The Pac-10's Dynamic Duos
The Pac-10 returns tremendous talent at the skill positions and should be explosive on the offensive side of the ball. How explosive you ask? Try five returning 1000 yard rushers and two of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the nation for starters.
2009 will be showcased by said talent, but there's also a few sidekicks out there that will only add to the depth and volatility of Pac-10 offenses.
Here's a look at the Pac-10's Dynamic Duos.
Washington's Jake Locker and D'Andre Goodwin
Jake Locker -
Locker returns with a chip on his shoulder after having to sit out the majority of the 2008 season with a broken thumb on his throwing hand.
Locker (2007 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year) threw for over 2,000 yards in '07, but was better known for the 986 yards and 13 TD's he picked up with his legs.
Many are quick to point the finger at the less than stellar 47 percent completion percentage and 14 TD's to 15 INT's in '07. Not good by any stretch of the imagination.
The hiring of head man Steve Sarkisian is reason to think that Locker will be back and better than before. Two years of Pac-10 "know how," a coach with tremendous teaching tools, and a drive to prove that he is the man to lead Washington back to success should equate to quality improvement in Seattle.
Look for Locker to have a great year, both with his feet and greatly improved decision making and precision in the passing game.
D'Andre Goodwin -
The Washington passing game was practically non-existent in 2008, however there were glimpses of greatness from time to time and Goodwin was often the man running under the Fouch-fed pass.
Goodwin nearly hit 700 yards receiving as a sophomore and looks to benefit from the return of Locker and improved offensive line in his junior campaign.
Goodwin showed his big play potential often, catching passes for 11.5 yards a reception, but no game was bigger than his 136 yard, five catch performance against Oregon State.
Husky fans expect big things from the desk of Locker and Goodwin in 2009, and they shouldn't disappoint.
Arizona's Nic Grigsby and Rob Gronkowski
Nic Grigsby -
One of the least-publicized 1000 yard rushers you will find, Grigsby has all the moves to be a serious thorn in any defenses side.
After his 1,153 yard and 13 touchdown season last year, he will be a marked man entering 2009. Grigsby was a big reason why the Cats found themselves bowling for the first time in a decade and ending the season 8-5 after beating BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Saying goodbye is never easy, however watching Willie Tuitama and Mike Thomas leave might have Grigsby salivating. This offense will now run through him.
If Arizona wishes to go bowling again in '09, it starts and ends with Grigsby's success running the football.
Rob Gronkowski -
One of the nation's premier pass catching tight ends. Gronkowski was only a sophomore and put up 672 yards receiving and ten touchdowns in 2008.
A quarterback's best friend is a big body in the red zone and Gronkowski is exactly that. With a combination of brute strength and athleticism reserved for very few in the game, the Arizona tight end is a focal point for every opposing team's film session.
Gronknowski has all the tools to play in the NFL as of last year. It will be interesting to see how their new quarterback meshes with the big bodied brute. If they do bond early, it could be a fantastic year in Tuscon.
California's Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen
Jahvid Best -
Jahvid Best is the best returning running back in the Pac-10 in 2009. The now-junior torched the field to the tune of 1,580 yards and 15 touchdowns.
It wasn't just the numbers with Best, it was how he got them. Quite arguably the most exciting player in the nation, Best ran for over 100 yards in seven games, over 200 yards in three games, and even hit 311 yards against Washington on just 19 carries.
Many argue the durability of Best is questionable, however when you're ten yards down field, who's gonna tackle you from behind when you run a 4.4 second 40 yard dash.
Best has home-run potential every time he touches the ball and 2008 was a precursor of what's to come in 2009.
Shane Vereen -
Greatly overshadowed by the abilities of Best, Vereen is a back that-more than likely-could start at any school in the Pac-10.
Vereen averaged a solid five yards per carry, finishing out '08 with 715 yards and four TD's. Best will certainly be the number one guy, but it's not too bad to have someone nearly as talented backing him up.
Shane fills in nicely and has great hands out of the backfield as well, receiving for over 220 yards and another TD.
Best and Vereen are electric and play off one another perfectly for the Mighty Tedfords and should continue their success in 2009.
Oregon's Jeremiah Masoli and LaGarrette Blount
Jeremiah Masoli -
Masoli had two separate seasons in 2008, his first nine games, and his last four. While his first nine got Oregon to 6-3 (respectable) his last four games were offensive masterpieces.
Masoli lead the charge in now-new Head Coach Chip Kelley's vaunted spread offense, and in the final four games the Ducks averaged 49 points per game and 553 yards per contest. Amazing offensive numbers at any level, in any system.
Masoli is in the same conversation with Jake Locker in terms of dual threat quarterbacks. Masoli however showed he can throw late in the season. His passer rating averaged 178.25 in his last four games.
