The Pac-12 is on the rise, with the depth of the league challenging that of the mighty SEC.
And the Pac-12, flush with new revenue from its own cable network, isn’t going away any time soon, especially as USC gets its act together with a new coach after hitting the eject button on Lane Kiffin.
“I think there is money being spent on athletics and football like it’s never been spent in the Pac-12,” said Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez. “The league is better now than it’s ever been.”
Here is a look at the future of the league, with its top 10 true freshmen:
1. Addison Gillam, Colorado, LB. You have to give him the top spot on sheer production, as he leads the conference with 10.6 tackles per game (no other player is averaging double-digit stops). He was lightly recruited because he was off the radar way up in northern California past Sacramento, but his skill and toughness will be the centerpiece for first-year coach Mike McIntyre.
2. Myles Jack, UCLA, LB. The Bruins already had a standout group of linebackers in their 3-4 scheme (All-American Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Jordan Zumwalt), and Jack has infused the group with even more athleticism. UCLA coach Jim Mora says Jack has some “rare gifts.” Jack has 32 tackles and has defended a team-high seven passes in UCLA’s 5-0 start.
3. Jared Goff, California, QB. Goff got a head start by arriving in the spring and he impressed first-year coach Sonny Dykes’ enough that he was given the keys to the offense in the fall. Goff, running Dykes’ “Bear Raid” attack, is averaging 339.3 passing yards per game, fourth-best in the nation.
4. Su’a Cravens, USC, S. He was advertised as the next great USC safety and — guess what? — that’s what he looks like. He has 31 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble in half a season.
5. Scooby Wright, Arizona, LB. He says his favorite player is ex-Wildcat Tedy Bruschi, which is perfect because there hasn’t been so much talk about a player with a “good motor” since Bruschi was on campus two decades ago. Wright has started every game and is second on the team with 34 tackles, four for loss.
6. Justin Davis, USC, RB. The Trojans are back to being ridiculously deep at running back, and Davis is one nice piece to the puzzle, averaging 6.8 yards on 51 carries. He went for 122 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries in a game at Arizona State.
7. Daquawn Brown, Washington State, CB. The Cougars are improving under second-year coach Mike Leach, and Brown has part of the upgrade on defense, making 35 tackles and intercepting two passes. When WSU upset USC 10-7 early in the season, Brown made 11 stops.
8. Thomas Tyner, Oregon, RB. Tyner came in with a huge reputation — remember, he rushed for 643 yards rushing and 10 TDs in a single high school game — and he has immediately added to the Ducks’ “Blur” attack. Tyner has carried 47 times for 261 yards and five TDs.
9. Eddie Vanderdoes, DL, UCLA. He was in the news in the offseason as he decided to enroll at UCLA after signing with Notre Dame. The NCAA, somewhat surprisingly, declared him immediately eligible and the five-star recruit stepped right into the rotation, making 16 tackles, including 2.5 for loss.
10. Alex Redmond, UCLA, RG. It’s rare that a true freshman offensive lineman starts right out of the gate, but Redmond has started all five games for the Bruins. Now, UCLA is also starting true freshman Caleb Benenoch at right tackle, making that side of the line an area to watch as the Bruins get ready to take on Stanford and Oregon on the road in the next two weeks.