Pac-12: Daniel Te\'o-Nesheim

Washington's defense needs to step up

September, 1, 2010
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Jake Locker, Jake Locker, Jake Locker. This isn't an article about him.

It's about something that has been doing a perhaps surprisingly good job making Locker's life difficult the past few weeks: The Washington defense.

[+] EnlargeMason Foster
Tom Hauck/Getty ImagesMason Foster thinks the defense will be just as good as the team's highly-touted offense.
"We are actually holding the offense and making stops," linebacker Mason Foster said. "We've had pretty good battles throughout camp."

I know. No way. The Huskies lost their two best defensive players -- linebacker Donald Butler and end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim -- to the NFL from a unit that ranked eighth in the Pac-10 in total defense (389.5 yards per game) and ninth in scoring defense (26.7 ppg).

But the Huskies defense has consistently hinted during fall camp that it's not going to be the weakling counterpart to what should be an explosive offense.

"They've caused us some problems on offense," said coach Steve Sarkisian, who calls the offensive plays. "They've caused turnovers. They've gotten after the quarterback."

Foster, a senior and all-conference candidate, said the young guys who were forced into action last year are in far better physical condition. Along those lines, Sarkisian noted that junior noseguard Alameda Ta'amu is no longer just a massive mound of inert space filler -- who at his best is merely hard to move. After dropping 30 pounds to 330, he's a guy who can get into the backfield and make plays.

The secondary also appears significantly improved with corners Desmond Trufant and Quinton Richardson and safeties Nate Fellner, Nate Williams and Will Shamburger. The apparent successful return of end Everrette Thompson from a torn Achilles should bolster the pass rush.

But it's not just about maturing physically, getting healthy and conditioning better. A year ago, coordinator Nick Holt was only that slightly menacing guy who was always barking at them about not understanding what it takes to play great defense. Now the defensive guys and Holt are playing the same tune, one that probably sounds a bit like Rage Against the Machine.

"They've got a real mentality right now," Sarkisian said. "What I like most about it is they've really adopted Nick's personality. They are aggressive. They are tough. They are smart."

Of course, this also merely could be preseason optimism (or maybe the Huskies offense won't be all that potent). The unit certainly will be tested at BYU on Saturday. Sure, the Cougars only have 11 starters back and are replacing quarterback Max Hall. But they have won 43 games over the past four seasons: They are fairly close to the proverbial "reload not rebuild" category.

While there may be some sentiment about the trip for Sarkisian -- he was BYU's quarterback in 1995-96 -- the Huskies players probably don't look too fondly at the Cougars. In their 2008 game in Seattle, Locker scored what appeared to be a game-tying touchdown in the waning moments -- pending the PAT -- but he was flagged for a celebration penalty after flicking the ball into the air.

Just about everyone thought the penalty ridiculous, at least outside of Provo. Of course, barely anyone would remember the call if the Huskies hadn't blown the extra point and subsequently lost 28-27.

That was about as close to respectability as the Huskies would come during an 0-12 season that ended the Tyrone Willingham Era and brought in Sarkisian.

Moreover, one of BYU's quarterbacks -- it appears two will play versus the Huskies -- is true freshman Jake Heaps, a product of Washington State powerhouse Skyline High School. He picked BYU over Washington last winter, and there are just a few whispers that some of the Huskies might be eager to make him feel like he made a mistake.

"I didn't even really know he was from around here until a couple weeks ago," Foster said. "That's going to make it a little more exciting -- a big-time recruit from the state of Washington that went to another school and will play as a true freshman. It's going to be fun to get a couple of hits on him."

The Huskies -- suddenly -- have high expectations. Only two years removed from an 0-12 season, they are thinking about more than just earning their first bowl berth since 2002.

"It's a total turnaround," Foster said. "No more losing every game. The mindset is different. We're really looking forward to coming out in competing at the top of the conference this year."

A total turnaround likely would make Locker a leading Heisman Trophy candidate.

But that's not going to happen if the defense can't make stops.

Preseason position reviews: defensive end

August, 2, 2010
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The best way to neutralize the impressive quarterback talent in the Pac-10 this fall is to get someone in their faces as much as possible. That's what pass-rushing defensive ends do, and there is a solid cast of them coming back.

