Pac-12: Star Lotulelei

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.

Utes defense needs playmaking

July, 23, 2013
7/23/13
5:30
PM ET
Utah's defense wasn't bad last year, particularly when you consider it was supported by an anemic offense. But there was a decided lack of big plays that transferred momentum to the team in red.

Here are two telling measures.

  • Utah forced just 22 turnovers. That ranked 10th in the conference. Six Pac-12 teams forced more than 30.
  • Opposing offenses scored touchdowns on 31 of 43 red zone trips -- 72 percent. The only conference team that was worse was woeful Colorado.

The loose correlation there? Playmaking. Who's going to make the play that stops a drive short of the end zone?

[+] EnlargeTrevor Reilly
AP Photo/Rick BowmerUtah will need defensive end Trevor Reilly to be a playmaker this fall.
"We have to make those few plays that win you games," Utes defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake said. "That's the difference between an 8-4 year and a 5-7 year. We didn't make enough of those big-time plays."

Overall, the Utes were pretty middling on defense in 2012, even with massive defensive tackle Star Lotulelei gobbling up blockers. They ranked seventh in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (25.1 points per game) and fifth in total defense (363.5 yards per game). They were still strong against the run, ranking second in the conference. But the end result was lagging.

What Sitake realized is the Pac-12 had something to do with that. In their second year after making the move up from the Mountain West, the Utes saw an injury bug slow down starters and hit their depth. Banged up guys playing more plays than they should is not good anytime but particularly against up-tempo offenses.

"You can't just have just 11 starters anymore with everyone doing these uptempo offenses," Sitake said. "Your twos have to be as good as your ones because they are going to play a lot of snaps."

Utah is still catching up with the rest of the Pac-12 when it comes to top-to-bottom depth.

Further, two of Sitake's top playmakers, defensive end Trevor Reilly and linebacker Brian Blechen, didn't have the seasons they'd hoped for due to nagging injuries, not to mention Blechen's three-game suspension. Reilly hobbled around on a bum knee the entire season, though he still ended up leading the team in tackles.

The good news is both are now healthy. Blechen is back at linebacker and back to 230 pounds. Reilly will be at defensive end instead of outside linebacker.

The questions are at linebacker and cornerback, positions where fall competition should be fierce.

Replacing Star? Not possible but also not a pressing problem.

"You can't replace him," Sitake said. "But we've always had reliable, strong D-tackles. There's never been a shortage of that at Utah."

Sitake is high on JC transfer Sese Ianu, who likely will rotate at tackle with LT Tuipulotu and Tenny Palepoi.

Blechen will lead the linebackers, but the other two spots aren't filled, as LT Filiaga is listed as an "Or" behind V.J. Fehoko and Jared Norris at both middle and rover linebacker, respectively.

In the secondary, things are solid at safety, but the top three cornerbacks from 2012 need to be replaced.

Sitake is optimistic he'll find some answers this fall. But his big-picture hopes aren't focused on specific positions.

"I'd like to see our depth get better," he said. "I'd like for us to remain healthy."

And he'd like to see a few more game-changing plays.
Happy Friday.
All players are equal, but some players are more equal than others. That's the basis of our Most Important Player series.

First off, quarterbacks are excluded to make things more interesting. It goes without saying, for example, that Oregon's Marcus Mariota is the Ducks' most important player.

And most important doesn't necessarily have to be "best." An All-American's backup can be pretty darn good, too.

Our most important guys are players who could swing a win total one way or the other, based on their living up to expectations. Or their absence.

Utah: LB/DE Trevor Reilly

2012 production: Posted 69 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks. He also had an interception, broke up four passes, forced three fumbles and recovered another.

Why Reilly is so important: Strong consideration was given to Jeremiah Poutasi, an All-American candidate on the offensive line who is making the switch from right to left tackle this season after starting 10 games as a true freshman last year. There might be no more important job than protecting Travis Wilson's blind side.

