Stanford Football: 2013 pac-12 final player countdown

Your take! Readers' Pac-12 top-25 lists

February, 12, 2014
2/12/14
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We did a top-25 Pac-12 players list, and then asked you to provide your own.

What has become clear: Last year's list was more controversial. This year, most of you didn't view things much differently than us.

We did have some jokers, though.

We had Andrew from "Corvallis, TX" who sent in a list of 25 Oregon State players, noting he "clearly demonstrates that there wasn't any bias involved when assembling this list." And "006Shy" from Los Angeles did the same for USC. An Oregon fan listed QB Marcus Mariota 23 times then typed, "24. Alejandro Maldonado 25. Everyone Else."

Hardy har har.

Once again, here's our list:

The countdown:

No. 1: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
No. 2: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
No. 3: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
No. 4: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
No. 5: Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
No. 6: Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
No. 7: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
No. 8: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
No. 9: David Yankey, OL, Stanford
No. 10: Leonard Williams, DE, USC
No. 11: Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State
No. 12: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OL, UCLA
No. 13: Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford
No. 14: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
No. 15: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
No. 16: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
No. 17: Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
No. 18: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 19: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
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

And here are a sampling of your thoughts.

[+] EnlargeKa'Deem Casey
Casey Sapio/USA TODAY SportsThere were plenty of people who thought Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey was the Pac-12's top player in 2013.
Andrew from Agoura Hills, Calif., writes: 1) Ka'Deem Carey 2) Marcus Mariota 3) Brandin Cooks 4) Anthony Barr 5) Trent Murphy 6) Bishop Sankey 7) David Yankey 8) Leonard Williams 9) Will Sutton 10) Brett Hundley 11) Taylor Kelly 12) Tyler Gaffney 13) Ifo Ekpre-Olomu 14) Xavier Su'a-Filo 15) Deone Bucannon 16) Marion Grice 17) Paul Richardson 18) Trevor Reilly 19) Shayne Skov 20) Hroniss Grasu 21) Sean Mannion 22) Josh Huff 23) Myles Jack 24) Scott Crichton 25) Austin Seferian-Jenkins

His thoughts: It was a lot harder to come up with serious gripes about this year's list (and where'd the fun be if you couldn't critique!). I think you have to flip Carey and Mariota. If you asked any serious Pac-12 fan who the signature player of 2013 was, they would say Carey. That earns him the top spot. I can buy into your philosophy that pro potential can make a difference, so I left Barr ahead of Murphy, even though I think Murph had the slightly better season. But following that same logic, I moved Williams ahead of Sutton because it's pretty well established that he's going to be a top-10 pick in 2015 (and his stats were better to boot). Hundley and Kelly go back-to-back because they were that close in performance. And being a USC guy, I desperately wanted to get one or two of Hayes Pullard/Dion Bailey/Josh Shaw/Devon Kennard on the list, but I just couldn't figure out a guy on the list who should come off. In the end, the real star of the Trojans D (other than Leonard Williams) was Clancy Pendergast, and unfortunately he couldn't go on this list. That concession comes with the understanding that Hayes definitely belongs on the preseason top 25 in 2014. I wish the grading system had a B+/A- option, because it was definitely better than the B I gave it. Well done, gents.

My take: I have no problem with those who'd flip Mariota and Carey, as that was a perfectly reasonable debate we also had. I still think if you were putting a team together and were drafting from the Pac-12, Mariota would be the consensus first pick. I think Williams has more upside than Sutton, but I'm not sure he was a better player this past season. The coaches did make Sutton a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. And I'd guess a few USC guys are going to make the 2014 preseason list.

