Pac-12: Reggie Dunn

Mailbag: SOS and top-25 grousing

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
5:30
PM ET
Happy Friday. Welcome to the mailbag.

Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter.

By the way, we will be reviewing the top-25 list on Monday, explaining some of our thinking, and looking ahead.

So stay tuned! To the notes!

RidingTheRange from Dallas writes: Thanks for your Top 25 list! I enjoy this every year. However, with Top 25 lists, they always encourage witty banter. And here's my suggestion: Where is Ty Montgomery? If memory serves me correct, the KR/PR from Utah was rated last year. Montgomery was a much more integral part of the Stanford offense (though the offense as a whole was not particularly potent). Any word on where he would actually fall or if there was any debate between the Pac-12 bloggers?

Ted Miller: I suspect the list last year will be more controversial than this year's. Kevin fired off a first draft to me and Kyle a few weeks ago, and that list stuck pretty well with minimal changes. We also knew the handful of players who would be tops among the "HOW CAN YOU LEAVE OFF [PLAYER X]? YOU HAVE LOST ALL CREDIBILITY!"

Utah's Reggie Dunn ended up at No. 25 last year because he returned four kickoffs for touchdowns, which had never been done before. Yes, it was controversial. To me, the worst omission from the list was Desmond Trufant, and we not unfairly took a lot of crud for it. Kevin felt more strongly about Dunn than I did, but I'd also say that setting an NCAA record is pretty darn shiny on a résumé.

Montgomery returned two kicks for touchdowns in 2013 and was the Cardinal's leading receiver, ranking ninth in the Pac-12. You could make a case for him.

But here's what I typically say to folks making the case for another player: Who do you take off our top-25 to make room for Montgomery?

Here's the bottom six:

No. 20: Trevor Reilly, DE/OLB, Utah
No. 21: Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
No. 22: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 23: Hroniss Grasu, C, Oregon
No. 24: Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
No. 25: Myles Jack, LB/RB, UCLA

That's a pretty strong group to break into.


Bobby from Phoenix writes: Carl Bradford not in the top 25? You guys were very generous to put in Sutton, Grice and Kelly, but I can't imagine a list without Bradford! Rabble rabble rabble!

Ted Miller: Bradford was one of the top guys who got left out, along with several All-Pac-12 defenders, such as Stanford safety Ed Reynolds, Washington defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha, USC LBs Devon Kennard and Hayes Pullard, etc.

I'm surprised more Washington fans aren't griping about leaving out Kikaha, who finished second in the Pac-12 with 13 sacks. We rated him higher than Bradford, who had 8.5 sacks, and I personally found leaving him out one of our toughest calls, in large part because he came back from two knee surgeries this season.

Bradford had a good, but not great, season. In fact, I'm not sure he'd rank better than fifth on the Sun Devils defense this season, behind DT Will Sutton, DB Alden Darby, CB Robert Nelson and LB Chris Young.

Further, with all that talent, I do question why the Sun Devils' defense wasn't better, ranking eighth in the Pac-12 in yards per play -- 5.5 -- and seventh in scoring (26.6 ppg).


Spencer from Orem, Utah, writes: I would argue that Anthony Barr is better than Ka'Deem Carey. I would be interested on your thoughts on why you disagree.

Ted Miller: You could argue that. I'm sure many folks are guessing that Barr is headed to a better NFL career as a perennial All-Pro.

NFL prospects factor more in my judgments than they do with Kevin. To me, it's a safeguard against getting too googly-eyed about statistics. That said, what separates Carey are his numbers. To quote our review:
"[Carey] ranked second in the nation with 157.1 yards per game. He completed his career by topping 100 yards in 16 consecutive games, a Pac-12 record and a streak that hasn't been accomplished by any other back in a decade. He is Arizona’s career rushing leader (4,232 yards) and ranks seventh in Pac-12 history."

Barr had a great season and earned consensus All-American honors, just like Carey. But his best football is in front of him. His numbers -- 10 sacks (No. 3 in the conference) and 20 tackles for a loss (No. 2) -- were good, but not epically good, like Carey's.

Further, I think UCLA's defense wouldn't have collapsed without Barr. If you took Carey away from Arizona, the Wildcats would have lost at least a touchdown from their scoring average of 33.5 and wouldn't have sniffed bowl eligibility.

So that's the distinction.


Undeniable Stanford Homer from East "of" Palo Alto writes: My question is about the top 25 players list for this past season. I understand the issues with rankings vs. grades is same reason why people do rankings over grades -- you get to say 1 player is "better" then another player because of their standing in the rankings. As we all know, the top 10 players are all All-Pac-12 performers, but by ranking them you infer that one is better than the other, causing intrigue and argument (which is both good and bad). What I am wondering is when you compile this list, how do you have eight players better than David Yankey, and five players ahead of Trent Murphy. The former was the best player on the best team on the best unit in the Pac-12 (hard to argue unit but this question is too long for my explanation already, and hard to argue with Morris but he already had one) and the latter is the best defensive player (depends on if you look at qualitative data, the DPOY by coaches vs. quantitative data, statistics). I know you have reasons why you chose players over these two outstanding athletes but i just would like to hear them.

Ted Miller: We rated Yankey at No. 8 as the Pac-12's top offensive lineman, despite his playing guard and not tackle. I don't think guards would make the top 10 many years. But Yankey, a unanimous All-American, is a beast.

That said ... I'm not sure he's better than UCLA OG Xavier Su'a-Filo, who won the the Morris Trophy over Yankey, an award voted on by opposing defensive players. Yankey got more All-American love, but Su'a-Filo, who ranked 12th, was just as beastly. It will be interesting to see who ends up better in the NFL.

So who do you drop from our top seven in order to boost Yankey? That's a pretty salty group.

Murphy is the most interesting case. The Pac-12 blog named Murphy the conference Defensive Player of the Year after the coaches went with Sutton. Why? Murphy ranked second in the nation and first in the Pac-12 with 15 sacks and fourth in the nation and first in the Pac-12 with 23.5 tackles for a loss.

Like Carey, his numbers speak for themselves, as well as his being the best player on the conference's best defense.

So how did he end up rating behind Barr at No. 3? And how do I type this without immediately contradicting my explanation for putting Carey ahead of Barr (epic numbers!)?

We have debated this before, and I've had what some might call controversial takes. I ranked Matt Barkley and Matt Scott higher in 2012 than many might have in large part based on the notion of, "If you were drafting Pac-12 players for your team, what would be the selection order?"

That's not specifically about NFL prospects. It's about who you subjectively view as being the best college player.

While I think Murphy was the most accomplished defensive player in the Pac-12 this year, I also think Barr was the best defensive player. If I were drafting Pac-12 players for the Ted Miller Super Awesome squad, I'd pick Barr before Murphy.

But would I pick Barr before Carey? I'd rate that a toss-up. Ergo, I fall back to Carey's numbers for our ranking order.


Paul from Boise, Idaho, writes: I'm willing to bet nobody would have guessed that at the end of the year, both Marqise Lee and De'Anthony Thomas would be left out of the illustrious Pac-12 postseason top 25. It seems every season a team or a top-tier player plays subpar, either because of injury or an underperforming team. Would the blog care to take a gamble and bet on somebody next year that is in danger of underperforming?