But as the Utes' defense looks to adjust to life without Star Lotulelei and the Kruger brothers on the defensive line -- 75 percent of a defensive front that is gone after ranking second in the league against the run -- players like Reilly take on even greater importance. Mainly because Reilly will be asked to transition between defensive end and linebacker much more frequently than he did last year.

For starters, he returns as Utah's leading tackler. That's always nice to have. And though he's versatile enough to play all over the field, he'll be asked to take on a greater role as a pass-rusher while also maintaining his stop-the-run approach. When he's at linebacker, look for Jason Whittingham to be on the right end -- which means lots of speed crashing on the backfield. That should also open things up for Nate Orchard and Brian Blechen, who is making the move from the secondary to linebacker.

Plus, Reilly is a proven commodity, which never hurts when you lose six starters from your defense. After redshirting in 2009, Reilly has appeared in 36 games with 20 starts. When he's around the football, bad things happen for the other team. He's forced seven career fumbles -- which ties him for third in school history -- and he's tallied 21 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks.

His performance in 2012 was enough for him to earn honorable mention all-league honors and he was already considered one of the Utes' defensive leaders. That role will need to increase as Utah rebuilds its front seven with a lot of new/moving parts.

It's very possible that Utah's offense and defense swap places in 2013. Last season it was the defense that carried the Utes, but the impact of new co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson and the rise of Wilson at quarterback could be game-changers. As the offense gets better, it's possible that the defense takes a hit during the rebuilding process. It's Reilly's job to make sure that doesn't happen. No pressure.

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.
Happy Friday.
 
Davenport! Get Mr. Griswald's car back and bring it back here! Now I can get you the wagon, there's not problem there. The problem is that it might take six weeks. Now, I owe it to myself to tell you that if you're taking the whole tribe cross-country, the Wagon Queen Family Truckster... You think you hate it now, wait 'til you drive it.
Happy Friday.
Five Pac-12 players were selected in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday.

Here's the chart:


So... what's our take?

Thanks for asking.

Kevin Gemmell: I must say, very, very interesting first round. And one that I think most Pac-12 fans can be relatively pleased with. The five players drafted Thursday night are the most since the league sent six in 2008. So that's progress.

Two things really stood out as surprising to me. First, it's not that Dion Jordan went third overall to the Miami Dolphins. It's that he went to a 4-3 defense. Perhaps Jeff Ireland is a huge fan of the Pac-12 blog and was reading our Take 2 from a few weeks ago. And if that's the case, you're welcome, Jeff.

[+] EnlargeDion Jordan
Al Bello/Getty ImagesThe Dolphins traded up from No. 12 to No. 3 in the first round to select Oregon's Dion Jordan.
Jordan is pretty good at stopping the run -- but it's not the strength of his game. As every draftnik in the world noted before and after the selection, he's a beast at speed rushing off the edge, but has some work to do in other aspects of his game. They also made the apt comparison to former Dolphin defensive end Jason Taylor. Fitting since both players have similar frames and skill sets. He had an OK career, so maybe it all works out.

The second thing that surprised me was that Star Lotulelei was not the first defensive tackle taken. We figured he could go pretty much anywhere in the top 15 -- most mocks had him where he landed at No 14 to the Carolina Panthers. One pick earlier, Missouri's Sheldon Richardson went at No. 13 to the New York Jets. I admit I don't know a ton about Richardson. I just know that Lotulelei graded out higher, had a comparable 40 time (though it was inconsistent because it was at a pro day, not the NFL scouting combine) and he had eight more reps on the bench. Maybe it's just personal preference, but I was pretty surprised he wasn't the first defensive tackle off the board.

Liked the pick of Oregon's Kyle Long by the Bears. They are getting a versatile player who could really fit in at any position across the line after he gets a little seasoning. We've seen him slowly creep up in mock drafts -- starting several months ago in the third-round range -- and that buzz was legitimized with his pick at No. 20.

And I liked that Atlanta had Desmond Trufant targeted and they traded up to get him. It was a need position and they jumped at the chance to get an NFL-ready starter. Good pick.