Even the two teams that fall in the "We'll see" category here don't lack for talent or experience. They just have obvious questions heading into preseason camp.

So how do things stack up?

Great shape
  • Arizona: The Wildcats were in great shape at the spot last year with the same two players, though Ricky Elmore eclipsed Brooks Reed when he recorded 10.5 sacks while Reed was hurt (ankle) much of the season. Word on the street is Reed has been a maniac in the weight room this offseason. Solid depth here, too.
  • USC: Two players worth buying stock in: Armond Armstead and Nick Perry. Perry had eight sacks as a backup in 2009 and Armstead was dominant this spring. Transfer of Malik Jackson hurts depth.
  • Oregon: Kenny Rowe led the Pac-10 with 11.5 sacks in 2009, while Dion Jordan was perhaps the breakout player of the Ducks' spring practices.
Good shape
  • California: Cameron Jordan has been good, but he has a chance to be great: Is 2010 his year? Trevor Guyton is the leader to replace first-round draft pick Tyson Alualu, while Deandre Coleman and Ernest Owusu provide high-quality depth.
  • UCLA: Datone Jones had a great spring, while Keenan Graham looks like the favorite to start on the opposite side. Solid depth with Damien Holmes, Iuta Tepa and touted incoming freshman Owamagbe Odighizuwa.
  • Oregon State: The Beavers struggled to rush the passer in 2009 and returning starter Matt LaGrone quit, but Gabe Miller is a talented athlete who came on late and had a good spring. Sophomore Taylor Henry is No.1 on the other side.
  • Arizona State: The Sun Devils must replace four-year star Dexter Davis. James Brooks and Greg Smith are the likely starters. Solid depth here but no standouts.
  • Washington State: The Cougars are sneaky good with sophomore Travis Long and senior Kevin Kooyman.
We'll see
  • Stanford: The Cardinal is hard to rate because they are switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4, so Thomas Keiser and Chase Thomas, returning starters at end, are now outside linebackers and don't qualify. Meanwhile, Matt Masifilo and Brian Bulcke are experienced tackles but are new to end.
  • Washington: This is as pure of a "we'll see" as you can get. Four-year starter Daniel Te'o-Nesheim is off to the NFL and potential starter Andru Pulu got kicked off the team. If Everrette Thompson and Kalani Aldrich are healthy and ready to play 12 games, the Huskies are solid. Maybe even better than solid. If not, things are iffy.

Washington spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
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Washington

2009 overall record: 5-7

2009 conference record: 4-5 (seventh)

Returning starters

Offense: 9, Defense: 7, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners: QB Jake Locker, RB Chris Polk, OT Senio Kelemete, WR Jermaine Kearse, WR Devin Aguilar, LB Mason Foster, CB Desmond Trufant

Key losses: FB Paul Homer, DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, LB Donald Butler

2009 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: Chris Polk* (1,189)
Passing: Jake Locker* (2,800)
Receiving: Jermaine Kearse* (866)
Tackles: Donald Butler (94)
Sacks: Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (11)
Interceptions: Mason Foster* (3)

Spring Answers

1. There's depth at tailback: While sophomore Chris Polk, who rushed for 1,113 yards last year, sat out because he's still recovering from shoulder surgery, backups shined, starting with a pair of true freshmen who enrolled early: Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier. Toss in impressive efforts in the spring game from Johri Fogerson and Demitrius Bronson, and there are five tailbacks competing for touches.

2. The interior D-line should be tough: Senior Cameron Elisara saw time at end and tackle, which allowed Alameda Ta'amu, Tyrone Duncan and Semisi Tokolahi to show what they can do. Senior De'Shon Matthews and touted incoming freshman Sione Potoa'e also could be in the mix. Being able to rotate four or five reliable tackles is a luxury the Huskies defense hasn't had in recent years.

3. Uncertainty in the secondary is a good thing: Nate Williams will start at strong safety, and Desmond Trufant, who missed spring with a sports hernia, is almost certainly going to be one cornerback. After that, though, things are uncertain. The good news is that's about competition, not a lack of capable players. Redshirt freshman free safety Will Shamburger was one of the spring stars, while Quinton Richardson, Vonzell McDowell, Adam Long and Anthony Boyles are in the mix at corner.