Ted Miller: Injuries are the biggest reason neither Lee nor Thomas made the Top 25, though Thomas was pretty underwhelming much of the year.

There's no way I'd speculate on who might get hurt next fall. That's sort of morbid.

Further, only eight guys will be back next season: 1. Marcus Mariota; 8. Brett Hundley; 10. Leonard Williams; 14. Taylor Kelly; 15. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu; 21. Sean Mannion; 23. Hroniss Grasu; 25. Myles Jack.

Of that list, the most challenged will be Mannion because he loses No. 4 Brandin Cooks.

I expect Mannion's passing numbers to go down in any event because I suspect coach Mike Riley will work a lot harder to be more balanced next fall. The key for Mannion is being more efficient and avoiding the mistakes that littered his season's second half.


Haggmeez from Cincinnati writes: Here we are, just one week before national signing day and the Pac-12 has a whopping 35 combined commits in the ESPN 300. By contrast, Alabama and LSU have a combined 32 ESPN 300 commits just between the two of them (not including the JC 50). I'm not usually one to buy into recruiting rankings at face value, but the disparity is fairly staggering. Do you think that the Pac-12 is going to be able to continue to keep up with the amount of raw physical talent that is being basically channelled into these southern power programs?

Ted Miller: Yes.


Jack from La Quinta, Calif., writes: Ted and Kevin, many thanks for your work in keeping the Pac-12 Blog current and interesting. However, I am still smarting over your season grade of B-plus for Stanford. Stanford won its division, won the Pac-12 championship and was only defeated by four points in the Rose Bowl by the third-ranked team in the country -- certainly no blowout. But they only deserve a B-plus. I think you place too much emphasis on the postseason -- bowl games, a national championship and ranking the Pac-12 against other conferences. The road to a Pac-12 championship should be your primary emphasis. The rest is gravy. Many Oregon players started looking too far ahead, to a national championship instead of next Saturday's game. Look where they ended up. The Rose Bowl on 1/1/14 was not a worthy goal for Oregon. Your thinking plays a part in influencing players, coaches and fans and your current emphasis is not in the best interest of the sport. I certainly would not give Stanford a solid A for their work. They lost two games on their way to the Pac-12 championship and the Rose Bowl. But, this is no less than an A-minus performance -- unless winning the Pac-12 conference championship is no big deal and is only a stepping stone to more worthy goals.

Ted Miller: Is this an example of the grade inflation at Stanford that Cal fans are always telling me about?

You meet expectations, you get a B. You want an A? Exceed expectations.

Stanford has become an elite team -- a Pac-12 and national title contender. It's not graded the same as most other teams. It has a smaller margin for error. 11-3 is a good, but not great, season on The Farm these days. That should feel like good news, by the way.

Stanford and Oregon were co-favorites to win the Pac-12. Both Kevin and I picked Stanford to win the Pac-12. By winning the Pac-12, the Cardinal therefore met expectations. If the Cardinal had won the Rose Bowl, they would have received an A-minus.

What are the knocks on Stanford's season?

It lost to two teams it was better than: Utah and USC. And, in a toss-up matchup with Michigan State in the Rose Bowl, it got solidly beaten.

Good, but not great.

No Pac-12 team received an A this year. An "A" for Stanford and Oregon would have been a final top-five ranking and a BCS bowl win. An "A" for, say, Washington State, would have been eight wins, including the Apple Cup, and a bowl victory.

Just like Stanford, Arizona State also got a B-plus, the highest grade any Pac-12 team received from us this year. If the Sun Devils had won their bowl game, they would have received an A-minus. UCLA also got a B-plus. If it had won the South Division and its bowl game, it would have received an A-minus.

The Pac-12 blog doesn't believe in grade inflation. It is a demanding taskmaster. It believes in high standards.

And awesomeness.


UCLA Fan from Federal Way, Wash., writes: I was just wondering why I haven't seen anyone talk about how after it was all said and done, the four hardest schedules of the year belonged to Pac-12 teams. Including those four, eight Pac-12 teams were ranked in the top 13 for strength of schedule. There was only one SEC team in the top 13. I haven't heard anyone talk about this, and would like to hear your opinion about what this says about the SEC vs. Pac-12 discussion, among other things.

Ted Miller: It shows that the Pac-12 was the deepest conference, top to bottom, in the nation. Not sure anybody really disagrees with that. Further, in a year when the Pac-12 did well overall, it means the nine-game conference schedule significantly boosted strength-of-schedule measures.

If this continues to be a pattern going forward, the Pac-12 should do well in the eyes of the selection committee for the four-team college football playoff, which has said it will put an emphasis on strength of schedule.

Utah Utes season preview

August, 8, 2013
8/08/13
10:30
AM ET
We continue our day-by-day snapshots of each Pac-12 team heading into the 2013 season in reverse alphabetical order with the Utah Utes.

Utah

Coach: Kyle Whittingham (71-32 overall, 7-11 Pac-12)

2012 record: 5-7 (3-6, Pac-12 South)

Key losses: RB John White, LT Sam Brenner, DT Star Lotulelei, DE Joe Kruger, DT Dave Kruger, KR Reggie Dunn, P Sean Sellwood, K Coleman Petersen.

[+] EnlargeKelvin York
Scott Olmos/USA TODAY SportsKelvin York steps in as the starting tailback, replacing John White.
Key returnees: WR Dres Anderson, TE Jake Murphy, QB Travis Wilson, RB Kelvin York, LB Brian Blechen, LB Trevor Reilly.

Newcomer to watch: The team is still waiting to see whether defensive back Tevin Carter will be eligible. He was once a highly rated wide receiver who originally committed to Cal before transferring to L.A. Southwest College. Juco transfer Sese Ianu from Golden West College is a big-bodied defensive tackle who is expected to compete immediately.

Biggest games in 2013: The Utes will be looking for vengeance against Utah State in the opener on Aug. 29. At BYU on Sept. 21 takes on even greater significance with the Holy War going on break. They also host Stanford (Oct. 12) and travel to Oregon (Nov. 16) for the first time since joining the conference.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: Whittingham said that he wasn't expecting Joe Kruger to leave early for the NFL -- and that left an additional void on the defensive front that already had to replace Lotulelei and another Kruger. Tenny Palepoi has good experience and played in every game last year. Ianu should help, and the tentative plan is to toggle Reilly -- last year’s leading tackler -- back and forth between defensive end and linebacker. Nate Orchard and Jason Whittingham will also rotate through, and when those two are on the line, Reilly might play back at linebacker and vice versa.

Forecast: While the line might be the biggest question mark on defense, many are wondering what the passing attack -- which ranked last in the league last season with just 190.7 yards per game (and eighth in efficiency) -- is going to look like with Dennis Erickson now commanding the offense. He joins the staff as co-offensive coordinator alongside Brian Johnson and will serve as the primary playcaller.

He’s been a head coach at six universities and for two NFL teams, and he’s the only person to be the league’s coach of the year at three different schools (Washington State, Oregon State and Arizona State). His offenses know how to move the ball and put up points.

That should bode well as Wilson grows into his role as the starting quarterback. He came in midseason last year and steadily improved each week. With an entire offseason working with Erickson and Johnson, his learning curve shouldn't be as steep.

