Pac-12: Jurrell Casey

Pac-12 leads all-under-25 NFL team

February, 18, 2014
Feb 18
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Elliot Harrison of NFL.com wanted to make a list of up-and-coming NFL players, so he tapped an all-under-25 NFL team, and nine of his 26 selections played in the Pac-12.

Not only that, the conference, stereotyped as offense-first, had just as many defensive players -- four -- as offense. And his omission of Star Lotulelei, the former Utah defense tackle now starring for the Carolina Panthers, is notable because he finished fourth in the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year vote.

Further, these nine guys came from seven conference teams, so this isn't just about USC's pipeline of five-star recruits to the NFL.

Here's the Pac-12 players on his team.

Offense
QB Andrew Luck (Stanford), Indianapolis Colts
WR Keenan Allen (California), San Diego Chargers
OT Tyron Smith (USC), Dallas Cowboys
OG David DeCastro (Stanford), Pittsburgh Steelers

Defense
DT Jurrell Casey (USC), Tennessee Titans
LB Vontaze Burfict (Arizona State), Cincinnati Bengals
LB Kiko Alonso (Oregon), Buffalo Bills
CB Desmond Trufant (Washington), Atlanta Falcons

Special teams
P Johnny Hekker (Oregon State), St. Louis Rams

Of these players, only Burfict and Allen received high recruiting rankings from ESPN.com. Burfict was the nation's No. 1 inside linebacker and Allen was the nation's No. 5 "athlete." ESPN.com ranked Luck the nation's seventh-best quarterback in 2008.

Casey, DeCastro, Trufant and Alonso rated as solid to off-the-radar prospects in most recruiting rankings.

So, again, the best response when Pac-12 teams don't rate highly in recruiting rankings to shrug and move on with your day.

Final Pac-12 NFL draft tally

May, 1, 2011
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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

Updating Pac-12 in NFL draft

April, 30, 2011
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Here's where things stand for the Pac-12 through three rounds of the NFL draft.

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, Stanforrd: Carolina

Through three rounds by conference (with Nebraska in the Big Ten and Colorado and Utah in the Pac-12):

SEC: 20
ACC: 19
Pac-12: 15
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 9
Big East: 4

Note: The old Pac-10 has 13 without two first-round picks from Colorado. Big Ten has 12 without Nebraska. Big 12 has 12 if Colorado and Nebraska are included.

A Pac-12 review of NFL draft's first round

April, 29, 2011
4/29/11
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Five Pac-12 players were picked in the first round, with Jake Locker going higher than some projected and Cameron Jordan going lower.

Here's the draft order:

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

Here's analysis by Mel Kiper. And here's more on the first round.

Kiper also projects the second round, which starts Friday at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN (3 p.m. PT).

Kiper has Arizona DE Brooks Reed going first in the second round -- 33rd overall -- to New England. Other Pac-12 players in his second round: UCLA safety Rahim Moore to Houston at No. 42, Oregon State DT Stephen Paea to Oakland at No. 48 and Utah CB Brandon Burton to Philadelphia at No. 54.

Who is missing? Well what about UCLA LB Akeem Ayers, who was once considered a sure first-round pick.

Todd McShay also projects the second round, and he has Reed going first and Ayers going second, to the Buffalo Bills.

The rest of McShay's second round: Paea to Denver at No. 36, Moore to Minnesota at No. 43, Washington LB Mason Foster to Denver at 46 and USC DT Jurrell Casey to Seattle at No. 57.

Some draft links:

Some Pac-12 draft notes, Part 2

April, 27, 2011
4/27/11
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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.

Linebackers
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.

New Pac-12 draft projections

April, 6, 2011
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ESPN NFL draft gurus Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have posted new mock drafts that include the first three rounds.

You can see Kiper's here Insider and McShay's here Insider.

Here are the Pac-12 players in Kiper's draft (he has the conference being shut out in the third round).

Round one
9. OT Tyron Smith, USC: Dallas
17. DE Cameron Jordan, California: New England
21. OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA: Kansas City
25. QB Jake Locker, Washington: Seattle
26. CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado: Baltimore
29. OT Nate Solder, Colorado: Chicago

Round 2
36. FS Rahim Moore, UCLA: Denver
38. DE Brooks Reed, Arizona: Arizona
43. DT Stephen Paea, Oregon State: Minnesota
54. CB Brandon Burton, Utah: Philadelphia

And here are the conference players in McShay's draft.

Round one
9. OT Tyron Smith, USC: Dallas
12. DE Cameron Jordan, California: Minnesota
22. OT Nate Solder, Colorado: Indianapolis
25. QB Jake Locker, Washington: Seattle
27. DE Brooks Reed, Arizona, Atlanta

Second round
37. DT Stephen Paea, Oregon State: Cleveland
38. OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA: Arizona
46. FS Rahim Moore, UCLA: Denver
48. CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado: Oakland
49. LB Mason Foster, Washington: Jacksonville
56. DT Jurrell Casey, USC: New Orleans

Third rond
84. RB Shane Vereen, California: Tampa Bay

Some interesting differences and similarity, including both having Tyron Smith going to Dallas at No. 9 overall Jake Locker going to the hometown Seahawks at No. 25.

Jimmy Smith lasting to the 48th pick in McShay's draft surprises me. McShay also has Mason Foster and Jurrell Casey going in the second round, while Kiper doesn't even have them picked at the end of his third round.

We shall see.

Who's back from the top 25?

March, 22, 2011
3/22/11
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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
3/22/11
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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
3/21/11
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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.