David from Tucson, Ariz., writes: 1) Ka'Deem Carey (of course, I'm biased, but he was the U of A team. All of it. B.J. Denker played to his potential more than ANYONE in FBS, but who were defenses scheming to stop and failing to stop?) 2) Anthony Barr 3) Trent Murphy 4) Will Sutton (Why three defensive players after Carey? Simple: Seattle's defense. What beat Peyton's Broncos? Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush. These 3 players exemplify what the NFL, NCAA and all defenses are about: QB pressure, and O-Line dominance.) Also elite players, but with some performance problems: 5) Marcus Mariota (What else needs to be said? He was the best QB in the country -- yes, better than Jameis Winston, in my opinion -- and his knee injury made him almost pedestrian compared to his previous outings, but he's BY FAR the best returning player in the country -- yes, better than Jameis, in my opinion.) The best of the rest: 6) Bishop Sankey (Talk about making a name for yourself, Sankey was a workhorse, a crazy talent and he'll do well at the next level.) 7) Brandin Cooks 8) Marion Grice 9) Brett Hundley 10) David Yankey 11) Paul Richardson (He was, again in my opinion, the only reason Colorado was watchable football this year) 12) Taylor Kelly (I hate admitting how good he is, but, shoot, he's fantastic) 13) Jaelen Strong (His presence alone made the Sun Devils one of the most potent offenses in the Pac-12. ASU needed a receiver who can make great plays and boy howdy did they get one.) 14) Deone Bucannon (Reminds me of Kam Chancellor, who happens to be my favorite NFL player right now.) 15) Tyler Gaffney 16) Ifo Ekpre-Olomu 17) Xavier Su'a-Filo 18) Hroniss Grasu 19) Shayne Skov 20) Sean Mannion 21) Trevor Reilly 22) Austin Seferian-Jenkins 23) Josh Huff 24) Scott Crichton 25) Bralon Addison

My take: So adding Jaelen Strong and Bralon Addison and cutting Myles Jack and Josh Huff. As noted, Strong was seriously considered but, in the end, Huff had better overall numbers and really finished, er, strong. I also think Huff was the Ducks' No. 1 WR over Addison. Appreciate the defensive-first sensibilities.

Luke from Seattle writes: 1. Marcus Mariota 2. Ka'Deem Carey 3. Bishop Sankey 4. Trent Murphy 5. Will Sutton 6. Deone Bucannon 7. Danny Shelton 8. David Yankey 9. Anthony Barr 10. Paul Richardson 11. Leonard Williams 12. Brandin Cooks 13. Brett Hundley 14. Dion Bailey 15. Myles Jack 16. Taylor Kelly 17. Xavier Su'a-Filo 18. Tyler Johnstone 19. Ifo-Ekpre Olomu 20. Shaq Thompson 21. Shayne Skov 22. Scott Crichton 23. Austin Seferian-Jenkins 24. Terrance Mitchell 25. Sean Parker

My take: Five Huskies! Hmm. And no Hau'oli Kikaha, a Husky who was my toughest cut? Danny Shelton at No. 7? Though a fine player -- and a heck of a space-taker -- Shelton only earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors. You leave off some really good players: Marion Grice, Tyler Gaffney, Trevor Reilly, Sean Mannion, Josh Huff and Hroniss Grasu.

Michigan Trojan from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: 1-Ka'Deem Carey 2-Marcus Mariota 3-Brett Hundley 4-Bishop Sankey 5-Brandin Cooks 6-Anthony Barr 7-Leonard Williams 8-Trent Murphy 9-Taylor Kelly 10-Tyler Gaffney 11-Will Sutton 12-Buck Allen 13-Scott Crichton 14-Paul Richardson 15-Shayne Skov 16-Austin Seferian-Jenkins 17-Marion Grice 18-David Yankey 19-Xavier Su'a-Filo 20-Ifo Ekpre-Olomu 21-Jaelen Strong 22-Hayes Pullard 23-Carl Bradford 24-Deone Bucannon 25-Trevor Reilly

[+] EnlargeMyles Jack
Chris Coduto/Icon SMIUCLA LB/RB Myles Jack's inclusion in the top 25 sparked plenty of debate.
His thoughts: Something that has bothered me a little is that Myles Jack is considered the best offensive AND defensive freshman in the Pac-12. For the sake of complaint, I thought Su'a Cravens (injury and all) was at least his equal, probably already the most opportunistic playmaker on the defense outside of Leonard Williams. But I'd settle for a draw on that side of the ball; Jack's numbers are decent. HOWEVER, on offense, I cannot shake that his RB stint was primarily a gimmick. And he had more than half of his TDs against one team. His numbers came primarily against the weaker teams in the Pac-12, and he also had the element of surprise for a game or two, emerging midway through the season. In any case, sour grapes, but I feel I could make a case that Justin Davis (also injured) was even better when he was running the football, as a true freshman.