Kelvin York steps in as the primary ball carrier, replacing White, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher. He’ll have the benefit of what should be an improved offensive line. The coaching staff is high on 6-foot-5, 345-pound left tackle Jeremiah Poutasi and guard Junior Salt.

Last season, Utah’s second since joining the league from the Mountain West Conference, wasn't a pleasant one for Kyle Whittingham, who was never shy about expressing his disappointment. Keep in mind, this isn't a team used to missing the postseason. Before last year’s 5-7 record, the Utes had been to nine straight bowl games with an 8-1 postseason mark. Injuries, which led to inconsistent quarterback and offensive line play, were major contributing factors. At least for now, it appears like those have been sorted out, so marked improvement is expected.
We've been looking at the Pac-12's can't-miss games of the 2013 season.

Welcome to Week 14.

Friday Nov. 29
  • Washington State at Washington
  • Oregon State at Oregon
Saturday, Nov. 30
  • Arizona at Arizona State
  • UCLA at USC
  • Colorado at Utah
  • Notre Dame at Stanford
My choice: UCLA at USC

Why: After 13 weeks and approximately 11,953 miles, the road trip is coming to an end. And it was a blast.

Longest stretch: Returning from South Bend, Ind. to Eugene Ore., approximately 2,209 miles.

Shortest stretch, Los Angeles to Pasadena, 10.9 miles. Though it still took three hours.

I'm never letting Chongo or 55 drive ever again. Spicy was in charge of the music, and it rocked. We homered it up with bigeazy206 and heard arguments for why Ed Reynolds should win the Thorpe. We missed SDZald most of the trip. He's got his own agenda. BiggusDuckus gave numerous lectures and we survived 14 of Coach's Friday confessions. Maybe someone will post pics on Facebook? You all have accounts, right?

But now we wrap it up.

This week, everyone is a winner, no matter where you go. Every game is important. Every game has meaning to the fans and some sort of ramifications, be it off-season momentum or good old-fashioned pride. Some teams might be trying to lock up bowl berths. Others might be trying to lock up division titles.

And that's why we're going to stay in Los Angeles. Last year's Apple Cup was amazing. The Territorial Cup (which was our final stop last season) didn't disappoint. Every option is a good one this week. Stanford and Notre Dame could have national championship implications, as could the Civil War. The faux-rivalry between Utah and Colorado got turned up last year, thank you, Reggie-freaking-Dunn, prompting one of the best quotes of the year from Kyle Whittingham: "I can't for the life of me figure out why they kicked to Reggie Dunn. But we're glad they did."

But if we're looking at overall league implications -- which has always been the top priority of this trip -- then it has to be USC-UCLA. For starters, the winner might clinch the South Division title and play again next week in the conference championship (at Oregon? at Stanford? hosting?) and that alone is reason to stay in Los Angeles for this week. Last year's UCLA-USC game was a huge step forward for the Bruins, who went on to win the South and ultimately give Stanford a run in the title game. Every team in the league recruits Southern California, and winning this game goes a long way toward gaining an edge in a target-rich environment. Depending on what happened last week against ASU, the Bruins could be looking for a third-straight trip to the conference title game. And they'd like nothing better than to punch their ticket at USC's expense, and on their field.

Conversely, the Trojans would be elated to reclaim the South (remember that critical game against ASU way back in Week 5, how much is that playing a factor this week?) by beating UCLA in front of their fans. It's also very possible that this is the game that decides Lane Kiffin's future as USC's coach. If the Trojans are stuck at seven wins going into this game and lose -- we might see a change pre-or-post bowl game. A Trojan victory (depending on how the rest of the season goes) could cool his seat.

Adding a little more intrigue to the game are possible Heisman implications for Marqise Lee and Brett Hundley. Will one of them be in the mix? Both? Neither?

Enjoy this week for what it is -- a great week of football, regardless of what city you are in. If it rivals last year's week of regular-season finale games, it's going to be a phenomenal two days.

You can relive the entire road trip here.

Utah Utes spring wrap

May, 8, 2013
5/08/13
7:00
AM ET
Utah Utes

2012 record: 5-7
2012 conference record: 3-6 (Fifth in South Division)
Returning starters: Offense: 6; Defense 6; kicker/punter: 0

Top returners: WR Dres Anderson, TE Jake Murphy, QB Travis Wilson, RB Kelvin York, LB Brian Blechen, LB Trevor Reilly.

Key losses: RB John White, LT Sam Brenner, DT Star Lotulelei, DE Joe Kruger, DT Dave Kruger, KR Reggie Dunn, P Sean Sellwood, K Coleman Petersen.

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: John White (1,085)
Passing: Travis Wilson* (1,311)
Receiving: Dres Anderson* (365)
Tackles: Trevor Reilly* (69)
Sacks: Joe Kruger (6)
Interceptions: Ryan Lacy (2)

Spring answers
  1. Identity found: Sort of. The addition of co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson has given the Utes the identity on offense that they were sorely missing last season. The Utes will join the ranks of several other spread teams in the conference with the hopes of improving the passing game. Head coach Kyle Whittingham said the team had previously been transitioning to the spread, but the addition of Erickson to the staff has hastened the process. Last year Utah ranked last in the Pac-12 in passing, averaging 190.7 yards per game.
  2. Shoring up the line: For now, it looks like Utah has found its starting five on the offensive line. And it’s a big, big bunch with an average weight of 320 pounds. Jeremiah Poutasi (345) is in at left tackle, Jeremiah Tofaeono (320) is in at left guard, Vyncent Jones (305) is in at center with Junior Salt (guard, 325) and Siaosi Aiono (305) on the right side. A lot of folks are excited to finally see Salt in action and the coaching staff has been singing his praises for more than a year.
  3. Backing up the back: It’s no secret that the Utes lost a talented runner in John White -- a two-time 1,000-yard rusher. Kelvin York, who sits atop the depth chart, showed promise in limited work last year. And this spring the coaching staff was able to develop some depth behind him with James Poole, Lucky Radley and Karl Williams all in contention to be the first back off the bench.
Fall questions
  1. No. 2 QB? Travis Wilson, who started the second half of last season, did a good job entrenching himself as the starter and creating some separation from the pack. But any Utah fan worth their salt knows how important quarterback depth can be -- especially after the past few years. And the race will be on this fall to see if Adam Schulz or Brandon Cox will be Wilson’s primary understudy.
  2. Looking for something special: The Utes have to replace a kicker and a punter in 2013. As of now, it looks like kicking duties fall to Andy Phillips while Tom Hackett takes over at punter. Speaking of special teams, there’s also the departure of All-American kick returner Reggie Dunn to consider. The top candidates to return kicks are Quinton Pedroza and Charles Henderson.
  3. D-line in transition: Utah lost 75 percent of a very talented defensive line crew -- including first-round draft pick Star Lotulelei and the Kruger brothers. And it looks like a lot remains unsettled. Nate Orchard and Jason Whittingham are separated by an “or” at left end, one of the two tackle spots is up for grabs between LT Tuipulotu and Sese Ianu and Whittingham and converted linebacker Trevor Reilly are both up for that right end spot. Kyle Whittingham has said he’s still not sure how he’ll play Reilly -- who could spend more time with his hand down, working in a hybrid DL/LB role.