Fall questions

1. Will the injured ends mend? The Huskies defense needs ends Everrette Thompson (torn Achilles) and Kalani Aldrich (knee) to be healthy in 2010. Both sat out spring practices with worrisome injuries. Both are expected back but it remains to be seen whether they will be 100 percent (or even close to it). Even though Elisara showed that he could play end, if needed, and Talia Crichton had a good spring, there's just not enough depth at the spot to be a top-level defense without them. It's possible a true freshman will see action here.

2. SAM I am? Mason Foster is an all-conference candidate on the weakside and Cort Dennison is solid in the middle. But who's the SAM -- strongside -- linebacker? Two former safeties, Alvin Logan and Victor Aiyewa, are candidates, though Aiyewa saw little action this spring due to a shoulder injury, as well as Matt Houston.

3. Who backs up Locker? After junior Ronnie Fouch opted to transfer, there are only two scholarship quarterbacks after Locker: true freshman Nick Montana and redshirt freshman Keith Price. Coach Steve Sarkisian has repeatedly said he's in no rush -- and not worried -- about his backup spot. Of course, the screws tighten a bit if Locker gets hurt.

Taylor Mays hurting after draft tumble

April, 24, 2010
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The NFL draft teaches hard lessons. Two USC players are learning that now: Taylor Mays and Everson Griffen.

Mays would have been a first-round pick last year. I know folks believe his perceived weaknesses would have revealed themselves on film Insider then just as they did this season. But the 2008 USC pass defense was simply extraordinary in large part because of Mays playing an intimidating and impenetrable center field.

So Mays blew it by coming back for his senior season. And he now knows this.

As for you, San Francisco 49ers fans: Didn't you guys do fairly well a few years back with another hard-hitting former USC safety? I got a $5 bill right here that says Mays is going to become an outstanding NFL safety.

Griffen is another story: First-round talent with questions about his attitude and work ethic. (Keep this in mind about Mays: his work ethic couldn't be any better).

Who would have thought that Washington's Daniel Te'o-Nesheim would go before Griffen? Te'o-Nesheim is superior to Griffen in only one way but its a critical one: motor. Griffen's is questionable, Te'o-Nesheim's is not.

The lesson here is that being good isn't enough. The NFL cares about the entire package. And NFL teams don't want players who aren't self-starters, who don't motivate themselves.

Take note incoming five-star recruits.

Here are the Pac-10 picks to this point (11:15 a.m. ET ).

First round
DE Tyson Alualu, California, Jacksonville (10)
RB Jahvid Best, California, Detroit (30)

Second round
DT Brian Price, UCLA, Tampa (35)
S T.J. Ward, Oregon, Cleveland (38)
TE Rob Gronkowski, Arizona, New England (42)
S Taylor Mays, USC, San Francisco (49)
RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford, Minnesota (51)
OT Charles Brown, USC, New Orleans (64)

Third round
TE Ed Dickson, Oregon, Baltimore (70)
WR Damian Williams, USC, Tennessee (77)
LB Donald Butler, Washington, San Diego (79)
DT Earl Mitchell, Arizona, Houston (81)
DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Washington, Philadelphia (86)
OG Shawn Lauvao, Arizona State, Cleveland (92)
CB Kevin Thomas, USC, Indianapolis (94)

Fourth round
DE Everson Griffin, USC, Minnesota (100)
CB Alterraun Verner, UCLA, Tennessee (104)
CB Walter Thurmond, Oregon, Seattle (111)
RB Joe McKnight, USC, New York Jets (112)

Washington doesn't want to be home for the holidays again

April, 12, 2010
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SEATTLE -- Home for the holidays. What a joy!

Unless you're a BCS college football coach, when being home for the holidays in nearly every case means your season was a failure.

So this past Christmas was odd on multiple levels for Washington's Steve Sarkisian. For one, after having coached seven years at USC, he wasn't accustomed to not reviewing game tape while the Yule Log burned.

And his experience was even stranger when he went out to do his holiday shopping around Seattle. Folks were so ... complimentary.

[+] EnlargeSteve Sarkisian
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesWhile he has seen improvement, Steve Sarkisian wants his team to become more physical.
"I've never been congratulated so much for a five-win season," he said.

