Marcus Mariota has a great chance to become Oregon's first ever Heisman winner
Besides the SEC, no other conference in college football will feature as much talent this fall as the Pac-12 will.
Although the conference lost standout players such as Star Lotulelei, Matt Barkley, Dion Jordan, Kenjon Barner, Zach Ertz and Johnathan Franklin, there are still plenty of emerging stars who are returning for the 2013 season.
Top offensive playmakers such as Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, USC WR Marqise Lee and UCLA QB Brett Hundley are all legitimate Heisman contenders, while defenders such as Arizona State DT Will Sutton, UCLA LB Anthony Barr and Oregon CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu are some of the premier players in the country at their respective positions.
Here’s a look at the Pac-12’s top 50 players for the 2013 season.
Offensive mastermind Chip Kelly may no longer be overseeing Oregon’s high-powered offensive attack. Still, even without Kelly running the show, the Ducks should yet again have one of the most powerful offenses in the country in 2013.
The unit will again be led by Marcus Mariota, one of the most dynamic and dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in college football.
In his first year as a starter, Mariota proved to be a perfect fit for Oregon’s uptempo spread system. The 6’4’’, 196-pound playmaker completed 68 percent of his passes for over 2,600 yards, ran for 752 yards and accounted for 38 total touchdowns, as he led the Ducks to a 12-1 record and a No. 2 national ranking.
Mariota isn’t just another athletic “running quarterback” who shines because of the system he plays in. He’s truly a complete signal-caller, who not only possesses great physical ability; he’s also got all three of the important I’s: intelligence, instincts and intangibles.
If the Hawaii native can build on the success he had as a freshman and continue to progress as expected, he’s got a great chance to become one of the top contenders for the 2013 Heisman Trophy as well as a coveted first-round prospect for the 2014 NFL draft.
USC may have been the most disappointing team of the 2012 season. But one Trojan player who certainly didn’t disappoint is WR Marqise Lee.
Lee was the most productive pass-catcher in the country, leading the nation with 118 catches for 1,721 yards and scoring 14 touchdowns.
The 6’0’’, 195-pound junior would have likely been a top-10 pick in the 2013 NFL draft if he was eligible. Lee may not have imposing size, but he’s got all the other traits that you look for in an elite star receiver.
He’s basically a shorter version of Cincinnati Bengals star wideout A.J. Green.
Though his production may drop a bit in 2013 due to inexperience at the quarterback position, Lee still has a great chance to become just the third player to ever win the prestigious Biletnikoff Award in consecutive seasons.
Calling Anthony Barr’s first two seasons at UCLA a complete waste may sound harsh, but it’s also true.
After witnessing how dominant Barr was in 2012 after making the transition from fullback, where he carried the ball just 15 times in two years, to outside linebacker, you have to wonder what would have happened if he had started off his career on the defensive side of the ball.
Last year, the beastly Bruin ‘backer quickly gained a reputation as one of the most physical, ferocious and feared defenders in college football. Barr was also one of the most productive players in the country, totaling 82 tackles, including 60 solo stops and 21 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and four forced fumbles.
The 6’4’’, 235-pound senior is a true tone-setter, who plays the game with a type of nastiness, attitude and mean streak that you can’t help but appreciate.
In recent years, Rich Rodriguez has had the chance to coach plenty of explosive offensive playmakers such as Denard Robinson, Pat White, Steve Slaton and Noel Devine.
Now, at Arizona, Rodriguez has another dynamic game-changer, RB Ka’Deem Carey, who he can mold his offense around.
Last season, Carey proved to be a terrific fit for Rodriguez’s spread offense. In just his first season playing in the system, the speedy 5’10’’, 197-pound junior put together an All-American performance. He led the nation with 1,929 rushing yards, caught 36 passes for 303 yards and scored 24 touchdowns.
Carey has had a bit of a bumpy offseason. However, if he can keep his focus on the field and stay out of trouble from here on out, the Arizona native should once again contend for All-American honors in 2013.
Few defensive lineman in the country made as big of an impact as Arizona State’s Will Sutton did in 2012.
Sutton put together a true breakout campaign this past season. He totaled 63 tackles, including 40 solo stops and 23.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and three forced fumbles.
