As we move toward the NFL season, we are going to do some combined college and pro football rankings, putting together the best team to come from schools in the current power conferences. We start with the Pac-12, and the players who played for schools now in that conference.
STRENGTHS: The Pac-12 is absolutely loaded at QB. It goes more than two deep at many offensive line spots with offensive line talent. The defensive backs are also so deep that many great players are left off.
WEAKNESSES: There’s surprising little depth along the defensive line, and while there are lots of good players at linebacker, few are among the NFL’s all-time greats.
Quarterback: John Elway, Stanford.
So much to choose from here, as Aaron Rodgers is close and that doesn’t even get us to Dan Fouts, Troy Aikman, John Brodie, and Carson Palmer.
Elway was the #1 overall pick out of Stanford in the loaded 1983 Draft and lived up to all the hype, finally getting his Super Bowl rings in the last two years of his career.
Running Back: Marcus Allen, USC.
We’ll put Allen in over a certain other back from USC who has become more infamous in recent years.
Wide Receivers: Steve Smith, Utah; James Lofton, Stanford, Charley Taylor, Arizona State
Would you have guessed that Steve Smith of Utah (which wasn’t a member of the conference when he played) has the most receiving yards for any wide receiver from a current Pac-12 school? Smith’s Hall of Fame case is better than you might realize, and he pairs with a couple of other Hall of Famers here.
Tight End: Tony Gonzalez, California.
This was one of the easiest calls on the list. Gonzalez leads all former Pac-12 players in career NFL receiving yards and is a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame at tight end, and has a case as the greatest tight end ever.
Offensive Tackles: Anthony Munoz, USC; Jonathan Ogden, UCLA.
This position is so loaded that two other Hall of Famers, Ron Yary and Ron Mix (both of USC), who starred in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, did not make it. Munoz and Ogden are among the best left tackles of all-time.
Offensive Guards: Randall McDaniel, Arizona State; Bruce Matthews, USC
Two more Hall of Famers make it at the guard position. McDaniel made 12 pro bowls and 7 first team all-pros, while Matthews played for 19 years and was selected to the pro bowl 14 times.
Center: Randy Cross, UCLA
The position is a little thin at center, so the choice goes to Cross, who started and ended his career as a center, while also playing guard with the 49ers dynasty of the 1980’s.
Defensive Ends/Pass Rushers: Terrell Suggs, Arizona State; Mark Gastineau, