Pac-12: John Boyett

The top 25 list is coming!

July, 29, 2013
7/29/13
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Today we begin the Pac-12's preseason countdown of the league's top 25 players. As always, this is a brutally difficult list to make.

The preseason list is more about what a player has already accomplished with a dusting of speculation, not a straight forward projection of who we think the top 25 players are. For example, a player like Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson will likely end up on the postseason top 25, but might not start off on the preseason list. The Pac-12 blog is confident he'll end up being one of the top 25 players in the league in 2013, but there are others with stronger credentials as of today. Same for someone like USC's Dion Bailey, who might end up being one of the best safeties in the country. But since he's spent the past couple of seasons at linebacker, we give the nod to a few of the league's more established safeties. Oregon State's Isaac Seumalo and Storm Woods also fall into this category.

It's a fairly similar approach with what we took last season. For example, we had Isi Sofele and Curtis McNeal on the list because they were coming off 1,000-yard seasons the year before. Then someone like Ka'Deem Carey comes along and blows away the country in rushing. Chase Thomas was highly rated in the preseason, but Trent Murphy got the postseason nod. And, unfortunately, someone like John Boyett (No. 16) was rated in the preseason, but injury kept him off the postseason list. Anthony Barr and Will Sutton overshadowed preseason players like T.J. McDonald and Nickell Robey.

We had a feeling Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley would be special, but wanted to wait until they proved it. And they did, which is why they ended up on the postseason list.

So expect the list in January of 2014 to look a lot different.

As a reminder, there 12 players coming back from last season's postseason top 25.

No. 1: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
No. 2: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
No. 3: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 5: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
No. 11: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
No. 15: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
No. 16: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
No. 18: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
No. 19: David Yankey, OL, Stanford
No. 21: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
No. 22: Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
No. 24: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State

Here's some breakdowns from the postseason list:

By Team
  • Arizona: 2
  • Arizona State: 2
  • California: 0
  • Colorado: 0
  • Oregon: 5
  • Oregon State: 3
  • Stanford: 6
  • UCLA: 3
  • USC: 2
  • Utah: 2
  • Washington: 0
  • Washington State: 0
By Unit
  • Offense: 13
  • Defense: 11
  • Special teams: 1
By Position
  • Quarterback: 5
  • Offensive line: 1
  • Running back: 4
  • Receiver: 2
  • Tight end: 1
  • Inside linebacker: 1
  • Outside linebacker: 4
  • Defensive tackle: 2
  • Defensive end: 1
  • Safety: 1
  • Cornerback: 2
  • Kick returner: 1

No. 25 will post later today. Ted is eager to hear all of your thoughts here.

Mailbag: Colorado blues

May, 17, 2013
5/17/13
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Another healthy mailbag. Settle in.

As always, follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter.

To the notes!

Ex-Buff fan in Pac-12 dungeon writes: I am so sick of Colorado being the loser on the block. We were two points away from having ZERO wins last year. I was pumped about our new coach until I hear that he can't even hang on to the few good players we have. Not to mention we have? you guessed it ZERO quality recruits for 2014. Give it to me straight doc: how bad will this year be in terms of win total? Because last year, besides Southern Miss, we were the absolute laughing stock of college football. A retirement home football team could have beaten us.

Kevin Gemmell: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Buck up little camper. Step away from the ledge, inhale deeply, take a cleansing breath and settle down.

I tend to lean more on the glass-half-full side of life. How about this ... you were only 14 points away from having four wins last year -- three more games were decided by a touchdown or less. If you want to make the argument for the lone win, then you also have to concede that they were competitive in those other games.

As for recruiting, it's May. Relax. Yes, we post the recruiting roundup every few weeks. But that's simply to inform. Mike MacIntyre knows how to recruit -- and more importantly he knows how to recruit California. That's going to pay huge dividends in the future.

Players who have left -- meh. Do you need them? If they aren't on board with what Mac's trying to do, so be it. See ya. Make room for someone who is. Of those who left, how many were all-conference?

Win total this year, well, that's going to take a leap of faith on the part of the fans. Remember, San Jose State lost more games in MacIntyre's first year than the year before. But in Year 2 there was progress and by Year 3 they were a Top 25 team. So, and I know Colorado fans are tired of hearing this, you're going to have to be patient and let him do what he does. You probably won't see the results in the win/loss column this year -- although I do think Colorado can do better than 1-11. My best advice is don't lose faith. I think you guys have a good thing going with MacIntyre. It's just going to take time.


BHollandz next to Burrito Stadium writes: I used to be a Coach Riley supporter until I witnessed the horrific season of 2011 and the blunders of the 2012 season. Alamo Bowl game anyone????People say that Oregon State has the best coach it will ever get and that us fans should just be satisfied with that. Well, I'm not satisfied. I want a Rose Bowl and eventually a shot a Championship. Do you think it's possible for OSU to attract a high profile coach to succeed Coach Riley and get the Beavers to the next level? This is big time Pac-12 football after all.

Kevin Gemmell: This is a lot darker and more cynical from you than I expected. The grass always seems greener, but be aware Riley isn't going anywhere for a while. Which high-profile coach would you like?

Maybe a guy who has been a coach of the year? Perhaps someone with more than 80 career wins? Experience at the professional ranks would probably be good also. It's got to be someone who sells tickets and knows how to pack Reser Stadium and you'll want a veteran guy with almost 40 years of coaching experience.

You see where I'm going with this ... you've got him! Yes, he had two bad seasons. But in his 10 years since coming back, he's won at least eight games six times, led OSU to eight bowl games and consistently had the Beavers ranked in the Top 25. Last year was the hottest start in the history of the school. And you're already talking replacements?

Maybe I'm biased since I've known him since the Chargers days, but I know he shares the same goals as you. I do think that mistakes were made in the Alamo Bowl -- it had more to do with not adjusting offensively -- not getting more help to account for Alex Okafor -- but I'm not sold that a coach should be judged by one game. When you look at his body of work, it's outstanding. I don't know if he's the best coach you'll ever get. But he has more career wins at Oregon State than any other coach before him (81). That should be celebrated.


Ryan in New York writes: I have to give you chaps credit. You know how to make a point without being mean or hurtful. Good point about for every Ryan, there's a UCLA guy screaming just the opposite. But remember there's one difference. Us Trojans love SC above all. UCLA fans hate SC more than they love themselves.......Also, excellent point on Devon Kennard too. He must stay healthy and play well. Pass the good word to your partner in crime -- Theodore. Peace.

Kevin Gemmell: I won't get into which fan base loves itself or hates the other more. That's for the individual to decide through deep and meditative soul searching. I'm a big Kennard fan and think USC is going to experience a nice defensive boost by moving to the 3-4. Some guys are just better equipped for different schemes.

Now, I know I'm going to tick you off with this next point, but it's apt. UCLA's Datone Jones got into a 3-4 and absolutely exploded -- showing the potential that many believed he had but we'd rarely seen with him in the even front. Coming full circle, I see the same type of production from Kennard and Breslin, Leonard Williams and George Uko and even Dion Bailey moving back to safety. This is a good move for the Trojans. So says the clown.


Nameless in Escondido, Calif., writes: When will Stanford let Ricky Seale play, had another great spring. One of the best backs from San Diego no way he cannot play at Stanford.

Kevin Gemmell: Because Stanford closes its practices and is usually tight-lipped when it comes to position battles, all I can say is I don't know. Obviously there is something going on behind the scenes that is holding Seale back -- either he's not performing in practice or others are simply performing better.

And I'm a big Seale fan, having covered him since he was as sophomore in high school. I spent many a Friday night in Wilson Stadium watching him tear up defenses.

But I'm not in the position group meetings so I don't know what's being discussed. It's a deep group and the return of Tyler Gaffney (another San Diego great) makes it even deeper. From a coach's perspective, though, this is the proverbial great problem to have.


Darin in Monterey, Calif., writes: Good video with Mike Riley, My question is now that the Beavers have a pretty solid O-line, do you think that Storm will top 1,000 yards this year on the ground? It seems Oregon State has been lacking on thousand yard rushers like Simonton, Jackson, and jacquizz. I do like what i saw last year in Woods and Ward.

Kevin Gemmell: Yes, assuming he stays healthy, I have no problem going out on a very easy limb to go out on and say Woods is going to be a 1,000-yard rusher in 2013.

When you consider the receivers they had last year -- and the quietly efficient season of Connor Hamlett -- it made sense that the passing game was the stronger element of the offense. But with Markus Wheaton gone and question marks on exactly who is going to step up at the other receiver spot opposite Brandin Cooks, I think we're going to see an even bigger commitment to the run game -- which will take some of the pressure off the receiving corps. As noted in the video, the running game improved from 2011 to 2012. I think we're going to see it take an even bigger step in 2013 behind Woods.


Andy in Phoenix writes: Right now we only play one game back east the Alamo Bowl and not to many games against other Power 5 conferences except Big 12. Any word on what the bowl line up will look like in 2014?

Kevin Gemmell: I don't. The Pac-12 is heading into the final year of a four-year agreement with its current bowl lineup. Whenever I ask about it, I get the company line that they are very pleased with their bowl partners and look forward to continuing to work with them.

I agree: I'd love to see a Pac-12/SEC bowl game. But at the same time, let's remember that the Pac-12 hasn't exactly dominated the postseason of late -- so there isn't a lot of room for chest-thumping. Outside of the 2-0 mark in BCS bowl games last year, the Pac-12 went 0-3 against other BCS conferences and 2-1 against non-BCS conferences.

Had they gone 8-0, 7-1 or even 6-2, then I'd say it's time to bump up the competition level and get some more competitive games. But 4-4 isn't blowing anyone's socks off. And the Pac-12 is 40-41 in bowl games since 1999. I think it'd be more beneficial to dominate the current bowl lineup before worrying about bigger, badder competition.


Uh oh Chongo in Danger Island writes: Colorado and Utah are still having a bit of a rough go in the new conference. Two questions - which of those two gets to the Pac-12 title game first, and what do those programs need to do to get there?

Kevin Gemmell: Yikes, the crystal ball just melted down. So much of which team gets to the title game first depends a lot on what happens with other teams in the division. And it doesn't look like Jim Mora, Rich Rodriguez or Todd Graham are going anywhere quickly. And regardless of what happens with Lane Kiffin at the end of this year, USC is still going to be USC.

Utah is in a stronger position right now simply because it has continuity among the coaching staff. The new facilities will be open this summer and I think the addition of Dennis Erickson to the staff is going to pay dividends in years to come. That's probably not a hire the Utes could have made had they still been in the Mountain West -- financially or from a high-profile perspective.

Colorado, well, see the above answer. They are a long ways off from being in the mix for the league title game.

They keys for both of these teams -- and really every other team in the conference -- is depth and player development. Everyone can put a solid 22 on the field. But what does your next 22 look like? When that star player goes down, who can step in so you barely miss a beat? Who can turn that borderline recruit into an all-conference player?

ASU had injuries on the defensive line last year and they went into a skid. Washington battled offensive line injuries last year and were inconsistent. Utah's quarterback carousel last year was unfortunate -- but you've got to have that depth to be able to handle the losses.

The teams that can handle that -- Bryan Bennett stepping up for Darren Thomas; A.J. Tarpley and Jarek Lancaster stepping in for Shayne Skov; Oregon's safeties stepping up when they lost John Boyett -- these are the teams that are ultimately the most successful.


William Shatner at Priceline HQ writes: Hey Kevin, you've been doing a lot more work than Ted these past two weeks. Looks like you could use a vacation. I'll take care of airfare if you tell me what your ideal vacation would be?

Kevin Gemmell: Ted has been hitting the lecture circuit hard the last couple of weeks, appearing at several Ivy League schools to deliver his motivational speeches: "Who else besides Pitt hates freedom?" "Please note that you are wrong," and "Boy, I could sure use a me-tini."

He'll be back Monday.

As for me, every trip through the comments section is a daily vacation. By the way, I loved you as General Mortars in Loaded Weapon 1.

Wrapping the Pac-12 at the NFL combine

February, 27, 2013
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If Washington defensive back Desmond Trufant was on the first-round fence prior to the NFL scouting combine, he might have swung the other leg over. After posting impressive measurables, Trufant has climbed from first-round possibility to legitimate contender.

Writes Bucky Brooks of NFL.com:
Trufant had been considered a fringe first-round prospect following the Senior Bowl, but a strong showing in Indianapolis now has him firmly entrenched in the conversation. He blazed a 4.38 40, displaying exceptional speed and acceleration. Additionally, Trufant popped impressive measurements in the vertical (37.5 inches) and broad jump (10-foot-5). Scouts were already convinced Trufant possesses the requisite cover skills to be a solid starter as a pro; the rest of the workout confirmed his movement skills as a borderline blue-chip talent.
Unfortunate headliner

ESPN's John Clayton recapped the top five stories of the combine. And Star Lotulelei made the list for unfortunate reasons.

[+] EnlargeStar Lotulelei
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsUtah's Star Lotulelei wasn't allowed to work out at the NFL combine after doctors discovered an issue with his heart.
Writes Clayton:
The second-biggest story was Star Lotulelei. The Utah defensive tackle came to the combine as a star. Mel Kiper had him in the top five. He was considered the best defensive tackle in the draft. But an echocardiogram determined that his left ventricle was pumping only at 44 percent, so doctors wouldn't let him work out. He is trying to find out if this is a serious heart problem or just the byproduct of losing about 10 pounds in three days. Still, his uncertainty caused a panic toward the top of the draft. The hope is that he can get a clean bill of health and then work out for teams at Utah next month. The good news is that doctors found a problem that he wouldn't have known about had he not been tested at the combine. College football teams don't provide echocardiograms because of the cost. NFL teams spare no expense to check out prospects.

In No. 5 at that link, Clayton notes that Oregon's Dion Jordan has also bumped his already-high draft stock. Speaking of Jordan, some of you might be shocked to see an Oregon player leading a poll. I know, doesn't happen often. Say this for Ducks fans, they know how to get out the vote.