My take: Well, Jack was at his best against Arizona, Arizona State and Washington, teams that combined for 27 victories. I understand you could make a case that it was dubious that Jack was BOTH offensive and defensive Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, but his contribution on both sides of the ball was truly notable. I can't think of a more distinguished two-way player in FBS football off the top of my head. (Yes, he played a bigger role than former Stanford FB/LB Owen Marecic.) I like how a Trojan shows respect for Brett Hundley at No. 3. Guys like Hayes Pullard and Carl Bradford were among those we seriously considered.

Evan from San Diego writes: 1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon 2. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA 3. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona 4. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA 5. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State 6. Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington 7. Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford 8. David Yankey, OL, Stanford 9. Leonard Williams, DE, USC 10. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State 11. Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State 12. Xavier Su'a-Filo, OL, UCLA 13. Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State 14. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford 15. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon 16. Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford 17. Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State 18. Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado 19. Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State 20. Trevor Reilly, DE/OLB, Utah 21. Myles Jack, LB/RB, UCLA 22. Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State 23. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington 24. Hroniss Grasu, C, Oregon 25. Josh Huff, WR, Oregon

My take: Evan has taken our 25 and tweaked the order a bit, which seems pretty reasonable. I think Kevin and I would certainly have slightly different top 25s if asked to do them solo.

Nat from Portland writes: Here is my Top 25 based on what I observed this year. 1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (besides Andrew Luck, best QB I have seen in person since I have been attending games in 1999 as an 11-year-old) 2. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona 3. Brandin Cooks, WR, OSU (the records and the constant coverage tough to ignore) 4. Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford (most unstoppable defender this year) 5. Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington 6. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA (has great potential but didn't see as much "wow" this year as in '12) 7. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon (he is a psychic, I am sure of it) 8. David Yankey, OL, Stanford 9. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA 10. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State (was he just always double-teamed, thus not having much of a statistical impact?) 11. Taylor Kelley, QB, Arizona State (impressed with his accuracy all year) 12. Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State 13. Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado (he had some underwhelming QBs throwing him the ball and still produced) 14. Leonard Williams, DE, USC (I thought Hayes Pullard/George Uko were almost as important all year) 15. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford (gonna miss this guy, felt like he was around eight years, though) 16. Scott Crichton, DE, OSU (biggest Beavs loss in a few years, no one will match his productivity in '14) 17. Deone Bucannon, S, WSU 18. Xavier Su'a-Filo, OL, UCLA 19. Myles Jack, LB/RB, UCLA 20. Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford (almost wanted to leave him off as he benefited from a strong O-line, but he was quite the workhorse) 21. Trevor Reilly, DE, Utah (probably should be higher, he never stopped) 22. Marqise Lee, WR, USC (Just from a danger factor he has to be on the list, even with injury issues. Didn't go as AWOL as De'Anthony Thomas.) 23. Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State (I want to see more from him with pressure in his face against big-time opponents and no Cooks) 24. Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State (gave Beavs fits, works well in their system) 25. Keith Price, QB, Washington (not overwhelming statistically but adjusted well to new hurry-up system). Hard to put more than a couple O-linemen on there (no Grasu). Huff was a little inconsistent for my liking, as was ASJ. Ben Gardner when healthy was top-25 worthy. Shaq Thompson was also tough to leave off. Trevor Romaine wins Most Photogenic Player of 2013. Go Beavs!

