Pac-12: Alameda Ta\'amu

Pac-12 defenses set to rebound?

June, 11, 2013
In 2011, Oregon State ranked seventh in the Pac-12 in scoring defense, surrendering 30.8 points per game. Washington was even worse, ranking 11th while yielding 35.9 points per game

Bad defenses!

Oregon State finished 3-9, the Beavers' worst record since going 3-8 in 1997, coach Mike Riley's first season. The Huskies fired defensive coordinator Nick Holt and paid big bucks to lure Justin Wilcox away from Tennessee.

And in 2012 both made huge improvement on defense.

The Beavers ended up ranked second in the Pac-12 and 22nd in the nation, giving up just 20.6 points per game. That's a 10.2-point per game improvement.

Washington ended up fourth in the conference, surrendering a respectable 24.2 points per game, which was 11.2 points better per game.

Our, er, point? Units can make major improvements from one year to the next.

So who is poised to make a big jump this fall?

Well, the first question is can we glean anything from Oregon State and Washington?

Oregon State welcomed back eight starters, and that doesn't include space-eating, 354-pound tackle Castro Masaniai. Moreover, there was plenty of star power at all three levels: DE Scott Crichton, LB D.J. Alexander and CB Jordan Poyer.

The personnel losses didn't leave big questions. In fact, it seemed likely in the preseason that the Beavers' defense would be better, even if there's a minor application of hindsight there.

Washington welcomed back seven starters, but there were plenty of questions, starting with a new base 3-4 scheme. There was some veteran talent, topped by CB Desmond Trufant, and promising young players such as DT Danny Shelton, rush end Josh Shirley and LB Shaq Thompson, but dramatic improvement wasn't a certainty. The personnel losses -- DE Everrette Thompson, DT Alameda Ta’amu , LB Cort Dennison and CB Quinton Richardson -- were multiyear starters.

Yet the Huskies, probably in large part due to much better coaching under Wilcox and his rejiggered staff, were dramatically better.

And so we have the bottom five defenses from 2012:

Wow, Colorado ... 46 points per game. That was worst in the nation by nearly three points. I know Buff fans are tired of hearing this but, well, that can't get any worse.

California is transitioning to a 4-3 after being pretty successful with a 3-4 under Clancy Pendergast. The good news is solid talent at all three levels, though some of that talent has yet to live up to its formally big-time recruiting pedigree.

As we've previously touched on, UCLA needs to get better on defense if it wants to again become a national presence. Barr is a great place to start, seeing that he's on the short list for national defensive player of the year. That said: The entire secondary is being rebuilt.

Washington State is filling the biggest void -- Long was the Cougars' four-year sack leader -- but it has a better-than-you-think crew coming back next fall.

But if you were betting on improvement, the Wildcats might be the best place to start. The grounds for that is pretty straight-forward: Everyone is back, so you'd expect most of those guys to be better this fall, with the added bonus of some youthful reinforcements. Further, coordinator Jeff Casteel knows what he's doing. Year 2 with his 3-3-5 scheme is almost certainly going to be better.

The Wildcats' defense might even get a boost from its offense: With QB Matt Scott gone, the offense might lean more on the running game, topped by Ka'Deem Carey. It also might slow things down just a bit, though Rich Rodriguez isn't likely to huddle up and go pro style.

Pac-12 lunch links: Luck in Indy

May, 7, 2012
Hey, I heard you were a wild one ... EwwwwwwEwwwwwEwwww!

Most important player: Washington

April, 23, 2012
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 that Arizona's Matt Scott, USC's Matt Barkley and Washington's Keith Price are their teams' most important players. Their losses would be catastrophic.

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.

Washington: DT Danny Shelton

2011 production: Shelton played in all 13 games as a true freshman, starting the final two. He finished with 11 tackles and a fumble recovery.