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

Arizona State
11. Omar Bolden
13. Vontaze Burfict


California
8. Cameron Jordan
25. Shane Vereen

Oregon
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

Stanford
1. Andrew Luck
10. Chase Beeler

UCLA
21. Akeem Ayers

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

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


Washington State
None

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
3/21/11
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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
3/18/11
9:00
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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

Pac-10 top 25 from 2010: No. 3

March, 17, 2011
3/17/11
9:00
AM ET
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).

Stephen Paea
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireStephen Paea was the Pac-10's best defensive player last season.
No. 3. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State

2010 numbers: Paea had 45 total tackles, including 10 for a loss with six sacks. He also forced four fumbles and had two pass breakups.

Preseason ranking: No. 5

Making the case for Paea: It's been interesting to read some of the comments on Paea, questioning where he would be on this list. My response: really? Paea was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and won the Morris Trophy for a second consecutive year, a honor which is voted on by opposing offensive linemen. So for those of you who question Paea at No. 3, take your case to your local 300-pounder who tried to block him.

A two-time, first-team All-Pac-10 selection, he also was a first-team All-American as selected by The Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. After setting a bench press record at the NFL combine, he might even end up getting picked in the first round of the NFL draft this spring. Paea, who only took up football when he was 17-years-old, made at least one tackle-for-loss in 12 of the past 18 games. His 14 career sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss -- accumulated over three seasons as a junior college transfer -- rank eighth on the school's all-time list. He's also the school record holder for forced fumbles with nine, including matching a school record with four this season.

Simply, Paea was the best defensive player in the Pac-10 last year as voted on by the coaches and the people who were charged with slowing him down.

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. 4

March, 16, 2011
3/16/11
9:00
AM ET
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).

[+] EnlargeDarron Thomas
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireDarron Thomas passed for 2,881 yards and accounted for 35 touchdowns last season.
No. 4 Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon

2010 numbers: Thomas completed 61.5 percent of his throws for 2,881 yards with 30 touchdown passes. He also rushed for 486 yards and five scores. He ranked second in the Pac-10 -- behind a guy named Andrew Luck -- and 17th in the nation in passing efficiency.

Preseason ranking: Unranked

Making the case for Thomas: Well, when you are the quarterback of record leading a team to the national championship game, making a case isn't too difficult. But Thomas isn't ranked way up here merely because he was the quarterback of record as a first-year starter for the Pac-10 champions. He's here because his numbers earned him this spot. Honestly, you really don't have to go much further than 35 total touchdowns. Not to cause a problem or anything, but do you know how many TDs Washington scored in 2010? That's right: 35. Heck, Oregon State scored 39. Thomas showed consistent improvement all year and uncanny poise for a sophomore. Remember how poorly he played early in the national title game against Auburn? Well, he ended up passing for 363 yards and two touchdowns. Not too shabby. Thomas earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2010 and may well end up there again this fall (that Luck guy). But he also could end up a second-team All-American.

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. 5

March, 15, 2011
3/15/11
9:00
AM ET
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).

[+] EnlargeMason Foster
Patrick Green/Icon SMIMason Foster's 12 tackles and two sacks helped Washington beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
No. 5. Mason Foster, LB, Washington

2010 numbers: Foster ranked second in the nation and No. 1 in the Pac-10 with 12.54 tackles per game -- 163 total tackles. He also ranked sixth in the conference with 12.5 tackles for a loss, which included 6.5 sacks, which tied for seventh in the conference. Further, he recovered two fumbles, forced two fumbles and blocked a kick.

Preseason ranking: No. 11

Making the case for Foster: The 6-foot-2, 242-pound senior and team captain, who started 41 games for the Huskies, earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors after another extremely productive seasons. He also earned first-team All-American honors from scout.com and rivals.com and third-team All-American from the Associated Press and honorable mention from Sports Illustrated. His 163 tackles are most by a Pac-10 player since former Husky James Clifford had 168 in 1989. And don't write off the tackle numbers as being a product of a "system" or for Foster piling up assists: He also was the conference leader and ranked No. 2 nationally in solo tackles (8.08 per game). At the end of the season, he was playing as well as any linebacker in the nation. He capped the regular season with 14 tackles, including a sack and a half, in the Apple Cup win at Washington State. Then he was named the defensive MVP of the Holiday Bowl, finishing that upset victory over Nebraska with 12 tackles, including three tackles for loss and two sacks. He's expected to be picked in this spring's NFL draft in the third or fourth round.

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. 6

March, 14, 2011
3/14/11
9:00
AM ET
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).

No. 6. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona

[+] EnlargeJuron Criner
Kelvin Kuo/US PresswireJuron Criner led the Pac-10 in receptions (82) and receiving yards (1,233) this past season.
2010 numbers: Criner led the Pac-10 in receptions (82) and receiving yards (1,233), and ranked second with 11 touchdown receptions. His yardage total ranked ninth in the nation.

Preseason ranking: Unranked

Making the case for Criner: Criner's case is simple: He was the best receiver in the Pac-10 by a wide margin in 2010. His 94.8 receiving yards per game was 10 more than anyone else. And, since he opted to return for his senior season instead of entering the NFL draft, the 6-foot-4, 210 pounder will be an All-American and Biletnikoff Award candidate in 2011, particularly if he improves as much as he did from 2009, when he was second on the Wildcats with 45 receptions for 582 yards and team-high nine touchdowns. The most interesting aspect of Criner is that he has plenty of room to get better in all aspects of his game. If he does, he'll bolster his -- and probably quarterback Nick Foles' -- NFL draft prospects substantially.

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

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