Pac-12: Casey Matthews

It's been a year of big stories in the Pac-12, starting with expansion and continuing with Oregon falling just short of the program's first national title.

The biggest story this spring? Again, it didn't happen on the field. It happened in the boardroom: It was announced on Wednesday that the conference had signed the richest TV contract in college sports history, one that will pay the conference an average of $250 million annually over the next 12 years.

That monumental announcement came after all the spring games had been played. But what happened on the field?

" Three schools entered spring practices with intrigue at quarterback, and only one emerged with few answers: UCLA, where a battle remains among Kevin Prince, who missed spring practice with a knee injury, Richard Brehaut and true freshman Brett Hundley.

[+] EnlargeKeith Price
Joe Nicholson/US PresswireWashington's Keith Price beat out Nick Montana for the starting quarterback job this spring.
There's no such indecision at Washington, which went so far as to announce Keith Price as its No. 1 quarterback over Nick Montana. California provided no such announcement, but Zach Maynard emerged as a clear leader over Brock Mansion and Allan Bridgford.

Oregon and Stanford have no such quarterback issues, and they began spring practices as the clear leaders in the conference based on what they did last season and what they have coming back. Both figure to be ranked in the national preseason top 10, perhaps in the top five. Both will play next fall in the conference's North Division, which means at least one can't play for the Pac-12 championship.

"Everybody on the West Coast knows that you have to beat Oregon if you want to do anything out here," Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck said.

" Big questions for Oregon and Stanford: The Ducks have issues on their offensive line, the Cardinal on their defensive line.

" Luck is playing for the only new coach in the old Pac-10. David Shaw replaces Jim Harbaugh, who bolted for the San Francisco 49ers. One session of spring practices won't be enough to reveal the big-picture meaning of that transition, particularly with Shaw continuing to hold closed practices.

"There will be subtle differences," Shaw said. "But the biggest thing is the mentality is not going to change. We played with an attitude, a mentality, a certain amount of toughness and physicality. That's not going to change. Coach Harbaugh and I are different personalities. But when it comes down to it, we are ball coaches who believe in tough, hard-nosed, physical football. We believe that's what's going to win and what Stanford football should be known for."

" As for the two new teams, Colorado and Utah, the Buffaloes fired Dan Hawkins and hired Jon Embree, who led a physically demanding spring session intended to show his players that a new sheriff was in town. But the transition from the Big 12 to the Pac-12 doesn't figure to be too dramatic, other than giving fans much better road trips. Over in Salt Lake City, Utes coach Kyle Whittingham considered the transition from the non-automatic-qualifying Mountain West Conference to the Pac-12, which will be an interesting measuring stick in the fall.

"The week-in and week-out level of competition is ratcheted up," Whittingham said. "There are some excellent football teams in the Mountain West Conference -- TCU last year. Not to downplay or disrespect anything that's going on in the Mountain West, but we're convinced the weekly challenges will be much more difficult than they have been in years past for us."

" A big change at Utah? The arrival of offensive coordinator Norm Chow after he fell out of favor at UCLA. But that didn't yield much fruit for the Utes this spring, in large part because quarterback Jordan Wynn was sidelined with a shoulder injury.

" Injuries were an issue on many campuses. USC, for one, was missing 12 players from its two-deep depth chart for all or some of the spring. Still, the Trojans might have lucked out. Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State and UCLA saw injuries to their potential starting players that will jeopardize all or at least a portion of their 2011 seasons. The Beavers, for example, don't know whether receiver James Rodgers will be able to play after a serious knee injury last fall.

" On the noninjury, off-the-field side: Oregon's potential starting middle linebacker, Kiko Alonso, who was projected to replace Casey Matthews, was suspended indefinitely after he was arrested the day after the spring game. It's his second suspension in as many seasons.

Ultimately, every team heads into the offseason with the same hopeful mindset.

Said Luck, "The mindset is still very, very hungry. The price never decreases in football."