My take: So Nat removes Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Josh Huff and Hroniss Grasu and replaces them with Strong, Marqise Lee and Keith Price. In terms of talent, Lee would be near the top of any Pac-12 list, but our list was more about production. Injuries and inconsistency at QB were Lee's biggest issues, but he also seemed to press this year, dropping too many balls. Price was certainly worthy of consideration after posting a strong bounce-back season.
After this week -- national signing day! -- we will officially turn our attention forward to 2014. But before we do that, Kevin and I revisit our thoughts on our final list of the top 25 players in 2013.

[+] EnlargeTrent Murphy
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsStanford's Trent Murphy, who led the nation with 15 sacks, was No. 6 on the Pac-12's final countdown.
Ted Miller: The Pac-12's Top 25 players countdown was mostly a civil affair between your Pac-12 reporters. Kevin made a preliminary list, and it mostly stuck -- names and order. There was no bloodshed as there had been in years past. It was an odd experience.

It doesn't seem our list this postseason is terribly controversial. There are some questions about placement. Arizona State fans are a little bent about LB Carl Bradford and WR Jaelen Strong being left out. I already noted that leaving out Washington DE Hau'oli Kikaha was the toughest call for me.

As for our controversies, Kevin and I went back and forth a little on the top two, but not much. I think at one point, one of us said, "Look, we've got to include Myles Jack." I think the Anthony Barr vs. Trent Murphy debate is legit. Barr is probably headed to a more sparkly NFL career, but Murphy had the best season of just about any defensive player in the nation.

So, Kevin, with that as an intro, which do you feel like were our toughest calls or controversies? And, like me, are you having withdrawal from not getting pilloried in your email box?

Kevin Gemmell: Some, but it’s not nearly as mean-spirited as it was last season. As you noted, mostly a few ASU fans making a case for Bradford. Also, one about why we put Brett Hundley ahead of Taylor Kelly, even though Kelly was the coach’s pick for second-team all-league. I’ll hit that in my mailbag later this afternoon.

I do think the fact that you and I have a penchant for quarterbacks came back to bite us ever so slightly this season. And I say ever so slightly because it’s the difference between No. 1 and No. 2. I made a push for Ka’Deem Carey to be No. 1. The more I think about it, I should have fought for Carey a little more than I did.

Marcus Mariota was outstanding, per usual. But there was an obvious drop-off in his numbers and the Ducks’ performance as he dealt with a knee injury. That’s not his fault. And I’m certainly not pointing a finger at a player who gets injured. I’m simply stating a fact.

But when you look at Carey’s consistency every week, I think you can make a very compelling argument that he was the No. 1 player in the Pac-12. And you combine that with his surrounding cast, a new quarterback, a Biletnikoff semifinalist on the bench with a knee injury, he truly had to carry that offense. And he did so, with tremendous success and without complaint.

Am I losing sleep over it? No. He’s No. 2. But that really was the only point that you and I went back and forth on for a while. And in the end, our favoritism for quarterbacks won out.

It’s a bit too early to start putting together our preseason Top 25 list for 2014. But I know, once again, it’s going to be quarterback-dominated. One player I expect to see on there is UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks. I look at these lists -- preseason and postseason -- and I’m baffled that Kendricks is never on there. But I’m also left with the same question we ask our readers when they complain: “Who would you take off?”

So I’m making a declaration here and now. Kendricks will be on our preseason top 25. Better get on board with that, Miller.

We’ve only got eight players coming back, so I’m seeing some interesting wiggle room on next fall's preseason list.

[+] EnlargeKa'Deem Casey
Casey Sapio/USA TODAY SportsYou could make the case that Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey was the best player in the Pac-12 in 2013.
Ted Miller: I hear you on Carey vs. Mariota. Even while I was pitching Mariota, I had a voice in my head saying that maybe Carey should be No. 1. His consistency was remarkable, while Oregon team had a disappointing finish.

I shouted down that voice because the QB position is so important, particularly in this conference.