After winning the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award and earning All-American honors last season, the 6’1’’, 288-pound senior should continue to assert his dominance and garner more praise once again in 2013.
When Brett Hundley arrived at UCLA two years ago, he was widely considered to be one of the top quarterback prospects of the 2011 recruiting class. Still, it’s doubtful that even the most optimistic Bruins fans expected the former blue-chip recruit from Arizona to be so good so quickly.
After taking a redshirt season in his first year in Westwood, Hundley was finally handed the keys to the offense by new head coach Jim Mora in 2012.
He certainly didn’t let Mora down.
In his first year as a starter, the athletic 6’3’’, 227-pound dual-threat signal-caller completed 66 percent of his passes for over 3,700 yards, added 355 yards on the ground and totaled 38 touchdowns, as he led the Bruins to a nine-win season and a Pac-12 South division title.
It will be fun to see what Hundley has in store for an encore in 2013. In terms of upside and potential, he arguably has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in college football.
Now that Tavon Austin has moved on to the NFL, the title of “Most Dangerous All-Purpose Weapon in College Football” should now be bestowed on Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas.
Whether it’s as a running back, a receiver or a returner, Thomas is the type of explosive home-run threat who can create a huge game-changing play any time he gets the ball in his hands.
During his first two seasons at Oregon, he’s given plenty of defensive coordinators nightmares. After a fantastic freshman campaign in 2011, “The Black Mamba” once again made defenses look foolish this past season.
He averaged 7.6 yards on 92 carries, caught 45 passes for 445 yards, averaged 17 yards per punt return and scored 18 total touchdowns in four different ways (11 rushing, 5 receiving, one punt return and one kick return).
Now that former backfield mate Kenjon Barner is gone, Thomas should be an even bigger part of the Ducks’ offensive game plan in 2013.
After sitting out the majority of the 2011 season with a knee injury, Shayne Skov returned to the Stanford defense this past season and proved to be just as big of an impact player as he was before he got hurt.
Skov was the anchor of one of the top run defenses in the nation. The powerful, tenacious and highly instinctive inside ‘backer led the Cardinal with 80 tackles, including 43 solo stops and nine tackles for loss.
Now that his leg is fully healed and back to 100 percent, there’s no telling just how disruptive Skov will be in 2013.
The 6’3’’, 244-pound senior will be the face of a Stanford defense that is once again shaping up to be one of the strongest and most stout units in the country.
Opposing running backs will surely be intimidated any time they look across the line of scrimmage and see No. 11 standing there, waiting to hunt them down.
Oregon State’s defense made a drastic improvement this past season, especially against the run. The Beavers went from ranking 101st in the nation in run defense in 2011 to ranking 28th nationally in 2012.
The disruptive play of DE Scott Crichton was one of the main reasons why the defense was so stout up front.
After putting together a fantastic first season for which he earned Freshman All-American honors, Crichton looked even better in his second season. He totaled nine sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss, and he constantly manhandled opposing blockers.
The 6’3’’, 260-pound junior is a budding star pass-rusher, who should be one of the top sack artists of the 2013 season.
After a mediocre performance in 2012, USC’s defense was clearly in need of some remodeling this offseason.
Luckily, Lane Kiffin realized that a change needed to be made. That’s why he brought in new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who has changed the team’s base scheme from a 4-3 front to a 3-4.
In order for the new system to be a success, the Trojans will need their top defensive player Morgan Breslin to make a seamless transition from defensive end to rush linebacker.
Judging by his debut campaign in 2012, Breslin looks like he possesses the skill-set to properly handle his new role.
In his first year after transferring from Diablo Valley College, the 6’2’’, 250-pound edge-rusher burst onto the scene with a breakthrough performance. He tied for the lead in the Pac-12 with 13 sacks and ranked fourth in the conference with 19.5 tackles for loss.
It’s scary to think that Breslin could be even more productive in Pendergast’s new 3-4 scheme.
Since Oregon’s offense creates so many headlines and soaks up so much attention, often times, the Duck’s talented defenders tend to fly under the radar.
The fact is, however, that over the last five years, the school has had an equal amount of offensive players and defensive players (11 each) selected in the NFL draft.
Now that Dion Jordan, the No. 3 pick in the 2013 draft, is gone, the Duck defender that NFL scouts will turn their attention to this upcoming season is CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.