Spring wrap: Oregon

May, 9, 2011

2010 Overall record: 12-1

2010 conference record: 9-0

Returning starters

Offense: 6, Defense: 5, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

RB LaMichael James, QB Darron Thomas, OT Mark Asper, TE David Paulson, CB Cliff Harris, FS John Boyett

Key losses

WR Jeff Maehl, C Jordan Holmes, LB Casey Matthews, DT Brandon Bair, DE Kenny Rowe, CB Talmadge Jackson

2010 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: James* (1,731)

Passing: Thomas* (2,881)

Receiving: Maehl (1,076)

Tackles: Matthews (79)

Sacks: Rowe (7)

Interceptions: Harris* (6)

Spring answers

1. Strong on defensive line: Terrell Turner, who missed spring with an injury, is the only returning starter up front, but that doesn't appear to be a problem. Dion Jordan and Brandon Hanna looked good at the ends, while Ricky Heimuli, Taylor Hart, Wade Keliikipi, Isaac Remington and Jared Ebert stood out inside. The general feeling is the Ducks will continue to play a lot of guys up front and there won't be any drop-off from 2010.

2. Deep defensive backs: Harris and Anthony Gildon are the starters at cornerback, and John Boyett and Eddie Pleasant are the safeties in what should be one of the conference's best secondaries. Further, there's tons of depth. Troy Hill was a standout at corner this spring, which duplicated fellow corner Terrance Mitchell's showing last spring. Scott Grady and Dior Mathis are further options at cornerback. Things are not as deep at safety, where Brian Jackson is No. 3 and Erick Dargan is an intriguing talent. Avery Patterson and Isaac Dixon can play both corner and safety.

3. Thomas and James to lead: There are two legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates in the backfield: running back James, a finalist last season, and quarterback Thomas, who earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2010. Their star power will give them standing on the team, and both seem ready to lead what could be another stellar season in Eugene.

Fall questions

1. Offensive line uncertainty: The unit struggled at times this spring after losing three starters (though it's hard to look at experienced veteran Darrion Weems as not a returning starter). The first line most of spring was Weems at left tackle, Mark Asper at right tackle, Karrington Armstrong at center and Ramsen Golpashin and Carson York at the guards. But Golpashin is a former walk-on, and Nick Cody and Ryan Clanton have the physical skills to start, while redshirt freshman Hroniss Grasu is still in the mix at center. There's some "to be continued" here.

2. Good to receive? The Ducks need to replace their top two receivers, and with Josh Huff missing most of spring with an injury, it was clear this unit isn't ready for prime time just yet. Lavasier Tuinei, Nick Cole, Justin Hoffman and Will Murphy are solid but unspectacular. The elite playmaking may have to come from a touted class of incoming recruits: freshmen Devon Blackmon, Tacoi Sumler and B.J. Kelley and JC transfer Rahsaan Vaughn.

3. What's up in the middle? Things looked pretty good at middle linebacker, which was vacant with Casey Matthews off to the NFL, until Kiko Alonso got suspended after an arrest, which duplicates what happened to him last offseason. His status remains unclear, which is too bad because he had a great spring. The obvious answer if Alonso doesn't return is Dewitt Stuckey.

Oregon's Alonso pleads guilty

May, 6, 2011
Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso pleaded guilty to a criminal mischief charge and was sentenced Friday to two years' probation and 200 hours of community service.

Now it remains to be seen what Ducks coach Chip Kelly will do with his twice-arrested, twice-suspended linebacker, the projected starter in Casey Matthews vacated spot.

Alonso was arrested early last Sunday after he broke into a woman's home. He was arrested last offseason on DUI charges.

More details here, including this:
[Alonso's attorney Marc] Spence also said Alonso, who was suspended from the team last year after being arrested on drunk driving charges, has an issue with alcohol.

As one of the terms of his probation, Alonso will not be allowed to possess or consume alcohol.

Oregon suspends Alonso

May, 2, 2011
Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso has been suspended indefinitely by Ducks coach Chip Kelly.

Alonso was arrested Sunday on charges of burglary, criminal mischief and criminal trespassing in Lane County, according to local reports.

The Eugene Register-Guard also published details of Alonso's arrest, which are a bit peculiar.
Alonso, 20, a junior from Los Gatos, Calif., was arrested early Sunday after a Eugene women called 911 to report a strange man pounding on her front door demanding to be let inside.

The women left the house after calling authorities, who arrived to find the door broken open and Alonso inside. Alonso was arrested on charges of first degree burglary, first degree criminal trespassing and second degree criminal mischief and booked into the Lane County Jail.