Carey was the best running back in the country. Mariota, while ranking No. 1 with ESPN.com's total QBR, probably rated third. But I think most seasons, the third-best QB in the nation is a more valuable player than the No. 1 running back. At least unless that running back is truly special, as in Barry Sanders, Reggie Bush or Adrian Peterson.

So I think it's reasonable to stagger guys a bit by position. And, again, I leaned on my ole, "Who would I draft first" for my college football team. I think if you lined up all 12 Pac-12 coaches, Mariota would be the top overall pick in the conference.

But, again, that was my personal quest for a distinction.

As for next year, I think the first question is: Do the eight returning guys from this list simply move up into the top eight spots for our preseason 2014 list? Maybe, maybe not. Not yet prepared to make that call.

I like Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong, Stanford OT Andrus Peat and Kikaha to make big moves onto the list.

You mentioned Kendricks. Any other thoughts about how things might look in August?

Kevin Gemmell: As for the preseason top 10, I certainly see Mariota, Hundley and Kelly in our top 10. I’m taking a wait-and-see on Sean Mannion. When he’s hot, there's no doubt he belongs in the top 10. When he’s off, he’s really off. Having talked with him last week, I know he’s dedicated to working on his consistency. He’s a player who could start the year in the teens, but end up in the top 10 on the postseason list. Then again, if a wide receiver doesn’t step up and the running game doesn’t get moving, he might get left off at the end of the season.

I like Ifo Ekpre-Olomu to be in our top 10. And Jordan Richards is another name that always seems to get left off these lists despite strong performances. Strong will be there, but I was OK leaving him off the postseason list in favor of Josh Huff.

Austin Hill is a guy who, like Paul Richardson was this year, we have to wait and see. If he comes back strong from the injury that kept him out of the 2013 season, I could see him in the top 25.

It’s pretty remarkable when you look back at where we were in August to where we are now. Could you have imagined a season when Marqise Lee -- the defending Biletnikoff winner -- and De’Anthony Thomas -- one of the most explosive players in all of college football -- would be left off the final 25? Injuries were obviously a big part of that. But I think it again speaks to the talent depth in the Pac-12. On both sides of the ball.

A tip of the cap again for this yearly exercise in teamwork. Feel pretty good about our final product and looking forward to what they readers have to say when they weigh in with their top 25.

Pac-12 Top 25 for 2013: No. 6

January, 30, 2014
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Our countdown of the Pac-12’s Top 25 players from the 2013 season continues.

You can review our 2013 preseason Top 25 here.

[+] EnlargeTrent Murphy
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesStanford OLB Trent Murphy led the nation with 15 sacks and was second nationally with 23 tackles for loss.
No. 6: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford

2013 numbers: Murphy led the nation with 15 sacks, was second nationally with 23.5 tackles for loss, forced two fumbles, returned an interception for a touchdown and blocked a kick.

Preseason ranking: No. 7

Making the case for Murphy: Teammate Shayne Skov drew a lot of the attention, but for the last two seasons Murphy has been the ultimate difference-maker on a Stanford defense that was among the nation's elite. Not only did his 23.5 tackles for a loss rank second in the country, they went for a national-best 147 yards. Known mostly as a pass rusher -- he worked primarily at defensive end in Senior Bowl practices -- Murphy was also good against the run, where defensive coordinator Derek Mason used him to set the edge and funnel ball carriers back inside. He was one of three linebackers named to the ESPN.com All-America team. Surprisingly, he wasn't a finalist for any national awards, but he was a semifinalist for the Bednarik and Rotary Lombardi awards.

The countdown:

No. 7: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
No. 8: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
No. 9: David Yankey, OL, Stanford
No. 10: Leonard Williams, DE, USC
No. 11: Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State
No. 12: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OL, UCLA
No. 13: Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford
No. 14: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
No. 15: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
No. 16: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
No. 17: Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
No. 18: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 19: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
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

Pac-12 Top 25 for 2013: No. 9

January, 29, 2014
1/29/14
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Our countdown of the Pac-12’s Top 25 players from the 2013 season continues.

