College Football 2011: The Pac-12's Most Underrated NFL Prospects
Stevie Wonder could tell you that Andrew Luck is a can’t miss NFL prospect; however, there are players on each Pac-12 team who we believe, while not standing in the spotlight, will one day be playing on Sundays in the NFL. Here is an alphabetical (and therefore fair) listing of each Pac-12 team’s potential pro.
University of Arizona: Juron Criner
Juron Criner played through several nagging injuries in 2010, yet still caught 82 passes for 1233 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has great size (6’4”) yet is a legitimate deep threat who can provide yards after the catch.
Arizona State University: Omar Bolden
This big-play corner back had three interceptions last year while also returning a kickoff for a touchdown. He is tenacious in coverage and continues a long line of terrific ASU corners.
University of California, Berkeley: Sean Cattouse
Cattouse was a pleasant surprise for the Bears last season, emerging as a big hitting strong safety. His outspoken confidence will be leaned on as the vocal leader of Cal’s impressive defense.
University of Colorado: Rodney Stewart
While Stewart is vertically challenged (5’6”), he runs with a larger purpose. Last year this workhorse ran for 1318 yards, the fifth best total in Colorado history. He might not be an every down back on Sundays, but he absolutely has the skills and determination to help and NFL team.
University of Oregon: David Paulson
This physically gifted (6’4” and 240 lbs.) tight end decided to return to Oregon for his senior season, and the Ducks are glad he did. Has a knack for finding openings in the defense, averaging 17.4 yards per reception. His ball catching skills would be welcomed by any team in the NFL.
Oregon State University: Joe Halahuni
This full back/tight end/H-back definitely has potential. He helps stretch defenses down the middle to help open up lanes for the Oregon State running backs. He needs to improve his blocking and avoid some of the minor injuries that have nagged at him; if he can do all of that, his versatility and obvious physical talent could land him on an NFL roster.
Stanford: Shayne Skov
Skov could easily be confused with a battering ram – he plays the linebacker position with a ferocity not seen at Stanford in ages. He has a knack for the big play and the big hit. He may be an All-American this year and the NFL will be beckoning after that.
University of California, Los Angeles: Nelson Rosario
UCLA’s anemic passing attack was one of the reasons Rosario only caught 29 passes last season – another were the persistent injuries that he had to fight through. A massive target (6’5” and 220 lbs.), Rosario needs to show more consistency with his route running and hands. His potential, however, is undeniable.
University of Southern California: Devon Kennard
Last year Kennard made the surprising move from defensive end to middle linebacker, where he flourished. His physical tools have never been questioned, but USC has finally found the right fit for Kennard’s skill set.
University of Utah: Conroy Black
Last year’s starting corners are both headed to the NFL, and Black is poised to step in. This JC transfer has dynamic speed and quickness, and just needs playing time to show what he can do.
University of Washington: Alameda Ta’amu
He already has the size and athleticism that NFL scouts drool over, and he had a breakout game against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. If he can perform at this high level during the 2011 season, NFL GMs will be fighting each other to call Ta’amu’s name on Draft Day.
Washington State University: Jeff Tuel
WSU has been pretty bad for the last few years, which, along with their location, has hurt recruiting. The best choices besides Tuel were all true freshmen last year, and thus don’t qualify for this list.
So, Tuel is our choice. He battled courageously behind a sieve-like offensive line, and came back for more. With some more stability, Tuel could be a dangerous passing threat to the rest of the Pac-12.
It's always fun to look for a diamond in the rough, and we believe this group of players is ready to showcase its individual talents as well as the Pac-12’s.