We take a look at 10 players to keep an eye on in the Pac-12 in 2017.
Like every year in college football, graduation and the NFL draft offer a natural source of attrition on football rosters. Talent churns our and is replaced by ever-evolving, new generations of gridiron stars.
The Pac-12 conference saw a huge talent defection make its way to the professional ranks during the 2017 NFL Draft. Stanford sent Solomon Thomas and Christian McCaffrey in round 1, while John Ross (Washington), Takkarist McKinley (UCLA), Adoree’ Jackson (USC) and Garrett Bolles (Utah) also went in the opening stanza. Not to worry Pac-12 fans, there is still plenty of talent remaining. Here’s the top returning talent in the Pac-12.
Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Darnold may be the #1 overall prospect in college football and a definite early Heisman favorite. He passed for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2016 and he’s still getting better.
Jake Browning, QB, Washington
Browning led the Huskies to the Pac-12 title and the college football playoffs in 2016. He passed for 3,430 yards with 43 touchdowns and nine interceptions and also finished sixth in the Heisman voting as a sophomore.
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Notice a trend here? The Pac-12 is loaded with quarterbacks. Rosen, who suffered a shoulder injury in 2016, returns to lead a Bruins’ offense that struggled most of 2016. Rosen is back and ready to remind us why he’s an elite prospect.
Azeem Victor, LB, Washington
Victor is the latest on a growing list of stellar Husky linebackers. An injury cut short his 2016 season, but he’s fully healthy now and should pick up right where he left off…terrorizing opposing offenses.
Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
Another stud hampered by injuries in 2017, Freeman should show why he’s considered one of the top backs in the country in 2017. His size, speed and quickness make him unstoppable at times.
Luke Falk, QB, Washington State
Falk continues the trend of top-shelf Pac-12 quarterbacks. He won’t wow anyone with his measureables, but the production is out of this world. That Cougars’ offense is fun to watch. He should be an interesting prospect come draft time.
Vita Vea, DL, Washington
Vea is entering his redshirt-Junior season, after being named second-team All_Pac12 in 2016. The big man is imposing and surprisingly athletic. Another dominant year in 2017 and this will likely be the last we see of Vea in college.
Cody O’Connell, OG, Washington State
O’Connell is a guard, so of course he generally goes unnoticed in that exciting Washington State offense. However, he was a unanimous All-America selection in 2016 and should continue is standout play this season.
Iman Marshall, CB, USC
While Adoree’ Jackson received most of the press in 2016, it was Marshall who is the superior cover man. His combination of quickness, size and ball skills are as good as you’ll see in the conference.
Trey Adams, OT, Washington
An imposing figure along the offensive line at 6-8, 327, Adams has the play to match his measureables. He was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection as a sophomore in 2016, Adams was also voted a second-team All-America by the Football Writers Association of America.