopping unit that should once again challenge for best in the conference.

No. 7: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
No. 8: Keenan Allen, WR, California
No. 9: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 10: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
No. 11: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 7

August, 23, 2012
8/23/12
11:00
AM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 continues.

Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

7. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State

2011 numbers: Caught 82 passes for 1,388 yards with 12 touchdowns.

2011 postseason ranking: No. 13

Making the case for Wilson: Hey look, another receiver! Wilson, a 6-foot-4, 183-pound junior, earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2011 behind USC's Robert Woods and Cal's Keenan Allen. Still, he ranked first in the Pac-12 and sixth in the nation with 115.7 yards receiving per game in 2011. His 12 touchdown receptions ranked second in the conference. His 16.9 yards per catch ranked third. We wrote this about him when ranking him 13th last year, "Everyone who played Washington State knew this: Wilson is the Cougars' most dangerous weapon. And yet Wilson just kept catching passes." We also observed, "In the Cougs' two conference wins -- over Colorado and Arizona State -- he came up particularly big. He hauled in the a 63-yard touchdown with 1:10 left to complete a 31-27 comeback win in Boulder. And he caught eight passes for 223 yards -- yeah, that's 27.9 yards per catch -- and three TDs against the Sun Devils." Yet part of this high ranking also is a projection forward. In Mike Leach's pass-happy offense, Wilson is likely to put up even bigger numbers and again lead the conference in receiving yards. With 2,394 career yards receiving, he could even make a run at 4,000 career yards by season's end. Of course, he'd need his first bowl game to make that happen.

No. 8: Keenan Allen, WR, California
No. 9: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 10: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
No. 11: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 8

August, 22, 2012
8/22/12
11:00
AM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 continues.

Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

8. Keenan Allen, WR, California

2011 numbers: Caught 98 passes for 1,343 yards with six touchdowns. He averaged 13.7 yards per reception.

2011 postseason ranking: No. 15

Making the case for Allen: As Kevin noted, ranking the Pac-12's crew of receivers is difficult. Four are legitimate All-American candidates. Heck, you've seen all four already included on various preseason A-A teams. Allen, first-team All-Pac-12 in 2011, ranked 18th on Mel Kiper's first "Big Board." Wrote Kiper: "Strong hands, catches the ball with ease. Sets up defenders, sees the field well, settling in creases against zones. Not a total burner, but can sell short routes and break deep. Great run-after-catch skills." The junior, if he builds on his first two seasons, is a likely first-round NFL draft pick, should he opt to leave early. Now two nitpicks. 1. Allen only caught six touchdown passes in 2011 and he had just one touchdown in the final six games; 2. He eclipsed 100 yards receiving in five of the first six games last fall but didn't again over the final seven games. If Allen is going to earn first-team All-Pac-12 honors -- nearly as big an honor this season at the position as All-American -- he's going to have to get into the endzone more and be consistent throughout the season. He also will be challenged by the Bears thinness and inexperience at the position. Last year, the capable Marvin Jones kept defenses honest. This year, he should expect secondaries to scheme him up with bracket coverages and various sorts of double-teams.

No. 9: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 10: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
No. 11: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 9

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
11:00
AM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 continues.

>Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

No. 9 Marqise Lee, WR, USC

2011 numbers: Caught 73 balls for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also returned 10 kickoffs for an average of 28.5 yards per return with a touchdown.

2011 postseason ranking: No. 16

Making the case for Lee: Now, we're really starting to get into the nitty-gritty. Four wide receivers, all alike in dignity, in the fair Pac-12 is where we lay our scene. You know the other three are coming. And Lee could easily be ahead of them all. Or second, or third. He could win the Biletnikoff award. Or finish second, or third. The pros for each of the four wide receivers are so similar, it's like comparing apples to Fuji apples to McIntosh apples to Granny Smith apples. In the preseason, it just depends on your personal taste. But we know this about Lee, he's phenomenal. He landed on every major freshman All-American team last season, and with another year of Matt Barkley at the helm and Robert Woods opposite him, he seems poised for an even better 2012. Look for him to once again be used as a dangerous kick returner.

No. 10: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
No. 11: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 10

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
9:00
AM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 continues.

Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

10. T.J. McDonald, S, USC

2011 numbers: Recorded 67 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss and also had a team-high three interceptions while deflecting two passes. He also recovered a fumble and had one punt block.