Lunch links: Spring recaps

May, 6, 2013
5/06/13
2:30
PM ET
And the piano, it sounds like a carnival, and the microphone smells like a beer;
And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar, and say, "Man, what are you doin' here?"
In case you hadn't heard, my first Pac-12 mailbag from a couple of weeks ago was nominated for the Oscar for best supporting mailbag in a Pac-12-centric blog. I was the only nominee, but somehow I lost out. Hollywood can be so political.

Anyway, from here on out, Ted and I will be alternating mailbags on Fridays. And then when the season starts -- you'll get two mailbags a week. That's assuming the Mayans weren't off by a few months and I don't get that part as Channing Tatum's body double in Magic Mike 2: Hot Bloggers, Hot Bods. (Fingers crossed).

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

To the notes!

Ben in Phoenix writes: No De'Anthony Thomas?

Kevin Gemmell: Nope, 'fraid not. I can tell you there were about five or six times I said to Ted, "I can't believe we're leaving DAT off this list." Not because he's not one of the best players in the league, but because of the criteria we use to make the league. As I explained in the Blogger Debate, my criteria starts with postseason honors -- All-American, All-Conference, etc. Then I look at the numbers and then go with my gut to sort out what's left. And what was left was an amazing player who just didn't have the honors or numbers that some others did.

A lot of great players were left off the list. Won't rehash all of them, but you know who they are. One thing we can all agree on is that the list isn't perfect. The final product isn't exactly how I'd like it if I were doing it alone. And it's not how Ted would like it if he were doing it alone. But the majority of folks think we were in the ballpark (almost three out of four folks gave us either an 'A' or 'B' in the Tuesday poll). And when you're talking about a list that is wildly objective, that's not too bad.

Count on the acronyms -- DAT & ASJ -- being positioned favorably on the preseason top 25.

Brian in Denver writes: I know Stanford's got a lot of solid defensive players coming back, including much of the ferocious front seven that keyed the P12 championship and Rose Bowl run. But I'm a little nervous about the departure of Terrence Stephens. That dude was a singular mass of man clogging the middle of the line, and his absence was noticeable the last few games of the year. Who replaces Stephens, and will the drop-off be significant?

Kevin Gemmell: David Parry started the final three games when Stephens was out for committing secondary NCAA violations regarding his housing. Parry was very good in both UCLA games and the Rose Bowl. In the season finale against UCLA, he had a team high five solo tackles, a sack and he batted down a pass. He's a former walk-on who played his way into a scholarship. You have to love those guys because they never stop trying to prove themselves.

Stephens was very underrated for what he did on and off the field. He didn't have the gaudy numbers of a Will Sutton or the attention of a Star Lotulelei. He just went out every week and took on the double teams and let the linebackers mop up. Occasionally he'd get his name printed, but not often. Here's a great quote from Stephens from a story I did about the Stanford defense back in September.
I'm a nose tackle. That's a thankless job. You won't make many plays. Won't get a lot of recognition, but you're doing your job. And my job is to demand two, maybe three people at a time and let my linebackers and ends and secondary roar. That's my job. I have to be that concrete rock in the middle of the defense to let everyone else do their job. That's the mindset we all have. We celebrate as a team when Chase Thomas gets a sack and Trent Murphy gets a sack and when Ed Reynolds gets a pick, we are all part of it. We all made it happen in some way.

I haven't talked with Parry, but I know Stephens will be missed on the all-interview team. He's the kind of guy where you just put the recorder down, ask a question and let him go. Good guy. Good leader. But from what I saw from Parry, I'm thinking Stanford will be just fine across the line.

Speaking of Chase Thomas...

Chace in Mountain View, Calif., writes: Hello Kevin, am I the only one who was surprised at Chase Thomas's poor numbers at the combine? A 4.91 40 is abysmal for an outside linebacker in today's NFL, and while his 3 cone and shuttle times were not as bad they were still below average and put him in the bottom 5 in both of all linebackers at the combine. Same with his vertical and long jumps. I watched him for years at Stanford, and always thought of him as a very fast and athletic linebacker... was I really that far off?

Kevin Gemmell: Honestly, I'm not totally shocked. Thomas isn't a "measurables" kind of guy. He's one of those guys who -- as the cliche goes -- plays faster than he looks. He's got great linebacker instincts and a nose for the ball. He's a playmaker -- that's the bottom line. He's never been a pure-power rusher, but he has a knack for shedding blocks and disrupting plays in the backfield.

He is also extremely sound in his technique. Thomas and Murphy were as good as any OLB duo at setting edges and either making plays at the point of attack or forcing plays back into the middle of the field.

And I don't think anyone who watched his jump-ball interception in the Arizona game is worried about his vertical.

He might never be an All-Pro, but he should have a very productive career.

Mr. Huskie in Seattle writes: You guys seem to make a big deal out of your top 25. What's the big deal? It's a list. Why do you care what we think? Insecurity? How about doing some real stories where you actually talk to people.

Kevin Gemmell: I'm not insecure. At least my therapist doesn't think so. Does he? No, he doesn't. I don't even have a therapist. Should I get one? Do I need one? I don't even know now...

We make a big deal out of it because it's fun. We like the blog to be a little interactive, so that's why we involve the readers. We have fun with it and -- for the most part -- it seems like the readers do too. That's all.

It's fun because I called Ted on Tuesday to talk about our posting schedule for the week -- and he's still trying to change my mind about Matt Barkley. It's fun because the second I got off the phone with Kyle Whittingham on Wednesday, I immediately had to text Ted to tell him that Whittingham agreed with my choice of Reggie Dunn.

Neither of us went to a Pac-12 school, so we don't have a stake in the outcome. But you guys do. And yes, it promotes debate and discussion on a topic that usually takes a backseat to NCAA basketball in February.

Do we "care what you think?" About us personally, nah, not so much. Hopefully folks find Ted and I to be informative and witty. At least, the former. By the way, if it's so unimportant, why take the time to write? I can only assume you are a Washington fan. So you're probably hating on us right now for the lack of purple on the top 25 list. That's OK. But as you posed in your question, what's the big deal?

Since you're looking for "real stories," I thought I'd help you out. Here's a sampling of what we've done since the first Top 25 post ran on Jan. 22.

Team reviews for:
Some other pieces of note:
And that was just the last days of January.

I don't really have the time to dig into all of the February stuff. But here's a sampling.
Are those "real" enough for you?

Yes, Ted and I can be playful and self-deprecating. But we do it because it's fun. Don't ever mistake that for insecurity or a lack of confidence. There is more than 35 years of experience between us -- and we're very good at what we do. We are 100 percent confident in everything that we publish. That's why we put our names on it.

Speaking of which, "Mr. Huskie," (shouldn't it be Husky?) any reason you didn't use your real name? Insecurity, perhaps?
We did a top-25 Pac-12 players list, and then asked you to provide your own.

The response was strong. Both in numbers of entries and the overall quality. A few of you listed mostly guys from your favorite team. One guy took the time to type out Matt Barkley 25 times.

