Five Pac-12 players to root for

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
10:00
AM ET
There is no shortage of players who will excite on the field in the Pac-12 this season, but it's not all about on-field performance. Whether it's for their off-field contributions or their on-field demeanor, here are five guys worth rooting for even if they don't play for your team.

Taylor Kelly, quarterback, Arizona State: Quick, who was the second-team All-Pac-12 quarterback last season -- UCLA’s Brett Hundley or Arizona State’s Kelly? Outside the Pac-12, the assumption would probably be Hundley, and that would be wrong. Kelly quietly led ASU to the best regular-season record in the Pac-12 last season and has a likely NFL future. His time in Tempe hasn’t been one big party, either. The Master’s candidate volunteers at local schools two days a week and is heavily involved in the Scholar Baller leadership and outreach program, for which he teaches high school students about leadership and character among other things. Kelly is also an accomplished drag racer, but that passion is currently on hold at the request of ASU coach Todd Graham. As a result of his vast car knowledge, Kelly has turned into the de facto mechanic for the ASU football team.

[+] EnlargeMariota
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsWhen Marcus Mariota isn't piling up big stats on the field, he can usually be found studying somewhere.
Marcus Mariota, quarterback, Oregon: After passing up a good shot at being the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft to return to school, Mariota has all the makings of a Heisman Trophy favorite. And he won’t come with much controversy. If Andrew Luck set the standard for unassuming superstar quarterbacks in the Pac-12, Mariota isn’t far behind. He’s quiet, he’s polite, he’s humble and while pursuing a degree in General Science, he has developed a reputation as one of the most studious athletes on campus. For those looking for reasons to root against him, as an individual, it will be hard to justify.

Toni Pole, defensive tackle, Washington State: When Pole intercepted a Keith Price pass in overtime and nearly returned it for a touchdown in the 2012 Apple Cup, he created a memory Washington State fans will remember for a long time. For many, that is not the only lasting impression he has produced. Pole is a frequent volunteer in the Pullman community, and his philantrophic efforts have included helping to put on “Butch’s Bash,” a holiday party for local kids. He makes trips to the local senior center where he plays games with the residents and is musically inclined. When the Cougars are on the road, he can be found playing the piano in hotel lobbies and has sang the National Anthem at women’s basketball games.

Ty Montgomery, receiver, Stanford: Stanford coach David Shaw has said Montgomery has the talent to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, but after big junior year with the Cardinal, Montgomery didn’t even consider a pre-graduation jump to Sunday football. He didn’t even ask for an evaluation from the NFL or for a draft-round projection, which is common for draft-eligible players. He chose Stanford largely for academic reasons and chose to stay for the same. As soft-spoken as they come, Montgomery has already been named to the Maxwell and Hornung Award watch lists and is one of the more dynamic kick returners in the country.

Stefan McClure, cornerback, Cal: After a solid true freshman season in 2011, McClure appeared on his way to a great career for Cal. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, but it’s not for a lack of talent. He sat out the 2012 season rehabbing a torn ACL, then suffered another torn ACL five games into last season. If there is anyone who could use some good vibes coming his way, it’s McClure.
Arizona has quickly developed a reputation for recruiting innovation -- and fun -- with a series of YouTube videos this offseason.

SportsNation

What is your favorite video the Arizona football program has produced this offseason?

  •  
    51%
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    13%
  •  
    10%
  •  
    26%

Discuss (Total votes: 923)

It has produced four videos that have combined for more than 400,000 views on YouTube since the first one was released in March. While the videos are primarily to help the program's recruiting efforts, they have doubled as way to keep Arizona fans -- and those throughout college football -- entertained during the wait for the regular season.

Today, we're asking which #OnToTheNextOne production this offseason has been your favorite.

And the nominees are:

Arizona Fast #TheNewNormal

The newest installment, released this week, emphasizes that Arizona football does "everything fast."

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Hard Edge

It's High Noon in Old Tucson, where you can meet the coaching staff in a trailer for the 2014 season.

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Hard Edge II

Another 2014 trailer in Old Tucson that features some of the Wildcats' most high-profile players, including some that have departed for the NFL.

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Arizona Speed

Coach Rich Rodriguez spoofs the movie "Speed," in a way to come out against the proposed 10-second rule.