Ah, but context is everything. For the Trojans, a 9-4 season, which included a loss to Sarkisian's Huskies, was a disaster. For the Huskies, going 5-7 sparked hope among the beleaguered purple-clad masses, who were but a season removed from the worst finish in program history: oh no! and 12.

It's hard to overstate the stunning transformation under Sarkisian.

In 2008, the Huskies lost all 12 games by an average of more than 25 points. In 2009, they beat four teams who won at least eight games, three of whom spent much of the season nationally ranked.

They concluded the season by stomping rival Washington State 30-0 and No. 19 California 42-10.

And now they are in the midst of spring practices preparing for what many believe will be the rebirth of a Pac-10 and national power, one that hasn't played in a bowl game since 2002. Nineteen starters are back, and one of them is quarterback Jake Locker, who could end up the top pick of the 2011 NFL draft.

After signing a touted recruiting class -- ranked 20th in the nation by ESPN.com's Scouts Inc. -- the positive momentum is unmistakable.

"From where we started, to where we've come, to where we're headed, it's exciting," Sarkisian said. "The mantra of expecting to win is there now. It's not just something that's up on a board or on a T-shirt. It's a real belief."

The question is how could such a dramatic turnaround take place, particularly against what was among the nation's toughest schedules?

Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Nick Holt are due a lot of credit, obviously. But there's also the issue that the previous administration was doing a lousy job. Tyrone Willingham's Huskies in 2008 weren't good, but they shouldn't have lost every game.

"I felt like a lot of guys didn't want to play for the coaches we had [in 2008]," linebacker Mason Foster said. "I hate to say that because I love Coach Willingham and they were great coaches, but I don't think they were relating to the players. Guys didn't want to come here and play for the coaches. They were just showing up because they had to. Now, everybody wants to come, wants to compete. They're not just showing up because they have to to get their scholarship check. People want to play for Coach Sark. People want to play for Coach Holt. That's the biggest difference."

(Read full post)

Huskies' Foster ready for his close-up

April, 8, 2010
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Think of college football players like stocks for a moment.

If you had purchased 1,000 shares of Washington linebacker Donald Butler at this time last year, folks would be comparing you to Warren Buffett. Butler went from a no-good, nobody on an 0-12 team to second-team All-Pac-10 and a potential early-round NFL draft pick.

So, per Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian's insider information, we're putting a buy rating on linebacker Mason Foster.

[+] EnlargeMason Foster
Tom Hauck/Getty ImagesWashington coach Steve Sarkisian thinks linebacker Mason Foster will have a big year.
"I love Mason Foster. He's an All-Pac-10, Player-of-the-Year-type of guy in this conference," Sarkisian said.

Of course, your returns won't be as extraordinary as they were on Butler. Foster, a 6-foot-2, 244-pound senior, is underrated but hardly unknown.

For one, you can't set a school record, lead the conference and rank third in the nation with six forced fumbles and remain completely obscure. Moreover, Foster's name causes all Arizona fans indigestion because he was the opportunistic fellow who grabbed that ball that bounced off Wildcats receiver Delashaun Dean's foot and returned the interception 37 yards for a go-ahead touchdown in the Huskies stunning upset win.

And, of course, he won the Earle T. Glant "Tough Husky" Award at the UW's postseason banquet.

Still, while Butler made a name for himself in 2009, Foster was mostly in the background.

"It's my turn to show what I can do now," Foster said.

One thing Foster does is make plays. His six forced fumbles and his three interceptions mean he was personally responsible for nine take-aways. He also ranked second on the Huskies with 85 tackles and third with 7.5 tackles for a loss. He led all conference linebackers with nine passes defended.

The tackles and forced fumbles? Foster can hit you. The passes defended? Foster can make plays as an athlete in the back-half.

Considering four of the six linebackers who earned All-Conference status are gone, it's easy to see why Foster's price-earnings ratio is tempting.

Of course, the defense around Foster is questionable. While the Huskies only lose two and a half starters -- the half being part-time starting end Darrion Jones -- the two were big presences for the front-seven: Butler and end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. The 2009 Huskies ranked ninth in the conference in scoring defense (26.7 ppg) and eighth in total defense (389.5 yards per game).