Datone Jones is a guy Ted and I have been talking about for a couple of years now -- how we just kept waiting for him to breakout. And then UCLA switches to the 3-4 and he blows up. He could be a real solid player for years in Green Bay's 3-4 front.

Overall, I'd call it a fair-to-good first day for the Pac-12.

Ted Miller: Of course, the big question many will ask is how did the Pac-12 compare to the other conferences.

Here are the first-round numbers. Yes, there will be SEC crowing, with some justification.

  • SEC – 12
  • ACC – 6
  • Pac-12 – 5
  • Big 12 – 3
  • Independent – 2
  • MAC – 1
  • C-USA – 1
  • Big East - 1
  • Big Ten - 1

The SEC's 12 picks ties the record set by the ACC in 2006. Don't forget the SEC now has 14 teams. Or, for that matter, the Big 12 has 10.

My first-round takeaways? Well, the above numbers are meaningful.

The SEC? Well. I'll let you guys try to explain those away. (Good luck with that.) I tweeted this story the other day, and I think it well relates how SEC dominance, once a chimerical creation from a region that often doesn't fret the truth getting in the way of a good story, has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The bottom, however, is almost as telling -- see the Pac-12's Rose Bowl partner, the Big Ten with just one selection. That certainly validates the perception that conference has slipped, something we've seen on the field in recent years.

As for the five Pac-12 picks, I had a nice conversation with Jordan at the Fiesta Bowl about how his fortunes had turned. He seemed genuinely awed by it. And grateful. After the game, I was standing there when his mother worked here way through the crowd to give him a hug. Apparently it was raining inside University of Phoenix Stadium.

One of the things I always think about on draft day is how through-the-looking-glass strange it's got to feel for guys, at least the reflective ones. Sure, most top picks get fronted money by their agents, so they've been living the life for a few months. But when it becomes official, a guy in his early 20s suddenly become certifiably rich.

The third pick last year, Cleveland's Trent Richardson, got four years at $20.4 million. Just imagine yourself at 23 having a conversation about $20 million. And how it's a bit low.

[+] EnlargeMatt Barkley
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsMatt Barkley could be the next Pac-12 alum off the board.
As for the rest, the Panthers got a steal with Star Lotulelei at No. 14. The Panthers just put a checkmark in the box for the middle of their defensive line. And I think Jets fans will remember in a very Jets fans way that the Jets took Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson a pick before the Panthers.

Oregon O-lineman Kyle Long at No. 20 was a mild surprise, but the Bears probably swooned over his obvious upside. You can't beat his bloodlines either.

The Trufant pick clearly validates the Pac-12 blog at the expense of Washington fans. See... we told you he was good.

Wait. I may not be recalling that accurately. Two words: Kevin's fault.

And Jones, whom we've been touting pretty much since he arrived at UCLA, obviously found his rhythm over the past year.

As Kevin noted, there are a lot of good Pac-12 players left on the board, including a substantial handful who figure to get selected in the next two rounds. Things should continue to be interesting, starting with who steps up and picks USC quarterback Matt Barkley.
It didn’t take long for there to be some drama in the 2013 NFL draft. And former Oregon Duck Dion Jordan was right in the middle of it.

Jordan, the hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker, was selected by the Miami Dolphins with the No. 3 pick ... much to the surprise of the ESPN draft coverage crew. And Jordan.

After offensive tackles went first and second, Jordan was the first defensive player taken in the draft when the Oakland Raiders traded the pick to the Dolphins.

Jordan’s selection was met with mostly positive, yet still mixed responses. Mel Kiper Jr., Jon Gruden and Chris Berman praised Jordan’s athleticism and ability to rush off the edge. But they also questioned whether that’s worth the No. 3 overall pick. Obviously, the Dolphins thought it was.

Many believed that former Oregon coach Chip Kelly, now the head coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, was going to take Jordan with the fourth pick. Instead, the Dolphins moved one spot ahead, leaving Kelly to take Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson.