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Pac-12's lunch links

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
12:40
PM ET
Aim for the sky
and you’ll reach the ceiling.
Aim for the ceiling
and you’ll stay on the floor.
We're continuing our preseason position reviews. Please, hold your applause until we are finished.

Here's how we do this. We provide three evaluative categories: "Great shape," "Good shape" and "We'll see."

Hint: You'd prefer your team to be in "Great shape."

"We'll see" doesn't mean you're going to stink at said position. It means just what it says -- we'll see, because there's no way at present to know.

You can review last year’s rankings here.

Up next: Cornerbacks. Considering the talent pool of quarterbacks in the Pac-12, each team’s secondary is going to be tested more and more this season. Teams are really (read: really, really, really) going to want to be good here in 2014.

GREAT SHAPE

Oregon: All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is back, and considering how much opponents want to throw (though, who knows how much they will actually throw at him), he’s looking at what could be a really, really impressive final season. Through the spring, fellow senior Dior Mathis emerged as the other starter, though Troy Hill could make this an intriguing position battle to watch. Backing up these guys will be Chris Seisay, junior college transfer Dominique Harrison and Stephen Amoako. Elite talent and excellent depth make this one of the best position groups for the Ducks.

Stanford: The Cardinal have a new defensive backs coach in Duane Akina. In his 13 years with Texas he developed two Thorpe Award winners and 14 all-conference defensive backs, and he inherits a stocked pantry at Stanford. Alex Carter -- who sat out this spring -- and Wayne Lyons are both very, very good players who will anchor the secondary. Ronnie Harris will play the outside when Lyons shifts over to cover the slot.

UCLA: Last year at this time, UCLA’s cornerbacks were in the “we’ll see” category. Well, we saw. We liked. The Bruins return Fabian Moreau, Ishmael Adams and Anthony Jefferson -- they combined for 201 tackles, six interceptions and 11 pass breakups in 2013. With an offseason to gel as a unit, mature and condition, expect those numbers to grow. If need be, Randall Goforth could play some cornerback, and early enrollee Adarius Pickett and 2014 signee Jaleel Wadood (younger brother of Arizona State cornerback Rashad Wadood) could also contribute.

GOOD SHAPE

Oregon State: Steven Nelson has one of the cornerback spots locked down. He recorded 62 tackles, six interceptions and eight pass breakups last season. Opposite him, Larry Scott and Dashon Hunt are vying for the starting spot. Scott has more game experience but spent half of the spring on the sideline nursing a hamstring injury, giving Hunt more and more reps as the spring season went on. And considering these guys go up against quarterback Sean Mannion every day in practice, their learning curves are going to be expedited.

Washington: In Marcus Peters (55 tackles, five interceptions, 14 PBR in 2013) the Huskies have a very, very good cornerback on their hands. Opposing quarterbacks probably aren’t going to throw at him a ton, which brings the second starter into question. The starter opposite Peters will be the one put in bigger situations (at least until he proves himself as a lockdown cornerback. If he doesn’t, the passes will keep coming). Redshirt freshman Jermaine Kelly and former Alabama transfer Travell Dixon had the first shot at the job in spring ball, and the Huskies will get four freshman cornerbacks in the fall to add to that group. It is a young group, but expect Peters -- who we think could be one of the best defensive backs in the Pac-12 this season -- to pull along whoever plays the opposite spot.

Colorado: Senior Greg Henderson is the most experienced defensive player returning to the Buffs this season, and his history of steadily improving through his Colorado career is a good sign that this season will be his best. On the other side, Colorado is still going through a position battle with junior college transfer Ahkello Witherspoon (who had an interception three pass breakups in the spring game) and Kenneth Crawley (who played in 11 of 12 games last season for the Buffs). Chidobe Awuzie also returns, making cornerback one of Colorado's deepest positions.

WE’LL SEE

USC: A coaching change and a lot of questions about players made this a hard decision between Good Shape and We'll See. With the pure talent the Trojans have, it will be surprising if this is not a productive group, but that potential doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Kevon Seymour has one starting spot. He ended last season on a high note and played well in the spring, but has had a very up-and-down career. Can he sustain this recent production? We’ll see. Opposite Seymour, there is a battle brewing between Josh Shaw, Chris Hawkins and possibly Adoree' Jackson. This might be the group with the most upside and the most downside (basically, the most unknowns) of any cornerback corps in the conference.

