The prolific Phil Steele has churned out his latest preseason accolades. The industry workhorse will release his All-American list on June 1 and is slowly rolling out his national top 25, but he’s already locked in the all-conference teams. Here are a few highlights from his inaugural preseason All-Pac-12 selections.
1. Cal has three All-Pac-12 players on offense, and all three are about in their appropriate place. Mitchell Schwartz, who will most likely play right tackle, makes the first team as the Bears’ best offensive lineman; he moves to the other side of the line to protect the blindside of lefty QB Zach Maynard, who was announced as the starter two weeks after spring camp.
Sophomore wideout Keenan Allen makes the second team, with Jermaine Kearse (Washington), Juron Criner (Arizona) and Robert Woods (USC) taking up the three first-team slots at the position. Allen, Maynard’s half-brother, showed glimpses of superstar potential in his freshman campaign, but lacked consistency down the stretch. Criner and Kearse are both seniors; the former led the conference in reception yards, while the latter was fourth. Cal senior Marvin Jones, who is solid if not always spectacular, grabs a third-team spot.
2. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks leads the Bears’ defensive group with a first-team selection. The senior has been among the team’s leaders in tackles for the past couple of years, and made the second team after last season. Also, he once emasculated UCLA’s Derrick Coleman. Linebacker D.J. Holt — a preseason third-teamer — filled in admirably for Mike Mohamed when the now-Denver Bronco was injured early last fall and ended the season second on the team in tackles.
Safety Sean Cattouse and defensive tackle Trevor Guyton both made the fourth team. Cattouse has made six starts in each of the past two seasons — a All-Pac-10 honorable mention both times — and emerged in the second half of 2010 to earn significant playing time. Guyton steps into the spot vacated by first-round draft picks Cameron Jordan (24th overall, 2011) and Tyson Alualu (10th overall, 2010). He’s not nearly as good as either of them, but has great physical tools; fourth-team is a little surprising given that he’s relatively unproven, but it might look foolishly low in December.
3. Punter Bryan Anger is an easy choice for All-Pac-12 first team, seeing as he made All-Pac-10 first team twice already and has been one of the best in the country. He does, however, seem to shank the occasional punt on the road. Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, who’s taken flak for wilting in big moments and missing a few chip-shot field goals, gets the fourth-team spot. Fans might groan when they think back to last season, and All-Pac-12 is likely a tad generous unless he becomes more consistent.
4. The Pac-12 almost certainly houses the most talented set of QBs in the country. Stanford’s Andrew Luck — the Heisman frontrunner — heads the first team, followed by USC’s Matt Barkley, Oregon’s Darron Thomas and Arizona’s Nick Foles. Foles had the sixth-best completion rate in the country last fall, partially due to an offense that had him throw a lot of passes to the tailback in the flat. Behind this set, you have a solid group of young talent in Washington State’s Jeff Tuel, Oregon State’s Ryan Katz and Utah’s Jordan Wynn, who gets the benefit of having offensive coordinator Norm Chow.
5. USC leads the conference with six selections on both offense and defense. Sophomore receiver Robert Woods is also a first-team kick returner, rounding the total to 13. The Trojans are still banned from the 2011 postseason.
Oregon has six offensive selections and four defensive picks; first-team cornerback Cliff Harris doubles as the conference’s best punt returner and kicker Rob Beard made the second-team for a total of 12. The Ducks tie USC for the most total first-team selections with six.
Stanford has five on offense and four on defense, plus two players on special teams for 11 total. Cal has a total nine selections on offense, defense and special teams. New conference addition Utah also has nine total, while Colorado has seven.
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