Oh yeah, that dual thing, he also ran for 718 yards and ten touchdowns...no biggie.
If the end of 2008 is any indication of what Masoli can do given time in a system, 2009 and the Pac-10 had better look out for what could potentially turn into a Heisman hopeful.
LaGarrette Blount -
Why wouldn't I pick that picture? Did you see that run?! Blount earned his nickname "Blount Force Trauma" for a reason, dude's a beast.
At 6'2" 240 pounds I'd be cutting him down at his knees also, no big deal, he'll jump over you. Blount served second fiddle to recently departed Jeremiah Johnson, yet still managed over 1000 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Blount showed the ability to break tackles as well as take it to the house, essential in the spread offense.
With Masoli and Blount heading a more than potent run game for the Ducks, it's no wonder they're being favored as the team to possibly de-throne the Men of Troy in 2009.
USC's C.J. Gable and Damian Williams
Stafon Johnson -
What USC running back has ever gotten "the bulk of the carries?" It seems as if they're running back by committee every year, however Gable is the man that needs the ball more often.
Gable averaged 11 yards per carry in his first three games in 2007 before an injury sidelined him the rest of the season. Coming off that '07 injury, C.J. averaged just under six yards per carry in 2008 and found the end-zone eight times, one also through the air.
Many will argue Johnson or McKnight deserve to be half of the duo, however Johnson doesn't posses the same explosive quickness of Gable and McKnight is fumble-prone and often doesn't make the right decisions.
Might just be my bias, however consistency is key when running the ball and Gable possesses it more than his counterparts at the running back position. If given a chance, Gable will be the man in L.A.
Damian Williams -
Seemingly undersized for a USC wide out, Williams plays much bigger than what is written on paper. Williams has been producing since he set foot on campus.
In his freshman season he caught only 19 passes, but averaged over 12 per and scored twice. In his most recent sophomore season, Williams had a coming out part of sorts, showcasing his big play potential with catches of 25 yards or more in eight games, and finishing '08 as USC's leading receiver with 869 yards and nine touchdowns.
Williams averaged over ten yards per reception in 11 of the 13 games he played in and finished off the year in grand fashion in the 'Grand Daddy Of Them All,' with ten catches for 162 yards and a touchdown.
With the solid run game of Gable (or whomever) and the potential at wide out with Williams, if USC can find consistency at the quarterback position they'll again find themselves atop the Pac-10.
Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers and James Rodgers
Jacquizz Rodgers -
Fresh on the scene the stout true freshman caught stride early and often, before a broken scapula sidelined him for the final three games of the '08 season.
Even in limited action (10 games) Rodgers broke out for 1,253 yards and 11 touchdowns, most notably his ESPN coming out party against USC which saw him amass 213 total yards and two scores.
In many people's eyes, Quizz was the most outstanding freshman in the nation. Quizz earned Pac-10 Freshman of The Year honors as well as Offensive Player of the Year in the Pac-10 in '08.
At 5'7" (on a good day) many would assume he's a little guy, but his muscular 200 pound frame says otherwise. Rodgers can lower the shoulder, side step you, or explode up-field with 4.45 speed.
Rodgers will need to stay healthy for the Beaver ground game to be successful, if so, like Masoli you could be hearing echos of "Heismonton" from Beaver Nation.
James Rodgers -
Like his brother, James started as a true freshman and produced from his first carry on. And also like his brother was injured late in the 2008 season and missed the final two games.
Still, Rodgers was a dual threat to run the fly sweep and catch the ball. Rodgers improved his route running and is now a downfield threat for OSU.
James has 815 yards receiving and 994 yards rushing in his underclassman seasons. Not only that, Rodgers is a treat to take it to the house in the kick return game averaging nearly 25 yards per kick return.
The Rodgers brothers have taken over Corvallis by storm and will only get better, after all, they aren't even old enough to drink yet!
Returning All-Conference Selections
TE Rob Gronkowski - 1st Team
CB Devin Ross - 2nd Team
RB Jahvid Best - 1st Team
CB Syd'Quan Thompson - 1st Team
DT Tyson Alualu - 2nd Team
P Bryan Anger - 2nd Team
Oregon State -
RB Jacquizz Rodgers - 1st Team
KOR James Rodgers - 1st Team
LB Keaton Kristick - 2nd Team
RB Toby Gerhart - 2nd Team
DL Brian Price - 1st Team
TE Ryan Moya - 2nd Team
K Kai Forbath - 2nd Team
KOR Terrence Austin - 2nd Team
LB Reggie Carter - 2nd Team
CB Alterraun Verner - 2nd Team
OL Kristofer O'Dowd - 1st Team
DT Daniel Te'o-Nesheim - 2nd Team
Washington State -