"It doesn't appear that there was any relationship between the homeowner or Mr. Alonso," Lt. Bryon Trapp of the Lane County Sheriff's office said. "It doesn't appear she had any idea who he was or any indication why he was at that residence."

Alonso, who was a leader to replace departed starter Casey Matthews at middle linebacker, was suspended for the 2010 season after a DUI arrest.

Arrest starts Ducks' offseason badly

May, 2, 2011
Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso, the favorite to replace the departed Casey Matthews in the middle of the Ducks' defense, was arrested Sunday and charged with burglary, criminal mischief and criminal trespass in Lane County, according to local reports.

Alonso had played well this spring -- the Ducks' spring practices concluded Saturday -- but this doesn't figure to help his standing, particularly considering he was suspended for the 2010 season after a DUI arrest. That arrest, you might recall, came just a day after coach Chip Kelly met with reporters to talk about the run of recent off-field trouble his team was having.

Alonso, a junior from Los Gatos, Calif., ended up blowing out his knee last spring, so he wouldn't have been available in 2010 in any event.

As for the Ducks' options at middle linebacker, here's what Rob Moseley wrote in the Eugene Register-Guard.
Senior Dewitt Stuckey entered the spring atop the depth chart at middle linebacker, but Alonso pushed him early in April and then took over full-time with the first-string after Stuckey suffered a concussion in a scrimmage. They are the only scholarship middle linebackers currently on the roster, though the Ducks signed a talented group of recruits at the position in February, including four-star middle linebacker Anthony Wallace of Dallas, Texas.

Final Pac-12 NFL draft tally

May, 1, 2011
The Pac-12 provided 37 players to the NFL draft over the weekend, one fewer than the SEC, which led all conferences.

If the six combined picks from Colorado and Utah are taken away from the conference, the old Pac-10 provided NFL teams 3.1 draft picks per team, also just behind the SEC at 3.17.

Here's where the Pac-12 players went:

First round
No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore

Second round
7. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA: Tennessee
10. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona: Houston
13. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: Denver
21. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: Chicago
24. Shane Vereen, RB, California: New England

Third round
13. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC: Tennessee
20. Mason Foster, LB, Washington: Tampa Bay
25. Shareece Wright, CB, USC: San Diego
29. Christopher Conte, S, California: Chicago
33. Sione Fua, DT, Stanford: Carolina

Fourth round
5. Jordan Cameron, TE, USC: Cleveland
19. Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon: Philadelphia
21. Jalil Brown, CB, Colorado: Kansas City
27. Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford: Cleveland

Fifth round
8. Brandon Burton, CB, Utah: Minnesota
9. Gabe Miller, DE, Oregon State: Kansas City
14. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State: Atlanta
23. Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford: Seattle

Sixth round
2. Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford: Cincinnati
14. Caleb Schlauderaff, OG, Utah: Green Bay
17. Ronald Johnson, WR, USC: San Francisco
19. David Carter, DT, UCLA: Arizona
22. Allen Bradford, RB, USC: Tampa Bay
24. Mike Mohamed, LB, California: Denver
32. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona: Green Bay
38. Zach Williams, C, Washington State: Carolina

Seventh round
12. D'Aundre Reed, DE, Arizona: Minnesota
24. Scotty McKnight, WR, Colorado: New York Jets
30. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State: Green Bay
37. Stanley Havili, FB, USC: Philadelphia
38. David Ausberry, WR, USC: Oakland
39. Malcolm Smith, LB, USC: Seattle

By Pac-12 school:
Arizona (3)
Arizona State (1)
California (4)
Colorado (4)
Oregon (1)
Oregon State (3)
Stanford (4)
UCLA (3)
USC (9)
Utah (2)
Washington (2)
Washington State (1)

The final tally by automatic qualifying conferences:
SEC... 38
Pac-12... 37
Big Ten... 36
ACC... 35
Big East 22
Big 12...19

Nebraska was a big swing to the Big Ten from the Big 12 with seven picks. With Colorado and Nebraska, the Big 12 provided 30 selections.

This was the tally through three rounds:
SEC: 20
ACC: 19
Pac-12: 15
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 9
Big East: 4

Exiting the spring: Oregon

April, 28, 2011
Oregon concludes spring practices with its spring game on Saturday. Here's a brief primer.

