Tag:Coby Fleener
Posted on: January 11, 2012 2:05 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2012 4:10 pm
 

Georgia's Orson Charles entering NFL Draft

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Aaron Murray will be short one big target next season. Georgia tight end Orson Charles announced on Wednesday afternoon that he would forego his senior season in Athens and enter the NFL Draft.

“I want to thank God, the University of Georgia, our coaches and the fans for building me up spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally over the last three years,” said Charles in a release.  “The fans stuck with us through a rough season last year and through our struggles this season and our coaching staff provided me with the tools necessary to make it in football and in life.  Either decision I made, I want to be able to look back at it and be happy with the choice I made and I think I will withthis decision.  It was difficult but not stressful to be in a situation where you can’t go wrong either way.”

Charles finished third on the Bulldogs in 2011 with 45 receptions for 574 yards and 5 touchdowns. He had 94 catches for 1,370 yards and 10 touchdowns in his career at the school.

The 6-foot-3, 241-pound tight end looks to become one of the latest athletic tight ends that have become a huge force in the NFL the last few seasons, like Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Jermichael Finley, and Jimmy Graham before him.

In CBSSports.com's NFL position rankings for draft eligible players, Charles is ranked third behind Clemson's Dwayne Allen and Stanford's Coby Fleener. While he's not projected to be a first round pick, he should go no later than the third round.

Get caught up on the early-entry announcements HERE, and all the latest rankings, mock drafts, and breaking news check out the NFL Draft Home 

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Posted on: December 31, 2011 10:07 pm
 

Fiesta Bowl Key Matchup

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



A look at the key matchup that could determine the Fiesta Bowl.

Stanford WR Griff Whalen vs. Oklahoma State CB Brodrick Brown.

Stanford has a problem, and it's a big one: Chris Owusu is not coming back. The senior wideout and one-time kickoff return threat has suffered through a concussion-plagued final season in Palo Alto and won't be available against the Cowboys.

Losing a target of Owusu's caliber would be a big blow for any offense, but for one with as few weapons at the wide receiving position at the Cardinal, it's even bigger. Just three Cardinal wideouts finished in double digits in receptions, and one of those -- Ty Montgomery -- was a true freshman with 17. Owusu had 35. Meaning that the only remaining legitimate, proven threat at wideout is senior Griff Whalen, who finished with 49.

The issue is that Whalen's 49 receptions covered just 664 yards -- a less-than spectacular 13.55 per-catch average -- and accounted for just four touchdowns. Without Owusu, the Cardinal wideouts don't appear to have any way to stretch the field, and Whalen didn't seem to prosper without his fellow senior around to deflect coverage; in the two games after Owusu was sidelined for good against Oregon, Whalen totaled just four catches for 23 yards.

Though Stanford's tight ends are as good as any in the country -- All-American Coby Fleener has been the team's true deep threat all season, averaging better than 20 yards a reception and racking up 10 touchdowns -- Andrew Luck is going to need something more than that from his wideouts. Unfortunately for Whalen, it's not going to be easy to have a breakout game given the Cowboys' strength in the secondary. He's likely to spend most of the game dealing with Brodrick Brown, the Pokes' outstanding junior corner, whose team-leading five interceptions helped him to first-team all-Big 12 honors.

If Whalen can make some kind of headway against Brown, he can keep the rest of the Poke secondary from locking in on the tight ends, do his part to keep some space open for the clock-milking Stanford running game, and maybe even give Montgomery some holes to work in. But against a corner the caliber of Brown, that's going to take Whalen's biggest and best performance of the season--and without it, Luck may simply not have enough targets for the Cardinals to keep pace with the likes of the Cowboys.

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Posted on: December 31, 2011 4:44 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Fiesta Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

OKLAHOMA STATE WILL WIN IF: they can turn Stanford over. The Cowboys' defense has, without question, been an underrated part of their 2011 success; their lethal opportunism and weekly ballhawking ways have never gotten the respect they've deserved. No defense that led the entire FBS in takeaways -- the Cowboys finished with an incredible 42, the highest total not just in 2011 but in any of the past four seasons -- can be fairly called a "bad" defense.