2011 postseason ranking: No. 19

Making the case for McDonald: Returning first-team all-conference, returning All-American, tapped as the best returning safety in the country by Mel Kiper: there isn't much more of a case that needs to be made. The 6-3, 205-pound safety is one of the most feared hitters in the league. And while the debate will rage all season whether McDonald or Oregon's John Boyett (No. 16 on the 2012 preseason rankings) is the top safety in the league, it's probably a safe bet that both will appear on the all-conference first team at the end of the season. Now in his third season as a starter, McDonald is on the Thorpe Award and Lott Trophy watch lists. He has six career interceptions, so the ball instincts are there. He understands the rules you have to play by, but makes no apologies for his aggressive style. And that's why many NFL draft projections have him going in the first round in 2013.

No. 11: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 11

August, 17, 2012
8/17/12
1:00
PM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 continues.

Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

11. Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon

2011 numbers: Recorded 7.5 sacks on the year to go with 13 tackles for a loss and 42 total tackles.

2011 postseason ranking: No. 20

Making the case for Jordan: Despite missing two games, Jordan led the Ducks and ranked fifth in the Pac-12 in sacks and seventh in tackles for a loss. A first-team All-Pac-12 performer in 2011, Jordan could become a breakout star in 2011, perhaps even getting All-American consideration. He's long -- 6-foot-7 -- and, at 241 pounds, he's lean, but he's surprisingly powerful and an exceptional athlete who started off at Oregon as a tight end. He's been named to watch lists for Bednarik Award (defense), Rotary Lombardi Award (lineman), Bronko Nagurski Trophy (defense) and Ted Hendricks Award (defensive end).

No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 12

August, 16, 2012
8/16/12
11:00
AM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 continues.

Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

12. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford

2011 numbers: Rushed for 1,330 yards and 10 touchdowns on 242 carries. Had a healthy 5.5 yards per carry while also catching 27 balls and a pair of touchdowns.

2011 postseason ranking: No. 24.

Making the case for Taylor: It's time to stop calling Taylor one of the most underrated backs in the college football and start calling him one of the top, most complete running backs in the Pac-12. A back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher who was often overlooked because of the guy handing him the ball (that would be Andrew Luck for those with a short memory), Taylor will be the focal point of the Cardinal offense. That should come as no surprise to those who follow the team closely, because he was actually the focal point last year and the year before despite the presence of Luck. He's durable enough to carry the ball 25 to 30 times per game, but that's not how David Shaw uses him. With a rotation of four other backs last year -- and the expectation of a similar approach this year -- Taylor will continue to make the most of his opportunities. Expect, however, a slight increase in his carries in 2012 as the Cardinal break in a new quarterback. The departure of Tyler Gaffney and the graduation of Jeremy Stewart opens up some niche roles for younger backs -- but we'll likely see Taylor carry more of the load, especially early as the new quarterback continues to grow and the pecking order behind Taylor takes shape. A second-team all-conference pick last year, Taylor's receiving skills make him extremely versatile, and he's also Stanford's best blocking back.

No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 13

August, 15, 2012
8/15/12
11:00
AM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 continues.

Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

13. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon

2011 numbers: Rushed for 939 yards and 11 TDs. Also caught 17 passes for 184 yards and three TDs.

2011 postseason ranking: unranked

Making the case for Barner: Barner makes the biggest leap in the top 25 for an unranked player from 2011, in large part because the Pac-12's best backup running backs now becomes one of its best running backs. Perhaps the best. Barner's 78.2 yards rushing per game ranked eighth in the conference in 2011, which is pretty impressive for a backup. He also averaged a stout 6.2 yards per carry, which ranked third in the conference. That average shouldn't be surprising because Barner has averaged more than 6 yards per carry the past three seasons while backing up LaMichael James. He enters his senior season with 1,856 career rushing yards and 27 total TDs. Further, when James was hurt, Barner always proved a more than adequate replacement. He rushed for 171 yards on 31 carries against Arizona State, the first of three consecutive games over 100 yards rushing when James was banged up. His fourth 100-yard rushing game last year came against USC, when he went for 123 yards on 15 carries with two scores. And don't forget Barner's ability as a receiver. He caught two passes for 52 yards and a TD against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, and it may be unwise to view De'Anthony Thomas as the only Duck who can strike from multiple positions on the field. Not many returning backups get named to watch lists for the Maxwell Award (college player of the year), the Doak Walker Award (running back) and the Paul Hornung Award (most versatile player). Finally, Barner, who is best buds with James, is a humble, team-first guy who also can be insightful when talking about the Ducks, as you can see in this video. That doesn't count in these rankings, but it seems like it's worth noting.

No 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

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