I couldn't publish them all, of course. Further, I didn't consider ones that listed 25 guys with no explanation -- YOU DIDN'T FOLLOW DIRECTIONS! -- and I didn't include ones that just said "switch these two players, drop Reggie Dunn and your list would be perfect."

I also have a celebrity contribution, the last one, that I found pretty interesting.

Couple of general thoughts:
Once again, here's our list.

No. 1: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
No. 2: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
No. 3: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 4: Matt Scott, QB, Arizona
No. 5: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
No. 6: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 7: Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
No. 8: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 9: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
No. 10: Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
No. 11: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
No. 12: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 13: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
No. 14: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
No. 15: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
No. 16: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
No. 17: Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford
No. 18: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
No. 19: David Yankey, OL, Stanford
No. 20: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
No. 21: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
No. 22: Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
No. 23: Michael Clay, LB, Oregon
No. 24: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
No. 25: Reggie Dunn, KR, Utah

Here are some of your thoughts.

Braxton from Fargo, N.D.:

1. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
3. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
4. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
5. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
6. Jonathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
7. Matt Scott, QB, Arizona
8. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
9. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
10. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
11. Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
12. Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
13. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
14. David Yankey, OL, Stanford
15. Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
16. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
17. Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
18. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
19. Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
20. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
21. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
22. Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
23. Michael Clay, LB, Oregon
24. Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
25. Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington

First off I do not think a sole kick returner (Reggie Dunn) belongs in a top 25 player list. I would make an exception with De'Anthony Thomas, though he plays a much more vital role in Oregon's offense, than Dunn in Utah's offense. Leaving off Austin Seferian-Jenkins is absurd. If you would take off Seferian-Jenkins off Washington's offense, they would be incredibly one-demensional. Taylor Kelly almost made my list, but I just didn't see enough fire-power in him through the season.

My take: Reasonable list. Added Seferian-Jenkins, Sankey and Trufant -- three Huskies -- and dropped Dunn, Kelly and Crichton. Could be argued.

(Read full post)

Q&A: Utah's Kyle Whittingham

February, 28, 2013
2/28/13
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With spring ball just a couple of weeks away, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham enters camp coming off a losing season for the first time in his head-coaching career. He took a few minutes to chat with the Pac-12 blog about the expectations, plugging holes and his unshaken faith in co-offensive coordinator Brian Johnson. And he gave a clear, unbiased endorsement of Reggie Dunn in the Pac-12 Postseason Top 25.

2012 was your first losing season as a head coach. How trying was that for you?

Kyle Whittingham: Very trying. It's not what we're used to around here, for sure. But it's a transitional period for us. We're in a very good league, a very competitive league. We feel like we're making progress, but everyone is as well. Everyone is a moving target. Nobody is standing still. I think the league took a big step forward last year. Last year there was a lot of improvement by a lot of the teams.

What were some of the lessons learned from going through last season?

[+] EnlargeKyle Whittingham
Kirby Lee/US PresswireKyle Whittingham hopes the addition of Dennis Erickson as co-offensive coordinator will help jump-start an offense that struggled in 2012.
KW: I don't know if it's anything we didn't know. We had some quarterback issues. Jordan [Wynn] got hurt and we went through a few quarterbacks which didn't give us any stability at that position until the second half of the season. We're excited about Travis Wilson. We think he's got a lot of upside and we're really excited about the three quarterbacks we recruited this year. That position is in better shape now than it's been in for a long time.

So you're committed to Travis. Or is there any competition there?

KW: There's always competition. Right now Travis is the guy with experience and he's been in the program for a year. But the freshmen we brought in are very talented. The best guys play here. It doesn't matter if you've been here five days or five years. If you're the best guy you're going to play.

What were your thoughts on offensive coordinator Brian Johnson's first year? Given some of the difficulties he had to face -- the revolving quarterbacks, injuries, offensive line holes -- do you feel like he did a sufficient job in his first year?

KW: I think so. He's got a lot of upside. I remember as a first-year coordinator there was a big learning curve. I don't care how intelligent you may be or how ready you feel for the job, there is still a learning curve that is going to take place. And until you've been in that chair you don't really appreciate all that it entails and everything the job encompasses. I think coach [Dennis] Erickson is going to be working side-by-side with Brian -- they will be co-coordinators -- I think that will be a great situation for us. Bottom line, Coach Erickson was brought in to make our offense better and get our offense rolling. My faith in Brian Johnson is still very strong.

Everyone in the league has players, but depth seems to be a big issue for most teams. Entering Year 3 in the Pac-12, do you feel like you've built up that depth to where you can be competitive?

KW: I think we're working toward that end. It's a process. It doesn't happen overnight. Every year you try to make your football team better through recruiting. There are three ways to make yourself better. You either bring in new players through recruiting. You make the guys already in the program better and sometimes it's addition by subtraction. Those are the three ways you can improve your football team. And I think we have done a very nice job -- the assistant coaches in particular -- they are the ones on the front lines of recruiting and finding the talent and determining who we should bring into the program. I'm pleased with the classes we've put together the last three years. I believe we're heading in that direction of building depth. We're certainly a more talented team than we were a few years ago.

Speaking of depth, you have some holes to fill on the defensive line. Will Trevor Reilly switch from his hybrid spot to full-time defensive end?

KW: That question has not been completely answered. We have to see how some of the young defensive ends that are in the program develop this spring and through fall camp. With the departure of Joe Kruger -- unexpectedly -- that took us by surprise when he left early for the NFL, that created a void at that position that we weren't expecting. In our minds that became a situation where we thought Trevor might spend more time there than he had if Joe had returned. But it's still not completely defined as to what his role will be. He won't be with us for spring ball. He had offseason surgery so he won't be with us through spring so that probably won't be answered until fall.

Junior Salt was recruited as a defensive lineman, but then you moved him to the offensive line. Any thoughts on moving him back to fill some of those holes on the defensive line?

KW: No. We feel really good about him at the guard position. That's where he played his junior college ball and we think he's going to be a really good offensive lineman for us and we believe that's where he belongs and where his greatest contribution to our football team will be. When he got here, he was playing on the D-line and then he broke his foot. That kept him out a long time -- eight or nine weeks. Toward the end of that, I talked to him and told him he can play on either side he prefers. But after looking at who was departing, we thought he had a chance to step in and take over that right guard spot and he was very agreeable to that.

Obviously a frustrating situation with Star Lotulelei. Have you talked with him at all?

KW: He's doing OK. I'm not a doctor so I can't speak to the medical end of it. But I know he has a good attitude and things can get cleared up. His health is the most important thing. If we can get some more evaluations and tests and get this thing completely answered, that's what we're trying to do right now. As a program and as Star's former coach, the main thing is making sure his health is OK. Once that's addressed, hopefully he'll be able to play in the NFL.

I know you hang on every word written in the Pac-12 blog so you no doubt saw Reggie Dunn on our list of Top 25 players in 2012. Any thoughts?

KW: He deserved it. He set some records that aren't going to be broken for a long time. I think the world of Reggie. Boy, the spark he provided for us this year -- particularly with our offense struggling -- what he brought was huge for us.

Poll: Grading the top 25

February, 26, 2013
2/26/13
7:00
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As Ted announced earlier today, you'll have your chance to submit your own top 25s and we'll publish a few of them on the blog. But in the meantime, it's time for your Tuesday poll question. And since we're close to putting a bow on this year's postseason top 25, we thought we'd give you guys a chance to weigh in on what you think.