Spring game: 4 p.m. ET at Autzen Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN2. Here’s the link to the Oregon spring game on

Questions answered: The Ducks lost five starters from the defensive front seven, but this one may be more a reload rather than rebuild. This is due in large part to the experience of the so-called new guys, most of whom saw significant action last fall. Ends Dion Jordan and Brandon Hanna -- returning starter Terrell Turner sat out with a leg injury -- and tackles Ricky Heimuli, Taylor Hart and Wade Keliikipi all played well. At linebacker, Kiko Alonso takes over in the middle for Casey Matthews, while Michael Clay, Josh Kaddu and Boseko Lokomobo capably man the outside spots. More depth is provided by Dewitt Stuckey and Derrick Malone.

Questions unanswered: The defense was mostly in control this spring, and a lot of that was due to three new starters on the offensive line. Things aren't settled there other than tackles Mark Asper and Darion Weems and guard Carson York. Further, the Ducks are replacing their top two receivers, Jeff Maehl and D.J. Davis, and that may be a spot the requires help from a touted crew of incoming freshmen.

Spring stars: Jordan was an intriguing prospect when he switched to defensive end last season. Now he's starting to look like a player. Alonso missed last season due to suspension -- he also was injured -- but he's brought a physical presence to the middle of the defense. Running back Lache Seastrunk has played well enough to earn touches at a deep position. Spring always provides good walk-on stories, and the Ducks have theirs in Ramsen Golpashin, a fifth-year senior who's in the mix at offensive guard. Now some of you less sentimental sorts might not be thrilled with what a senior walk-on winning the job says, but let's see the glass as half-full.

Some Pac-12 draft notes, Part 2

April, 27, 2011
ESPN draft guru Todd McShay took a measure of specific qualities of defensive players expected to be selected in this week's NFL draft, which starts Thursday, and a number of Pac-12 players fall into interesting spots.

Here are some notes.

Defensive line
Defensive ends
McShay ranks Arizona's Brooks Reed No. 2 in pass-rush skills among all defensive ends and No. 3 in instincts/motor.

He ranks Cameron Jordan No. 2 versus the run and No. 2 in versatility.

He ranks Jordan No. 3 overall among defensive linemen and Reed 11th.

Defensive tackles
McShay ranks Oregon State's Stephen Paea No. 2 in toughness/motor.

He ranks Paea 17th overall among defensive linemen. He also has USC's Jurrell Casey at 19th.

McShay ranks Oregon's Casey Matthews No. 2 in instincts/recognition among inside linebackers.

He ranks Washington's Mason Foster No. 1 in range versus the run among inside linebackers.

He ranks UCLA's Akeem Ayers No. 2 in third-down capabilities among outside linebackers.

McShay ranks Ayers No. 2 overall among the linebackers. Foster is No. 4 and Matthews is 13th.

Defensive backs
McShay ranks UCLA's Rahim Moore No. 2 in instincts/recognition and No. 1 in cover skills and ball skills among safeties.

He ranks Colorado's Jimmy Smith No. 1 in cover skills and No. 2 in run support among cornerbacks.

McShay ranks Smith No. 3 overall among defensive backs. He ranks Moore seventh. Utah cornerback Brandon Burton is 13th and USC cornerback Shareece Wright is 14th. Colorado's other cornerback, Jalil Brown, is 17th.

Top returning tacklers in Pac-12

April, 20, 2011
Tackling is important in football. We can all agree on that, right?

The top three tackles in the Pac-10 last season -- and four of the top five -- won't be back for Pac-12 play in 2011.

[+] EnlargeShayne Skov
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireStanford linebacker Shayne Skov figures to be one of the Pac-12's top tacklers next season.
So who has their top tackler back?

UCLA: Strong safety Tony Dye led the Bruins and ranked fourth in the conference with 96 tackles -- 8.0 per game -- last season.

Arizona: Linebacker Paul Vassallo led the Wildcats and ranked sixth in the conference with 102 tackles -- 7.8 per game -- in 2010.

Stanford: Linebacker Shayne Skov led the Cardinal and ranked eighth in the conference with 84 tackles -- 7.6 per game.

Arizona State: Linebacker Vontaze Burfict led the Sun Devils and ranked ninth in the conference with 90 tackles -- 7.5 per game.

USC: Safety T.J. McDonald led the Trojans and ranked 11th in the conference with 89 tackles -- 7.4 per game.

