Who will breakout and make a move toward stardom this season?
Most of these guys aren’t “new,” but they could make the next step up in their careers this spring.
Juron Criner, WR, Jr: Criner (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) is already a familiar name to Wildcats fans. Heck, he led the team with nine touchdown receptions in 2009. The reason he makes this list is this: It would be a surprise if he’s not first-team All-Pac-10 at season’s end.
Aaron Pflugrad, WR, Jr: Hmm. Name seems familiar? Pflugrad is a transfer from Oregon, who left the Ducks after his father, Robin, was fired as receivers coach. He was expected to start for the Ducks in 2009, and he should be in the same position with the Sun Devils, who need help at receiver.
Ernest Owusu, DE, Jr: Owusu looked like a budding star early last season when he recorded two sacks and three tackles for a loss against Maryland, but that was about it for his production in 2009. Still, he combines good intelligence and speed with special power — he’s the Bears’ strongest player — and that could all come together as he fights to break into the starting lineup.
Diante Jackson, WR, RFr: Many thought Jackson would offer immediate help to the Ducks’ receiving corps as a true freshman, but, instead, he was a scout team star last year. The Ducks are looking for a dynamic, play-making presence at wideout and Jackson might be the guy.
The Unga brothers: The Beavers lost Keaton Kristick to graduation and Keith Pankey may miss 2010 with an Achilles injury, so there are opportunities at linebacker. These twin brothers — Kevin “Feti” Unga and Devin “Uani” Unga — could fight their way into the mix.
Shayne Skov, LB, So: Skov started seven games last year as a true freshman and ended up third on the Cardinal with 62 tackles. The early returns are Skov will be first-team All-Pac-10 before he’s done.
Cory Harkey, TE, Jr: With the departure of Logan Paulsen and Ryan Moya, Harkey will finally get his chance to take center stage. He caught eight passes for 41 yards and a touchdown in 2009. His production will be many times that in 2010.
T.J. McDonald, S, So: First off, the son of former USC legend Tim McDonald is listed at 205 pounds. Really? He looks bigger — in a good way. And he’s a hitter. He had seven tackles as a backup to strong safety Will Harris last year, but he could play either free or strong.
Talia Crichton, DE, So: Crichton was forced into action last year as a true freshman — he started four games — because the Huskies lacked depth on the defensive line. With the departure of both starting ends — and the questionable status of Kalani Aldrich’s knee — Crichton is almost certain to ascend to a first-team spot. Here’s a guess he’s better prepared in 2010.
Travis Long, DE, So: Back in the Cougars’ glory days — folks, it wasn’t really that long ago, either — they always had ends who were disruptive. Long led the Cougars with 6.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks as a true freshman in 2009. Those numbers will more than double in 2010.