Ekpre-Olomu enjoyed an outstanding 2012 campaign. He totaled 63 tackles, including 44 solo stops, picked off four passes and ranked first in the Pac-12 with 20 passes defended.
Ultimately, the 5’10’’, 190-pound junior should develop into the type of star NFL prospect that Ducks fans once thought Cliff Harris was going to be.
After missing the entire 2011 season with a knee injury, it certainly would have been understandable if Ed Reynolds looked a little rusty last year.
Instead, however, Reynolds looked even better and stronger than he did before tearing his ACL.
The 6’2’’, 205-pound free safety was an opportunistic ball-hawk, who picked off six passes, returning three of them for touchdowns.
His valuable presence in the back end of the defense was the main reason why the Cardinal secondary went from allowing an average of 7.3 yards per pass in 2011 to allowing just 6.1 yards in 2012.
Reynolds should undoubtedly be one of college football’s biggest star safeties in 2013. He should also be one of the top contenders for the Jim Thorpe Award.
Over the last two years, no other tight end in college football has been as productive as Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
After grabbing everyone's attention as a freshman in 2011, when he caught 41 passes and six touchdowns, Seferian-Jenkins developed into an even more dangerous weapon in the passing game this past season. He finished the year with 69 receptions for 852 yards and seven touchdowns.
The 6'6'', 266-pound junior, who has also suited up for the Huskies basketball team, is truly an incredible athlete for his size.
Though Seferian-Jenkins has been suspended from the team this offseason following a DUI arrest, you have to believe that coach Steve Sarkisian will find a way to forgive his star tight end and reinstate him before the season starts.
There's not another tight end in the country that can present the kind of matchup problems in coverage that Seferian-Jenkins can.
Stanford’s offensive line is loaded with experienced and talented veterans for the 2013 season. You can easily argue that the unit is the best front-five in the entire country.
The leader in the trenches and the linchpin of the line will once again be David Yankey.
Yankey has proven to be a versatile, valuable and dependable lineman during his two years as a starter in Palo Alto.
After earning All-American honors in 2012, the 6’5’’, 311-pound junior will enter this upcoming season as one of the top contenders for the prestigious Outland Trophy.
After rushing for over 1,200 yards at Penn State in 2011, Silas Redd arrived at USC last offseason with high expectations to live up to.
During his first season as a Trojan, Redd had to split carries with fellow back Curtis McNeal, yet he still managed to produce at a high level. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry, totaled over 1,000 yards of offense and scored 10 touchdowns.
Now that McNeal is gone, the 5’10’’, 200-pound senior will be asked to carry the ball much more in 2013, especially since the team will have a new, inexperienced quarterback under center.
Last year, Stanford had one of the strongest run defenses in college football. The Cardinal ranked fifth in the nation in stopping the run, giving up an average of just 97 yards on the ground per game.
One of the key players up front was outside linebacker Trent Murphy.
Murphy ranked sixth in the Pac-12 with 18 tackles for loss. He also proved to be a highly productive pass-rusher as well, ranking fifth in the league with 10 sacks.
The 6’6’’, 261-pound senior already has NFL scouts buzzing. If he puts together a strong swan song season, he’ll continue to rise up draft boards.
Last year, Shaq Thompson arrived at Washington as one of the most hyped prospects of the 2012 recruiting class. It didn’t take long for the former All-American recruit from Sacramento to show why he received so much attention coming out of high school.
Thompson made an immediate impact as a true freshman, starting every single game at nickel back. He totaled 74 tackles, including 44 solo stops and 8.5 tackles for loss, and picked off three passes.
The 6’2’’, 225-pound sophomore has the size, speed and playmaking ability to develop into a potential elite NFL prospect.
It should be interesting to see just how good Thompson will be in 2013 now that he’ll be even more comfortable in Washington’s defense.
In recent years, Oregon State’s offense has featured some highly productive rushers such as Jacquizz Rodgers and Yvenson Bernard.
Now, the Beavers once again have another talented back, Storm Woods, who has the chance to put up some big numbers.
After redshirting in 2011, Woods finally got the opportunity to prove himself this past season, and he certainly made the most of the opportunity. The powerful 6’0’’, 202-pound back ran for 940 yards, caught 38 passes for 313 yards and scored 13 touchdowns in his debut campaign.