Why Shelton is important: Price is the Huskies' most important player, but I thought I had this one figured out for the non-Price division. Then Bob Condotta, with what I'd guess was one of those gleeful cackles he is known for, did this to make things difficult on me -- polling Huskies fans on whom they thought was the team's most important player after Price. Before seeing this poll, my plan had been to go with veteran center Drew Schaefer. Huskies fans, however, favored Shelton. I frumped over this. I didn't want to be swayed by a Tyranny of the Masses or Conventional Wisdom. So while sitting in a coffee shop in order to feel all Seattle-y, I engaged in a meditative debate inside my head with Washington fans. It was going well, but then a bunch of Oregon fans showed up. Amid the ensuing trash talk, everyone ignored my entreaties to remain focused on the earnest debate at hand, even when I barked that it was rude of them blowing me off inside my own head. (None of you know the psychic pressures involved in this job.)

Schaefer would have been a good choice, but alas, I'm going with Shelton -- just like Huskies fans -- based on what the 6-foot-1, 323-pound sophomore could become this year. If Shelton plays to the ability he strongly hinted at toward the end of last season, he will become an all-conference sort of defensive tackle. Further, if he does that, he could become an ideal, space-eating noseguard in the 3-4 scheme new coordinator Justin Wilcox wants to adopt. If Shelton becomes that guy, just about everything changes for a defense that was awful in 2011. As that guy, Shelton would, more often than not, command two blockers. That would not only make life easier for the linebackers against the run but also could free up promising pass-rusher Josh Shirley on the edge. Basically, it would make the Huskies' defense feel as if it has 12 guys, not unlike how Utah often feels with DT Star Lotulelei. The Huskies do have other big interior D-linemen, but 339-pound Semisi Tokolahi and 325-pound Lawrence Lagafuaina have struggled with consistency and injury issues. Shelton needs to be that guy. My only pause on this is that the Huskies' defense was lousy last year even with 333-pound Alameda Ta'amu, a likely early-round NFL draft pick this week, and Shelton on hand. Still, Shelton playing to his potential makes me see concentric circles of improvement radiating from his wide frame throughout the Huskies defense. Or maybe that's echoing sound waves from all that Huskies-Ducks griping?

Projecting Pac-12 NFL draft destinations

April, 18, 2012
Hot new bracelet for NFL GMs: WWMKD?

What Would Mel Kiper Do?

Glad you asked. Kiper has projected how he would pick in the first three rounds if he were the GM of every NFL team.

Here are his picks for the NFC Insider and here are the AFC picks. Insider

You can also see Kiper's Big Board here. Insider And Todd McShay's top-32 prospects here. Insider

Before we give you his Pac-12 picks, here's what he says about the exercise:

For this, I was asked, "What would you do if you were picking?" So I gave it a shot. I've listed what I see as the top needs for each team, and I've gone ahead and made the picks that fill needs based on where I have players ranked. A few ground rules:
1. At each spot, I'm making the pick best for that team at that spot. I won't pass on an ideal pick for the Bills at No. 10 just because that player would be a great fit at No. 11.

2. There are no duplicates anywhere.

3. I will suggest good spots to trade down, but I won't rearrange the board.

4. This is for fun! One pick can derail a whole draft, so in no way do I think this is how it might look.

So here's what he thinks about Pac-12 players.

New York Giants: Rd 1 (32) TE Coby Fleener, Stanford

Comments: I've liked Fleener to the Giants for a while. I think he just provides something that passing game doesn't have. Remember, Fleener won't just line up off tackle; you can split him out and utilize his size and speed to work matchups with smaller corners or slower linebackers. Teams will spend a lot of time looking at how to slow the momentum the Giants should carry over with their passing attack, and Fleener adds something new to account for.

Minnesota Vikings: Rd 1 (3) OT Matt Kalil, USC (attempt to move down)

Comment: Corner is a big need for me if I'm Minnesota, which is why I can see them very tempted on Morris Claiborne, but left tackle is equally important. If they don't protect Christian Ponder, they really won't be able to effectively audit his progress. I put trading down as an option because I do it if it's clear a team will give up a ton of value to get into that No. 3 slot, so the Vikings should be entertaining offers all the way. But if that can't happen, they should be plenty happy to add Kalil, a rare tackle ready to come in and start right away on the left side.

