With a little over 100 days left until kickoff, the Pac-12 will feature some of college football's premier athletes. We all already know of the studs like Matt Barkley, De'Anthony Thomas and Keenan Allen of the conference, however, this article will summarize five players you might not know of from the Pac-12 whom I think will have a huge impact on their respective team this upcoming season.
At 6'2'' and 202 pounds, the true sophomore Montgomery is easily one of the more physically gifted receivers in the Pac-12. Usually when you watch big, physical receivers like Montgomery, you expect speed to be compensated for size. That's not the case with Montgomery. He is deceivingly quick.
As a true freshman, Montgomery caught the ball 24 times for 350 yards and 2 touchdowns. His first touchdown was pivotal in Stanford's win at USC and his second touchdown in the Fiesta Bowl helped Stanford establish an early lead. Having accomplished all of this as a true freshman, Montgomery has an auspicious future with the Cardinal.
Because Barner has been LaMichael James's backup for most of his collegiate career, his talent and ability has been vastly overshadowed for the past couple years.
Highly touted as a recruit, Barner could have been a three to four-year starter at many solid college football programs. Instead, he chose to attend Oregon and compete with James for the starting job. Obviously, he didn't beat him out. However, instead of transferring, Barner chose to remain a Duck and this year I think he'll finally be rewarded for his patience and selflessness. Really, to be successful at Oregon as a running back you need to fit three criteria: you need to be able to hit the hole quickly, to possess breakaway speed, and to be shifty and elusive in the open field.
Barner fits these criteria and I look for him to have an impressive season this year in Eugene.
At this point, I don't think Bailey is necessarily "under-the-radar" but he's definitely worth reading about if you haven't heard his name or seen him play.
Bailey is an instant game-changer for the Trojans. His speed and athleticism combined with his physicality make him, in my mind, one of the most exciting players in college football.
Although relatively undersized for a linebacker (6-0, 200 lbs), Bailey thrives off of pinning down players in the open field. He rarely misses open field tackles and can run from sideline to sideline with ease. The only question mark surrounding this guy's game is going to be his ability to break off blocks and stop the interior running game.
If he can accomplish that next season, I see no reason why he won't be an All-American.
Jalil was very impressive for the Bears as a true freshman last season.
A great combination of strength, size and athleticism, the once highly-touted recruit out of San Diego showed the ability to shed blocks effortlessly and reach the ball carrier quickly and powerfully. Jalil has excellent range in the run game and also has the ability to make plays outside of the tackle box.
Keep an eye out for Jalil—this guy's talented and he will do big things for Cal.
A combination of world-class speed and above-average strength, Wheaton is a potential All-American in 2012.
With his speed (Markus outran speedy Oregon RB De'Anthony Thomas in the 100m), Wheaton provides Oregon State with a deep threat and is able to challenge any secondary down the field.
His amazing shiftiness combined with his strength make Wheaton a nightmare for any DB to cover and tackle in open space. .
Look for him to have a great season in 2012.