Woods is truly a complete back, who has the size, strength, speed and pass-catching ability to do damage to opposing defenses in a variety of different ways.
Going into the 2012 season, USC's defensive line was the most unproven and most inexperienced unit on the entire team. The Trojans had four new starters up front. Luckily, they got some big performances from a few of those new faces, especially Leonard Williams.
Williams, who arrived in Los Angeles last year as one of the most highly touted defensive line prospects in the 2012 recruiting class, instantly made his presence felt. He ranked fifth on the team with 64 tackles, including 13.5 tackles for loss and 31 solo stops, and he also racked up eight sacks.
The 6'5'', 270-pound sophomore has the size, strength and quickness to excel as a defensive end in new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's 3-4 scheme.
Though he may not be eligible for the 2014 NFL draft, Williams will definitely be playing on Sundays some day soon.
Considering Kevin Hogan has just six starts in his collegiate career, it’s obviously way too early to begin even mentioning him in the same breath as former star Stanford signal-caller Andrew Luck. Still, given how impressive Hogan was during the second half of the 2012 season, he’s clearly a quarterback that is worth getting excited about.
After stepping into the starting role midway through the season, the young redshirt sophomore flourished once he was given the chance to prove himself.
Hogan completed 71 percent of his passes for over 1,000 yards and accounted for 11 touchdowns, as he led Stanford to a Pac-12 championship and a victory in the Rose Bowl.
The athletic and intelligent 6’4’’, 220-pound passer seems to be a perfect fit for David Shaw’s pro-style offense.
Though he’ll miss some of his top offensive weapons such as Stepfan Taylor, Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo and Drew Terrell, Hogan should still have Stanford right back in the running to repeat as Pac-12 champs in 2013.
Will Sutton may be the heart and soul of Arizona State’s defense, but LB Carl Bradford is just as important to the unit’s success.
Like Sutton, Bradford also put together a breakout campaign in 2012. In his first year as a starter, the 6’1’’, 241-pound junior totaled 81 tackles, including 58 solo stops and 20.5 tackles for loss, as well as 11.5 sacks.
Bradford is an aggressive and instinctive outside linebacker, who can burst into the backfield and make impact plays behind the line of scrimmage.
UCLA’s defense is certainly going to miss DE Datone Jones, who was a first-round pick in this year’s NFL draft. Fortunately, the Bruins have another NFL-caliber defensive lineman, DE Cassius Marsh, to lead the way up front in 2013.
The 6’4’’, 268-pound senior may have been overshadowed by Jones last year, but he still put together a solid 2012 campaign. He totaled six sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss and blocked two kicks.
With Jones gone, and Owamagbe Odighizuwa likely to miss the season with a hip injury, Marsh will need to step up and carry the defensive line in 2013.
He should be up to the task.
Last year, DeAndre Coleman showed that he has the potential to develop into a dominant run-stuffer. Coleman totaled 48 tackles, including 8.5 tackles for loss and 20 solo stops.
After lining up at defensive end in the Bears' 3-4 scheme in 2012, Coleman will now have the opportunity to play an even more integral role in shutting down opposing run games, as he switches to the nose tackle position.
The 6'5'', 320-pound senior has the size, strength and quickness to become a true monster in the middle of Cal's defense in 2013.
Oregon State may have lost its top defensive back, CB Jordan Poyer, who led the Pac-12 with seven interceptions in 2012. Luckily, though, the Beavers have another talented corner, Rashaad Reynolds, who should be able to make up for the loss of Poyer.
Last year, Reynolds ranked second on the team with 75 tackles, including 54 solo stops, picked off three passes and broke up another 13 throws.
The 5’11’’, 189-pound senior is a fearless, physical and active cover man, who possesses tremendous ball skills.
After being overshadowed by Poyer last season, Reynolds will now be looking to step up in 2013 and prove that he’s one of the best defensive backs in the country.
When Chris Polk, who led Washington in rushing in each of his three seasons, left the Huskies after the 2011 season, he left some huge shoes to fill.
Luckily, the team found a new workhorse back, Bishop Sankey, who proved to be a capable replacement for his highly productive predecessor.
In his first year as Washington’s featured back, Sankey ran for over 1,400 yards, caught 33 passes for 249 yards and scored 16 touchdowns.