Arizona: Earlier this spring, head coach Rich Rodriguez said he wasn’t as excited about his secondary’s depth as he wanted to be. Considering the Wildcats play with a five defensive back system, that is not great. But, they have Jonathan McKnight to anchor one side. He started all 13 games for the Wildcats last season and led the team with eight pass breakups. The other side is still a question mark as the team tries to replace Shaquille Richardson.

Utah: Expect to see a lot of nickel from the Utes as they prepare for life-after-Trevor-Reilly. Eric Rowe -- the team’s third-leading tackler in 2013 -- is back and has secured one of the starting spots. He is the fastest defensive back on the team (4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash) but the other starter remains a question. Utah likes sophomore Reginald Porter (10 tackles in 2013) and senior Davion Orphey (eight starts, 33 tackles in 2013) but they could see competition from incoming players like Travonne Hobbs and Casey Hughes.

Arizona State: ASU lost both cornerback starters in Osahon Irabor and Robert Nelson following the 2013 season. Nelson accounted for 57 tackles, six interceptions and six pass breakups, and Irabor tallied 54 tackles, three interceptions and five pass breakups. Their backups -- Lloyd Carrington and Rashad Wadood -- finished the spring atop the depth chart. Those two combined for just 32 tackles in 2013. There is always the argument that these two will step right into their mentors’ shoes as they have had time to learn, but the verdict is still out on how effective these two will be.

Washington State: The Cougars have taken major steps forward under head coach Mike Leach. At some point the cornerbacks need to follow suit (especially considering what they face in practice every single day). The Washington State secondary is in a major rebuilding period after losing cornerbacks Nolan Washington and Damante Horton. The only player with any kind of experience is Daquawn Brown, but beyond him it could be a lot of youth in the secondary.

Cal: The Bears have new defensive backs coach Greg Burns, who helped USC win national titles in 2003 and 2004 (in those two seasons the Trojans gave up just 239 passing yards per game) so there is certainly not a lack of talent and experience on the coaching end. But on the field, it’s a different matter. Cameron Walker -- who had to play safety last season because of injuries -- will return to cornerback and start alongside Stefan McClure. Both have experience at safety, which should help the defense be more dynamic, but again, that alone doesn’t necessarily propel the group into good or great shape this season.

Other position reviews:
As much talk as there has been (including here at the Pac-12 blog) about how good the offenses in the conference will be this season, Thursday's release of the watch lists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, given to the nation's best defensive player, and Outland Trophy, given to the nation's best interior lineman, shows the Pac-12 measures up well against other conferences in defensive talent, too.

The Pac-12 led all conferences with 18 players on the Nagurski list, edging out the SEC (16), Big 12 (13), ACC (12) and Big Ten (10). For the Outland Trophy, which includes a mix of defensive and offensive players, the Pac-12 ranked second with 11 players behind the SEC (19).

Stanford's Henry Anderson, USC's Leonard Williams and Washington's Danny Shelton are on both.

Here are the Pac-12 players that were included:

Nagurski (defensive player)
Outland Trophy
Other watch lists

Pac-12 lunch links

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
2:30
PM ET
I would rather learn what it feels like to burn than feel nothing at all.
Kickers are football players, too ... and the ones listed on the Lou Groza and Ray Guy watch lists are some of the best in the country.

Lou Groza (kicker)
  • Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State: A returning Groza semifinalist, Gonzalez led the nation with 25 made field goals last season, equaling the all-time record for a freshman kicker.
  • Will Oliver, Colorado: Also a returning semifinalist, Oliver has connected on his last 60 PATs and needs seven more to break the Colorado record.
  • Andy Phillips, Utah: The former U.S. Ski team member had a great first season of football -- at any level -- last season, connecting on 17 of 20 field goals and all 41 of his PATs.
  • Jordan Williamson, Stanford: Williamson enters his fourth year as the Cardinal's starting kicker after a solid junior year in which he was 18-of-22 on field goals -- including just two misses inside 50 yards.
Ray Guy (punter)
  • Tom Hackett, Utah: Led the Pac-12 in just about every punting metric last season when he was named first-team all-conference.
  • Cole Leininger, California: Leininger was a member of the watch list last year when he dropped 14 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line with only two touchbacks.
Other watch lists
We're continuing our preseason position reviews. Please, hold your applause until we are finished.

Here's how we do this. We provide three evaluative categories: "Great shape," "Good shape" and "We'll see."

Hint: You'd prefer your team to be in "Great shape."