But that also doesn't mean we'd go so far as to call them "good." 106th in total defense is 106th in total defense is 106th in total defense. And considering that the Cardinal rank 11th in total offense and seventh in yards-per-play, it's the safest of assumptions that Andrew Luck, Stepfan Taylor, Coby Fleener and Co. are going to put up a hefty number of yards. Sorry, Poke fans, but if Arizona, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa State can all top 430 total yards, an offense with the Cardinals' caliber of weaponry is probably going to as well.

But all those yards don't have to mean "all those points." As mentioned, the Cowboy defense was masterful at bending before breaking the other team with a huge play. (They finished in the national top 30 in sacks, too.) If safety Markelle Martin, corner Brodrick Brown and end Jamie Blatnick can continue to force that handful of turnovers -- if those turnovers, combined with just a punt or two, can give the Cowboy defense just the occasional stop -- the Cowboy offense should be able to do the rest. That's easier said than done, of course, against the Cardinal; only eight other teams turned the ball over fewer times than Stanford's 15, with Luck throwing just nine interceptions and some of those bad bounces off his receivers' hands. But if the Pokes manage it, the hill the Cardinal will have to climb should be entirely too tall even for the future No. 1 draft choice.

STANFORD WILL WIN IF: they can run the ball, and not just well--we mean run it spectacularly. Whether by air or on the ground -- as we said -- the Cardinal are likely going to get their yards. But given the explosiveness of the Cowboy offense, it's imperative for the Cardinal to keep Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and Justin Randle on the sidelines for as long as possible. It's not just about limiting the Cowboys' opportunities, either; the more time the Cardinal defense can spend catching their breath off the field rather than battling the Cowboys' no-huddle on it, the better their chances of getting stops. 

Then there's that turnover thing--with only six Cardinal fumbles lost all season, running the ball is even less likely to give the Cowvboys the turnovers they desperately crave than handing it over to LuckThe good news for the Cardinal is that all the pieces in place for such a running performance are in place; the powerful Taylor is one of the nation's more underrated running backs, Tyler Gaffney provides a tailback change-of-pace that averaged 6.4 yards an attempt, All-American guard David DeCastro leads what might be the country's best offensive line, and Luck's presence ensures that overloading the box isn't really an option for the Cowboys. It's no mystery how the Cardinal ran for 180 yards or more in half their games.

But one of those games shows how important getting that kind of production from the Cardinal ground game is so important. Against Oregon -- and a Duck offense with a similar up-tempo philosophy and dynamic athletes as Oklahoma State's -- Stanford managed just 129 rushing yards. The result was an exhausted Cardinal defense giving up 53 points, an overburdened Luck putting together his worst performance of the season, and the end of Stanford's national title hopes. 129 rushing yards against the Cowboys will, no doubt, lead to something similar.

THE X-FACTOR: Another underrated factor in Oklahoma State's historic season? Punter/placekicker Quinn Sharp. Though perhaps most fans outside of Stillwater will remember Sharp primarily for the missed kick at the end of regulation vs. Iowa State, Sharp puntedthe Cowboys to a 14th-place finish in FBS net punting and hit 20 of his 23 kicks. If the Fiesta boils down to the kicking game, Sharp should give the Cowboys an edge.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview

Posted on: December 7, 2011 1:46 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 4:19 pm
 

CBSSports.com 2011 All-Pac-12 team

Posted by Bryan Fischer

The season has wrapped, the bowl games are set and it's time to hand out some awards. As part of CBSSports.com's look at the regular season, here is the best of the Pac-12 conference, which placed three teams in the top 10 in the first year as a 12 team league.

