De'Anthony Thomas__Neon Tommy

(Courtesy of Neon Tommy)
Can DAT help Oregon reclaim its Pac-12 crown?

by Andrew Skaggs

Best Team: Oregon

While Chip Kelly is now in the NFL, the transition for former offensive coordinator turned head coach Mark Helfrich should be about as smooth as it gets. Offensively the Ducks return plenty of the explosive talent that saw them average almost 50 points per game last season. QB Marcus Mariota enters his second season as the starter after throwing for 32 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions as a true freshman. RB De’Anthony Thomas could be the fastest player in the country and should have an expanded role thanks to the departure of Kenjon Barner to the NFL. On the outside, Oregon returns WR Josh Huff and TE Colt Lyerla, who combined for 885 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. Defensively the Ducks will have to replace a trio of talented linebackers headlined by No. 3 pick Dion Jordan, but return plenty of talent along the line and in the secondary. CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu has been a popular preseason All-American selection and should anchor the secondary. Oregon has played in three straight BCS bowls and will look to make it four if they can get past Stanford in Palo Alto on November 7 th .

Best Coach: David Shaw, Stanford

Shaw was a bit of an unknown when he took over for Jim Harbaugh in 2011, but has turned into one of the best coaches in the country. Stanford has lost only four games in Shaw’s two seasons at the helm — including trips to BCS bowl games in each of those seasons. Shaw has been able to sustain the success of Harbaugh by continuing to employ a power run game and a stout defense up front. While the Cardinal don’t always bring in the highest profile recruits, they find guys that fit their system and are really solid football players. This sustained success has earned Shaw quite the reputation as a coach as well as someone who develops talent exceptionally well. Stanford is ranked 4 th in the preseason USA Today poll, so like the Ducks, the Cardinal have high expectations to play in their fourth straight BCS bowl.

Best NFL Prospect: Marqise Lee, WR USC

I was fortunate enough to watch Lee in person last season when USC visited Arizona and needless to say I was blown away with his ability. Lee recorded 16 catches for 345 yards and 2 touchdowns in what had to be one of the best live performances I have ever seen from a football player. On multiple occasions Lee caught a pass on a slant route and simply outran the defenders to the end zone from there. This wasn’t a fluke either, as Lee totaled 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns en route to winning the Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s top wide receiver. Lee doesn’t possess elite size at 6’0”, but he makes up for it with incredible burst and straight-line speed. Look for Lee to be selected somewhere among the top 15 picks of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Best Freshman: Thomas Tyner, RB Oregon

The number one prospect in the state of Oregon, Tyner was a four-star recruit and a top-10 running back according to most recruiting services. At 6’0”, 205 lbs, Tyner appears to be the perfect compliment to De’Anthony Thomas. Thomas will bring the speed factor at running back as well as receiver, while Tyner should get most of his work between the tackles and in goal line situations. With the graduation of RB Kenjon Barner, Tyner couldn’t have picked a better time to enter the Oregon program in need of a powerful running back. Tyner’s impact will be felt even more so in the coming years when Thomas leaves and he assumes the role of lead back for one of the country’s best rushing attacks.

Underrated Team: Washington Huskies

Head coach Steve Sarkisian and Washington are entering a make or break season in the Pac-12. The Huskies have struggled to exceed the 7-win plateau that they have reached in each of the last three seasons, but the talent level in Seattle has expectations as high as can be. QB Keith Price enters the senior season of what has been an up and down career. Price threw for 33 touchdowns as a sophomore, but that number declined to just 19 last season as a junior. With returning playmakers such as RB Bishop Sankey, TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, and WR Kasen Williams, Price should return to his sophomore year form and lead the Huskies to a breakout season. If the talented defensive unit can play up to their potential, Washington should finish better than fourth in the Pac-12 North, where many experts have pegged them to finish.

Overrated Team: UCLA Bruins

Despite winning the Pac-12 South each of the last two seasons, it would be reasonable to expect a slight drop-off for the Bruins this season. QB Brett Hundley will look to improve on an impressive freshman season, but UCLA will have to replace RB Johnathan Franklin who rushed for a school-record 1,734 yards last season. Defensively the Bruins have a very young secondary that could struggle to keep up with the high-octane passing attacks of the Pac-12. While expectations will be high for UCLA entering Jim Mora’s second season, they will have trouble fending off ASU, USC, and Arizona for the Pac-12 South title.

All-Pac 12 1 st Team


QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

RB Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona

RB De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon

WR Marqise Lee, USC

WR Kasen Williams, Washington

TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Washington

OL David Yankey, Stanford

OL Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA

OL Hroniss Grasu, Oregon

OL Audrey Walker, USC

OL Andrus Peat, Stanford


DE Scott Crichton, Oregon State

DT Will Sutton, Arizona State

DT Leonard Williams, USC

DE Ben Gardner, Stanford

LB Anthony Barr, UCLA

LB Shayne Skov, Stanford

LB Shaq Thompson, Washington

CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon

CB Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State

S Ed Reynolds, Stanford

S Sean Parker, Washington

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  1. Colin NotCarmody says:


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