Carolina Panthers: Rd 2 (40) DE Nick Perry, USC

Comment: Perry is just major value in Round 2. It honestly wouldn't shock me if some team took him in the mid-first round, so getting a pass-rusher like him here is a huge get.

Buffalo Bills: Rd 2 (41) OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford; Rd 3 (71) LB Mychal Kendricks, California

Comment: Martin is a guy who once carried a solid first-round grade and could be a total steal at No. 41. ... Kendricks has immense physical talent and could be plugged in immediately, something the team did with Kelvin Sheppard last year.

Cincinnati Bengals: Rd 1 (21) G David DeCastro, Stanford; Rd 3 (83) G Tony Bergstrom, Utah

Comment: DeCastro is a big-time prospect at guard, and the Bengals can draft him and assume improvement in the run game, where they really struggled in 2011. He may be the best guard prospect since Steve Hutchinson, and guard is a big need for them. ... Bergstrom can play early if needed, but is good insurance.

Indianapolis Colts: Rd 1 (1) QB Andrew Luck, Stanford

Comment: I'm a pretty savvy GM, taking this Luck kid, huh? Really out in front of the pack! Needless to say, I think Luck is a lock on my board and Indy's as well. That's your Week 1 starter.

Denver Broncos: Rd 2 (57) RB LaMichael James, Oregon

Comment: I love the idea of James keeping linebackers' eyes in the backfield on play-action fakes or swinging out into the flat for Peyton Manning. He's not quite Darren Sproles in terms of elusiveness, but he's in that category. He'll provide a change of pace the offense needs.

Kansas City Chiefs: Rd 3 (74) NT Alameda Ta'amu, Washington

Comment: Ta'amu is a wide body and good insurance piece for the Chiefs at NT. In fact, I can see Dontari Poe and him on the field at the same time.

McShay ranks Pac-12 by 'tiers'

April, 10, 2012
ESPN NFL draft guru Todd McShay has broken down his list of top-100 draft prospects by seven tiers in order of draft grade Insider.

He writes: "The tiers show which portions of the class are deep and which are lean. There are some lean tiers near the top of the board, but the class is solid in Tiers 3 and 4."

His list includes 15 Pac-12 players. Here's how things stack up as well as his explanation for each tier.

Tier 1: These are the elite prospects, those who have the potential to come off the board in the top five overall picks.
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (Luck's 99 grade is the best in the draft, two points higher than Baylor QB Robert Griffin III)
3. Matt Kalil, OT, USC

Tier 2: This tier is composed of players who are a notch below elite but are still top-10 quality.

Tier 3: The prospects will offer good value between picks 10 and 20.
14. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

Tier 4: These prospects have the tools to be good value picks in the late-first round.
26. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
30. Nick Perry, DE, USC

Tier 5: These are the players teams will begin targeting as value picks early in Round 2 should they fall out of Round 1.
34. Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
39. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
50. Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State
52. Mychal Kendricks, LB, California

Tier 6: This tier contains prospects who are worthy of mid-to-late-second-round consideration.
62. Mitchell Schwartz, OT, California
63. Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington
67. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon

Tier 7: These players rank as solid third-round prospects.
87. Tony Bergstrom, OT, Utah
96. Chris Polk, RB, Washington
100. Trevor Guyton, DE, California

Pac-12 in latest mock drafts

March, 28, 2012
ESPN NFL draft guru Todd McShay has published his latest mock draft Insider -- rounds one and two! -- and the Pac-12 is well-represented.

Here's how he projects things.

First round
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: Indianapolis Colts
3. Matt Kalil, OT, USC: Minnesota Vikings
17. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford: Cincinnati Bengals
19. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: Chicago Bears

Second round
34. Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford: Colts
38. Nick Perry, DE, USC: Jacksonville Jaguars
41. Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State: Buffalo Bills
43. Mychal Kendricks, LB, California: Seattle Seahawks
49. Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington: San Diego Chargers
63. Mitchell Schwartz, OT, California: New York Giants

Here are McShay's top-32 players overall Insider.