Awards

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford

A redshirt junior, Luck led the Cardinal to a second consecutive 11-1 regular season and was named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Against Notre Dame, Luck set a new school record for touchdown passes and broke the Stanford career record held by John Elway with 80 in three seasons. The Cardinal offense averaged 43.6 points per game this year and 480.9 yards of total offense and no one in the conference has meant more to an offense than Luck does to his. Thus, the future top draft pick is CBSSports.com's Pac-12 Player of the Year. Just as important, the native Texan also came back to complete his degree during his final semester on the Farm - in architectural design

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Mychal Kendricks, linebacker, California

A tackling machine during his time in Berkeley, Kendricks once again led the Bears in tackles and was fourth in the conference in tackles per game. He also had 13 tackles for a loss, two interceptions and helped lead the Cal defense to rank 27th nationally in total defense.   

FRESHMEN OF THE YEAR

Marqise Lee (USC) and De'Anthony Thomas (Oregon)

Both players from the Los Angeles area burst onto the scene early and produced highlight play after highlight play for their teams this season. Lee finished the season with 73 catches for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns while paired with his former high school teammate Robert Woods. He was instrumental in USC's upset win over Oregon with 187 yards receiving and a total of 325 all-purpose yards. Thomas set a Ducks freshman record with 16 touchdowns and ended the year with 1,921 all-purpose yards to finish second in the Pac-12 to his teammate LaMichael James.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Lane Kiffin, USC

In his second season in charge of the Trojans, Kiffin has deflected criticism and NCAA sanctions to finish 10-2 and ranked in the top five in the country. Despite having one of the youngest teams in the country, USC finished 17th in the country in total offense in 2011 and the defense jumped nearly 30 spots nationally. Under Kiffin the team essentially won the Pac-12 South division and beat rivals Notre Dame and UCLA. USC lost to 4th-ranked Stanford in triple overtime but ended Oregon's 19-game winning streak.

All-Pac-12 Offense

QUARTERBACK

Matt Barkley, USC

Wait, the player of the year wasn't the best quarterback? Such was the case in the Pac-12, which had an embarrassing amount of good signal-callers. Barkley took the leap to another level this season despite his two best wide receivers being underclassmen. The junior passed for a school and conference record 39 touchdowns against just seven interceptions and threw for 3,528 yards. Though Barkley wasn't named a Heisman finalist or had the same load to shoulder in the offense like Luck, he makes the first team as the best quarterback in the conference. You could say the margin at quarterback was so thin between the two that Luck's receiving abilities put him over the top for player of the year.

RUNNING BACK

LaMichael James, Oregon, and John White, Utah

Despite missing two games, James still led the conference in rushing with 1,646 yards - 242 yards more than second place White. The flashy Ducks running back also led the nation in yards per game and was third in total purpose yardage. In his first year in a BCS AQ conference, White certainly made a lasting impression as the focal point of the Utes offense that dealt with plenty of injuries.

WIDE RECEIVER

Marquess Wilson, Washington State, and Robert Woods, USC

Here's a scary thought if you're a Pac-12 defense, four of the top five receivers in the league were either a freshman or sophomore. That includes Wilson and Woods (both sophomores) who turned in brilliant seasons that land both of them on the All-Pac-12 team. Wilson is a name many people don't know about because he plays on the Palouse but he led the Pac-12 in receiving yards and averaged nearly 17 yards per catch. Woods was hampered by injury late in the year but still finished with a school and conference record 111 catches to go with his 15 touchdowns.

TIGHT END

Coby Fleener, Stanford

It was pretty much a lock for one of the Cardinal's tight ends to fill this spot given their role in the offense. Fleener turned in a productive senior campaign, leading all tight ends in yards (648) and touchdowns (10). He also finished the year with an impressive 20.3 yards per catch.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Jonathan Martin, Stanford; Tony Bergstrom, Utah; Garth Gerhart, Arizona State; David DeCastro, Stanford; Matt Kalil, USC

There were plenty of great quarterbacks and offenses in the Pac-12 this year and one reason why was the abundance of great offensive linemen. Stanford allowed nine sacks all year while USC allowed a nation's best eight.