"We'll see" doesn't mean you're going to stink at said position. It means just what it says -- we'll see, because there's no way at present to know.

You can review last year's rankings here.

Up next: Linebacker. Teams in each category are listed in alphabetical order.

GREAT SHAPE

Oregon: The Ducks are in great shape with inside linebackers Derrick Malone and Rodney Hardrick returning next to outside linebacker Tony Washington. The only departure they’ll have to account for is Boseko Lokombo, and that spot appears destined for Tyson Coleman once he’s completely healthy following a knee injury that sidelined him for the Alamo Bowl. Sophomore Torrodney Prevot is one of several talented young players to keep an eye on when the Ducks empty their bench during blowouts.

Oregon State: The Beavers are deep at linebacker with D.J. Alexander, Jabral Johnson and Michael Doctor projected to start in their 4-3 scheme. Rommel Mageo was a starter down the stretch last season and should see plenty of playing time, as will Caleb Saulo and Darrell Songy.

USC: Only outside linebacker Devon Kennard is gone from a a solid group that should have a rather seamless transition playing in new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox's 3-4 defense. Hayes Pullard and Anthony Sarao figure to start inside, with Jabari Ruffin or Quinton Powell playing outside opposite J.R. Tavai.

Washington: The Huskies weren’t fully stocked during the spring, but figure to have one of the best groups in the conference with John Timu playing between Shaq Thompson and Travis Feeney. Cory Littleton can be listed at defensive end or outside linebacker -- UW calls him a rush end -- and is coming off a productive sophomore season.

GOOD SHAPE

Colorado: Addison Gillam led the Pac-12 in tackles per game last year (8.9) and will likely start between sophomore Kenneth Olugbode and senior Woodson Greer. The Buffaloes have depth, too, with Brady Daigh, a reliable backup for Gillam, and outside linebacker Deaysean Rippy, who sat out last season after transferring from Pittsburgh. Rippy was listed as an alternative starter to Greer on Colorado’s post spring depth chart.

Stanford: There might not be a more difficult task in the conference than replacing outside linebacker Trent Murphy and inside linebacker Shayne Skov, both of whom drew All-American accolades in multiple season. Inside linebacker A.J. Tarpley, already a three-year starter, is one of the conference’s unheralded players and outside linebacker James Vaughters is poised for a breakout senior season. Kevin Andersen has seen a lot of playing time over the past two years at outside linebacker, but the other inside spot needs to be ironed out.

UCLA: Like Stanford, the Bruins have a tough task in replacing Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt, but have two talented returners in Eric Kendricks and Myles Jack. UCLA could very well end up one of the best groups in the conference pending the development of Kenny Orjioke, Deon Hollins, Isaako Savaiinaea and Zach Whitley.

Utah: Junior Jason Whittingham is a potential first-team all-conference type player and the Utes are high on Jared Norris, who started seven games last year. The group looked even better when Miami-transfer Gionni Paul was projected to contribute, but the start to his season is expected to be delayed by a broken bone in his foot. Uaea Masina, after contributing on special teams last year, will likely see a lot of playing time.

Washington State: Darryl Monroe and Cyrus Coen return as starters and Tana Pritchard, who saw his role grow as the season went along, will be leaned on heavily. The final spot up for grabs is the ‘buck,’ which looks like it will come down to Kache Palacio, a slight favorite who started at the end of the season, and Ivan McLennan. Chester Su'a could also make some noise after missing last season with an injury.

WE'LL SEE

Arizona: The Wildcats need to replace three-year starter Marquis Flowers and two-year starter Jake Fischer. Scooby Wright started 12 games as a true freshman last season and gives the Wildcats a good piece to start with, but we’ll take a wait-and-see approach once the other pieces are in place. The good news is that Arizona has recruited well at linebacker.

Arizona State: Salamo Fiso returns, but having to replace three of the four starters from a year ago leaves more questions than answers. Early-enrollee D.J. Calhoun drew rave reviews during spring practice, but will have to beat out redshirt junior Antonio Longino for a starting job. Eriquel Florence (devil), and Laiu Moeakiola/Marcus Washington (spur) were also listed as starters at the end of spring practice.

Cal: Jalen Jefferson, Michael Barton and Hardy Nickerson are all back, but after last season’s defensive woes it’s hard to go in with much optimism. The situation at linebacker is clearly better than it was last year, but that’s not inspiring enough not to erase speculation.

