• Joe Broback

Pac-12 Conference 2020 Preseason Superlatives

This is a big year for the Pac-12 (obviously assuming a season happens). The conference's absence from the college football playoff remains one of the biggest topics of conversation, but it's not due to a lack of talent. In fact, the opposite could be argued, and it has more to do with the chemistry within the teams or even the quality of competition. So, with that being said, let's hand out some superlatives in the conference.

Best Offensive Player: OT Penei Sewell, Oregon

I've yet to meet someone who doesn't have Sewell as their top tackle in college football. On a line full of experience, he shined the brightest of everyone. Unfortunately for him, he's the only returning start on the line. Throw in the fact that Oregon ushers in a new start at quarterback, and Sewell's effect on the entire offense becomes even greater. His performance in his new role as a leader will shape how explosive this offense can be, and it will also give NFL teams more to analyze. For now, the tape doesn't lie, and there's a reason why there are articles projecting him as the top pick in next year's draft.

Best Defensive Player: DB Jevon Holland, Oregon

This was tough to decide. Oregon's own team has a number of players, Washington's full of studs, and there are others spread out around the rest of the teams. But it's Holland that gets the honor here. His ability to switch from safety to slot corner to outside corner is a versatility that not many teams have in college football. Oregon used him everywhere last year, and his production reflected that. He finished second on the team in tackles (66) and tied with Verone McKinley for first in interceptions (4). If you have a handful of other players in this spot, no arguments, but were going with Holland.

Underrated: CB Lorenzo Burns, Arizona

There's been a trend going around in social media of players who have talent and production but don't get the recognition they deserve. There might not be a player that fits that description more than Lorenzo Burns. As arguably the most underappreciated and underrated cornerbacks in the country. Even with Arizona's struggles defensively, he's still proven to be a player that opposing offenses avoid. Whether it's baiting the quarterback into a bad throw (nine career interceptions) or inserting himself into the box (160 career tackles), there's nothing that he can't do well.

Breakout Player: DE Drake Jackson, USC

Todd Orlando inherits a defense full of potential, and the Trojans can contend for a conference title if that side of the ball steps up. Jackson is poised to break out after a solid freshman season, and it won't be surprising if he explodes in 2020. He mostly played the 2019 season on athletic ability an instincts, which resulted in 46 tackles (11.5 for loss) and 5.5 sacks. Even in a new scheme, Jackson should be more comfortable at his position, and Orlando will love moving Jackson around on the line and even dropping him into coverage.

Don't Forget About: LB Nate Landman, Colorado

It seems like Colorado's heading to a year full of struggles, but that doesn't mean they don't have people worth watching. Landman's a tackling machine, and his instincts are some of the best in the game. With the Buffs defense projected to be on the field quite a bit, Landman might post big numbers. He's already notched 231 career tackles (27 for loss), so at least one player will be making plays this year.

Most Versatile: RB Max Borghi, WSU / RB Demetric Felton, UCLA

Both players are one move away from scoring when they get the ball, and you'd be hard pressed to find more versatility in the country than these two. Borghi already reminds fans of former Stanford legend Christian McCaffrey with his ability to run (817 yards, 11 TD) and catch the ball (597, 5) out of the backfield. Felton makes the official transition from wide receiver to running back, but teams would be wise to scheme for him in all facets of the game. Throw in his ability to return kicks, and Felton becomes a nightmare for defensive and special teams coordinators.

Rising Star: QB Kedon Slovis, USC

Slovis was destined to be a star. After working with Super Bowl champion Kurt Warner in high school, Slovis joined the Trojans program. An injury to JT Daniels thrust him into the starting spot as a freshman last year, and he never looked back. With Daniels off to Georgia, Slovis is the undisputed starter for 2020. A tentative start turned into an explosive finish in the form of over 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns passing. His poise helps him play beyond his years, and it's that leadership that could put USC over the top. Oh, and he could be around two more years after this season.

Newcomer: QB Jake Bentley/Cam Rising, Utah

One (or maybe both) of the Utes new quarterbacks will win this award. With the Utes defense losing nearly everyone, the offense shoulders more responsibility, and the pressure to succeed falls on Bentely and Rising. Bentely, the former South Carolina starter, brings the most experience, but many think Rising (transfer from Texas) is the more talented option.

Best Unit: Oregon Secondary

Oregon: Jevon Holland, Verone McKinley III, Nick Pickett, Thomas Graham Jr., Deommodore Lenoir, Brady Breeze, Mykael Wright

If you know, you know.

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