All-Pac-12 Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

Dion Jordan
, Oregon; Nick Perry, USC; Travis Long, Washington State; Star Lotulelei, Utah

Perry led the league in solo sacks with nine, good enough for 12th in the nation, and had 14 tackles for loss this season. Jordan wasn't too far behind him in terms of numbers and was an issue for opposing offensive lines all year. Lotulelei was the top nose tackle in conference and Long was one of the bright spots in an average Wazzu defense.

LINEBACKER

Mychal Kendricks, California; Chase Thomas, Stanford; Alex Hoffman-Ellis, Washington State

Kendricks was an impact player for Cal's stingy defense and Thomas led the conference in tackles for a loss and was second in sacks. Hoffman-Ellis didn't put up gaudy stats but was a strength on the Cougars defense.

SECONDARY

Nickell Robey and T.J McDonald, USC; Eddie Pleasant and John Boyett, Oregon

Despite his size, Robey locked up opposing receivers and forced quarterbacks to throw to the other side of the field while McDonald roamed around and delivered some vicious hits. The Ducks defense wasn't quite as sharp as it was last season but it was still tough to throw against Pleasant and Boyett, who helped Oregon finish with 16 interceptions.

SPECIALISTS

PK Andre Heidari, USC; P Jackson Rice, Oregon; Returner De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

Heidari made 15-of-17 field goals and every extra point this year. Rice led the Pac-12 in punting and was sixth in the nation with an average of 45.6 yards per punt. Opponents returned just 12 of his punts and he was also named a finalist for the Ray Guy Award for the country's top punter. Thomas had two kick returns for touchdowns and averaged nearly 30 yards a return.

Posted on: November 5, 2011 7:14 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Stanford 38, Oregon State 13

Posted by Bryan Fischer

STANFORD WON. It's safe to say that the Cardinal is very much a second half team this season. What looked like a game that could be another one of those miracle upsets that Mike Riley seems to get every year in Corvallis turned into just another big Stanford win. Things weren't all positive for David Shaw however, as he saw two offensive threats, tight end Levine Toilolo and Chris Owusu, get knocked out of the game.

WHY STANFORD WON: Despite the injuries to three of his top four targets, Andrew Luck continued to be efficient, throwing for 209 yards, three touchdowns on 19-of-29 passing with an interception. The ground game really was the difference though, with the team topping 300 yards and five players with at least 30. The defense also stepped up and limited the Beavers to just 275 yards on the day.

WHEN STANFORD WON: After a seven-play, 66-yard drive for Oregon State to start the second half, Stanford responded two drives later with a quick (by their standards) 77-yard trip to the end zone resulting in a 24-13 lead. They put the game away after recovering a Sean Mannion fumble on the next series and Luck tossing a 14 yard touchdown pass to Coby Fleener.

WHAT STANFORD WON: Pac-12 North division, Pac-12 Championship and BCS title hopes are still alive for the Cardinal. They also held of their end of the bargain for the West Coast's version of Alabama-LSU with Oregon coming into Palo Alto next week. The victory did come at a price with the injuries so Stanford will have to limp back home.

WHAT OREGON STATE LOST: Mike Riley's team moves to 2-7 on the year, which has been quite forgettable. There were some positives to take away from the game, especially on the defensive side at times, but this still a team that is struggling no matter who they play.

THAT WAS CRAZY: A week after taking a big hit from USC safety T.J. McDonald, wide receiver Chris Owusu was the recipient of another vicious hit that resulted in him being taken off in an ambulance. It didn't look like it was a direct helmet-to-helmet and the way he fell to the turf had to be concerning for Owusu and the doctors. He's had a history of concussions and one hopes this wasn't his final play of the season or his career.