“I was surprised ... I wasn’t expecting that,” Jordan told ESPN’s Suzy Kolber. “I’m very blessed. I’m going to bring tremendous athletic ability … I’m ready to get in there and work with the guys.”

Jordan, Oregon’s highest drafted player since Joey Harrington went No. 3 overall in the 2002 draft, was the first of what turned out to be five first-round picks for the Pac-12 on Thursday night. It was the most first-round picks since the league had six in 2008.

After the Jordan selection, things quieted down for the league until the 14th pick, when the Carolina Panthers selected Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. He was the second defensive tackle taken in the draft after Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson went at No. 13 to the New York Jets.

“He is a space-eater,” said Kiper after the selection. “He’s a stay-at-home type defensive tackle. He won’t give you a lot of pass rush. But he’s strong. He’s quick. He’s a tough kid. I thought a very good player, but the pass rush wasn’t there.”

ESPN's Pat Yasinskas has a good breakdown of what this means for the Panthers.

The second “surprise” pick of the draft also involved a Duck – when the Chicago Bears drafted Oregon offensive guard Kyle Long.

Said Kiper: “He has the kind of skill set you want. [But] he needs a lot of coaching ... he’s a developmental prospect … [His] versatility and mean streak intrigued a lot of people.”

Just two picks later, the Atlanta Falcons traded up to get Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant at No. 22. After posting a 4.38 at the NFL scouting combine -- third fastest among the defensive backs -- his stock jumped from early second round to first-round selection.

Said Kiper: “He’s an instinctive ball hawk. A guy I think really got better as his career moved along … this is a need area and [Atlanta] went up aggressively to get him.”

UCLA defensive end Datone Jones became the league’s fifth selection when the Green Bay Packers took him at No. 26. ESPN's Jon Gruden was a fan of the pick.

“If you’re into combine workouts, you’re into Datone Jones. Because he dominated the combine,” Gruden said. “The arrow is going up on this kid. He’s my sleeper of the first round. He has NFL movement skills ... he can play on a tight end. He can play inside. And the Packers need a dominant inside defender. Good pick.”

There is still plenty of intrigue looking ahead with names like Zach Ertz, Robert Woods, Matt Barkley, Keenan Allen, Matt Scott, Brian Schwenke, Steve Williams, Markus Wheaton, Jordan Poyer, David Bakhtiari, Chase Thomas, Kenjon Barner, Johnathan Franklin and about a dozen more from the league still on the board.

Settle in for a draft-filled weekend.

Pac-12 draft primer

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
11:00
AM ET
After all that mocking, the NFL gets around to beginning its real, live draft tonight at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, NFL Network).

As usual, the Pac-12 should be well-represented in the first round and throughout. As Kevin pointed out this week, as many as nine conference players are prospects for the first round.

Here's Todd McShay's Mock Draft 6.0 Insider:
The there's Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest Mock Draft Insider:
And don't completely count out USC quarterback Matt Barkley or California receiver Keenan Allen. Remember: It takes just one GM to fall in love with a guy.

Also, here's an interactive version Insider of Kiper's mock draft.

Here's a complete seven-round Mock Draft Insider, where former Washington State receiver Marquess Wilson is the last conference player off the board with the 12th pick of the final round -- No. 218 overall.

Of course, there are a lot of mock drafts out there. Here are a few to consider before things get real.
Tomorrow, we'll know. But for one more day, we mock.

The Darrelle Revis trade forced ESPN.com's Todd McShay to go back in and reevaluate the Mock Draft 5.0 Insider that he released earlier this month. That was a good looking mock draft for the Pac-12, which had Oregon's Dion Jordan going No. 2, Utah's Star Lotulelei going No. 4, Washington's Desmond Trufant at No. 21 and UCLA's Datone Jones going No. 29.

But the Revis trade sent shockwaves -- at least through the mock world. Things look a little different Insider for the conference in Mock Draft 5.1.
The trade also has Mel Kiper Jr. re-thinking his first round Insider. Here's where the Pac-12 players stand in his updated mock draft.
Interesting to see that McShay dropped Trufant all the way off his board, while Kiper has him in the top 20. Also, an appearance from Long in the first round suggests that his stock has risen considerably in the last few weeks.