As for Mel Kiper, here are the Pac-12 players on his 25-man "Big Board Insider."

1. Luck
3. Kalil
14. DeCastro
24. Fleener

And you can review his top-5 by position here Insider.
I got my first real six-string, bought it at the five-and-dime;
Played it till my fingers bled, was the summer of '69.

Kendricks outshines Burfict at combine

February, 28, 2012
Maybe California's Mychal Kendricks really is a better inside linebacker than Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict, even when you don't consider Burfict's baggage.

[+] EnlargeMychal Kendricks
AP Photo/Michael ConroyCalifornia linebacker Mychal Kendricks had a strong workout at the combine.
Kendricks, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, was the top inside linebacker at the NFL combine on Monday in the 40-yard dash (4.47), vertical jump (39.5) and broad jump (10-7). He tied for fifth overall at the combine in both the vertical and broad jump. He also had a time of 4.19 in the 20-yard shuttle, the fifth fastest for linebackers.

And there's this from Scouts Inc.:

The surprise of the inside linebacker group was California's Mychal Kendricks (5-11 1/8, 239), who absolutely crushed his workout. Kendricks had the top 40 (4.47), vertical (39 1/4) and broad jump (10-7) in the group, and was in the top five in the short shuttle (4.19). He was also above-average on the bench with 24 reps.

Kendricks' explosiveness showed up during drills, when he stayed low to the ground, showed quick feet and was effective shaving the edge as a pass-rusher. He was under control at all times, and this performance combined with good things seen recently on film give him a realistic shot to come off the board late on Day 2.

Things went much worse for Arizona State ILB Vontaze Burfict (6-1 3/8, 248), whose 40 time (5.09) and broad jump (8-7) were well below the four-year averages. Burfict's 2011 film says he's a third-rounder, and when you add in those results along with character baggage and poor interviews his stock is beginning to plummet.

USC linebacker Chris Galippo also struggled a bit:

USC MLB Chris Galippo didn't do enough to show teams he's more than just a two-down linebacker who will come to the sideline on passing downs. Galippo almost lost his balance when asked to backpedal between bags, and he didn't show great burst out of breaks in coverage.

Another Pac-12 defensive standout was former USC end Nick Perry, who ran a blistering 4.64 40. That said, ESPN's Todd McShay is a bigger fan of Clemson's Andre Branch.

Clemson's Andre Branch (6-4 1/4, 259) and USC's Nick Perry (6-2 3/4, 271) are similar conversion/hybrid players and both rank on the edge of the first round. Perry has better workout numbers but Branch is more athletic and shows better bend as an edge rusher. Perry has more straight-line explosiveness, but Branch blows him out of the water in terms of change-of-direction skills and lateral quickness in space.

Another take on Perry:

USC DE Nick Perry had a strong day. There is some tightness in his hips, and it showed when he was asked to open up in space. But Perry moved well enough to give base 3-4 defenses something to think about as a possible outside linebacker. The 271-pounder is quick and gets to depth, and he showed that he can pluck the ball out of the air. His most natural fit is at defensive end, though. Perry showed above-average lateral mobility and quick hands during bag work.

There were a few Pac-12 defenders that didn't burn up the 40, though. Washington defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu ran one of the slowest 40s at 5.37, but he injured his hamstring while doing so. For the defensive ends, Cal's Trevor Guyton (5.07) and Arizona State's Jamaar Jarrett (5,02) were among the slowest in their position group.

Pac-12 intrigue at NFL combine

February, 21, 2012
The Pac-12 will send 45 players to the NFL combine, which starts Wednesday in Indianapolis.

You can see the complete list of invitees here. And here's the schedule -- things don't really start rolling until Thursday.

