When it comes to analyzing college football, one name stands out among the rest.
Steele possesses a unique talent for sorting through opinions compiled on players, coaches, schedules and conferences. Though he’s not always right, Phil Steele does the crystal ball thing with such accuracy it warrants placing him at the top of the class of college football experts.
That said, Steele released his 2013 Pre-Season All Pac-12 Team. Pouring over his choices for individual excellence this coming season doesn’t necessarily jive with projections and expectations for teams.
Of the twelve conference teams, Steele has five in his Projected AP Top 26:
#21 Oregon State
Here’s where Phil lost me. By ranking Oregon ahead of Stanford, you might expect the Ducks to have more individual talent. Yet Stanford placed 14 players on the A-P-12 team while only 12 Oregon players were selected.
What has me shaking my head is the fact Stanford Coach David Shaw is the reigning Pac-12 Coach-of-the-Year while first-year Coach Mark Helfrich has yet to lead any conference team into battle. Helfrich was promoted at Oregon from offensive coordinator to replace Chip Kelly who cashed in on a sweet deal offered by Philadelphia of the NFL.
Both Oregon and Stanford had seven guys tapped as likely First Team A-P-12.
What did Steele think of the Washington State roster? Glad you asked.
Coach Mike Leach will enter the 2013 season playing a lot of guys with two years or less experience at the FBS level. Seven of those student-athletes were predicted to be all-conference caliber which places them on par with Arizona and Cal. Only Utah and Colorado have fewer.
Here are the Cougs Steele likes as A-P-12 players:
- Deone Bucannon, Safety – Second Team
- Andrew Furney, Kicker – Second Team
- Gabe Marks, Receiver – Third Team
- John Fullington, Guard – Third Team
- Darryl Monroe, Linebacker – Third Team
- Dominque Williams, Receiver – Fourth Team
- Leon Brooks, Punt Return – Fourth Team
Stating the obvious, based on potential the team most likely to under-perform this coming season will be the USC Trojans. Coach Lane Kiffin has a roster filled with 5-star and 4-star guys which is reflected in Steele’s picks. He singled out 15 Trojans, more than any other Pac-12 team, as top performers on the gridiron.
The only team which didn’t surprise would be Oregon State. Steele believes the Beavers are worthy of a pre-season ranking of #21 while predicting just 10 players will stand out above the rest in terms of individual play in the Pac-12. What else would you expect from a coach with the class of Mike Riley. Unlike his counterpart at USC, Riley gets the most out his players by coaching them up.
Looking around the rest of the conference, there are a couple of other notable things based on Steele’s list.
It appears Steele is at odds with the ranking of recruiting classes under the regime of Coach Steve Sarkisian at Washington. The stable of elite conference players on Sarkisian’s roster is on par with first year Coach Sonny Dykes at Cal and second year coaches Leach in Pullman, Rich Rodriguez at Arizona and Todd Graham at ASU. Impressive Coach Sark? Not really.
For Coug fans, there are two basic reasons Steele felt confident most other Pac-12 rosters have better talent.
First, Washington State is at least a year away from fielding a starting lineup dominated by junior and senior players.
Second, the Cougs are coming off yet another losing season. Though WSU finished on a high note with an overtime victory in the Apple Cup, 2012 was a year players, coaches and fans would like to forget and move on as quickly as possible.
One area where there is common agreement with Phil Steele and all Pac-12 fans is the simple fact the season can’t begin soon enough.
For a breakdown on Coug players click over to Josh Davis’ article, 7 Cougs Make Phil Steele’s Preseason All Pac-12 Conference Teams