If you're not familiar with these names, get familiar. The Pac-12 might have plenty of quarterback stars this season both recognized and uninitiated, but the conference has always relied on someone excelling at each position. Who are the guys to look out for this year?
2. DeAnthony Thomas, Oregon, RB/WR/KR: The nation's most exciting player is a perfect fit in Chip Kelly's frenetic system. The Ducks need to replace the explosive LaMichael James, but still have Kenjon Barner, who has a lot of experience and should be a 1000-yard back. Barner notwithstanding, Thomas just does so much for the Ducks and creates so many additional headaches for people. Last year, as a true freshman, he averaged almost 11 yards per carry; he was also Oregon's leading receiver and no one in the college game is a more dangerous returnman. It is scary to think how much more lethal he could be in Year Two.
Interesting that Feldman puts Thomas ahead of Kenjon Barner, who I feel is more valuable to the success of the Ducks. Barner's success is crucial to Oregon going and running off with it. He needs to be able to make the quick decisive cuts to set loose Oregon's run game, because if he starts missing some the offense becomes a bit more stoppable than it is right now.
Thomas is the cherry on top, and he's only working at his best if Barner is producing.
5. Stepfan Taylor, Stanford, RB: Last year, it was Andrew Luck's show. This year, expect things to revolve around the 215-pound Taylor, one of the country's most underrated players. There are a lot of concerns about who replaces Luck -- Brett Nottingham or Josh Nunes -- but whoever gets the call is going to lean on Taylor, a key cog for a team that wants to set-up the play-action game after wearing people out. Some in Palo Alto even think Taylor could be a 2000-yard back this season.
Again, I'm not sure about this one. Taylor is good, no doubt, but he's probably going to create regardless because he's their best mainstay offensive weapon.. I'd say whoever wins the starting QB job, or even the O-linemen who are replacing David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin have much taller tasks ahead of them in making sure Stanford's going to be a very good football team.
There is no argument for me about the last face though. Star Lotulelei's emergence is where Utah's hopes for playing spoiler in the conference will lie.
10a. Star Lotulelei, Utah, DT: The biggest reason why the nation's best interior defensive lineman isn't higher on this list is because even if he's able to be every bit of the force he was in 2011 or even more, it's a stretch to think the Utes will be able to crack the top 15. But don't underestimate Lotulelei. No one out West does after witnessing him and what the Pac-12's top D could do, and as I wrote a few weeks back, Lotulelei has changed his diet and gotten into much better shape this season.