Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players continues.
You can see our preseason top 25 here.
23. Nickell Robey, CB, USC
2011 numbers: Robey finished with 63 total tackles, including 3.5 for a loss and two sacks. He also had two interceptions and 11 pass defenses.
Preseason ranking: Unranked.
Making the case for Robey: Robey, the Trojans' fourth leading tackler, not only earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2011, he also was the only cornerback to do so (all the other first-team defenders from the secondary were safeties). It's reasonable then to presume that the sophomore was the conference's best cover corner. The USC secondary gave up just 17 TD passes last year, which was tied with two other teams for second-fewest in the conference. Robey, listed at just 5-foot-8, 165 pounds, isn't big, but he's not lacking in toughness and he's typically outplayed bigger receivers, most notably Notre Dame's Michael Floyd (6-3, 225), who caught only four passes for 28 yards against Robey and the Trojans. Robey also had a pick-6 against Stanford QB Andrew Luck, and he shut down Arizona's Juron Criner (three catches for 29 yards). Robey isn't the biggest corner in the Pac-12. But heading into 2012, he'll be considered the best.