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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Keep an eye on these Pac-12 football players this season

Courtesy Rahim Ullah / The Stanf
Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey (5) races down the field during the Rose Bowl on Friday, Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif.

Royce Freeman, Oregon

The Ducks junior running back was a force to be reckoned with the moment he set foot on the field as a freshman, and has only gotten better. Freeman ran for 1,365 yards 18 touchdowns as a freshman. Then he rushed for 1,836 yards and 17 touchdowns as a sophomore. If his progression continues, Oregon is looking at a 2,000-yard rusher, a Heisman Trophy candidate, and a possible Pac-12 Conference title.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC

The junior receiver out of Long Beach, California, exploded on the scene last year with 89 receptions, 1,454 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has the kind of size NFL scouts drool over and if his production in 2016 can match or exceed his 2015 numbers, USC will be right in the mix for a Pac-12 South title. The game to watch will be the first game of the season against No. 1 Alabama. If Smith-Schuster can put up big numbers against that defense, it will be a good year for the Trojans.

Myles Gaskin, Washington

The sophomore running back put up some very big number his freshman season, running for 1,302 yards and 14 touchdowns. With an experienced quarterback beside him and one of the Pac-12’s best defenses behind him, Gaskin could be looking at a break out year.

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

The junior running back was a Heisman Trophy finalist last year, broke the NCAA all-purpose record previously held by Barry Sanders and put on a show at the Rose Bowl. He is arguably the best all-around football player in the country and looks to back up his record-breaking season by leading the Cardinal to a Pac-12 championship and a College Football Playoff berth.

Nick Wilson, Arizona

Wilson had a stellar freshman year, running for 1,375 yards, 16 touchdowns and helping lead the Wildcats to the Fiesta Bowl. His sophomore campaign was hampered by injuries, but when healthy, you could see the talent and potential from the previous year. Arizona’s success will depend largely on Wilson’s ability to remain healthy. A healthy Wilson is one of the best running backs in the nation and powers Rich Rod’s offense.

Luke Falk, Washington State

The junior quarterback from Washington St. has flown under the radar nationally, but that does not take away from what the gunslinger has accomplished. Falk threw for 4,561 yards and 38 touchdowns with a 69 percent completion percentage last season. Although Washington St. is not expected to make any serious noise this year, if the Cougars compete at all, it will be because of Falk and his arm.

Josh Rosen, UCLA

The Sophomore quarterback had flashes of brilliance during the 2015 season, including a 56-30 over the Wildcats. He did not finish the season with the kind of consistency many expected, but he led the Bruins to an 8-5 season. With a year of experience behind him and a wealth of talent surrounding him, some are claiming he could be a Heisman Trophy hopeful. As long as he takes the step forward many expect him to, it could be a good year for UCLA.

Salamo Fiso, ASU

The lone defensive player on the list is here because of what he means to the ASU team. Fiso is not only the leader of the defense but the kind of player coaches and teammates alike lean on when things get tough. ASU has fielded some very good defensive players in the past and Fiso looks to add his name to that list.

Follow Saul Bookman on Twitter.

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