We continue our west coast swing by previewing the players in the Pac 12 that you might not know yet. The Pac 12 is considered to be one of the most elite conferences in America, its filled with talented players all over the place and sometimes that means other players get overlooked who are just as good, if not better, than the ordained stars. With that in mind here are 24 players that may make bigger impacts at the next level than their “better” counterparts.
CB Isiah Wiley-6’0, 180 lbs.
The Trojans have produced productive DB’s at a pretty consistent rate over the last few years, however for the most part the SAF prospects have outshined the CB’s in terms of the NFL’s interest. This appears to be no different for Wiley who many people seem to forget about it when it comes to talking about T.J. McDonald. Wiley has plenty of skills of his own and appeared to finally be coming into his own in the 2nd half of 2011. He could one of the most often challenged CB’s in the Pac 12 this year because of the talent behind him so this is his time to make plays.
SAF Jawanza Starling-6’1, 200 lbs.
With McDonald opposite Starling you already knew he wasn’t going to get much attention but the spotlight should squarely be on Starling this years as we expect many teams to test his side of the field out of fear of McDonald. Starling is no slouch though a talented and uber athletic prospect he needs to put it all together and become more aggressive. Starling in the past has been to apt to sit back and let the play happen in front of him. This year he must attack more and make more plays.
CB Sheldon Price-6’2, 185 lbs.
I know it seems like every week we find these long and athletic CB prospects (and we do and there will be more) the fact of the matter though is that the position is changing. No longer is it just the shorter CB’s who have quick hips, as bigger players at times appear even more fluid. Price is one of those players, he has the athletic ability to play in man coverage and shows absolutely no struggles when it comes to going from his back pedal to his sprint.
RB Jonathan Franklin-5’11, 195 lbs.
Despite having a lot of success recruiting RB’s its been Jonathan Franklin that has emerged as the UCLA feature back. Franklin runs with a low center gravity which allows him to take hits and keep on going. He does well to bounce off would be tacklers and has a really nice burst out of the hole that allows him to get to the second level.
CB Moe Lee-6’1, 195 lbs.
Lee is the playmaker of the Utes defense. He’s the best cover guy and will be asked to once again lock down opposing defenses top WR’s. He does a good job running with his receiver and makes sure he gets his head around to find the football so he can make a play on it. Lee was often avoided last year and that will likely continue in 2012 so his numbers may not stand out but that doesn’t mean he’s not any good.
LB Trevor Reilly*-6’5, 240 lbs.
Reilly is going to be the lone returning starter amongst the LB’s this season and will be asked to lead a unit that is very short on experience and snaps. Reilly is a big guy who can bring pressure off the edge and does a good job wrapping up the ball carrier. He’s a bit stiff in his hips so coverage may present some struggles moving forward. Reilly is a converted DE who likely projects best as a 34 OLB in the NFL.
SAF Marquis Flowers*-6’3, 221 lbs.
With all the love for TJ McDonald it’s hard to notice Marquis Flowers in this conference. All Flowers did was lead a Wildcat defense from the back end and become a true field general last season. Expect Flowers to see stats pick up as the Wildcats return more than half their 2011 starters. Flowers is an athletic specimen with good range and great tackling ability. He is asked to cover a lot of ground in this defense and does it with great consistency.
CB Shaquill Richardson-6’1, 188 lbs.
Richardson is up there with guys like Marc Anthony from Cal. He is a long limbed athlete who runs exceptionally well and does a good job getting aggressive when going after the ball in flight. Richardson may be the best pure cover corner in this class because of how smooth of an athlete he is. He does a great job in his transitions and loses almost no speed when changing directions to stay with the WR.
LB Brandon Magee-5’11, 233 lbs.
With teammates Vontaze Burfict and Shelly Lyons both now gone for the NFL, the onus will be on the former college and HS teammate in Brandon Magee to make plays. Magee was injured last fall with an Achilles injury and has been on a long road of recovery. He will be the most important player on the Sun Devils defense this season and should be able to control the middle of the defense and continue to big the thumper he was before he got injured.
TE Nick Kasa-6’6, 265 lbs.
Kasa is a converted DE who has now moved over to the other side of the ball. He is still developing his hands and route running but is already one of Colorado’s best blockers. Kasa has the frame and strength to become a devastating blocker for a Buffaloes team that may struggle to find open holes in the field. If Kasa can show some improvements as a pass catcher he could find himself in a position to be an intriguing prospect come next April.
LB Jon Major-6’2, 230 lbs.
One of the biggest playmakers on this Buffaloes defense, Major is asked to make plays in the box and behind the line of scrimmage. He knows how to slip blocks and attacks gaps in the defense with a ferocity. Major does a good job finding the football in traffic and knows how to pick his way through the trash in order to make a play. He’s likely to be a player who flies under the radar all season and could be a nice surprise in offseason workouts.
To see the prospects of Oregon, Stanford, Cal, Oregon State, Washington, and Washington State please go to the next page!