Continued from a few weeks ago. Here's the next ten as we approach the best players and units of the Pac-10. Leave your thoughts, disagreements, omissions, or guesses to the top 10 in the comments.
via asunews.asu.eduForgtten in the wreck that was Arizona State's season was the power of their linebackers and D-line. These guys shut down the run against everyone but Oregon (and even the Ducks had to slog for their usual 40 point performance). Their linebackers were especially a force: 199 combined tackles, 132 solos, 23 sacks from the front seven, 62 tackles for a loss...pretty fierce unit to play, especially in the desert.
They did have some dents in their armor: Oregon and the Furd barrelled them over (but they did that to everyone), and they lucked out with an incredible -54 yard performance against the hapless Cougars (-54 is still incredible). What does work for them is they shut down the Rodgers brothers, Best and Vereen, contained Grigsby and Antolin and McKnight. Can't get much better than that. It's too bad their offense was lost in the desert.
On the other hand, he was a huge upgrade from Tavita Pritchard--he didn't throw picks (although two ended up being huge swings in losses), he threw a great deep ball that burned thin secondaries (8.9 YPA, 8th in the country), and the Cardinal ended up with a top 25 passer rating (in 2008 they were 91st). Considering how the Cardinal defense kept on getting mowed over whenever they suited up, and how opponents always had to stack up against Gerhart, that change was good enough for two or three extra wins. He was instrumental in the Oregon and USC abilities, with his scrambling abilities to pick up big first downs, either via the zone read or his own intuition, keeping the Cardinal going in big-time upsets over Oregon and USC.
Cal--6 catches, 56 yards
Arizona--12 catches, 114 yards, 2 TDs
via www.latimes.comI'm not going to knock Mays that much--we didn't emphasize this enough, but the Trojans lost their ENTIRE FRONT SEVEN, and then suffered another half-dozen or so injuries to their defense to boot. If the best player on your defense is your free safety, even if you're USC, your team is probably in big, big trouble against good offenses. The warning signs were all on display against Oregon State, and then the Ducks and the Cardinal blew the doors open. You also have to factor in how hamstrung he was by the scheme; Carroll didn't want Mays to take many chances and wanted him to stay in his area.
He still did his part. He finished with 91 tackles, 3rd in the conference. He only had one interception this season...but it did happen to swing one game totally in USC's favor. Although out of favor with some Trojan fans, Mays did what he could in a no-win situation. He remains a high first round draft pick, so it's not like he cares how low he's ranked on this stupid list either.
Plus you can't ignore the hilarity of articles like this. Sounds like a Cal linebacker we used to know, right?
Kristick has zero compassion for quarterbacks, receivers, and running backs who whine about getting hit too hard, and it shows.
"At the start of the year, guys talk about wanting to be all conference, or having this many tackles, but I really thought it would be neat if at the end of the year people were calling me the most feared, most violent player in the Pac-10,’’ said Kristick.
"And to my surprise, somebody mentioned that during a TV telecast.''
Kristick has been mentioned many times in TV telecasts, sometimes in less than flattering terms.
As for Paea, well, anytime you get the Morris Award as the conference's best defensive linemen you probably deserve your props. It's one of those things were the stats don't recognize what a force he was all season. If Paea was playing anywhere but Oregon State, people would be raving about him...
22nd best passer rating defense in the country; 68 passes defended (10th in the country), and another hyped season for the Ducks secondary forthcoming. Which can only be a good thing for the rest of the conference, right?
Rob Moseley explains how important Oregon's linebackers were this year.
But the two linebackers have been lynchpins for the Ducks this season. They coordinate communication between the defensive line and secondary, and their improved athleticism has kept them on the field in passing situations. Also, their versatility has been a key to Oregon’s disguising its coverages and presenting multiple fronts without changing personnel.We shouldn't forget the unsung heroes up front.
These guys play a thankless position. You won't see their stellar play show up in the box score much (you don't get noticed for taking on a double team of 300 pounders all day). Much has been made of our undersized D-line, but these guys have been nothing short of spectacular all season. One of the main reasons Rowe was able to make the plays in the backfield he did all year, is because of Blake Ferras. You think Ward, Lewis or Boyett are going to be top five in tackles on this team if Tukuafu isn't keeping O-linemen from being able to get a block on them? I love Eddie Pleasant, but his speed is irrelevant if Bair isn't forcing a guard to help the center keep him out of the backfield. Their conditioning has been amazing, their tenacity relentless, and their pressure constant from the first game to the last.
Alright, click here. Recognize ANY of these names? Probably not. Credit goes to the third Stoops brother for his defense putting up these stats with an unheralded unit:
- 34 sacks, most in the Pac-10
- rushing yards allowed, 2nd in the Pac-10
The Wildcats were in every game in the 4th quarter thanks to their defense, only getting severely torched by Washington and the Furd and doing their best to hold down every other team they faced. Although they sometimes gave up a lot of yards, they rarely gave it up in bulk--they made teams grind to win it. It paid off with an 8 win Holiday Bowl appearance.
Mark Stoops's defense wasn't outstanding and won't get a lot of props, especially with no spectacular individual defenders outside of maybe Elmore. But as a unit they meshed better than any of the individual standouts on this list, and they made all the right plays to get the Wildcats on the winning track. Stoops definitely earned his ticket to Tallahassee--working on a steep curve compared to the traditional Pac-10 powers, he found underappreciated talent and made them a fierce fighting force, as every team in the conference can attest to.