RBs unimpressive

Football Outsiders uses a formula to calculate "Speed Scores," which are a player's time on the 40-yard dash based on his weight. And it wasn't an impressive crop of running backs, writes Danny Tuccitto.
Turning to more heralded running backs in this draft class, consensus No. 1 back Eddie Lacy (Alabama) did not participate because of a hamstring injury, and Speed Scores shouldn't affect the rankings much for those who did participate. Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell (102.7) and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin (100.9) were the only ones to break 100, albeit barely, and the worst result among potential Day 1 or Day 2 selections was the 83.4 Speed Score posted by Stanford's Stepfan Taylor. Otherwise, backs such as Mike Gillislee (Florida), Giovani Bernard (North Carolina), Kenjon Barner (Oregon), Montee Ball (Wisconsin), Joseph Randle (Oklahoma State) and Andre Ellington (Clemson) all finished in a group one would classify as "slightly below average."
Measurables from the secondary

40-yard dash

Desmond Trufant, DB, Washington: 4.38 (seconds)
Steve Williams, DB, Cal: 4.42
Nickell Robey, DB, USC: 4.53
Jordan Poyer, DB, Oregon State: 4.54
Keelan Johnson, S, ASU: 4.54
T.J. McDonald, S, USC: 4.59
Aaron Hester, DB, UCLA: 4.62
Marc Anthony, DB, Cal: 4.63
Jawanza Starling, S, USC: 4.64

Bench press

John Boyett, S, Oregon: 27 reps
T.J. McDonald, S, USC: 19 reps
Jawanza Starling, S, USC: 17 reps
Desmond Trufant, DB, Washington: 17 reps
Marc Anthony, DB, Cal: 12 reps
Steve Williams, DB, Cal: 12 reps
Keelan Johnson, S, ASU: 12 reps
Nickell Robey, DB, USC: 10 reps
Jordan Poyer, DB, Oregon State: 8 reps

Vertical jump

Steve Williams, DB, Cal: 40.5 (inches)
T.J. McDonald, S, USC: 40
Nickell Robey, DB, USC: 37.5
Desmond Trufant, DB, Washington: 37.5
Keelan Johnson, S, ASU: 36.5
Jawanza Starling, S, USC: 36
Marc Anthony, DB, Cal: 35
Jordan Poyer, DB, Oregon State: 30.5
Aaron Hester, DB, UCLA: 29

Broad jump

T.J. McDonald, S, USC: 131 (inches)
Steve Williams, DB, Cal: 128
Nickell Robey, DB, USC: 127
Keelan Johnson, S, ASU: 125
Desmond Trufant, DB, Washington: 125
Jawanza Starling, S, USC: 122
Jordan Poyer, DB, Oregon State: 118
Marc Anthony, DB, Cal: 118
Aaron Hester, DB, UCLA: 112

3-cone drill

Jawanza Starling, S, USC: 6.68 (seconds)
Marc Anthony, DB, Cal: 6.74
Nickell Robey, DB, USC: 6.74
Keelan Johnson, S, ASU: 6.77
Jordan Poyer, DB, Oregon State: 6.87
T.J. McDonald, S, USC: 6.89
Steve Williams, DB, Cal: 6.89
Aaron Hester, DB, UCLA: 7.26

20-yard shuttle

Desmond Trufant, DB, Washington: 3.85 (seconds)
Marc Anthony, DB, Cal: 4.07
Keelan Johnson, S, ASU: 4.07
Nickell Robey, DB, USC: 4.09
Steve Williams, DB, Cal: 4.10
Jordan Poyer, DB, Oregon State: 4.18
T.J. McDonald, S, USC: 4.20
Aaron Hester, DB, UCLA: 4.33
Jawanza Starling, S, USC: 4.34

60-yard shuttle

Jordan Poyer, DB, Oregon State: 11.51 (seconds)
Keelan Johnson, S, ASU: 11.53
Jawanza Starling, S, USC: 11.62
I do what I do best, I take scores. You do what you do best, try to stop guys like me.
Hail to the chief he's the one we all say hail to;
We all say hail 'cause he keeps himself so clean.
He's got the power, that's why he's in the shower.

Pac-12 sees 38 invited to NFL combine

February, 8, 2013
2/08/13
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The official list of college players invited to the NFL combine is out and 38 from the Pac-12 made the cut. At least one player from every team in the conference was invited. A total of 333 players were invited and workouts begin Feb. 23. You can see the complete list here.
Welcome. I am he as you are he as you are me and this is the mailbag.

Goo goo goo joob.

(Kevin is the walrus).

Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter.

Notes please.

Tyler from Phoenix, Ariz., writes: I know you and Kevin are pretty high on ASU for 2013. But honestly, that schedule packs a wallop! Far too often there have been ASU teams that stumble in the beginning of the season, lose confidence, and proceed to lose winnable games late in the season. Am I crazy to think that they make take a step forward as a team, but take a step back in the win-loss column?

Ted Miller: You are crazy as a loon.

Yet you also are correct about the schedule. After FCS Sacramento State, the Sun Devils' next four games are tough: Wisconsin, at Stanford, USC and Notre Dame in Cowboys Stadium, which will feel like a road game.

