2016 was another year of serious injuries in the Pac-12 and each program has players they lost for at least significant amounts of time, they hope to get back in 2017. Here are who I think the 12 most potentially impactful players coming back from serious injury in 2017 around the Pac-12.
Kenny Bigelow Sr. DT USC - It’s likely Bigelow’s last chance to make an impact at USC after dealing with endless season-ending injuries and the Trojans really need him. The former five-star recruit is the big, athletic presence they need at defensive tackle to cushion the hole left by Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, but it is yet to be seen if he can get healthy enough to even play.
Tyrell Crosby Sr. T Oregon - The Ducks took a huge blow when they lost Crosby at the start of the season in 2016. He has the build and tools of an NFL tackle and loads of experience. He could provide a huge boost and be a first-team All-Pac-12 player in 2017 if he is healthy and gets back on track.
Kylie Fitts Sr. DE Utah - Losing Fitts after the opener stung the Utes in 2016 as he was set for a first-team All-Pac-12-level season, but he never even got started. The good news, is he got one more year and held off testing the NFL and now the Utes get another shot at him putting together another legendary senior season the way Nate Orchard and Hunter Dimick did.
Darell Garretson Sr. QB Oregon State - The former Utah State transfer got knocked out halfway through the season and will have to fight for his job in the season, but is expected to win the job. He has the most experience and arguably most talent of any Beaver QB on the roster and getting him healthy for 2017 would really help them get back to a bowl game.
Toa Lobendahn Sr. C USC - Lobendahn has loads of experience and the potential to be one of the nation’s best linemen, but he has been hurt a lot of his career, including 2016. He can start anywhere on the line and the Trojans would love to have him in 2017 after losing Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler to graduation.
Derek McCartney Sr. LB Colorado - Like a lot of Buffs in 2016, it looked like McCartney was ready to become a star, but had his season cut short against Michigan. He has first-team All-Pac-12 written all over him and could fill Jimmie Gilbert’s shoes if he comes back healthy.
Zack Moss So. RB & Armand Shyne Jr. RB Utah - Moss and Shyne were both turning into stars before getting knocked out for the season. They will combine to fill in for Joe Williams if they are healthy and could both cross the 1,000-yard mark if 100 percent.
Josh Rosen Jr. QB UCLA - We all know about this one. Rosen went down and the Bruins fell apart in 2016 and almost all of their 2017 hopes and dreams and Jim Mora’s job seem to hinge on Rosen coming back healthy next season.
Christian Sam Jr. LB Arizona State - The Sun Devils have had great linebackers under Todd Graham and missing one of them in Sam for 2016 really hurt. He comes back though and should team with Koron Crump for one of the best linebacker combos in the Pac-12 in 2017 if he is healthy.
J.J. Taylor Fr. RB Arizona - Taylor was quickly turning into a star after rushing for 168 against Hawaii and nearly 100 yards against Washington when he went down halfway through that game against the Huskies. He is a tiny (5’6 170) spark plug who can drive defenses crazy and could be a star in Rich Rodriguez’ system if he is 100 percent.
Azeem Victor Sr. LB Washington - It’s scary to think that the Husky defense played the way it did in the last quarter of the season given they were without their leader and potentially best player in Victor. If he recovers from his leg injury, he has a real shot at the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year he was on track for in 2016.
Nick Wilson Sr. RB Arizona - Wilson has been a tough story since he had an 1,000 yard season as a true freshman as he basically hasn’t been healthy since. He could be the next Ka’Deem Carey or he could never get consistent carries again, it all depends on how healthy he is.