There are plenty of subplots for the Pac-12 players on hand.
  • Arizona quarterback Nick Foles is among a handful of quarterbacks vying to be the third quarterback off the board after Stanford's Andrew Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffin. And, by the way, you might want to toss Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler into the mix there, too.
  • Arizona State cornerback Omar Bolden, who sat out the entire 2011 season, will try to prove his knee is 100 percent.
  • Will Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict be able to rehabilitate his image, both with a strong performance and convincing interview? The scuttlebutt for him since the start of the season has been almost entirely negative, with the latest being this: He's a "fake tough guy." Even worse than rumors like that is the more measurable claim that he may show up out of shape.
  • Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris, who essentially missed the entire season due to suspension, will need to show some newfound maturity. And he'll need to test well to distract from the challenge he may face producing that.
  • Oregon running back LaMichael James could substantially boost his stock will an impressive 40-yard dash, which would prove he has elite speed and offset size concerns.
  • The same could be said for Washington running back Chris Polk, whose biggest knock is an apparent lack of top-end speed.
  • Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas, a surprise early entry into the draft, will get a chance to prove he's worthy.
  • Washington defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu entered the 2011 season looking like a potential first-round pick, but his stock slid with a lackluster season. He also didn't impress during Senior Bowl practices. But 330 pound DTs are hard to find, particularly ones as athletic as Ta'amu. A good combine could get him back on the first-day radar.
  • Receivers Chris Owusu of Stanford and James Rodgers of Oregon State also need to overcome health issues. Rodgers needs to show his quickness is back after major knee surgery. Owusu will need to address issues with multiple concussions.
  • A guy the Pac-12 blog is curious about: Cal linebacker Mychal Kendricks. The conference defensive player of the year seems like a guy who might surprise folks and push into the early rounds.
  • The Pac-12 is sending a strong group of offensive linemen into the combine, with USC's Matt Kalil and the Stanford tandem of Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro likely first-round picks. But what about the other seven guys? Who might step up and generate some buzz? Perhaps Cal's Mitchell Schwartz?

Foles, Pac-12 receivers shine in Senior Bowl

January, 30, 2012
Pac-12 receivers caught three touchdown passes in the Senior Bowl on Saturday, a 23-13 North victory at Ladd-Peebles Stadium (40,646) in Mobile, Ala.

California's Marvin Jones caught an 8-yard scoring toss from Wisconsin's Russell Wilson in the second quarter. Arizona State's Gerell Robinson hauled in a 41-yard touchdown from Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, which gave the North a 20-6 lead. The South got an answer with Arizona quarterback Nick Foles’ 20-yard touchdown toss to his former teammate in Tucson, Juron Criner.

Foles, after a middling week of practice, had a strong showing in the game, completing 11 of 15 passes for 136 yards. Criner caught six for 77 yards. He and Boise State's Kellen Moore were the only two of the six quarterbacks in the game who didn't throw interceptions.

Robinson caught two passes for 64 yards. Washington had two players in the game. Running back Chris Polk had six carries for 19 yards, while defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu had two tackles for a loss.

Cal's Mitchell Schwartz started at right tackle for the North.

Ta'amu's stock drops at Senior Bowl

January, 27, 2012
With severe weather washing out Senior Bowl practices on Thursday, ESPN's Todd McShay reviewed the risers and fallers in the first three days of practice Insider.

Leading his "Stock Down" portion is Washington defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu.
Writes McShay:

Ta'amu flashed some quickness and power during the practice week, but it was easy to notice the difference in effort from play to play. He was also inconsistent in terms of playing with leverage, and did not display the ability to occupy blockers and be an every-down, two-gap defender the way a 3-4 nose tackle needs to.

Those things have to improve, because being a run-stuffer is the only thing Ta'amu brings to the table. He lacks athleticism and is not a skilled pass-rusher, so he will be limited to being a two-down plugger. You can't coach his size and strength, though, and some 3-4 team looking for depth and a potential future starter at nose tackle will likely take a chance on him, but I was looking for a bit more from Ta'amu this week.

The 6-foot-2, 334-pound Ta'amu closed out the year with 30 tackles -- 15 solo -- to go with seven tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. He also earned Pac-12 honorable mention honors.

Foles coming up short at Senior practices

January, 25, 2012
The Senior Bowl offers a prospect a chance to move up NFL draft charts, and many scouts and GMs are looking at the QB pecking order behind Stanford's Andrew Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffin III. That's where Arizona's Nick Foles has a chance to land.