OTHER POSITION REVIEWS:
BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion was a counselor at this week’s Elite 11, working with 2015 quarterbacks on Sunday and Monday at Nike World Headquarters. I stopped by to check in with him and see how the offseason is going.

First of all, he said the highlight of his summer are these kind of events (football junkies, rejoice) and that he’s also headed down to the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana on Wednesday. When he gets back from that the Beavers are going to start running full one's against one's in their group practice sessions.

[+] EnlargeSean Mannion
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports"As I've grown, it hasn't been 'Oh, I completed a pass,' it has been, 'but how accurate was the pass I completed?'" Sean Mannion said.
Here are a few of the highlights from our conversation.

  • Mannion seems like a very mature person so I was curious how his approach to the summer/offseason has changed over the past four years. He said he doesn't think it has changed, but he has found different ways to address which areas of his game need to improve. "Most of it is just going out there and throwing with the guys, getting a lot of reps with all the different routes. That way, when it's third-and-7 I can say I've thrown this route 150 times to this guy."
  • He did say that what has changed in his four years is how hard he is on himself. "As I've grown, it hasn't been 'Oh, I completed a pass,' it has been, 'but how accurate was the pass I completed?' ... I think I've made myself be much more fine with how accurate I am on every ball. It's not just about getting it to them, it's about trying to get the perfect throw on every route."
  • His rough estimate on how many passes he has thrown this summer: 1,800-2,250. He said he throws 40-50 passes, five days per week. I calculated that at approximately 45 days since their spring game.
  • The first receiver that Mannion mentioned was sophomore Victor Bolden. No huge surprises there. "Everyone knew he was fast but I think he has been getting better and better at running routes, catching balls." He then went on to mention junior Richard Mullaney and redshirt freshman Hunter Jarmon, saying Jarmon will definitely contribute.
  • I asked about what he's doing in order to expedite the process of building chemistry with each of these guys since they're such a young group. He brought it back to the number of reps, but then added in that since he's more mature in the offense now, he almost takes to it as a coach with all of them. He has been watching a lot of spring ball film with those guys.
  • Mannion said he's still getting to know new offensive coordinator John Garrett. Mannion gave the very cookie cutter response that most would expect with a player talking about their coach, but when asked about how he goes about building chemistry with a brand new OC going into his own final year, he got a bit more interesting. "It is an important relationship. Coach [Danny Langsdorf] and I were together for four years so we had gotten to know each other well. I felt like we were close. I feel like I'm growing closer to coach Garrett. ... I think a lot of it is in the film room, your quarterback meetings when it's just and him and maybe a few other quarterbacks. ... When you're just talking about football. Maybe you tell him what you're seeing on a play, he tells you what he's seeing -- that's kind of where you develop that relationship, that trust."

Pac-12's lunch links

July, 8, 2014
Jul 8
2:30
PM ET
Cinnamon. It should be on tables in restaurants along with salt and pepper. Anytime someone says, "Ooh, this is so good -- what's in this?" the answer invariably comes back, "cinnamon." Cinnamon. Again and again.

Watch list week continues with the release of the names on John Mackey Award and Rimington Trophy lists.

Here are the Pac-12 players on both lists:

John Mackey (tight end)

Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins won the award last season, but he left early for the NFL and was drafted in the second round by Tampa Bay. Looking strictly at how productive each of these players were as receivers a year ago -- which will always be the most significant factor in this award -- Hamlett has to be considered the conference's early favorite to contend for the award. He had 40 catches for 364 yards and five touchdowns a year ago and the Beavers need a combination of players to step up to replace Brandin Cooks' production.

The midseason watch list will be released on Oct. 13, the semifinalists will be named on Nov. 17 and the finalists will be revealed on Nov. 24.

Rimington (center)

Grasu, a two-time first-team All-Pac-12 selection, might be the favorite nationally after being named a finalist a year ago. Seumalo and Brendel are both team captains that started every game the past two seasons, while Gurrola, a one-time junior-college All-American, helped paved the way for Ka'Deem Carey last season. Shuler was included despite not having started a game for the Cardinal.

Note: A spring list was also released and there were no changes relating to the Pac-12.

Other watch lists
We're a little over five months away from the first Pac-12 championship game at Levi's Stadium, but it's not too early to bet on who will be there -- and other things, of course.