After carrying the ball 289 times in 2012, the 5’10’’, 200-pound junior has proven that he can handle a heavy workload.
Sankey will be one of the top contenders to win the Pac-12 rushing title in 2013.
Ben Gardner may not possess the elite physical ability that is going to wow NFL scouts. However, he’s still a tough, physical, and reliable non-stop motor-type of defender, who always finds a way to make an impact.
Last year, Gardner was one of the key reasons why the Cardinal were so strong against the run. He totaled 14.5 tackles for loss, and he also proved to be a dangerous pass-rusher as well, racking up 7.5 sacks.
The 6’4’’, 275-pound senior is a perfect fit as a defensive end in Stanford’s 3-4 scheme.
Gardner is a true menace in the trenches.
Arizona State had the third ranked pass defense in the nation in 2012, allowing an average of just 168 yards through the air per game.
The Sun Devil secondary may not have featured a true bona fide star All-American caliber player, but the unit did feature one of the most active cornerbacks in the country, Osahon Irabor.
Last year, Irabor tied for fifth in the Pac-12 with 14 passes defended, and he played a key role in helping the defensive backfield keep opposing passing attacks contained.
The 5’11’’, 181-pound senior is one of the most athletic defenders in college football. According to Arizona State’s official website, Irabor runs a 4.37 40-yard dash and has a 40-inch vertical leap.
You can bet that NFL scouts will certainly be paying close attention to the highly athletic three-year starter this fall.
Oregon State lost its leading receiver from 2012, Markus Wheaton, who was a third-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Wheaton will certainly be missed, but fortunately, the Beavers have another explosive pass-catcher, Brandin Cooks, who should develop into the team's new No. 1 receiving target this fall.
Last year, Cooks may have had to play second-fiddle to Wheaton. However, he still caught 67 passes, totaled over 1,200 yards of offense and scored five touchdowns. Plus, his impressive 17.1 yards per catch average was the best in the Pac-12.
The two-sport star, who broke a school record in the 60-meter dash, definitely deserves to be in the discussion for the title of "Fastest Man in College Football."
Ed Reynolds isn't the only safety in the Stanford secondary that opposing offenses are going to have to worry about in 2013. Reynolds' counterpart, SS Jordan Richards, has also shown a knack for making big impact plays as well.
Last year, Richards ranked third on the team with 69 tackles, including 46 solo stops and seven tackles for loss. He also picked off three passes and broke up another 12 throws.
The 5'11'', 208-pound junior is a physical player who loves to hit, and also looks natural in coverage.
With both Reynolds and Richards patrolling the deep part of the field, it's hard to imagine that many wide receivers will be able get loose and beat the Cardinal defense on deep passes in 2013.
This past season, Taylor Kelly wasn’t given nearly the same amount of attention or publicity as some of his conference counterparts such as Matt Barkley, Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley. Nevertheless, Kelly still put together a very solid and encouraging debut campaign.
The young signal-caller was quietly one of the most efficient passers in the country.
Kelly averaged 8.4 yards per pass attempt, which tied for 16th nationally. He completed 67 percent of his passes for over 3,000 yards, and finished the year with a very impressive 29-9 touchdown-interception ratio.
He also proved to be a dangerous runner as well, totaling over 500 yards on the ground.
The athletic 6’1’’, 203-pound junior seems like he’s ready to have a true breakout campaign in 2013.
Since Oregon's spread offense relies so heavily on zone blocking concepts, the Ducks need athletic offensive linemen who possess the quickness and agility to move around in space.
Tyler Johnstone is a prototypical Oregon o-lineman, who is built to excel in the team's zone-blocking scheme.
After spending a redshirt season in 2011 getting bigger and stronger, Johnstone won the all-important left tackle job in fall camp, and quickly developed into one of the team's most consistent performers.
The 6'6'', 292-pound sophomore helped pave the way for a high-powered rushing attack which ranked third in the country, averaging 315 yards on the ground per game. He was also a big reason why the Ducks tied for third in the Pac-12 with just 19 sacks allowed.
With Johnstone and Jake Fisher back to man the edges of the offensive line, the Ducks will have one of the top tackle tandems in the country in 2013.