But Foles hasn't made a big first impression at Senior Bowl practices, according to Todd McShay.
"Plenty of NFL talent evaluators I talked to entering the week named Foles as a player to watch, but he has failed to blow scouts and front-office types away. He simply hasn't shown anything over the first two days here that we haven't already seen on tape, and he's fallen short of the performance level in some of his best games from 2011.

"Foles has been a little less consistent with his accuracy, and as we've seen in the past he tends to do a lot of checking down and dumping off. That two-day practice showing alone isn't enough to change Foles' entire evaluation, but after watching things up close I've been surprised how much better [Oklahoma State's Brandon] Weeden's performance has been."

Another former Wildcat has made an impression — in good ways and bad ways — and that's Foles' top target, Juron Criner.
Arizona WR Juron Criner had a hard time creating separation and didn't show much explosiveness out of breaks, but he caught everything thrown his way. Criner was excellent on Day 2 with his ability to extend his arms and snatch balls out of the air.

Some other Pac-12 players made an impression.

From the Philadelphia Eagles Blog, two Pac-12 players moved up:
Marvin Jones/WR/Cal: Jones, 6-2, 198, was a reliable wideout all through his college career and today showed he has the skills to play at the next level. Jones ran crisp, precise routes which enabled him to get separation from defenders. He also displayed the ability to turn it on with a single step and beat defenders in the deep field. Jones caught everything thrown in his direction and has scouts believing he’ll be a solid fit as a third wide out in the NFL.

Senio Kelemete/OL/Washington: Kelemete looked like the most athletic offensive lineman on the field today and did a great job handling the left tackle spot, where he spent the day. He moves his feet well, displays terrific quickness and handled the speed rushers that lined up against him. The big question about Kelemete is whether his 6-3 ? frame will allow him to play left tackle at the next level or whether he’ll be forced to move to guard.

On the downside, there was Utah OT Tony Bergstrom and Washington RB Chris Polk:
Tony Bergstrom/OL/Utah: Bergstrom, 6-5, 315, looked outclassed on a number of snaps today and was consistently beaten by defensive tackles. He showed little in the way of balance, strength or the ability to stay on his feet.

Chris Polk/RB/Washington: Polk has been running hard on the inside yet shows no elusiveness or creativity. He gets high in his stance and on several occasions during Tuesday practice was stopped dead in his tracks by defenders and showed no ability to bounce around piles or elude would-be tacklers.

Also, Huskies DT Alameda Ta'amu didn't impress CBS draft guru Rob Rang:
The duo stood in strong contrast to Washington's Alameda Ta'amu and Boise State's Billy Winn, each of whom have been disappointments, thus far. Ta'amu is a powerful run plugger sure to intrigue 3-4 teams looking for a nose guard. His power and mass (6-2, 341) makes him a classic block-eater but his lack of any type of pass rush ability is painfully apparent during drills. If his opponent has the anchor and core flexibility to handle Ta'amu's bull rush, the big Husky can offer little else. Winn, who was used inside and out while with the Broncos, may be proving himself to be a 'tweener with a lackluster performance, thus far. He hasn't shown the agility to slip blocks nor the power to push the pocket.

But, as it's important to note, NFL beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and impressions will go up and down during the week. Consider this on Ta'amu.
Watching Washington DT Alameda Ta’amu, it’s really impressive the kind of raw power he possesses when asked to simply overwhelm opposing lineman through contact. He also has a sneaky quick set of hands when trying to shed and can keep himself clean. However, he has a tough time keeping his pad level down through contact and far too often is easy to block because of it.

As a person who has covered multiple Senior Bowls, I can tell you that impressions are complicated. You stand at practice and you can only focus on one position group at a time. You watch 10 plays here. You watch 10 plays there. The 10 plays you see with either could end up being far different than the 10 plays that follow when you move on. The same with the NFL guys you chat with. And those guys often don't want to show their cards anyway.

So the analysis you read at the end of the week rather than the beginning tends to be more complete.