Among its division, conference and national-championship odds for college football, online sports book Bovada has made Oregon a 6/5 favorite to win the Pac-12 championship. The Ducks are a 1/2 favorite to emerge out of the North Division and are projected to meet UCLA, a 3/2 favorite in the South.

Following Oregon, here are the rest of the odds to win the Pac-12: UCLA 4/1, Stanford 5/1, USC 5/1, Arizona State 6/1, Washington 14/1, Arizona 25/1, Washington State 25/1, Oregon State 33/1, Utah 66/1, California 100/1 and Colorado 100/1.

What does it mean? Not much, really. However, it's an interesting gauge at how Vegas feels the public will bet.

Nothing jumped out as all too surprising, but I thought there would be a small gap between Stanford and USC/ASU considering the Cardinal's recent run of success.

If you'd prefer to bet on individual divisions, they have that covered, too.
  • North: Oregon 1/2, Stanford 3/1, Washington 6/1, Washington State 12/1, Oregon State 14/1, Cal 50/1.
  • South: UCLA 3/2, Arizona State 2/1, USC 2/1, Arizona 10/1, Utah 33/1, Colorado 50/1

The Ducks (8/1) come in just behind Florida State (11/2) and Alabama (6/1) on the odds list for the national championship. We'll go ahead and extrapolate that to mean Bovada is suggesting another run of the "We Want 'Bama" shirts for a potential semifinal in the new college football playoffs.

After Oregon, the rest of the Pac-12 odds for a national title are: UCLA 16/1, USC 25/1, Stanford 33/1, Arizona State 66/1, Arizona 100/1, Washington 100/1, Oregon State 200/1 and California 500/1.

A quick (albeit pretty much meaningless) takeaway here is that ASU and USC have the same odds to get to the Pac-12 championship game, but their odds to win the national title are significantly different. Feel free throw out your own rationale in the comments.

Also, if you planned on setting yourself up for life with a big bet on Colorado, Utah or WSU to win the national championship, you'll have to look elsewhere. Bovada doesn't currently offer those bets.

Pac-12 lunch links

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
2:30
PM ET
It's the remix to ignition.
Your early-week inundation with watch lists continues with the Paul Hornung Award.

A year ago, UCLA linebacker-turned-running-back Myles Jack was a finalist for the award, which is given to who the Louisville Sports Commission views as the most versatile athlete in college football. Jack was beaten out by LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Here is the Pac-12 representation:

As a returning finalist, it'd be easy to call Jack a favorite to win the award, but it remains to be seen if circumstances will allow him to be a serious contender. In a perfect world at UCLA, the Bruins wouldn't need him to carry the ball like they did late last season. And if Jack not being a factor for this award is the by-product of that, count on absolutely no one caring.

Thompson might end up being the player to watch here considering he could be to Washington this fall what Jack was for the Bruins a year ago.

With its seven players on the list, the Pac-12 ranked behind the Big Ten and ACC (both had 10) for third among conferences. It was followed by the Big 12 (5), SEC (4), Mountain West (3), AAC (3), Conference USA (2), Sun Belt (2) and MAC (1).

Stanford's Owen Marecic, who played fullback and linebacker, won the inaugural award in 2010.

The complete list of 47 players can be viewed here.
We're continuing our preseason position reviews. Please, hold your applause until we are finished.

Here's how we do this. We provide three evaluative categories: "Great shape," "Good shape" and "We'll see."

Hint: You'd prefer your team to be in "Great shape."

"We'll see" doesn't mean you're going to stink at said position. It means just what it says -- we'll see, because there's no way at present to know.

You can review last year's rankings here.

Up next: Defensive end. And as we said before, this is a difficult position to stagger when teams vary their scheme between 3-4 and 4-3 looks.

GREAT SHAPE

USC: Would we start with anyone other than Leonard Williams? Of course not. He was the only sophomore on the All-Pac-12 defensive team last season and he's out for a monstrous junior year, too. He recorded 13.5 tackles for a loss last season (including six sacks) and with the added depth on the D-line, he'll be an even bigger force this year. When Williams is out, look for Delvon Simmons to get in on the attack. Simmons, a Texas Tech transfer, has added 20 pounds since his sophomore year with the Red Raiders (in that season he tallied 27 tackles, 6 tackles for a loss).