Anthony Barr may have been the breakout star of UCLA's defense in 2012, however, Barr wasn't the only Bruin 'backer who put together an impressive campaign last year.
Fellow LB Eric Kendricks also had a stellar showing as well. Kendricks led the Pac-12 with 120 total tackles, including 91 solo stops.
The 6'0'', 230-pound tackling-machine has a tremendous radar for the football as well as top-notch recognition skills.
With Kendricks, Barr and Jordan Zumwalt all returning, UCLA will once again have one of the best linebacker units in the country in 2013.
New Cal head coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin were the architects of one of the most explosive passing attacks in the country at Louisiana Tech last season. The two also helped develop an offense that allowed RB Kenneth Dixon to become one of the most productive players of 2012.
It's likely that Dykes and Franklin will be able to do the same thing with Bears RB Brendan Bigelow.
Last year, Bigelow only carried the ball 44 times. However, when he did get the ball in his hands, he usually found a way to create a big, explosive play. He averaged a whopping 9.8 yards per carry and he had five runs of over 20 yards and four runs over 30 yards.
The 5'10'', 190-pound junior is one of the fastest backs in the country, and he's got the perfect skill-set to flourish in Cal's new-look offensive attack.
Oregon will likely throw the ball more often in 2013, which is great news for TE Colt Lyerla.
Lyerla is coming off a solid sophomore season, in which he hauled in 25 passes for 392 yards, ran the ball 13 times for 77 yards and scored seven touchdowns.
The former 5-star recruit is one of the most athletic and physically gifted tight ends in the country, and he's a valuable weapon to have in the passing game.
QB Marcus Mariota will certainly be looking to find No. 15 on a regular basis in 2013.
CB Osahon Irabor isn't the only member of the Arizona State secondary who NFL scouts will be paying close attention to in 2013. Like Irabor, SS Alden Darby should develop into a coveted pro prospect during his senior season.
Last year, Darby was one of the most productive and consistent defensive backs in the Pac-12. He totaled 80 tackles, including 53 solo stops, and picked off three passes.
The 5'11'', 192-pound senior possesses outstanding natural instincts and playmaking ability, which he displayed on plays such as his terrific 70-yard interception return for a touchdown against USC last season.
The Juice Man will once again be one of the key leaders of a Sun Devil secondary, which should be one of the best units in the nation in 2013.
Two years ago, Kasen Williams was one of the true gems of Washington's 2011 recruiting class.
After putting together a solid freshman campaign, Williams emerged as a true go-to threat this past fall, when he led the team with 77 catches for 878 yards and scored six touchdowns.
The 6'2'', 216-pound junior may not possess blazing deep speed, but he's still a great athlete, who can present plenty of matchup problems with his size.
Williams has certainly gained the trust of QB Keith Price, and he should see plenty of balls thrown his way once again in 2013.
Oregon is certainly going to miss hybrid edge-rusher Dion Jordan, who was the third overall pick in this year's NFL draft. Luckily, the Ducks have another powerful pass-rushing threat, DE Taylor Hart, who should be able to step up and fill the void that Jordan leaves.
Last year, Hart actually outproduced his more heralded teammate, as he led Oregon with eight sacks and totaled 11 tackles for loss.
The strong and surprisingly quick 6'6'', 292-pound senior proved to be a natural fit on the outside after making the transition from defensive tackle.
Hart will now be the undisputed leader of a Ducks defensive line, which has the chance to be one of the best defensive fronts in the Pac-12 in 2013.
Last season, Stanford ranked first in the nation with 120 tackles for loss. While outside linebackers Trent Murphy and Chase Thomas were the ones who contributed the most to that total, DE Henry Anderson also helped out in a big way as well. He ranked fourth on the team with 13 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
The 6'6'', 282-pound Anderson overwhelmed opposing blockers with his size, strength and his tenacious playing style.
Fellow Cardinal defenders such as Ed Reynolds, Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy will be the ones who receive the majority of the preseason praise this summer. However, the strong-willed senior end will play just as important of a role in the unit's success in 2013.
Anderson has all the physical tools that NFL scouts look for in a prototypical 3-4 defensive end. He has the potential to be one of the biggest risers of the 2014 draft class.
It's hard to imagine that QB Marcus Mariota would have enjoyed the amount of success he did as a freshman in 2012 if he didn't have center Hroniss Grasu in front of him.