Chris Polk becomes senior for Senior Bowl

January, 19, 2012
Ten Pac-12 players have been invited to the Senior Bowl, the premier postseason star game, but there's also an interesting sidenote for Washington fans.

Huskies running back Chris Polk is one of the invitees. It turns out that Polk's announcement that he would bypass his senior season and enter the draft was purely academic: Polk is actually a senior.

From the Senior Bowl press release:
Polk was extended a Senior Bowl invite after it was determined that he had exhausted his eligibility at Washington. Despite being listed as a junior, he never applied for a medical redshirt his freshman year (2008) and thus had no more eligibility remaining.

“We made sure that we followed proper protocol before we invited Chris and that entailed getting everything cleared through the NFL and Coach Sarkisian at the University of Washington,” Senior Bowl President and CEO Steve Hale said. “Once it was determined that Chris had exhausted his eligibility at Washington there was no question we wanted him on our roster. He is an excellent player and has a bright future in the National Football League.”

The 10 Pac-12 selections come from five different schools, with Washington leading the way with three.

Arizona: Juron Criner, WR; Nick Foles, QB
Arizona State: Garth Gerhart, OL; Gerell Robinson, WR
California: Mychal Kendricks, LB; Mitchell Schwartz, OL
Utah: Tony Bergstrom, OL;
Washington: Senio Kelemete, OL; Chris Polk, RB; Alameda Ta’amu, DL

The 63rd Senior Bowl is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Jan. 28 in Mobile’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The game and all practices will be televised live by NFL Network.

All 10 invitees were named to All-Pac-12 squads, including four first-team selections. It’s a group that includes the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year (Kendricks) and the conference’s leading passer (Foles) and receiver (Robinson).

Here's the rest of the release:
Kelemete (pronounced KEL-uh-MET-tay) started every game at left tackle for the Huskies this season, earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors in the process. He anchored an offensive line that helped pave the way for fellow Senior Bowl invitee Chris Polk to rush for more than 1,000 yards each of the last three seasons. A converted defensive lineman, Kelemete made 37 starts on offense and four on defense over the course of his career.

Polk was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection at running back this season after posting his third straight 1,000-yard rushing season. He totaled 1,488 yards on the ground in 2011, ranking third in the Pac-12 and 16th in the nation. That total was the second-highest single-season output in school history. He also scored 12 touchdowns and averaged 114.5 yards per game. He added two receiving touchdowns for a total of 16 scores on the year, fifth-most in school history for a single-season.

Polk ranks second on UW’s all-time rushing list with 4,049 yards and is only one of seven players in Pac-12 history to break the 4,000-yard mark. His 799 career carries are a school record and he’s tied for eighth in career rushing touchdowns with 26. He also holds the UW mark for most career 100-yard rushing games (21) and is one of only two Huskies to rush for more than 1,000-yards in three different seasons.

Ta’amu (pronounced tah-AH-moo) was an Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 selection for the Huskies from his defensive tackle spot this season. He recorded 30 total tackles, including eight tackles for loss and four sacks. For his career, Ta’amu made 42 starts, totaling 109 tackles, including 19 tackles for loss and nine sacks.

Juron Criner was an Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 selection this season after catching 75 passes for 956 yards and 11 touchdowns in eleven games for the Wildcats. He ranked sixth in the conference with 86.91 receiving yards per game and was eighth in total receiving yards. He had five 100-yard receiving yard games on the year and three games in which he had multiple touchdowns.

Criner is Arizona’s career record holder with 32 receiving touchdowns and is number four all-time in career receptions (209) and receiving yards (2,859). He posted 11 career 100-yard receiving games and five games with ten or more catches.

Garth Gerhart was a second-team All-Pac-12 honoree after starting all 13 games for the Sun Devils in 2011. The center was part of a unit that ranked third in the conference this year in passing offense, averaging 316.7 yards per game. He played in 39 career games at ASU, making 35 starts and is the brother of former Heisman Trophy finalist Toby Gerhart, who currently plays for the Minnesota Vikings.