Washington: The Huskies will field the nation's top-returning sack leader, Hau'oli Kikaha. On the UW website, he's now referred to as an outside linebacker, but for the sake of this post, we're going to still refer to him as a defensive end because chances are that his responsibilities are going to be largely the same. Evan Hudson and Joe Mathis will also be names to know, but the headliner at DE -- undoubtedly -- for the Huskies will be Kikaha.

Oregon: The Ducks have DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead. Those two are a talented pair that really came out this spring. Buckner has the most experience of the defensive ends and Armstead, who was a dual sport athlete (basketball) until last season, is now focused solely on football -- which showed. Plus, there's good depth behind those two with T.J. Daniel, junior college transfer Tui Talia and Stetzon Bair.

Stanford: Between Henry Anderson, who could be one of the best defensive linemen in the conference, and Blake Lueders, the Cardinal are in a very good place. Add to that group players like Luke Kaumatule -- the converted tight end -- and Aziz Shittu -- who can play tackle or end -- and Stanford should be talented up front yet again in 2014.

GOOD SHAPE

UCLA: Between Owamagbe Odighizuwa (who's still flying under some folks' radars) and Eddie Vanderdoes the Bruins have two pretty good-looking bookends on their defensive line. Vanderdoes sat out during the spring because of a broken foot, but should be up and available come fall. Ellis McCarthy is a bit of a tweener, but he and Kylie Fitts should be able to contribute.

Utah: Nate Orchard, who has 23 starts under his belt, is back for the Utes and will anchor one side of the line. Opposite Orchard is either going to be Jason Fanaika, the Utah State transfer, or Hunter Dimick. Orchard is going to be a force, and we have a feeling he's going to bring along whoever is opposite himself. The Utes have a good thing going here.

Oregon State: The Beavers are in solid shape with Dylan Wynn on one side and the other side still up for grabs in a pretty interesting position battle between Jaswha James, Lavonte Barnett and Titus Failauga. James will most likely snag the starting spot officially by the fall, but the competition is good for all involved. Oregon State also built in more depth here this spring when Obum Gwacham moved from receiver to defensive end (incredible position switch but a tremendous athlete and jumper), so he should also provide a few interesting rotations.

WE'LL SEE

Arizona: The Wildcats lost Sione Tuihalamaka and only return Reggie Gilbert (34 tackles, 7 tackles for a loss) and Dan Pettinato (10 tackles). However, they got an offseason boost from the addition of LSU transfer Jordan Allen, who will be able to play immediately for Arizona. He only registered 16 tackles and two sacks last season while losing his starting job, but he'll bring experience and depth to the Wildcats' defensive ends. These three guys present a pretty intriguing position group, but there are still too many unknowns.

Washington State: Xavier Cooper is moving inside to tackle, leaving the end spots up for grabs. Toni Pole and Destiny Vaeao will fit on the outside with Robert Barber and Lyman Faoliu taking some reps as well. There's just not enough experience or production (with too much of a history of not being consistently strong up front) to say this is anything other than a group that has lots of unproven potential.

Arizona State: During spring season the Sun Devils lined up in a bit more 4-3 than we've seen in the past. This move puts Mo Latu and Chans Cox at the end positions. Marcus Hardison played a bit inside but finished the spring season as the No. 1 DE on ASU's depth chart, with junior college transfer Edmond Boateng as his backup. It seems as though the Sun Devils might show a few different looks this season, which makes the differentiation between whether a player is an end vs. tackle vs. whatever a bit more difficult. Overall there are too many questions lingering here.

California: With new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman, the Bear defensive line is going to be experimenting in 2014 with a new version of the 4-3 this season -- the Miami 4-3 -- which leaves a few question marks until it's truly implemented into game situations. However, there's good talent and decent depth at the end positions for Cal. Brennan Scarlett, who missed last season with a broken hand, will be anchoring one end and will be backed up by Todd Barr and Antione Davis. On the other side, there's a position battle brewing between Kyle Kragen, Puka Lopa and junior college transfer Jonathan Johnson.

Colorado: Replacing Chidera Uzo-Diribe is no small task for the Buffs and though senior Juda Parker returns (28 tackles) it seems like the other end position will be filled by a redshirt freshman -- Derek McCartney. And if that doesn't work out, true freshman Michael Mathewes could become a contributor (or at least a fixture in the rotation) for the Buffs. Youth isn't always a bad thing, but when it's filling in the spot of a player like Uzo-Diribe, a guy who played the most snaps on the Colorado defensive line in 2013, it's not great.

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