Foster doesn't seem worried.

"Don't count us out," he said. "We've got a lot of young, athletic guys."

On the plus side, the defense surged late, shutting out Washington State and holding California to just 10 points.

And, of course, the unit was vastly better under new, fiery coordinator Nick Holt than the 2008 crew that ranked 116th in the nation, surrendering nearly 40 points per game for an 0-12 team.

"It's totally different -- completely different," Foster said. "We don't even like to think about [0-12] anymore. I love coming here every day, being around all the guys and the coaches."

That new-found energy and enthusiasm has the Huskies thinking that after going 5-7, they will break through and earn the program's first bowl berth since 2002.

"This feels great compared to how it was before," Foster said.

Is a bull market at hand for Foster and the Huskies?

Bigger shoes than you think: Washington

April, 6, 2010
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Ninth in a series looking at lineup holes that are important even if they don't make headlines.

WashingtonWashington

Everybody is talking about: The Huskies must replace their two best defensive players, defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and linebacker Donald Butler, who combined for 28 tackles for a loss in 2009.

Bigger shoes than you think: fullback Paul Homer

This wasn't an easy one because the Huskies only lose five starters, but Homer is a the sort of blue-collar guy who makes an important impact that is rarely noticed. For one, isn't it possible that Chris Polk rushing for more than 1,000 yards -- he's the first UW freshman to do so and just the second Huskies running back to eclipse the benchmark since 1997 -- had something to do with a veteran fullback? Homer was a three-year starter who persevered through tough times for the program while distinguishing himself as a student as well as an athlete.

Who is stepping in: One of coach Steve Sarkisian's pre-spring position moves was switchingDorson Boyce from tight end to fullback, which suggests that the Huskies might want the fullback to catch more passes -- think Stanley Havili at USC. Boyce, a senior, will compete with fellow senior Austin Sylvester for playing time.

Huskies look to hoops for help at defensive end

March, 30, 2010
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Washington has a new defensive end. He averaged 1.8 points per game for the Huskies basketball team this season.

The school announced Tuesday that Clarence Trent, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound freshman from Tacoma, will participate in spring practices, a decision that was fully endorsed by basketball coach Lorenzo Romar.

"Clarence approached me earlier in the year and expressed his interest in playing football at the University of Washington and I told him we'd revisit it after the season," Romar said in a statement. "I had some conversations with [head coach Steve Sarkisian] Sark about it and when they agreed to do it, Clarence was excited and we were excited for him. He will still remain a part of our basketball team and it will be much like the situation when Nate Robinson played football at Washington and yet walked on for basketball that year. So, he is still very much a part of our basketball team and he will do both."

Robinson was a starting cornerback for Washington before quitting to concentrate on basketball.

Defensive end is a need position because the Huskies lost starting defensive ends Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Darrion Jones, and Kalani Aldrich and Everrette Thompson are both out of spring practices with injuries. Meanwhile, Andru Pulu faces a second-degree assault charge and has been indefinitely suspended from the team. The Seattle Times reported that Pulu pleaded not guilty in a hearing Tuesday.

Washington's Pulu turns himself into police

March, 16, 2010
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Suspended Washington defensive end Andru Pulu turned himself into police Tuesday morning and is expected to be charged with assault, according to a Seattle Times report.

The sophomore, a potential starter next fall at defensive end, was suspended indefinitely last week by coach Steve Sarkisian for an undisclosed violation of team rule.

Said the press release, "Neither the UW athletic department, nor the coach, will have any further comment on the matter."

The Times previously reported that Pulu was being investigated for assaulting a 22-year-old at a house party. The victim was knocked unconscious and suffered a broken nose and possible cheek fracture, according to the police report.

Pulu, who backed up the departed Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, was one of 10 true freshman to see action for the Huskies last year. He recorded two tackles and half a sack and played on special teams.

The Huskies only lose three starters on defense but two of those are defensive ends. Other than Pulu, the returning ends from the 2009 depth chart are sophomore Talia Crichton and junior Kalani Aldrich.

Washington begins spring practice on March 30.

Pac-10 lunch links: Baxter a great hire for USC

March, 15, 2010
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She might have found the Tristero anywhere in her Republic, through any of a hundred lightly-concealed entranceways, a hundred alienations, if only she'd looked.