Washington State: Strong safety Deone Bucannon led the Cougars and ranked 15th in the conference with 83 tackles -- 6.9 per game.

Utah: Linebacker Chaz Walker led the Utes with 74 tackles or 5.7 per game.

So who is the leading returning tackler for the other five teams and who might lead in 2011?

California: Inside linebacker D.J. Holt is the Bears leading returning tackler with 7.2 tackles per game, but don't be surprised if a move inside for Mychal Kendricks makes him the Bears' leading tackler.

Colorado: Safety Ray Polk was the Buffaloes' second-leading tackler in 2010 with 6.0 per game, but if linebacker Jon Major is healthy all season -- he was the leading tackler through seven games before going down with a knee injury -- he could become a 100-tackle guy.

Oregon: Safety John Boyett ranked 23rd in the conference and second to Casey Matthews for the Ducks last season with 6.0 tackles per game (his 78 tackles were just one fewer than Matthews). Matthews' replacement at middle linebacker, Kiko Alonso, probably finishes with the most tackles for the Ducks, though.

Oregon State: Safety Lance Mitchell was the Beavers' third-leading tackler behind linebacker Dwight Roberson and fellow safety Suaesi Tuimaunei. The Beavers would prefer that a leader emerge from the on-going competition at middle linebacker, but weakside linebacker Michael Doctor, who's stepping in for Roberson, looks like a good candidate to lead.

Washington: Middle linebacker Cort Dennison ranked third on the Huskies and seventh in the conference with 7.7 tackles per game in 2010 behind linebacker Mason Foster, the Pac-10's leading tackler -- No. 2 in the nation -- with 12.5 stops per game and safety Nate Williams (8.1). If he stays healthy, it's likely he'll lead the Huskies in tackles, particularly with the lack of experience surrounding him at linebacker.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly isn't thinking about LSU, the Ducks' marquee season opener in Cowboys Stadium. Nor is he fretting the recent headlines that connect his program to recruiting services and so-called "street agents" that are raising some NCAA eyebrows.

You know what his focus is on this spring? Guess. Correct. Kelly's focus is on "winning the day."

"I know I sound like a broken record," he said.

LSU is "not even on the radar." And potential distractions due to L'Affair de Willie Lyles?

"I've never brought it up once," Kelly said. "Our kids aren't distracted by anything you guys write."

There are personnel issues that Kelly is paying attention to, and these are much like the questions fans have.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
Kirby Lee/US PresswireChip Kelly is looking for leaders to emerge this spring.
"The lines. Leadership. We lost a lot of good leaders," he said. "Who's going to step up?"

The Ducks lost three of five starters on the offensive line and three of four on the D-line. There are also two linebackers, two receivers and a cornerback to replace.

Still, none of these voids seems terribly worrisome. There appear to be capable -- and in nearly every case experienced -- players ready to step into starting roles.

Tackle Mark Asper and guard Carson York are returning starters on the line, while Darrion Weems has plenty of starting experience. "After that, it's up in the air. We'll be unproven there in at least two spots," Kelly said.

On the defensive line, end Terrell Turner is the lone returning starter, but he'll also be the team's only starter out all spring with a leg injury. The Ducks, however, consistently played nine guys last year and six are back. Two new faces to watch are Isaac Remington, a JC transfer in 2010 who redshirted, and Jared Ebert, a JC transfer from 2011, who will participate in spring practices.

"We're confident with six of the guys we have coming back, now we've just got to find out who those other three guys are going to be," Kelly said.

While Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger are gone at linebacker, Josh Kaddu is back, as are Michael Clay, Boseko Lokombo and Dewitt Stuckey. Also, Kiko Alonso, who sat out last year with a knee injury, will almost certainly be in the mix.

Josh Huff and Lavasier Tuinei are two experienced returning receivers. Kelly said it was "up in the air" after that, but pointed to a strong recruiting haul that included four freshmen receivers.

The Ducks lost cornerback Talmadge Jackson, but senior Anthony Gildon, who owns nine career starts, is back, and there are plenty of intriguing youngsters who could challenge him for the starting spot. Kelly said he wants four corners who can play.

And Kelly emphasized returning starters won't get a free pass -- even stars will be pushed to get better. With quarterback Darron Thomas, it will be working on fundamentals -- his footwork, throwing motion, getting set quicker, etc. And running back LaMichael James needs to become more of a weapon in the passing game.