I expect Arizona State to go 2-2 in that stretch. I like its chances at home against a Wisconsin team breaking in a new coach and against the Trojans. I think the chances are dim at Stanford. Notre Dame will be favored, perhaps by more than a touchdown, but I also think the Sun Devils, if they play well, have a good shot to upset the Irish.

So 3-1 is far from inconceivable. Neither is 1-3, by the way.

Obviously, the Pac-12 games are most important, and beating USC would make a statement in the South Division. As for losing confidence early, that will be the measure of Year 2 under coach Todd Graham. Recall that the Sun Devils bounced back well this year after losing four in a row to win their final three games, including a comeback win at rival Arizona.

We've heard a lot of about a culture change in the program, and we've seen a lot of evidence that has taken place. What the Sun Devils did last year was mostly win the games they were supposed to (Missouri being the exception) and lose against ranked teams. The next step is to beat quality opponents.

The tough start simply means we'll get a good early measure of the Sun Devils: Are they a top-25 team with a chance to win the South? Or are they a middle-of-the-pack team?

My feeling right now is the former. But we shall see.




Josh from College Station, Texas, writes: Greetings from SEC country. I have an expansion related question. Big surprise, right? It seems that, of the five major conferences (SEC, Pac-12, Big 12, B1G, and ACC...heck I'll even throw the MWC in there) the Pac-12 has the fewest options available for expansion, if the need were ever to arise. If college football makes a move for larger conferences, where does the Pac-12 turn to increase its size? Before the Grant of Rights occurred, the Big 12 was ripe for the picking, but now I'm not so sure. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

Ted Miller: I still have trouble wrapping my mind around the idea that College Station, Texas, is now "SEC country." But if Josh can do it, I should too.

You are correct. If we are to assume the Big 12 is again solid -- and it's probably not safe to assume anything, though the Big 12 seems stable at present -- then there are aren't any appealing, regional options for the Pac-12.

Now, this is when everyone goes, "What about School X?"

The answer is "No. It is not appealing." I don't want to get involved in typing why a list of schools on the West Coast are not appealing because that seems an unnecessary way to insult a variety of fine institutions.

As a catch-all: Outside of the Big 12, there aren't any schools out there that would bring strong, new markets to the conference, and that is what expansion is all about: eyeballs. Eyeballs mean more TV revenue. TV revenue makes expansion go round-and-round.

In September 2011, before the SEC and Big Ten made bold, expansionist moves, the Pac-12 could have added Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. It would have become the Pac-16 and the nation's most powerful athletic conference, but commissioner Larry Scott, acting on behalf of the Pac-12 presidents, turned down the opportunity.

I believed that was a mistake then and I do so even more now, and I think Scott agrees with me, though he can't publicly admit it.

Most longtime college football observers who have paid attention to the nuances of the expansionist trends believe there will be further contraction in the future as we move forward with a playoff format. The have-programs and have-conferences will continue to consolidate their forces. Consider the weakened states of the Big East and ACC, AQ conferences in the BCS system, as the Big Ten and SEC have flexed their muscles.

I do think there is reason for the Pac-12 to be nervous.

That said, Scott has long seemed to have a pretty good grip on the national landscape. He's a creative thinker. If trends continue in their present fashion, I suspect he's got a Plan B.




Derrick from Omaha, Neb., writes: Do you have any info on John Boyett? Could he get a medical redshirt? Is he turning pro? If so what is his draft stock?

Ted Miller: The Oregon safety is not seeking a medical redshirt year. He's entering the NFL draft this spring.

He pretty much moved back to Napa, Calif., his hometown, after his knee injury, handling his own surgery (both both patellar tendons), rehab and affairs.

As for his draft prospects, it's hard to say. He's not big -- 5-foot-10, 205 pounds -- and doesn't have great speed. He does, however, have great football instincts and a lot of "want-to." His numbers as a starter since his true freshman season were sensational.

I think he'll have a pro career, if healthy, at least as a special-teams ace.

The biggest thing he needs to do is run a good 40-yard dash for NFL scouts and prove his knees are back to 100 percent. If he shows he's healthy, my guess is he'll get picked in the late rounds of the draft.




Derek from Salt Lake City writes: All-Knowing Ted, In your article about UCLA landing two elite safeties, you mentioned that strong recruiting classes may help UCLA "challenge USC for PAC-12 supremacy." How is this supposed to occur if USC is nowhere near the top? Even if USC surprises us with a much stronger season next year (very iffy with a new QB), they would be, at most, the third-best team in the conference.

Ted Miller: A great way to get your note published is to call me "All-Knowing Ted."

As to your question, Derek, I was referring to recruiting rankings Insider. USC, ranked eighth in the nation, is tops in the Pac-12 at present but UCLA, at 12th and up nine spots after a big week, seems to be closing strong as the Trojans struggle a bit with decommitments.