Posted on: October 15, 2011 10:55 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Stanford 44, Washington State 14

Posted by Bryan Fischer

STANFORD WON. It was a first half to forget for Stanford as they turned the ball over and just didn't look sharp at all on their second Pac-12 road trip. David Shaw and his staff must have made some pretty good adjustments in the Martin Stadium locker room though, as they rolled in the second half to beat a much-improved Washington State team. Andrew Luck didn't look like a Heisman front-runner but got better as the night went on and finished 23 of 36 for 336 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.

WHY STANFORD WON. The Cardinal offense didn't come through until late but the defense played very well the entire night, holding the Cougars to just over three yards a play on the night and just 256 yards total. Luck came on late and put up some solid numbers by finding his trio of tight ends; Coby Fleener finished with four catches for 128 yards and a touchdown while Levine Toilolo only caught two passes but both were for scores.

WHEN STANFORD WON. This was a much tougher game for the Cardinal than many would have expected. The Cougars defense played well during the first half and forced several turnovers to go into halftime down just three. Then Luck and the offense started to pick things up after making a few adjustments. They took their second drive right down the field thanks to Luck getting his trio of tight ends involved, going 90 yards in just four plays before Toilolo caught a touchdown in the back of the end zone to cap the drive off. The pair hooked up again later in the 3rd for a touchdown to put the game away.

WHAT STANFORD WON. Still undefeated, Stanford remains on the fringe of the national title race and certainly controls their own destiny in the race for the first ever Pac-12 championship. The BCS rankings come out this weekend and it will be interesting to see where they wind up behind the top three of LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma.

WHAT WASHINGTON STATE LOST. It was another game that the Cougars were in, trailing 10-7 at half, but lost late. There's no such thing as moral victories for Paul Wulff's win-loss record as he tries to keep his job but it's clear that WSU is playing much better this season than they have in recent memory. They still have an uphill fight for bowl eligibility but there are signs of progress on the Palouse.

THAT WAS CRAZY. Stanford extended the nation's longest winning streak to 14 games with the victory.
Posted on: September 10, 2011 6:51 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Stanford 44 Duke 14

Posted by Tom Fornelli 

STANFORD WON. Andrew Luck and company didn't get off to the fastest start in Durham on Saturday afternoon, but by the time the second half rolled around the Cardinal finally began living up to their top-10 billing. Luck finished the day with 290 yards passing and had 4 touchdowns to go with an interception. Chris Owusu was his favorite target, finishing with 7 receptions for 106 yards and a score as the Stanford offense scored touchdowns on five straight possessions ranging from the second to the fourth quarter.

WHY STANFORD WON. While both these teams would be able to compete in a classroom against one another, the fact of the matter is that on the football field Stanford just has a lot more talent than Duke. Plus, because of that edge in talent, Duke was forced to take a lot of chances early in the game, and while some of them worked out for the Blue Devils, the ones that didn't really hurt.

WHEN STANFORD WON. Duke made life pretty interesting when Lee Butler picked off a deflected pass from Luck and took it 76 yards to the house to cut Stanford's lead to 10-7. Making things a bit crazier, following that score, Duke ran an onside kick which it recovered. Unfortunately for Duke, it wasn't able to capitalize on that momentum and before you knew it Luck was hitting Chris Owusu for a score to extend Stanford's lead back to ten at halftime. Then when Luck connected on a 60-yard touchdown to Coby Fleener just over halfway through the third to make it 24-7, this one was done.

WHAT STANFORD WON. A road game against a BCS opponent that I suppose looks good on a resume, but when that team is Duke I'm not sure it actually means much.

WHAT DUKE LOST. A game it was supposed to, but if you want to dig deeper than that, you can say the team also lost faith in its kicker Will Snyderwine. Snyderwine, who was an ALL-ACC selection in the preseason, missed a game-winning attempt against Richmond last week, and then missed two field goal chances in the first quarter. Obviously, those 6 points wouldn't have meant much in the grand scheme of things, but at the time Duke could have had a 13-10 lead and this game may have gone a completely different direction.