Gerhart’s teammate, Gerell Robinson was an Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 selection in 2011 after posting the second-highest single-season total for receiving yards in school history. The wide out finished with 1,397 yards—tops in the conference—and totaled six 100-yard receiving games and seven touchdowns. He also set a school record for receiving yards per game (107.5) and his 77 receptions were third-most in ASU history. He closed out his career with a huge game in the Las Vegas Bowl, totaling 13 catches for 241 receiving yards.

A three-year starter for the Sun Devils, Robinson finished his career with 135 receptions for 2,071 yards and 12 touchdowns. He played in 47 career games, making 25 starts.

Cal linebacker Mychal Kendricks was named the Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year in the Pac-12 and was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection after leading the Bears with a career-high 106 tackles and 14.5 tackles for loss. Those totals ranked fifth and third respectively in the Pac-12 this season. He also had two interceptions, three sacks and two pass breakups on the year. A three-year starter for the Bears, Kendricks played in all 51 games possible during his career with 29 starts. He made 258 tackles, including 36.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. He added seven fumble recoveries, four interceptions, five pass breakups and a forced fumble.

Mitchell Schwartz was a first-team All-Pac-12 pick in 2011 after starting all 13 games at left tackle for the Bears. He was a key member of an offensive line that helped pave the way for Isi Sofele to rack up 1,000-yards rushing this year. He started all 51 games possible during his career, including 35 at left tackle and 16 at right tackle.

Utah offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection this season after leading the Utes with an 85% overall grade on his blocking assignments. The right tackle ‘won’ 546 of 639 assignments in 2011, starting all 12 games in which he played. A Salt Lake City native, Bergstrom made 38 career starts for the Utes, appearing in 48 overall.

Barkley rises, Burfict falls on draft board

November, 10, 2011
There aren't many changes on Mel Kiper's "Big Board," but fellow ESPN NFL draft guru Todd McShay has two Pac-12 players going in opposite directions on his board.

First, USC quarterback Matt Barkley moved up from 18 to 10 on McShay's list of the top 32 NFL draft prospects.

Writes McShay:

He continues to rise in part because of his impressive consistency. The closer we get to the draft, the more quarterbacks start to rise, and Barkley has done nothing to hurt his stock. His tools aren't elite, but he's getting better at all the little things to get the most out of his ability.

Going the other way is Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who slips from 10 to 16. Writes McShay:

In terms of natural ability, Burfict is clearly in the top 10. But as teams look more closely on consistency and mental makeup of players, there are enough questions about Burfict's inconsistent play, erratic behavior and lack of discipline on the field to raise concerns.

McShay also dropped Washington defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu from his board. He had been at No. 16.

McShay thinks highly of Stanford. He now has four Cardinal in his top-32, adding tight end Coby Fleener at No. 32 this week.

Fleener is much faster than most think, is tough as nails and keeps showing up in big spots. He makes all the tough catches in clutch situations, and although he's not an elite athlete, there are plenty of productive NFL starters with the same skill set. Fleener has some of the same characteristics that make Jason Witten a quality player; he's just not as big.

McShay has this to say about Stanford guard David DeCastro, who is rated 18th.

If guards were valued as much as tackles, DeCastro would be a higher pick than his teammate Martin. There's nothing DeCastro can't do, and he's ready to start in the NFL right now.

Kiper has Pac-12 players in this order: 1. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, 2. USC tackle Matt Kalil; 7. Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin; 10. Barkley; 15. Burfict.

Pac-12 players hold spots on draft boards

November, 3, 2011
Not many changes on Mel Kiper and Todd McShay's draft boards, which are loaded with Pac-12 players.

You can see Kiper's "Big Board" here and McShay's top 32 here.

As for their ranking of conference players...

Kiper goes like this: 1. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck; 2. USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil; 6. Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin; 10. USC quarterback Matt Barkley; 15. Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

And McShay goes like this: 1. Luck; 2. Kalil; 7. Martin; 10. Burfict;. 17. Washington defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu; 18. Barkley; 19 Stanford offensive guard David DeCastro.