To me, it would be a pretty big deal if UCLA's recruiting class eclipses USC's, even with the Trojans class limited by sanctions, particularly after how well the Trojans' recruiting season started.




Dave from Cocoa Beach, Fla., writes: I'm a slacker! I missed your review of Utah, do have a link to it so I can catch up? Need all I can get here is gatorville (they even get more local coverage than FSU!).

Ted Miller: Dave, I'm sure everyone feels sorry for you living in Cocoa Beach. Poor, poor Dave. Sitting on the beach with his laptop, checking his IBM stock, listening to the ocean lap against the white sands -- "Now where is the cabana girl with my pina colada? How can I be expected to endure WITHOUT MY PINA COLADA AND MY UTAH SEASON REVIEW!"

Dave, here's the Utah season review. And here's a link for everyone who might wish to peruse all the Pac-12 season reviews.

Pac-12's top 25 is coming!

January, 21, 2013
1/21/13
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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.

Stanford's Oregon problem

November, 16, 2012
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Stanford is 31-5 since the beginning of the 2010 season. The Cardinal have lost three games during that span by a combined 14 points, and two of those were in overtime.

And they lost the other two, both to Oregon, by a combined 44 points.

Stanford has an Oregon problem.

"I think the entire conference has an Oregon problem," Stanford coach David Shaw countered reasonably.

True that. Oregon is on track for its fourth consecutive outright Pac-12 title. As ESPN's Brad Edwards noted this week : "If [the Ducks] can win [the Pac-12 title game] again this season, they will join John McKay's USC teams from 1966 to 1969 as the only groups in the history of that conference to win four consecutive outright titles."

[+] EnlargeJosh Huff, Kenjon Barner
Kelley L Cox/US PresswireOpponents haven't been able to slow down the Ducks' potent offense for four quarters.
So Oregon is historically good.

And Stanford, though on a historically good run for its own program, has been Wile E. Coyote to Oregon's Road Runner.

Stanford (8-2) will get another chance to change that Saturday in Autzen Stadium, with ESPN's "College GameDay" on hand. The stakes, just like the previous two seasons, are big. The winner takes control of the Pac-12 North Division. The Ducks, of course, need to win to remain in the national title chase.

Shaw didn't hold back praising Oregon (10-0) this week. It could be gamesmanship, but Shaw also seems to genuinely appreciate what coach Chip Kelly has built at Oregon. As Shaw said: "Great athletes, great scheme in all three phases."

"They know how to adjust those schemes based on what you are doing, which to me is the biggest key," he said. "You don't see them stopped for long. If you're doing something that is slowing them down, they are going to make a tweak and make you pay for it."

Well-put. That about sums up Oregon.

And yet ... what about Oregon's injury-riddled defense?

"It doesn't matter," Shaw said. "They put young guys in there, they put new guys in there, and those guys go out there and play great."

Maybe. But maybe not.

There are cracks in the Oregon facade, mostly because a number of front-line players on the Ducks' defense -- once a nationally elite unit -- are questionable or out for Saturday.

Safety Avery Patterson is out for the year with a knee injury. You might recall Oregon previously lost All-America safety John Boyett to a knee injury. Defensive tackle Wade Keliikipi also is almost certainly out with a leg injury.

Also banged up and of questionable health on the defense: DE/DT Taylor Hart (foot), DE/OLB Dion Jordan (shoulder), DT Isaac Remington (ankle) and NT Ricky Heimuli (knee). And backup cornerbacks Troy Hill and Dior Mathis didn't play last weekend against California, which is why word coming out of practice this week was that De'Anthony Thomas was taking reps on defense.

That's a lot of banged up high-quality players, particularly on the defensive line. The past two weeks, Oregon has had to rely on three true freshman D-linemen -- Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Alex Balducci -- often playing them at the same time.

While Stanford's offensive line is not what it was last year with David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin, it still is an above-average unit, one that likes to go mano a mano in the trenches. It's certainly much better than the Cal unit that did a fairly good job against the Ducks last weekend.

So the Cardinal may be able to control the football with Stepfan Taylor running the ball, though you can expect Ducks "Stop the Run First" defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti to dare Stanford to throw the ball with redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan, who is making his first road start.

But the bigger issue, as usual, is slowing the Ducks' explosive offense, which has gashed Stanford the past two years with big plays -- seven TD plays of 25 or more yards, not including a 40-yard pick-six last season.

Stanford has the nation's No. 1 run defense, but few teams run the ball as well as Oregon. And Ducks redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota leads the nation in passing efficiency.

Oregon, particularly playing at home, seems fully capable of outscoring Stanford if the Ducks' defense is having a bad day. A few teams have been able to slow the Ducks for a quarter here or a quarter there. But even then -- boom! -- things go haywire. Stanford has experienced that itself. Twice in the past two years, in fact.

The question then becomes simple for Stanford: Can it somehow make Mariota and the Oregon offense have a bad day for four quarters?