Obviously, tomorrow will settle the debate. But we've now seen anywhere from three to nine Pac-12 players who could go in the first round. As of Feb. 19, the consensus among the fans (though not by much) was that the Pac-12 would have four players go in the first round.

Right now Jordan and Lotulelei seem like locks. We thought Trufant was a lock (and the Pac-12 blog still believes he is), though McShay thinks otherwise. Ertz has been on the fence -- though Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert has widened the gap between the top two tight ends. One scout told the San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner that Ertz's "lack of being a blocker " likely has him targeted for the second round. Stepfan Taylor might disagree.

Jones and Long are intriguing possibilities. Jones' stock has been climbing since the NFL scouting combine in February. Woods, USC quarterback Matt Barkley and Cal's Keenan Allen are all up in the air and have been projected anywhere from the first to third rounds.
Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest Big Board , which looks at his top 25 NFL prospects, is out. And the prospects of a strong first-round for the Pac-12 is looking better and better. Two unranked players from last week are back in the top 25 -- Stanford tight end Zach Ertz and UCLA defensive end Datone Jones. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be first-round picks. But their stock -- and the stocks of other Pac-12 players -- seem to be trending up as the draft looms next week.

Here's a look at the Pac-12 players on this week's Big Board along with some comments from Kiper.

Oregon's Dion Jordan moves up from No. 6 last week to No. 5 this week.
Will be a dynamic 3-4 outside linebacker if he stays healthy. Elite speed and range for his size and he's alleviated some questions about whether he can cover, even as he profiles as a very good pass-rusher.

Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei stays at No. 7.
Tape shows a player who can't be blocked in the run game one-on-one, period -- but he's not a very good pass-rusher. He absorbs so much blocking help and frees up others, but he's not just a clogger, because he can show off a burst that he marries to a great sense for disrupting the run game in the backfield.

Ertz returns to the Big Board at No. 23. And for those of you who like the Sport Science clips, here's Ertz's turn with the crew.
Good speed given the length he provides, Ertz can stretch the seam, but knows the route tree and can work underneath and the sidelines. He's a hands-catcher, and goes out to get the ball, keeping defenders at bay.

Jones checks in right after Ertz at No. 24.
A versatile defender who gets a great burst off the snap and can clear blockers quickly, a reason he piled up 19.0 TFL. He has really good feet, allowing him to not look like a big DT who can't wrap up shifty runners. Pretty quick, he'll chase plays down.

When you factor in that Washington's Desmond Trufant probably goes in the first round -- and there's still an outside shot that USC quarterback Matt Barkley or Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen (or both) sneak into the top 32 -- the conference could potentially have six or seven first-round picks.
I don't know what good it is to know so much and be smart as whips and all if it doesn't make you happy.

Pac-12 in NFL draft: Defense rules!

April, 11, 2013
4/11/13
1:00
PM ET
ESPN draft guru Todd McShay has published his NFL mock draft 5.0, which includes analysis of several scenarios for each team Insider, and he projects four Pac-12 players being selected in the first round.

But that's not what's interesting.

What's interesting is all four are defensive players. The 14-team, defensive-minded SEC has six defensive players in McShay's projection.

While I'm too lazy to go through every previous NFL draft to find out if that has happened before, my guess is it hasn't.

McShay has it going like this:
Of course, there are several Pac-12 offensive players who could break up this foursome: Stanford tight end Zach Ertz, California receiver Keenan Allen and USC quarterback Matt Barkley all remain potential first-round picks.

Further, when you consider that the Pac-12 welcomes back two certain preseason All-Americans in Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton and UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr, as well as several other All-American candidates -- Stanford safety Ed Reynolds, Stanford outside linebacker Trent Murphy, and Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu -- it would seem the conference is on the defensive uptick.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

PAC-12 SCOREBOARD