Grasu is the verbal leader of the Ducks offensive line, who helps keep the chaos in the trenches under control and keeps the line glued together.
The two-year starter is an intelligent, talented and experienced veteran linchpin lineman, who is the true backbone of the offense.
After developing a close bond this past season, Grasu and Mariota should work even better together in 2013.
There will be a lot of players who will have new roles in USC's new-look 3-4 defense. One of the most interesting position switches involves Dion Bailey moving from strongside linebacker to strong safety.
When Bailey originally arrived in Los Angeles, many thought the the 6'0'', 210-pound 4-star recruit from Lakewood, California was destined to play safety. But instead, he made the switch to linebacker, where he excelled, racking up 161 tackles and picking off six passes in his first two seasons.
Bailey proved that he could handle playing linebacker. But given his size and skill-set, he seems to be an even better fit in the back end of the Trojans secondary.
At this time last year, Keith Price was riding a huge wave of momentum, following his fantastic performance in the 2011 Alamo Bowl, in which he outplayed Heisman-winner Robert Griffin III and torched Baylor's defense.
Going into the 2012 season, Price was being talked about as a potential dark-horse Heisman candidate. However, it didn't take long before he quickly fell out of the race. Ultimately, after an up-and-down season, Washington finished with yet another mediocre 7-6 record.
The athletic 6'1'', 195-pound signal-caller regressed in his second season as a starter. But you can attribute at least some of his struggles to the fact that the Huskies offensive line simply stunk at pass-blocking.
If Price can get better protection in the pocket this fall, he's got the type of explosive weapons at his disposal—RB Bishop Sankey, WR Kasen Williams and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins—to absolutely light up opposing defenses in 2013.
The back end of Arizona’s defense is filled with some outstanding players such as Jake Fischer, Marquis Flowers, Tra’Mayne Bondurant and Shaquille Richardson. However, the real standout must-watch playmaker is safety Jared Tevis.
Not only is the two-time member of the Pac-12 All-Academic team one of the smartest players in the conference, he’s also one of the league’s most instinctive defenders.
Last year, Tevis totaled 81 tackles, including 50 solo stops, broke up six throws, picked off two passes and forced three fumbles.
The 5’10’’, 197-pound junior may not be the biggest or fastest safety in college football, but few other players at the position possess his instincts and football IQ.
Last season, Utah had one of the most dominant run-stuffers in college football, DT Star Lotulelei. This season, however, the attention shifts to the other side of the ball, where the Utes will now have one of the best overall run-blockers in the nation, OT Jeremiah Poutasi, leading the offensive line.
Poutasi is coming off a tremendous freshman campaign, in which he consistently mauled smaller and weaker defensive linemen.
After starting the final 10 games of the season at right tackle in 2012, the massive 6'5'', 345-pound sophomore will now shift to the left side, where he'll have the chance to prove that he's just as good of a pass-blocker as he is a run-blocker.
The other half of Oregon's talented offensive tackle tandem is right tackle Jake Fisher.
Though fellow tackle Tyler Johnstone was the more highly rated prospect when the two arrived in Eugene two years ago as a part of the Duck's 2011 recruiting class, ultimately, it could be Fisher who develops into the better overall NFL prospect.
The 6'6'', 294-pound junior is a former tight end, who possess the agility, footwork, quickness and overall athleticism that scouts want to see.
After starting 11 games last season, Fisher now has plenty of experience under his belt at tackle. He should be ready to compete for All-Conference honors in 2013.
Throughout his career at USC, Devon Kennard has constantly been moving around, switching from defensive end to middle linebacker to outside linebacker and then back to end again.
Now, though, it finally looks like Kennard has found a perfect place to utilize his unique skill-set as a hybrid edge-rusher in Clancy Pendergast's 3-4 scheme.
After sitting out this past season with a chest muscle injury, the highly athletic and versatile 6'3'', 260-pound senior will be looking to make up for lost time in 2013.
With Kennard, Morgan Breslin and Leonard Williams all hunting down quarterbacks, the Trojans should have one of the fiercest pass-rushes in college football this fall.
From a physical standpoint, Andrus Peat looks like he's ready to play in the NFL right now.