You can review our 2013 preseason Top 25 here.

No. 9: David Yankey, OG, Stanford

2013 numbers: Yankey was the leader of an offensive line that ranked No. 7 in the country in allowing just 4.14 tackles for loss per game and No. 11 for fewest sacks per game (1.14).

Preseason ranking: No. 9

Making the case for Yankey: The eighth unanimous All-American in Stanford history, Yankey was was three-year fixture on the Cardinal offensive line. He rotated between left tackle and left guard a year ago, but lining up at guard full time this season Yankey solidified his reputation as one of the nation's top pulling guards. He helped pave the way for 1,700-yard back Tyler Gaffney and decided to forgo his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft. ESPN Scouts Inc. ranks Yankey as the draft's fourth-best offensive guard .

The countdown:
No. 10: Leonard Williams, DE, USC
No. 11: Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State
No. 12: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OL, UCLA
No. 13: Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford
No. 14: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
No. 15: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
No. 16: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
No. 17: Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
No. 18: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 19: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
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

Pac-12 Top 25 for 2013: No. 13

January, 27, 2014
1/27/14
7:00
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Our countdown of the Pac-12’s Top 25 players from the 2013 season continues.

You can review our 2013 preseason Top 25 here.

No. 13: Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford

2013 numbers: Gaffney carried 330 times for 1,709 yards and 21 touchdowns and caught 15 passes for 86 yards and another score.

[+] EnlargeTyler Gaffney
Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY SportsTyler Gaffney finished eighth in the country in rushing yards as the two-sport standout became the workhorse for the Cardinal.
Preseason ranking: Unranked

Making the case for Gaffney: Gaffney's decision to leave Stanford after his junior season to pursue professional baseball appeared to be the right decision after he hit .297 with a .483 on-base percentage in the New York-Penn League. His decision to return for one more football season looks even better. Gaffney used his final year of eligibility to finish eighth in the country in rushing (1,709 yards) and third in carries (330) -- numbers he wouldn't have sniffed in 2012 because he'd have been backing up the school's all-time leading rusher, Stepfan Taylor. The plan going into the season was that he'd split time with Anthony Wilkerson and others, but it became apparent early that wouldn't be the case as Gaffney clearly separated himself from the pack. Now Gaffney again finds himself at a crossroads: baseball or football? Stanford coach David Shaw has made it clear he believes Gaffney is an NFL-caliber back and the Pittsburgh Pirates have left the door open for his return to the organization. He'll continue to pursue both sports until it's obvious which is the better path.

The countdown:

Pac-12 Top 25 for 2013: No. 18

January, 23, 2014
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Our countdown of the Pac-12’s Top 25 players from the 2013 season continues.

[+] EnlargeStanford
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsShayne Skov was a fearsome defender and inspiring leader for Stanford.
You can review our 2013 preseason Top 25 here.

No. 18: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford

2013 numbers: Skov recorded 109 tackles -- 7.8 per game -- this season, with 13 coming for a loss. He also had 5.5 sacks, 10 QB hurries, four pass breakups, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Preseason ranking: No. 16

Making the case for Skov: Skov was the highly productive and fiery emotional leader of the Pac-12's best defense. A four-year starter, he earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors and was a second-team FWAA and Sports Illustrated All-American and was a third-team All-American for the AP, CBS Sports and Athlon Sports. His value, however, was about more than what he did on the field. It was clear that he was the most vocal of Stanford's senior leaders. His pregame speeches were widely celebrated by his teammates. It's become a cliché to call a player the "heart and soul" of his team, but that is an appropriate term for Skov. He was a big reason, perhaps the biggest reason, why the Cardinal defense led the Pac-12 in scoring (19.0 ppg) and rushing defense (89.4), numbers that ranked 10th and third in the nation. Skov is a physical and instinctive player who figures to have a long career at the next level.

The countdown:

No. 19: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
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

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