THAT WAS CRAZY. The one moment in this game that caused me to release a guttural "OOOOOH" took place in the fourth quarter. That was when, en route to a 40-yard pickup, Stanford fullback Geoff Meinken literally de-cleated a Duke linebacker with a stiff arm. It was glorious, and though I know the name of the Duke linebacker who was emasculated on television, I'll try to help him retain some of his dignity by not naming him here. 
Posted on: August 11, 2011 9:10 am
 

CBSSports.com Preseason All-Pac-12 team

Posted by Bryan Fischer

As part of the CBSSports.com season preview, here is one writer's choices for the preseason All-Pac-12 team.

Offense

QUARTERBACK

Andrew Luck, RsJunior, Stanford

For those that know him, Luck's decision to return to Palo Alto and pass up millions as the sure-fire first pick in the NFL Draft wasn't surprising. Following a season in which he passed for 3,338 yards and tossed 32 touchdowns against just eight interceptions, the native Texan just wanted to complete his degree - in architectural design. The Heisman runner-up does a pretty good job on the field of designing plays that end in a completion (71% of the time last year). He's not bad at running the ball either but earns his spot on the first team as the top signal-caller in the Pac-12.

Also watch for: The conference of quarterbacks is a pretty appropriate for the Pac-12 considering there are a number of players who can give Luck a run for his money. USC's Matt Barkley is a possible first round pick as well and has a talented receiving corps at his disposal. Oregon's Darron Thomas will put up big numbers through the air and on the ground and could take the top spot by beating Stanford. Arizona's Nick Foles and Utah's Jordan Wynn are also in the conversation.

RUNNING BACK

LaMichael James, RsJunior, Oregon

The Doak Walker Award Winner as the nation's best running back last season, James is a threat to score anytime he touches the ball. He was the NCAA's leading rusher last season with 1,731 yards and is in position to break just about every Oregon record left in the books. He's not the biggest back but he does deliver the most production on the field.

Chris Polk, Junior, Washington

Polk burst on to the scene with a 1,000 yard season his freshman year and ever since then has been in the conversation for all-conference honors. He can catch the ball out of the backfield (4th leading receiver last year) and it will be tough to stop him from having another big season with the Huskies' offense revolving around him.

Also watch for: Stanford's Stepfan Taylor was Toby Gerhart's replacement last year and should be able to build on a very good breakout season. Newcomer Rodney Stewart from Colorado is a bright spot for the Buffaloes and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin should put up some good numbers in the school's Pistol offense.

WIDE RECEIVER

Robert Woods, Sophomore, USC

Woods wasn't even supposed to be the best receiver at his high school but he nevertheless turned into a Freshman All-American and was the Trojans' most consistent pass catcher. He should surpass his total of 792 receiving yards easily this year as Barkley's favorite target.

Jermaine Kearse, Senior, Washington

The speedy Kearse averaged 16 yards a catch last year in route to a 1,000 yard season as the Huskies most consistent receiver. He doesn't get the attention nationally that he deserves but with a talented receiver group around him in 2011, he could be freed up to torch a few secondaries even with a new quarterback.

Also watch for: Arizona's Juron Criner is 1c as far as Pac-12 receivers go. Marquess Wilson out of Washington State is the best receiver no one has heard of and sophomore Kennan Allen is a dynamic playmaker for Cal. If healthy, Stanford's Chris Owusu is in the mix, as is Oregon State's James Rodgers.

TIGHT END

David Paulson, Senior, Oregon

Expected to take on a bigger role in the offense, Paulson has a great pair of hands and managed to sneak behind linebackers fairly often last year to average 17.4 yards a catch.

Also watch for: This position is surprisingly deep and even newcomer Ryan Deehan from Colorado could emerge as the top guy in his new conference. Oregon State's Joe Halahuni has to stay healthy but is a big target and Stanford's Coby Fleener will put up good numbers with Luck throwing to him all season.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Center Garth Gerhart, RsSenior, Arizona State

Named to the Remington Trophy Watch List, Gerhart is one of only three returning centers in the conference and is looking to step out of his older brother's (Heisman finalist Toby) shadow.