Strong & weak: Washington

March, 11, 2010
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The ninth of a 10-part series that looks at where Pac-10 teams are strongest and weakest as they begin spring practices.

Washington

Strong: Jake Locker

Why it's a strength: Well, when you have a senior quarterback who is the potential top pick in the 2011 NFL draft you might feel fairly good about things. Locker rushed for 388 yards and seven touchdowns last fall and completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,800 yards and 21 scores. Those numbers almost certainly will go up in Year 2 under coach Steve Sarkisian. But it's even more than that. Locker's supporting cast was young and promising in 2009, so it could take a big step toward fulfilling star potential in 2010. Locker doesn't have to run all the time because sophomore running back Chris Polk rushed for 1,113 yards. Receivers? Everyone is back, including the Pac-10's No. 4 receiver, Jermaine Kearse, and its seventh, Devin Aguilar. They combined to catch 13 TD passes in 2009. Moreover, receiver James Johnson and tight end Kavario Middleton appear poised for breakthroughs. If the line, which is thin but returns four starters, holds up, Locker and the Huskies should be able to score a lot of points.

Weak: Defensive end

Why it's a weakness: The Huskies lose both starting defensive ends, most particularly Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, the Husky career sacks leader who finished second in the Pac-10 with 11 sacks and earned second-team all-conference honors. The backups combined for four sacks: sophomore Talia Crichton, junior Kalani Aldrich and sophomore Andru Pulu. Moreover, Pulu is presently suspended for a violation of team rules and Aldrich has been troubled with knee problems. It's possible some guys will get shifted around, including Everrette Thompson, who played inside at tackle last year. And it's likely some of the incoming players will get an early shot to contribute (maybe Darius Waters?)

Washington suspends Pulu

March, 9, 2010
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Washington sophomore Andru Pulu, a potential starter next fall at defensive end, has been suspended indefinitely by coach Steve Sarkisian for an undisclosed violation of team rules, the school announced Tuesday.

Said the press release, "Neither the UW athletic department, nor the coach, will have any further comment on the matter."

Update: The Seattle Times reported: "Pulu was allegedly involved in an altercation at an off-campus party late Saturday night in which another student was injured."

Pulu, who backed up the departed Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, was one of 10 true freshman to see action for the Huskies last year. He recorded two tackles and half a sack and played on special teams.

The Huskies only lose three starters on defense but two of those are defensive ends. Other than Pulu, the returning ends from the 2009 depth chart are sophomore Talia Crichton and junior Kalani Aldrich.

Washington begins spring practice on March 30.

Thoughts on the 2009 top 30

February, 25, 2010
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It feels like this is our final goodbye to the 2009 season: Our reworked top 30, which was topped Wednesday by Stanford running back Toby Gerhart.

No surprise there, right?

Some notes on the list, and then we firmly turn our attention to 2010:

  • Oregon State led all teams with five players, including four in the top 10. Imagine if you'd read that 11 years ago?
  • Washington State had none -- only center Kenny Alfred was considered. Arizona State had just one, though the Sun Devils had a few who just missed the cut -- linebacker Mike Nixon, for one -- and a couple who figure to be on our 2010 preseason list (linebacker Vontaze Burfict and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy).
  • 2009 was a highly competitive season in the conference, and that showed in the rankings. Arizona, California, Oregon and USC each had four players ranked. UCLA and Washington had three. Stanford two.
  • Only one offensive lineman -- USC's Charles Brown -- was on the list. USC's Jeff Byers and Stanford's Chris Marinelli just missed the cut. O-line is a questionable position for the conference next year, even with a lot of starters back. Only three of ten All-Pac-10 linemen are back -- and none from the first-team.
  • Five quarterbacks and five defensive ends made the list, making those the top two positions. Four quarterbacks will be back but just two of the DEs, which the quarterbacks might be happy to hear.
  • Thirteen of the top 30 are back next year, including seven of the top 10 (though none of the top three).
  • Oregon, Oregon State and Arizona each will have three players from the list back in 2010. USC will have none.

Pac-10 top 30 in 2009: No. 1

February, 24, 2010
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Our final top 30 player rankings from 2009 will start from the bottom and work up to No. 1.