So, for your Tuesday question: How would you grade the Pac-12 postseason top 25? (Please keep in mind that Ted is very, very sensitive).

SportsNation

How would you grade the Pac-12 postseason Top 25?

  •  
    20%
  •  
    52%
  •  
    16%
  •  
    6%
  •  
    6%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,412)

Your options:

A: You guys nailed it. All 25 players deserve to be on there and they are all ranked in the proper place -- give or take one or two spots. Your logic for each pick was sound and you should be applauded for your effort. We collectively bow to your knowledge of the Pac-12 and its personnel.

B: Not bad. Most of the players deserve to be on there and the rankings are generally in order. There are one or two players that I disagree with, but for the most part, it's a solid list and good representation of the top 25 players in the league.

C: Meh. Some good, some bad. Too many players that I would have liked to see on there you guys didn't include. Your rankings were pretty far off also on some of the players. It's not the worst list ever, but it's not great.

D: Too many marquee players were left off this list in place for guys who didn't deserve it. The rankings were way off and you missed the boat on too many good guys. (By the way, this is code for "Why do you both hate Washington?")

F: How current are your résumés?

Here's the list again so you don't have to scroll back all the way through.

No. 1: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
No. 2: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
No. 3: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 4: Matt Scott, QB, Arizona
No. 5: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
No. 6: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 7: Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
No. 8: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 9: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
No. 10: Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
No. 11: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
No. 12: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 13: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
No. 14: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
No. 15: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
No. 16: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
No. 17: Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford
No. 18: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
No. 19: David Yankey, OL, Stanford
No. 20: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
No. 21: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
No. 22: Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
No. 23: Michael Clay, LB, Oregon
No. 24: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
No. 25: Reggie Dunn, KR, Utah
There's a saying that there are two things that you never want to see being made: laws and sausage. I think you can add the Pac-12 Blog Postseason Top 25 to that list.

The debate between Ted and I was vigorous -- and mostly civil. One time Ted mocked my alma mater for not having a football team. I called Ted the kind of guy who likes his comments and says "natty." I quickly apologized, knowing I'd gone too far. See, mostly civil.

For those who want to see a sneak peek into how the sausage is made, enjoy this email exchange between your bloggers.

Kevin Gemmell: I think it's important to note that while there are elements of the Top 25 that you and I might disagree with, it's a list that we both signed off on. And I stand by it.

With that said, reading over the comments, it seems like I'm responsible for the most hated pick -- Reggie Dunn at No. 25 -- and you are responsible for the two most hated placements -- Matt Barkley at No. 14 and Matt Scott at No. 4.

It took some prodding from me, but you came around on the Dunn pick. Most folks hate it. And that's fine. We knew it wasn't going to be popular. But it's the right call. I don't care if you're playing in the lingerie league or Pop Warner -- returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown is hard to do. It's even harder to do it twice in a game, four times in a season and five times for your career. That's why it's NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE! (I'm using all caps because I'm yelling). There's a reason he's an All-American. And All-Americans don't get left off the list.

In my original Top 25, Barkley was not on it and Scott was in the teens. I believe your exact words were "I'm not moving Matt Scott. I'll fight for him to be in the Top 5." After some give-and-take, I conceded. But I wish I would have pushed harder on Barkley. I see your argument, but he also was the quarterback of one of the worst downfalls in football history. I think he's of great character and enjoyed every conversation I've ever had with him. He's a quality guy and we should be so lucky to have more players like him in the league. I wish him nothing but success at the next level. But his team's dramatic descent was matched only by his team's dramatic preseason hype.

I regret, most of all, not having Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the list.

Ted Miller: As we said at the beginning, it's incredibly difficult to make a top-25 list of players most seasons. I think this year was the most difficult yet.

Who got left off? So many guys: Seferian-Jenkins, Desmond Trufant, Ben Gardner, Datone Jones, De'Anthony Thomas, Kevin Hogan, Austin Hill, Eric Kendricks, Bishop Sankey, Morgan Breslin, Carl Bradford, Marion Grice, Kiko Alonso, Travis Long, Terrance Mitchell, Brandin Cooks, Keenan Allen, Hroniss Grasu, Khaled Holmes, Brian Schwenke, Xavier Su'a-Filo, Brandon Magee, Taylor Hart, Joseph Fauria, Robert Woods, etc.

Just to name another 25.

It's difficult to be entirely consistent. Does playing for a winner matter? Yes. Do we disqualify players who played for bad or disappointing teams? No, but it figures into the calculations. Do NFL prospects matter? To me, yes. It's a measure of pure "good." What about stats? Absolutely. Career achievement? Part of it. Position matters, too. Quarterback is by far the most important position. It's not even close. A good tight end isn't as valuable, to me, as a good defensive tackle or cornerback.

The process is fluid. There's a lot of "feel" to it. It's certainly not objective.

With all due humility, I will throw out to our critics a couple of things: 1. We watch a lot of Pac-12 football; 2. We talk to a lot of people who know how to evaluate the quality of a player. We come at this differently from you guys. You spend your Saturdays rooting for your team and hating on your rival. This is our job. We're not terribly emotional about it.

One of my final measures is a personal Pac-12 draft. Where would guys fall if everyone who played in 2012 was coming back in 2013 and all 12 coaches were drafting players, knowing what happened in 2012?

Matt Scott at No. 4: I am 100 percent certain he'd be a top-five pick. In fact, I'd guess all top-five picks would be quarterbacks. I'm also certain that Matt Barkley wouldn't last outside the top-10.

If you are the second-team All-Pac-12 quarterback, which Scott was, you are elite almost every year. It's practically automatic to land in the top-10. Then when you produce 50 yards per game more than ANYONE ELSE IN THE CONFERENCE and take a middling team with no defense to eight wins, you land at No. 4.

I knew we'd get hit for ranking Dunn. I think Kevin's case for him -- NEVER DONE BEFORE; All-American -- is sound. He would not be among my top-25 picks, though.

As I sit here today, I'd rank Trufant 25th.

So, Kevin: Who's your No. 26?

Kevin Gemmell: Before I answer that, I'd like to add a little something about my thought process -- I didn't take "career" into consideration -- which is why I wasn't as high on Barkley as you were. I tried to evaluate players on their merit from their performance in 2012. And that goes for the "draft" concept as well -- which I didn't put much stock into. Of course DAT would be a Top 10 pick if we were holding a draft. But he didn't have the numbers to merit being placed on this list. Scott deserves Top 10 -- but top five seemed high to me.

As you said, a lot of it is "feel." My first criteria as All-America status. Then all-conference. Then I number-crunched. Then I go with my gut to sort out the rest. I won't spend this entire email defending the Dunn pick. Minds are already made up and I'm not going to change any. Those who hate it will continue to rage. Those brave few (namely, Utah fans) will go down with me in the ship. I'll just say he met my personal criteria -- All-American, all-conference, numbers (for the position he was chosen for) and gut. His fifth 100-yard touchdown which I referenced above was more of a footnote -- not a nod to a career achievement.