It's the Oregon problem, and it's not easy to solve.

Washington needs big plays vs. Oregon

October, 6, 2012
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EUGENE, Ore. -- At some point, Washington is going to beat its arch-rival Oregon again, but the odds seem stacked against the Huskies tonight.

For one, the Ducks are playing in Autzen Stadium. They are 34-4 at home since Chip Kelly first arrived in 2007 as their offensive coordinator.

Second, the Ducks are again strong on both sides of the ball. Their offense is among the nation's leaders in rushing, scoring and total offense. The defense is better than its numbers suggest, considering its starters have played little in the fourth quarter this year. The Ducks' 4.55 yards per play ranks third in the Pac-12.

The Huskies? They are much better on defense, giving up just under 19.8 points per game -- virtually the same as the Ducks. But they are struggling offensively due to a injury ravaged offensive line that is down three starters from what it thought it would be. The Huskies are scoring 23.3 points per game, which ranks 10th in the conference.

Oregon averages 52.4, tops in the Pac-12 by a wide margin.

So the Ducks are going to need to be much below their average tonight, while the Huskies need much better, for Washington to have a chance.

The key will be big plays that go against Oregon, which is not typically how things go here. The Huskies need to slow the Ducks running game and force redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota to make mistakes passing. And they need to take advantage of those miscues.

The Huskies offense, meanwhile, needs to create some sort of running threat that keeps the Ducks honest, while quarterback Keith Price needs to time to hook up with tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and receiver Kasen Williams.

It will help the Huskies that the Ducks, already young at safety due to the season-ending knee injury to John Boyett, might be without weakside linebacker Michael Clay, who was hurt last week against Washington State.

Oregon has been a second-half team under Kelly. It tends to make good adjustments to other teams' schemes and it also wears down opposing defenses with its tempo. That said, if the Huskies can keep things close into the fourth quarter, it's possible that Mariota will feel some pressure, and press as a result.

Perhaps a few Oregon miscues would open a door for the Huskies to end an eight-game losing streak in the series?

Expect Ducks, Wildcats to spin scoreboard

September, 19, 2012
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If statistical trends established in the first three games hold true, No. 3 Oregon and No. 22 Arizona should combine for 1,200 yards and 100 points when they meet in Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday.

That would be great fun, types the guy not playing defense.

Both offenses are up-tempo, no-huddle, run-based attacks. In fact, Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez is generally considered the father of the modern spread-option offense, while Ducks coach Chip Kelly is probably its most successful practitioner. And they are connected. In the spring of 1999, Kelly, then an offensive coordinator at New Hampshire in search of a new, fullback-less scheme, traded notes with Rodriguez, who was then the offensive coordinator at Clemson.

"Very similar philosophically," Rodriguez said. "You see some of the same plays. It looks like some of the same concepts. Philosophically we're very close in how we like to approach the game from an offensive standpoint."

Kelly, however, as is often his wont, was unwilling to indulge the media's interest in the relationship between Rodriguez and himself and their offenses. "I think it's made more of than it is," he said of the 1999 path-crossing at Clemson.

"When I look at them on tape, I don't say, 'I'm looking at us,'" Kelly said. "We use different formations than they use. We run some plays that are the same, but I think everybody runs some plays that are the same."

[+] EnlargeRich Rodriguez, Matt Scott
AP Photo/John MillerUnder new coach Rich Rodriguez, left, QB Matt Scott has Arizona's offense in the top 10 nationally.
Both teams have started the season fast, ranking in the nation's top 10 in total offense. Both are running well, with the Ducks ranking fourth in the nation in rushing with 329 yards per game, Arizona 19th with 247. The Wildcats have thrown for a lot more yards -- 357.7 per game to 267.3 for the Ducks -- but that could be due in large part to Arizona having played a pair of competitive games. Both teams' dual-threat quarterbacks are playing well, with Oregon redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota ranking 10th in the nation in passing efficiency and Arizona fifth-year senior Matt Scott ranking 31st.

So these offenses, even if they are only loosely related, are rolling.

The difference in the teams overall is on the other side of the ball. Oregon, even with the season-ending knee injury to safety John Boyett, is deep and talented on defense. Arizona? It's playing hard in its new 3-3-5 scheme. The Wildcats have been, well, scrappy.

"They are hanging in there," Rodriguez said. "I am proud of the way they've battled. We are really short-handed and not nearly deep enough. We're just hanging on. This is going to be a huge challenge, certainly."

Oregon's defense hasn't put up great numbers. In fact, Arizona, after shutting out South Carolina State, is better by several measures. But a lot of that can be attributed to the Ducks not playing starters many second-half minutes during blowout victories. And an opponent third-down conversion rate of 15.6 percent certainly raises an eyebrow.

"I kind of like where they are at right now," Kelly said.