[+] EnlargeToby Gerhart
Ivan Pierre Aguirre/US PresswireToby Gerhart won the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation's top running back.
Click here for Nos. 2-30. Preseason rankings are here.

1. Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford (25): Gerhart was the best player in the nation, so it makes sense that he sits atop the Pac-10 list. A consensus All-American, Gerhart finished second to Alabama running back Mark Ingram in the closest Heisman Trophy vote in history -- Ingram's playing for a national title contender clearly provided him the slim margin of victory -- but he beat out Ingram for the Doak Walker Award, which is given annually to the nation's best running back. Gerhart led the nation in rushing (1,871 yards) and touchdowns (28) -- only one other runner had more than 21 TDs. His 143.9 yards rushing per game was 25 yards more than any other conference running back. He also caught 11 passes for 157 yards and even threw a TD pass. Defenses crowded the line of scrimmage and tried to gang up on Gerhart. It just didn't matter.

2. Brian Price, DT, UCLA (6)
3. Sean Canfield, QB, Oregon State (NR)
4. Jeremiah Masoli, QB, Oregon (9)
5. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State (4)
6. Jake Locker, QB, Washington (11)
7. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State (24)
8. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon (NR)
9. James Rodgers, WR, Oregon State (22)
10. Rahim Moore, S, UCLA (NR)
11. Damian Williams, WR, USC (7)
12. Taylor Mays, S, USC (1)
13. Ed Dickson, TE, Oregon (16)
14. Tyson Alualu, DE, California (26)
15. Alterraun Verner, CB, UCLA (15)
16. Jahvid Best, RB, California (2)
17. Charles Brown, OT, USC (17)
18. Syd'Quan Thompson, CB, California (8)
19. Keaton Kristick, LB, Oregon State (28)
20. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona (NR)
21. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DE, Washington (23)
22. Mike Mohamed, LB, California (NR)
23. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (NR)
24. Donald Butler, LB, Washington (NR)
25. Everson Griffen, DE, USC (30)
26. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona (NR)
27. Trevin Wade, CB, Arizona (NR)
28. Kenny Rowe, DE, Oregon (NR)
29. Earl Mitchell, DT, Arizona (NR)
30. Travis Goethel, LB Arizona State (NR)

Pac-10 top 30 in 2009: No. 2

February, 23, 2010
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Our final top 30 player rankings from 2009 will start from the bottom and work up to No. 1.

Click here for Nos. 3-30. Preseason rankings are here.

Price
Price
2. Brian Price, DT, UCLA (6): Everyone knew Price was coming; they just couldn't stop him, even with a double-team. The Pac-10 defensive player of the year -- a likely NFL first-round pick this spring -- led the conference with 23.5 tackles for loss, which is eight more than No. 2 (Washington's Donald Butler). That total ranked fourth in the nation. Seven of those TFLs were sacks, a total that ranked first among conference interior linemen. He also had 48 total tackles and forced a pair of fumbles.

3. Sean Canfield, QB, Oregon State (NR)
4. Jeremiah Masoli, QB, Oregon (9)
5. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State (4)
6. Jake Locker, QB, Washington (11)
7. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State (24)
8. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon (NR)
9. James Rodgers, WR, Oregon State (22)
10. Rahim Moore, S, UCLA (NR)
11. Damian Williams, WR, USC (7)
12. Taylor Mays, S, USC (1)
13. Ed Dickson, TE, Oregon (16)
14. Tyson Alualu, DE, California (26)
15. Alterraun Verner, CB, UCLA (15)
16. Jahvid Best, RB, California (2)
17. Charles Brown, OT, USC (17)
18. Syd'Quan Thompson, CB, California (8)
19. Keaton Kristick, LB, Oregon State (28)
20. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona (NR)
21. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DE, Washington (23)
22. Mike Mohamed, LB, California (NR)
23. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (NR)
24. Donald Butler, LB, Washington (NR)
25. Everson Griffen, DE, USC (30)
26. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona (NR)
27. Trevin Wade, CB, Arizona (NR)
28. Kenny Rowe, DE, Oregon (NR)
29. Earl Mitchell, DT, Arizona (NR)
30. Travis Goethel, LB Arizona State (NR)

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