My No. 26 would probably be Barkley. As noted above, he wasn't on my original Top 25 that I sent you (along with a note, by the way, that said "We're going to crushed by the readers.") I would probably have had ASJ around 17-20, bumped a few folks up and had Barkley right at the cut-off. I'm pretty sure I had Anthony Barr in around seven or eight also, but he got bumped back.

We both agree quarterback is the most important position -- by far -- which is why you and I were in lock-step with all the other QBs on the list -- Taylor Kelly, Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota. But I think I put more stock into team success than you do -- which is why I was comfortable with Kelly at No. 24. He helped his team either meet or surpass expectations. Barkley, however, did not.

The offensive line was wildly under-represented. I'm OK with that this year. There were plenty good offensive linemen -- and the one we put on the list -- David Yankey -- is outstanding. But there wasn't the depth like we had in 2011 with Matt Kalil, David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin.

Any position groups you felt were not properly represented?

Ted Miller: Good point about the offensive line. There just wasn't that "elite" feel to the O-linemen this year. We had USC center Khaled Holmes on the preseason list at No. 18, but he didn't have a great season, even though he made first-team All-Pac-12.

It's difficult to evaluate offensive linemen unless you watch game film. You know the winner of the Morris Trophy -- Stanford's David Yankey this season -- is going to be on the list, but after that it's difficult if you aren't hearing NFL scouts swooning. Cal's Brian Schwenke, who is zooming up NFL draft boards, might have been the second-best lineman in the conference, but the Bears' went 3-9 and got poor line play this fall.

That's so much a part of this: The intangibles. I don't buy the anti-Barkley arguments as anything but intangibles. Did his performance justify a No. 14 ranking? Unquestionably. If any other QB in the conference threw four more TD passes than anyone else -- in 11 games, no less -- then it would have been controversial that he was so low. Those not wanting him on the list want to punish him individually as a symbol for an entire team underachieving. And we did demote him: He dropped from No. 1 to 14. That's pretty considerable.

And, again, his "career achievement" is a special case. Career achievement didn't help, say, Cal's Keenan Allen or USC's T.J. McDonald. But Barkley ended his career with 17 more TD passes THAN ANY PREVIOUS CONFERENCE QB.

(Deep breath) I'm OK.

I hear the ASJ talk. To me, tight end is a difficult position to measure. For one, you don't need one like you, say, need a kicker or left tackle. Just because you're the third best tight end in the nation doesn't mean you're among the top-25 Pac-12 players.

Then again: He's likely going to be a first-round NFL draft pick in 2014. Let's just say if I saw a top-25 list of Pac-12 players with ASJ on it, I wouldn't flinch.

Kevin, the good news -- ha! -- is my review of this list and projecting forward to 2013 only includes about 35 to 40 potential players for our preseason top-25. We will get another opportunity to lose "all credibility" and again prove our idiocy in August!

Fun!

Kevin Gemmell: Intangibles do count, at least in my mind. If Jeff Tuel had thrown that many touchdowns and Washington State was still 3-9 would he be on this list? My guess is no. Well, 3-9 for Washington State is the same as 7-6 for USC in my mind.

Perhaps if Barkley wasn't the Heisman front-runner at the start of the season; perhaps if his team wasn't a preseason No. 1; perhaps if he hadn't more than doubled his interceptions from last year -- in 11 games, no less (see what I did there to make my point) -- then maybe the majority wouldn't be as hard on him.

But he was, they were and he did.

And it might be incredibly unfair, but he gets graded on a tougher curve than other quarterbacks.

We could go round and round about this (oh wait, we have). If anything, this whole experience was an exercise in partnership. And it was fun. Hopefully the readers enjoyed it too. Look forward to when we can start hammering out the preseason list. Until then, let's really buckle down and work hard to regain our lost credibility.

Your turn: Make a top-25 and defend it

February, 26, 2013
2/26/13
11:00
AM ET
And the Pac-12 Bloggers saw the top-25 list that they had made, and, behold, it was very good.

Or so they think.

Since the beginning of times, people have been creating things. Beautiful things. And then there have been critics.
Adam: Yeah, it's cool, this Paradise and everything -- Eve is a righteous babe! -- but it's pretty lame I can't eat an apple from this tree!

Renaissance critic: While Mr. da Vinci has had a fine career, I simply can't get over that smug smile from the Mona Lisa. Oh, so you think you know me, do you Ms. Mona Lisa, you uppity thing? Oh, so you think you can follow me with your eyes, do you? What if I run over here... Hmm. Well, I don't think you're pretty. At all.

Elizabethian critic: Oh, Mr. Shakespeare can turn a phrase or two in his plays, but, really, where are the car chases and explosions? No great art exists without those.

Joan Rivers (1864): Mr. Lincoln was a fine president and leader, he freed the slaves and saved the country and all that, but who walks the red carpet in a long top hat and black vested suit? He looks like a funeral director! And don't get me started on that beard. Does he think he plays for the San Francisco Giants? Or that he's in a grunge band? Hey, Mr. Lincoln, Seattle isn't even part of the Union yet!

Pac-12 blog critic: Reggie Dunn! Matt Scott! Matt Barkley! Where's the Black Mamba? Where's Desmond Trufant? Where's Austin Seferian-Jenkins? This list has no credibility! Blaaaaaaaaaeeeeechhhhhh! Fursbitarduty!

Sigh. Oh, the burdens We Great Creators must bear.

Well, Kevin and I think it's your turn. We want you to submit your top-25 list and write 50 to 100 words defending it.

Send your entries here.

We will publish (and perhaps comment on ourselves!) the most notable ones.

You, of course, have the advantage of seeing our list, and knowing its most controversial picks and omissions. But don't let that distract you. It will be more fun if you go by your own feelings.

There are no wrong answers.

Other than the fact that all will be wrong that don't look exactly like this.

A review of the Pac-12's top-25 list

February, 25, 2013
2/25/13
7:00
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The Pac-12 blog's top-25 list is complete with the naming of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota No. 1.

It's wonderful that everyone came to the same conclusion: The list is perfect. You wouldn't change a thing.

Let's break down the 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
Notes: The shutting out of California, Colorado and Washington State probably surprises no one. A goose egg for Washington? Well, that hasn't been terribly popular, particularly with two clear candidates in cornerback Desmond Trufant and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The rest of the numbers make pretty good sense based on the standings, with Oregon and Stanford combining for 11 players. In fact, the Ducks and Stanford had a couple of elite guys who were left off. So, basically, no one is happy.

By unit:
Offense: 13
Defense: 11
Special teams: 1
Notes: We didn't spend a lot of time worrying about balance between units. It just worked out that way. The preseason list was 16 to 9 in favor of offense.

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
Notes: Pretty good balance here. Obviously, the Pac-12 had a lot of good backfields in 2012. After quarterback, running back overtook receiver as the marquee position. The preseason list featured four top-10 receivers. The postseason list featured four top-10 running backs. You could say it wasn't a great year for linemen. Some of that is more teams using a 3-4 look on defense, which has defensive ends becoming outside linebackers.

