Ranking the Pac-10’s 30 best players: No. 1

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

No. 1

 
  Kevin Terrell/Getty Images
  USC's Taylor Mays is the Pac-10's only returning consensus first-team All-American.

Taylor Mays, S, USC: The good news here is no one will disagree with this one. No one who regularly reads the Pac-10 Blog could possibly question ranking No. 1 the conference's only returning consensus first-team All-American, the most important member of the Trojans' All-Universe 2008 defense and the almost certain first Pac-10 player taken in the 2010 NFL draft. Oh, and the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Mays also is the best all-around athlete in college football. And possibly all of football. One of the great fascinations of the 2010 draft will be who goes first between Tennessee's Eric Berry — also a mega-talented safety — and Mays, with both likely going in the top 10. You know how many teams use Cover 2 to prevent offenses from making big plays downfield in the passing game? USC did that. Only it played Cover 2 with Mays playing the role of two safeties as a lone centerfielder. Sure, Mays' zero interceptions last year is a hole on his resume, even though his role limited his opportunities for picks. And a few folks snicker that a handful of Mays' team-high nine pass deflections in 2008 should have been interception. Mays, who's started 38 consecutive games, has yet to demonstrate great hands (which Berry has). But USC had the nation's best pass defense in 2008 because of Mays. The Trojans gave up only six touchdown passes all season. Foes completed only 52 percent of their passes and averaged 134 yards per game. It wasn't mostly because of the Trojans' cornerbacks, who were good but didn't earn first- or second-team all-conference honors. It wasn't because of strong safety Kevin Ellison, who was more of a glorified linebacker. It wasn't because of an overwhelming pass rush; USC only had 29 sacks. Mays' presence was a giant sign posted in the secondary: "Don't even think about it." And few teams did. And when they did, well, you've seen the clips of Mays' bone-jarring hits.

2. Jahvid Best, RB, California
3. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona
4. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State
5. Kristofer O'Dowd, C, USC

6. Brian Price, DT, UCLA
7. Damian Williams, WR, USC
8. Syd'Quan Thompson, CB, California
9. Jeremiah Masoli, QB, Oregon

10. Walter Thurmond, CB, Oregon
11. Jake Locker, QB, Washington
12. Joe McKnight, RB, USC
13. Dexter Davis, DE, Arizona State
14. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Oregon
15. Alterraun Verner, CB, UCLA
16. Ed Dickson, TE, Oregon
17. Charles Brown, OT, USC
18. Will Tukuafu, DE, Oregon
19. Josh Pinkard, DB, USC
20. Reggie Carter, LB, UCLA
21. Stafon Johnson, RB, USC
22. James Rodgers, WR, Oregon State
23. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DE, Washington
24. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State; Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
25. Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford
26. Tyson Alualu, DE, California
27. Devin Ross, CB, Arizona
28. Keaton Kristick, LB, Oregon State
29. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona
30. Everson Griffen, DE, USC

Kyle Bunch

Partnerships for R/GA Ventures. Raised in California, adopted by Texas. Opinions expressed here are mine and they are fantastic.

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