"No one has ever arrived," Kelly said.

As for leadership, Thomas and James are two leading candidates, but the Ducks had 16 captains last year. Kelly believes in leadership by committee, and he's not going to make stump speeches for guys to step up.

"That will happen by how it shakes itself out. You can't force that," he said. "Leadership should be shared. You've got 22 starters. It's the ultimate team sport. Sometimes it's tough to put that on the shoulders of one guy."

Who's back from the top 25?

March, 22, 2011
This will be my final post on our 2010 top 25 players rankings. It's also a line between looking back at the Pac-10 and looking forward to the Pac-12.

This post projects ahead: These players are the leading candidates for a preseason top 25.

First, here's who's back in 2011 -- 11 players -- from our top-25.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
4. Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon
6. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
7. Chris Polk, RB, Washington
11. Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State
13. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
14. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
18. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
22. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
23. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington

And here's who's back -- nine players -- from our "left-out list."

Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
John Boyett, FS, Oregon
Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State
Delano Howell, SS, Stanford

So that's 20 front-runners for the next list we'll put together this summer. Also, don't forget that competition will be more intense with the inclusion of Utah and Colorado for the next list.

Or will the Utes and/or Buffaloes get shutout? Neither welcomes back a first-team all-conference player from the Mountain West or Big 12, respectively (Colorado doesn't have a second-team player coming back, either).

Should be pretty interesting.

Who just missed the top-25? And why

March, 22, 2011
Welcome to the "How the heck could you be so stupid, Pac-12 blog!" post.

Our ranking of the top-25 Pac-10 -- not Pac-12 yet -- players is over. Here is our final tally.

Sure each of you has some sort of gripe with the list, and I would hope you would. The cool kids hang out here, and cool kids don't agree on everything because then they wouldn't be cool.

The most popular harrumph was the omission of Stanford's two-way player, Owen Marecic. I completely understand that. I likely would have ranked him 26th, but even then I would have paused. I will tell you why in a moment.

The angry mobilization by typically "read but don't comment" Stanford fans was great, though. I anticipated both the irritation with Marecic's absence and the general frustration with the lack of Stanford players on the list. Both reactions were perfectly reasonable, and the zealousness was fun. There were plenty of "What about Stanford?" moments for me while I toiled over the final list.

So now I will take on the unenviable task of briefly explaining why players didn't make the list. I'm guessing I will want to take a shower afterwards because the "left-out list" includes many outstanding players, many of whom will be high draft choices this year and in years to come.

But Marecic gets special treatment; he goes first. Here's my reasoning.

Yes, Marecic is a great story. Two-way player. Good on both sides of the ball. Tough guy. Quiet. Cool hair. Cult hero. Really, really smart. Tenth in the Heisman Trophy vote. Jim Harbaugh struggled each week to top the previous week's praise of a guy he repeatedly called "his favorite player."

But here's the problem: 1. He was the second best fullback in the conference (USC's Stanley Havili was the best; he didn't make the list); 2. He was Stanford's fourth-best linebacker -- see the numbers here.

And then he had the Shayne Skov, Chase Thomas, Sione Fua, Delano Howell, Jonathan Martin, David DeCastro problem. If you were picking a team for a high-stakes game, you'd pick those guys -- all Cardinal teammates -- before Marecic. And none of those guys made the list.

Yes, you would. Trust me. If, say, you were playing for $10 million, you'd pick one of them. Why? Because a good fullback and solid-to-middling linebacker isn't as valuable as an outstanding one-way player.

Nor would you pick Marecic over Shane Vereen, No. 25 on our list. Before you scream at your computer screen, let your mind drift back to this unhappy memory, Stanford fans.

Now, Stanford fans, take heart. This summer, we will begin an top-25 preseason list, and at this point you figure to get as many as six guys on that list, including No. 1 overall.

Also, it might help to look at the list below. Not exactly chopped liver.

This list is roughly in the order of consideration.

Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: He's a cool dude. He's going to be off the NFL draft board before the end of the second round. But he didn't put up great numbers for a bad defense.
Brandon Bair, DT, Oregon: Bair's production went down over the second half of the season. He got beaten up a bit, and offensive coordinators starting paying him more attention. Further, I was already uncomfortable with seven players from one team on the list.
Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford: Love his game. Got better as year went on. Just missed the cut. He, Vontaze Burfict and Mychal Kendricks are your first-team All-Pac-12 LBs in 2011.
Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona: 21.5 sacks over the past two seasons, including a conference-leading 11 in 2010. But Brooks Reed was a better player, and Elmore had a couple of off games. At one point, he was fighting to retain his starting job over D'Aundre Reed.
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford: A close second to Skov as the most productive player on the Stanford defense.
Sione Fua, NT, Stanford: Fua might have been the conference's most underrated player. So why stop now?
Mychal Kendricks, LB, California: 15 tackles for a loss. Highly productive. Highly talented. But he didn't fully arrive in 2010.
Jake Locker, QB, Washington: He may still end up a first-round draft choice but his numbers just weren't good enough this fall.
John Boyett, FS, Oregon: Got caught in the shuffle of Ducks. Further, the coaches didn't pick him first- or second-team All-Pac-10, rating him behind Cal's Chris Conte, UCLA's Rahim Moore, USC's T.J. McDonald and Washington's Nate Williams, none of whom made the top-25.
Mike Mohamed, LB, California: A very good player who perhaps slipped a little in 2010.
Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: The top-25 was hard on O-linemen.
David DeCastro, OG, Stanford: See above.
Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State: No true freshman made the list, not Wilson, not USC's Robert Woods. But Coug fans: You will have your first top-25 player this preseason. Maybe more than one.
Colin Baxter, C, Arizona: Baxter dropped because the Wildcats offensive line underachieved.
Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State: A good QB. Folks will see that this year. Still, only ranked sixth in the conference in passing efficiency.
Chris Conte, S, California: First-team All-Pac-10. Safeties didn't fare well on the list.
Delano Howell, SS, Stanford: Second-team All-Pac-10. See above.
Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State: A solid tackle who was eclipsed by better players.

Some notes & thoughts on top-25

March, 21, 2011
Our countdown of the Pac-10's top-25 players is over, and the chief result is annoying Stanford fans, particularly those of FB-LB Owen Marecic.

Their gripe is legit. Not including Marecic kept me up at night -- really -- but this wasn't a list of my favorite players.

On Tuesday, we will look at the players who just missed the cut, which includes Marecic and a significant group of Stanford teammates. It's a long list -- nearly as long as the top-25 -- with a lot of good players. It was easier when I did my first iteration of this list in 2009, which included 30 players.

A lot of Oregon fans disagree with me -- and with Chip Kelly and Nick Aliotti and the Pac-10 coaches who vote for the All-Pac-10 team -- and rank Cliff Harris ahead of Talmadge Jackson. Certainly their right. Not sure Ducks fans have much to gripe about with this list, though, considering there are seven Ducks on it and no other team has more than three.

Feel free to make your own lists. The most difficult part, you'll find, is when you come up with 25 names and then go, "Oh, crud, forgot about X! Can't leave him off!" And then you have to knock someone off your list.

And the next list -- preseason -- will be tougher because it will including Colorado and Utah.

Couple of notes.

Here are the top-25 players by team. The bolded names return in 2011.

6. Juron Criner
15. Brooks Reed
18. Nick Foles

Arizona State
11. Omar Bolden
13. Vontaze Burfict

8. Cameron Jordan
25. Shane Vereen

2. LaMichael James
4. Darron Thomas
12. Jeff Maehl
17. Kenny Rowe
19. Casey Matthews
20. Talmadge Jackson
22. Cliff Harris

Oregon State
3. Stephen Paea
9. Jacquizz Rodgers

1. Andrew Luck
10. Chase Beeler

21. Akeem Ayers

14. Matt Barkley
16. Tyron Smith
24. Jurrell Casey

4. Mason Foster
7. Chris Polk
23. Jermaine Kearse

Washington State

And here are the players who made the preseason list but didn't make this list. Some tough cuts here.

No. 2. Jake Locker, QB, Washington
No. 6. James Rodgers, WR, Oregon State
No. 7. Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
No. 10. Trevin Wade, CB, Arizona
No. 12. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona
No. 18: Colin Baxter, C, Arizona
No. 20. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State
No. 22. Owen Marecic, LB/FB, Stanford
No. 23. Kristofer O'Dowd, C, USC
No. 25 Kai Forbath, K, UCLA

Pac-10 top 25 from 2010: No. 1

March, 21, 2011
We conclude our countdown of the Pac-10's 25 best players from 2010.

Note: Because we are ranking players based on this past season, it's Pac-10, not Pac-12.

Here are the preseason rankings (click each name to read the blurb).

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyAndrew Luck led Stanford to a 12-1 season and an Orange Bowl win.
No. 1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

2010 numbers: Luck ranked third in the nation in passing efficiency. He threw for 3,338 yards with 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions, completing 70.7 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 453 yards and three scores.

Preseason ranking: No. 4

Making the case for Luck: Well, the NFL's case would be picking Luck first overall in the draft this spring, but Luck thumbed his nose at expectation and said he wanted to get his Stanford degree and opted to return for his redshirt junior season. But this ranking isn't about NFL projections or that Luck embodies everything you'd want a student-athlete to be. He's not No. 1 because we like him. And he's not even No. 1 because if you asked any college coach in the nation who'd he picked first heading into the 2011 season, he'd take Luck and not even think about it for a moment. Luck, the 2010 Heisman Trophy runner-up, put up huge numbers last fall and led the Cardinal to its best season in the modern era. Stanford finished with a 12-1 record and a dominant Orange Bowl win over Virginia Tech, in which Luck threw four touchdown passes and earned MVP honors. Luck had two mediocre games last season: He threw two interceptions in back-to-back games against Notre Dame and Oregon. But over the final eight games he threw 19 touchdown passes and just four picks. And 71 percent completion rate is just sick, particularly when you consider he was throwing to just an average corps of receivers.

No. 2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
No. 3. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
No. 4 Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon
No. 5. Mason Foster, LB, Washington
No. 6. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
No. 7. Chris Polk, RB, Washington
No. 8. Cameron Jordan, DE, California
No. 9. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State
No. 10. Chase Beeler, C, Stanford
No. 11. Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State
No. 12. Jeff Maehl, WR, Oregon
No. 13 Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
No. 14. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
No. 15. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona
No. 16. Tyron Smith, OT, USC
No. 17. Kenny Rowe, DE, Oregon
No. 18. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
No. 19. Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon
No. 20. Talmadge Jackson, CB, Oregon
No. 21. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
No. 22. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
No. 23. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington
No. 24. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC
No. 25. Shane Vereen, RB, California

Pac-10 top 25 from 2010: No. 2

March, 18, 2011
We continue our countdown of the Pac-10's 25 best players from 2010.

Note: Because we are ranking players based on this past season, it's Pac-10, not Pac-12.

Here are the preseason rankings (click each name to read the blurb).

[+] EnlargeLaMichael James
AP Photo/Rick BowmerLaMichael James is an early Heisman Trophy candidate for the coming season.
No. 2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon

2010 numbers: James led the nation with 1,731 yards rushing -- 144.25 yards per game -- and ranked second with 21 rushing touchdowns. He averaged 5.89 yards per carry. He also caught 17 passes for 208 yards and three TDs.

Preseason ranking: No. 3

Making the case for James: For starters, he's Oregon’s first unanimous All-American. And he won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's best running back. And he was a Heisman Trophy finalist. It's really, really hard to rank him No. 2, but, well, you all know who's next. In a list of the nation's top players, James would have been top-five (Auburn's Cam Newton and Nick Fairley are the only obvious choices ahead of him in addition to that other guy). He's set Ducks freshman and sophomore records for rushing and is on the short list of Heisman Trophy candidates as a junior next fall. By the way, he also was first-team All-Pac-10 -- academic, that is.

No. 3. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
No. 4 Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon
No. 5. Mason Foster, LB, Washington
No. 6. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
No. 7. Chris Polk, RB, Washington
No. 8. Cameron Jordan, DE, California
No. 9. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State
No. 10. Chase Beeler, C, Stanford
No. 11. Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State
No. 12. Jeff Maehl, WR, Oregon
No. 13 Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
No. 14. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
No. 15. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona
No. 16. Tyron Smith, OT, USC
No. 17. Kenny Rowe, DE, Oregon
No. 18. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
No. 19. Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon
No. 20. Talmadge Jackson, CB, Oregon
No. 21. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
No. 22. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
No. 23. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington
No. 24. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC
No. 25. Shane Vereen, RB, California