The former highly touted 5-star recruit hasn't yet started a game and he only averaged 20 snaps per game as a freshman. But when Peat did see action last year, he showed flashes of his enormous potential.
Now, the 6'7'', 310-pound sophomore will take over at left tackle and get the opportunity to prove himself as a full-time starter in 2013.
Peat is a massive lineman, who possesses the type of natural power, athleticism and overall fundamentals to grow into a future franchise tackle prospect.
Marqise Lee is the Pac-12 receiver that everyone is going to fawn over this offseason. However, Lee isn't the only pass-catcher in Los Angeles who is worth getting excited about.
Like Lee, UCLA's Shaq Evans possesses tremendous playmaking ability in the passing game, and he has all the traits you look for in a standout go-to receiver.
Last year, the former transfer from Notre Dame hauled in 60 catches for 877 yards.
Now that he's built a solid rapport with QB Brett Hundley, Evans should be even more productive in 2013.
Washington State's defense was one of the worst units in the Pac-12 this past season. Still, there was one bright spot among the dark and dreadful campaign, and that was the performance of safety Deone Bucannon.
No matter how bad the Cougars were losing, Bucannon never showed any signs of quitting, and that really speaks volumes about character. He led the team with 106 tackles, including 64 solo stops, and he also picked off four passes.
Hopefully, the team can surround the 6'1'', 198-pound senior with better players in 2013.
Bucannon won't be able to do it by himself yet again this season.
Max Tuerk is one of the most versatile and most talented young offensive lineman in the Pac-12.
Last year, Tuerk became the first-ever true freshman in school history to man the left tackle position. After looking impressive on the outside in 2012, the young budding star sophomore will now kick inside to play either guard or center this fall.
The 6'6'', 285-pound former 4-star recruit has the size, power and quickness to develop into a dominant blocker in the interior.
After a highly inconsistent performance from the offensive line last year, Trojans fans are hoping that Tuerk will emerge as a leader in the trenches, who will solidify the team's front-five in 2013.
If you're looking for one of the top comeback players of the 2013 season, then look no further than Colorado WR Paul Richardson.
Richardson missed all of last season with a torn ACL. However, after spending a year rehabbing his knee, the explosive pass-catcher should be ready to return to his old form this fall.
In his first two seasons in Boulder, the 6'1'', 170-pound junior averaged over 14 yards per catch and hauled in 11 touchdown passes.
While there may not be a whole lot for Buffaloes fans to get excited about these days, Richardson's return should bring a much needed boost to the struggling program.
A.J. Tarpley, LB, Stanford
Alex Carter, CB, Stanford
Aundrey Walker, OT, USC
Avery Patterson, S, Oregon
Avery Sebastian, S, California
B.J. Denker, QB, Arizona
Boseko Lokombo, LB, Oregon
Brian Blechen, LB, Utah
Bryce Treggs, WR, California
Byron Marshall, RB, Oregon
Cameron Fleming, OT, Stanford
Chidera Uzo-Diribe, DE, Colorado
Chris Coyle, TE, Arizona State
Chris Harper, WR, California
Christian Powell, RB, Colorado
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Darryl Monroe, LB, Washington State
Dylan Wynn, DE, Oregon State
Eric Rowe, S, Utah
Erick Dargan, S, Oregon
Evan Finkenberg, OT, Arizona State
Gabe Marks, WR, Washington State
George Uko, DE, USC
Hayes Pullard, LB, USC
Isaac Seumalo, OC, Oregon State
Jake Fischer, LB, Arizona
Jake Murphy, TE, Utah
Jordan Zumwalt, LB, UCLA
Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
Josh Shirley, LB, Washington
Junior Onyeali, DE, Arizona State
Kevin Danser, OG, Stanford
Marcus Martin, OC, USC
Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State
Marquis Flowers, LB, Arizona
Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
Nick Forbes, LB, California
Randall Telfer, TE, USC
Sean Parker, S, Washington
Shaquille Richardson, CB, Arizona
Su’a Cravens, S, USC
Terrance Mitchell, CB, Oregon
Thomas Tyner, RB, Oregon
Tra’Mayne Bondurant, S, Arizona
Travis Feeney, LB, Washington
Trevor Reilly, DE, Utah
Viliami Moala, DT, California
Wade Keliikipi, DT, Oregon
Xavier Grimble, TE, USC
Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA