WR Rashaan Vaughn-6’2, 193 lbs.
While lots of attention is paid to the athletic playmakers like D’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner, it’s going to be guys like Vaughn that will be needed if new QB Bryan Bennett is to be successful throwing the football. Vaughn has ideal size with that patented Ducks speed which should make him a target that can stretch the field and give Bennett a shot to deep. Vaughn didn’t have a big 2011 campaign but we expect him to explode in 2012.
LB Kiko Alonso-6’4, 246 lbs.
With a number of defensive players changing from 2011 to 2012 it will be up to players like Alonso and Dion Jordan to maintain the aggressive and fast flying style that the Ducks D has been known for these last few years. Alonso has been a do it all style player who consistently makes plays behind the backfield and in the passing game. His ability to blitz or drop into coverage make him a dangerous weapons that most teams don’t have at the LB position.
RB Stepfan Taylor-5’11, 211 lbs.
It’s not often that a 1,300 yard rusher gets overlooked but it’s been happening in the Pac 12 where all the focus was on Andrew Luck and none of it on Stepfan Taylor. That will all change this year as Stanford will lean heavily on Taylor who is a tough runner. Taylor runs with a low center of gravity and does a great job keeping his legs moving through contact and falling forward. He should help bridge the gap for the new QB.
FB Ryan Hewitt-6’4, 243 lbs.
Hewitt is one of a few options to replace the production of the now departed Coby Fleener. Hewitt will play the FB/H-Back role for the Cardinals this year but he’ll also split out into the slot some and be lined up as a pass catcher. He is a decent blocker who needs to do some work cleaning up his technique but he does display good strength and a nice pop on contact.
QB Zach Manyard-6’2, 185 lbs.
Former UB QB Zach Manyard left the Bulls for the Cal a few years back. Under the tutoring of famed QB guru Jeff Tedford, Manyard has developed into a decent QB. We expect him to take a large step forward as a senior though. With Keenan Allen as one of his go to wide outs and always strong running attack the Golden Bears are in a perfect position to let the strong armed and quick footed Manyard flourish.
CB Marc Anthony-6’0, 200 lbs.
Anthony was a terror in the Pac 12 last season and to us is the best CB in the conference. He was a pain to try and block in the run game, he consistently was able to beat his blocks and make tackles behind the line of scrimmage. In the passing game he was even more of a headache because of his ability to get his hands on the ball. 12 PBU and an INT were good in 2011 but we expect to see more in 2012 as Anthony not only proves he’s the best CB in the Pac 12 but amongst the most elite in the nation.
SAF Anthony Watkins-6’1, 217 lbs.
The sure tackling and always steady Watkins is back for another year in Corvallis. Watkins is the best defender on a Beavers team that is always high on effort but often short on talent. He will once again lead the defense from the back and provide solid in the box support. Where Watkins struggles though is in pass coverage which is why it’s probably a good thing that Oregon State has two of the best CB’s in the country on the perimeter.
DT Castro Masanaia-6’3, 351 lbs.
The big man in the middle is going to be asked to do one thing and one thing only on this defense. That is take up multiple blockers and control the point of attack. If Masanaia can do that not only will he be able to make the rest of his defense successful but he’ll also catapult himself onto NFL Draft boards. Masanaia reminds us a lot of Cam Thomas from UNC a few years ago because of how tough he is to move off the ball. He won’t show up on the stat sheet that often but his presence will be felt.
WR James Johnson-6’1, 198 lbs.
With the graduation of Jerome Kearse, Johnson moves up on the depth chart and should be a featured target for Keith Price. Johnson has the speed to get behind the defense and naturally soft hands which allow him to make the tough catch out away from his body. He should quickly become a favorite go to target of Price because of his reliability, and it wouldn’t shock us to see the two blossom this year.
SAF Sean Parker-5’10, 200 lbs.
Washington’s biggest playmaker will be Sean Parker this year. Everybody will want to talk about the offense and QB Keith Price but mark us down for being on the Sean Parker bandwagon first. All this kid does is make plays all over the field. His 91 tackles and four INT’s were among the leaders in both categories for this team and he is going to be asked to play an even bigger role as we move into 2012. Parker is overshadowed some by his teammate Trufant, but we expect him to take a rather large step forward out of that shadow in 2012.
SAF Deone Bucannon-6’1, 190 lbs.
Similarly to Parker, Bucannon is a do it all style safety who is asked to make plays all over the field. He has good size and athletic ability which allows him to have excellent range. He breaks down well in the open field and is aggressive in attacking the line of scrimmage on running plays. His pass coverage skills are best utilized in a Cover 2 style system because he has some stiffness in his hips and is not ideal to come down and cover the slot option. Playing back in zone he does a good job reading the QB’s eyes and getting a good break on the ball.