Who's coming back?
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
Notes: That's 12-of-25 and four of the top-five. Not too bad. A good mixture of offense and defense, too.
Also coming back (in no particularly order -- honest): Seferian-Jenkins, Stanford DT Ben Gardner, Oregon WR/RB De'Anthony Thomas, Stanford QB Kevin Hogan, Arizona WR Austin Hill, UCLA LB Eric Kendricks, Oregon TE Colt Lyerla, Washington RB Bishop Sankey, USC DE Morgan Breslin, Arizona State LB Carl Bradford, Oregon State C Isaac Seumalo, Stanford LB Shayne Skov, Oregon S Avery Patterson, USC DT Leonard Williams, Arizona State RB Marion Grice, Oregon CB Terrance Mitchell, Oregon State QR Brandin Cooks, Oregon C Hronis Grasu, UCLA OG Xavier Sua-Filo, Washington State S Deone Bucannon, California RB Brendan Bigelow, Colorado WR Paul Richardson, Arizona State H-back Chris Coyle, Oregon State LB D.J. Alexander and Oregon DE Taylor Hart.

Just to name a few (I had to stop adding guys. I'd never finish this post).

So the preseason top-25 list will be easy to make and be just as uncontroversial as this one.

Sweet.

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 1

February, 25, 2013
2/25/13
1:00
PM ET
Our countdown of the top 25 players in the 2012 season continues.

You can see our preseason top 25 here.

No. 1: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

2012 numbers: Mariota completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 2,677 yards with 32 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also rushed for 752 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 7.1 yards per carry.

Preseason ranking: Unranked.

Making the case for Mariota: It's pretty extraordinary that a redshirt freshman quarterback earns first-team All-Pac-12 honors. And tops this list. But Mariota had an extraordinary season. He ranked first in the Pac-12 and seventh in the nation in pass efficiency. It's reasonable to wonder how ridiculous his numbers would have been had Oregon played more close games, and therefore Mariota's A-game was needed in the fourth quarter more than three or four times. Consistency? Mariota threw a touchdown pass in every game. He threw one interception in the final seven games. He led an offense that ranked second in the nation in scoring (49.5 ppg) and was fifth in total offense (537.4 ypg). The Ducks scored 11 points per game more than any other Pac-12 team. The 6-foot-4, 196-pound Honolulu native is an extremely accurate passer who also might be the fastest quarterback in the nation -- see 86 and 77 yard runs this year. Against USC on the road, he completed 87 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He tied a school record with six TD passes against California. He rushed for 135 yards at Arizona State. In the Fiesta Bowl victory over Kansas State, he passed for two touchdowns and ran for another and earned game MVP honors as the Ducks ended up ranked No. 2 in the nation. Mariota will enter the 2013 season as one of the top-five preseason Heisman Trophy candidates. Said All-American Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown: "He's a great young player. He has a bright future." Yes he does. If current trends continue, Mariota will become the greatest player in Oregon history and be a first-round pick in the NFL draft. That's a lot. But it's the truth.

No. 2: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
No. 3: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 4: Matt Scott, QB, Arizona
No. 5: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
No. 6: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 7: Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
No. 8: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 9: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
No. 10: Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
No. 11: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
No. 12: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 13: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
No. 14: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
No. 15: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
No. 16: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
No. 17: Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford
No. 18: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
No. 19: David Yankey, OL, Stanford
No. 20: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
No. 21: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
No. 22: Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
No. 23: Michael Clay, LB, Oregon
No. 24: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
No. 25: Reggie Dunn, KR, Utah

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 2

February, 22, 2013
2/22/13
5:00
PM ET
Our countdown of the top 25 players in the 2012 season continues.

You can see our preseason top 25 here.

No. 2: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State

2012 numbers: He recorded 63 tackles (an extremely impressive number for a defensive tackle), tallied 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for a loss. He also broke up five passes and forced three fumbles.

Preseason ranking: Unranked.

Making the case for Sutton: It's rare that defensive linemen can completely alter games, let alone entire game plans. Sutton was that kind of player in 2012. He was literally a game-changer. With an explosive first-step from his tackle spot, no one in the league and few players nationally created more havoc in backfields than Sutton. He led the league in sacks and tackles for a loss per game and was honored with the league's Morris Trophy for top defensive lineman and the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Award. Between his sacks and TFLs, he accounted for 232 lost yards. Twelve of his sacks were solo jobs -- matched only by UCLA's Anthony Barr. Twenty-two of his tackles for a loss were solo -- matched by no one. Teams knew the consensus All-American was coming -- there just wasn't anything they could do to stop him. His 1.92 tackles for a loss were second nationally and he was third nationally with 1.08 sacks per game. He was crowned defensive MVP of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl with 3.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks. With three teams that played in BCS bowl games last year on the 2013 docket (Wisconsin, Stanford, Notre Dame), the Sun Devils are fortunate to have Sutton back for another year after he opted to put the NFL off for another season. Once again, teams will know he's coming. Chances are, they won't be able to stop him.

No. 3: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 4: Matt Scott, QB, Arizona
No. 5: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
No. 6: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 7: Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
No. 8: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 9: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
No. 10: Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
No. 11: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
No. 12: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 13: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
No. 14: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
No. 15: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
No. 16: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
No. 17: Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford
No. 18: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
No. 19: David Yankey, OL, Stanford
No. 20: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
No. 21: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
No. 22: Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
No. 23: Michael Clay, LB, Oregon
No. 24: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
No. 25: Reggie Dunn, KR, Utah

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 3

February, 22, 2013
2/22/13
4:00
PM ET
Our countdown of the top 25 players in the 2012 season continues.

You can see the preseason top 25 here.

No. 3: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

2012 numbers: Lee caught 118 passes for 1,721 yards with 14 touchdowns. He also rushed 13 times for 106 yards. And returned a kickoff 100 yards for a TD.

Preseason ranking: No. 9

Making the case for Lee: It's pretty simple: Lee, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound true sophomore, was a unanimous All-American because he was the best receiver in the nation this season. Some might argue he was the best overall player in the nation. He ranked second in the nation in both receptions per game (9.08) and receiving yards per game (132.38). His 345 yards receiving at Arizona set a Pac-12 record and also were the fifth-most in FBS history. Lee produced three of the top four receiving games in the conference this year -- the Arizona performance, 197 yards versus Hawaii and 192 yards at Utah. Five times he went over 150 yards receiving. It wasn't like teams didn't know he was coming. He was a 1,000-yard receiver as a true freshman. Further, the Trojans other top receiving target, Robert Woods, was a unanimous All-American the year before. You'd think Lee would have had to share the ball more. Yet Lee was so difficult to stop, so tempting to target, that it's possible -- probable perhaps -- that the Trojans strangely inconsistent offense this year looked to Lee too often. That, however, isn't Lee's fault. Lee posted a spectacular season that wasn't appreciated enough because his team was so massively disappointing overall.

No. 4: Matt Scott, QB, Arizona
No. 5: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
No. 6: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 7: Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
No. 8: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 9: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
No. 10: Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
No. 11: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
No. 12: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 13: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
No. 14: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
No. 15: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
No. 16: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
No. 17: Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford
No. 18: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
No. 19: David Yankey, OL, Stanford
No. 20: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
No. 21: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
No. 22: Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
No. 23: Michael Clay, LB, Oregon
No. 24: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
No. 25: Reggie Dunn, KR, Utah

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