Guard David DeCastro, RsJunior, Stanford

The anchor for a line that only gave up 13 sacks all season, the Lombardi Award candidate is excellent in space while pass blocking.

Guard Ryan Miller, Senior, Colorado

Miller can play either guard or tackle and the mammoth 6-foot-8, 295-pounder is excellent in space and one of the top guards in the country.

Tackle Matt Kalil, RsJunior, USC

A possible first round draft pick if he chooses to leave early, Kalil has the size and the pedigree (older brother Ryan is a starter for the Carolina Panthers) to be the next great Trojan left tackle.

Tackle Tony Bergstrom, Senior, Utah

Bergstrom has started every game the past two seasons and did not allow a sack during the regular season.

Also watch for: Oregon guard Carson York is a key player for the Ducks and Bay Area tackles Jonathan Martin (Stanford) and Mitchell Schwartz (Cal) give defensive ends fits all game long.

Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

End Junior Onyeali, Sophomore, Arizona State

Not the biggest end on the field but he's a terror off the edge. With the quickness and speed of a linebacker, he's not someone the offensive tackle enjoys blocking.

End Datone Jones, RsJunior, UCLA

He missed all of last year with a broken foot but seems back and better than ever. He can play the run just as well as the pass and is the anchor for the Bruins' line.

Tackle Alameda Ta'amu, Senior Washington

The rock of the Huskies defense, he closed out the year strong. He ends up commanding double teams due to his size (6-foot-3, 337 pounds) and ability.

Tackle Justin Washington, Sophomore, Arizona

Washington has the quickness of an end but he's inside and makes his presence known. He had six sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss as a true freshman last season.

Also watch for: Colorado's Will Pericak and Josh Hartigan are a great tandem from Boulder and Washington State's Travis Long is under the radar but excellent as well. USC's Nick Perry and George Uko are both primed for a break out year.

Linebackers

Vontaze Burfict, Junior, Arizona State

There's talk of him being more mature and a better leader which is actually a bit scary for opponents considering he is one of the quickest, most instinctive linebackers in the game and someone you don't want to get hit by.

Shayne Skov, Junior, Stanford

Turned in a great sophomore campaign and is relentless with his pursuit of the play. He's an intense tackling machine who always seems to find himself around the football.

Mychal Kendricks, Senior, Cal

An experienced outside linebacker, he's sliding inside in the Bears' scheme this year. Athletic enough to be a disruption when dropping into coverage, Kendricks can also be found in the backfield. Often.

Also watch for: Patrick Larimore is the Bruins middle backer and their defensive stopper. Chaz Walker out of Utah and a healthy Chris Galippo from USC are both solid playmakers at times.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Corner Cliff Harris, Junior, Oregon

Though he's suspended for the opener, the ball-hawking corner will immediately give a boost to the Ducks secondary with his ability to cover receivers.

Corner Trevin Wade, Senior, Arizona

He had an off year last year but is the anchor of the secondary for the Wildcats and has good size and a knack for knocking away the ball.

Safety Delano Howell, Senior, Stanford

Howell has seen just about everything you can possibly throw at him and reads and reacts like the best of them. He's not just a cover guy either as he's a very good tackler.

Safety, T.J. McDonald, Junior, USC

One of the bigger players roaming the secondary, McDonald is following in his All-American father Tim's shoes. He's more comfortable in year two of Monte Kiffin's system and should see his level of play rise as a result.

Also watch for: Oregon's John Boyett is tough to face playing with Harris and Tony Dye at UCLA is a bright spot for the Bruins' defense last year.

Specialists

Kicker Erik Folk, Senior, Washington

The strong legged Folk is perfect on his PATs for his career and is seems to always come through despite any pressure in late game situations.

Punter Bryan Anger, Senior, Cal

Annually in the running for the Ray Guy Award for best punter, Anger has a big leg and usually can pin opponents deep in their own territory.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com