Neither defense will be shocked by the pace of the opposing offense. But the difference in depth should become an issue. Perhaps a decisive one, particularly in the fourth quarter. The Ducks will regularly rotate pretty much a full two-deep. The Wildcats, as Rodriguez noted, won't. The Ducks have 21 players with five or more tackles. Arizona has only 14 with at least five tackles. The backups for the Wildcats' front six have combined for 10 tackles. The Ducks' No. 2s for their front seven have combined for 46.

You almost wonder if Rodriguez might try to slow things down, but that would be against his nature.

For Oregon, while Kelly holds to his mantra of a nameless, faceless opponent of no more meaning and value than, say, Tennessee Tech, this is its first real test, the Pac-12 opener for a team that now sits atop the conference pecking order because of USC's loss to Stanford.

If the game looks anything like the 56-31 beatdown Oregon delivered in Tucson last year, it will become clear that the Ducks are again title contenders -- conference and otherwise.

It's surprising that Arizona is 3-0. It will be shocking if the Wildcats improve to 4-0. It probably will require an atypical level of sloppiness from the Ducks for the upset to happen.

Still, there's a good reason Vegas tapped this game with a 77.5-point over/under, by far the biggest number of the weekend. The expectation is there will be lots of offense -- and lots of exhausted defenders -- when the final bell rings.

Boyett, injury news worrisome for Oregon

September, 10, 2012
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Oregon is not a quiet program. It's flashy and loud. Further, its fans have been a bit chippy about all the attention USC is getting.

Yet the Ducks' season has started quietly, in large part due to a weak early schedule. While the Pac-12 was piling up impressive nonconference victories Saturday, the Ducks were piddling along with a middling performance -- at least in the second half -- against overmatched Fresno State.

But a story that gathered force late Saturday broke on Sunday: Safety John Boyett's season is over due to a knee injury.

Boyett isn't just a senior starter, his 36 career starts make him the dean of the Ducks' defense. He has 278 career tackles and 10 interceptions. He might be the best safety in the nation.

Further, his loss makes the Ducks' secondary seem a lot younger. The top four cornerbacks are sophomores.

It's likely Boyett will be replaced by junior Avery Patterson. The good news is he's played a lot of football. He was the Ducks' fifth-leading tackler in 2011 -- 55 stops -- and started a game at free safety and at rover. But when you factor in new strong safety Brian Jackson, who replaced Eddie Pleasant, things feel a bit greener in the back half.

And, of course, the reason being green in the back half is a concern is Nov. 3. A road trip to face USC QB Matt Barkley and his All-American receivers, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, just got more challenging.

Boyett has played against Barkley three previous times. He knows Woods and Lee. His absence will hurt in general, but on that day it could prove huge.

But Boyett isn't the only injury concern.
  • The Ducks' offensive line is banged up. For one, Carson York, like Boyett, a potential four-year starter, apparently reinjured the knee he blew out in the Rose Bowl. Rob Moseley also reported that "senior Kyle Long did not play at all on the offensive line [against Fresno State], and Carson York, Jake Fisher and Ryan Clanton all were sidelined by game’s end."
  • Wide receiver Josh Huff was on the sideline using crutches Saturday due to an apparent knee injury of unknown severity. Senior Rahsaan Vaughn is Huff's most likely replacement.
  • DE/DT Jared Ebert didn't play against Fresno State, also because of an apparent knee injury. His absence likely will mean more playing time for true freshmen Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner.

The Ducks are deep and play a lot of guys. So the replacements for any injured players probably aren't going to be guys seeing their first action.

Still, losing veterans like Boyett and York can't be written off. You can do the ol', "Next guy in," as coach Chip Kelly did with reporters, but it will feel a bit like "coach speak." Boyett and York are the most battle-tested players on the team. Their role on the team is more than just doing their job on Saturday.

(That said: Boyett did replace senior T.J. Ward as a freshman in 2009. He played well and the Ducks went to the Rose Bowl.)

Injuries are the worst part of college football. There are no trades or free agency, so each injury inexorably chips away at the quality of a team. There is no other way to describe it: Oregon is worse without Boyett and, potentially, York and these other guys.

Oregon is not just trying to get to a bowl game or win eight or nine games. Those days are done in Eugene. It's aiming for another Pac-12 title and a national championship. Anything else would represent a disappointment for the three-time defending conference champions.

And those high goals have a razor-thin margin for error.

Perhaps Boyett will be the only major casualty when the Ducks arrive in L.A. on Nov. 3. Few teams get through the season without at least one major injury, even elite contenders. Heck, USC might have lost center Khaled Holmes, its best offensive lineman, to an ankle injury.

After the first weekend, Oregon seemed to take a step forward in terms of what the 2012 team might accomplish due to the impressive performance of new starting QB Marcus Mariota. The feeling was a major question was answered.

Now another has been posed.

Notes on the preseason Pac-12 top 25

September, 3, 2012
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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
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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
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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

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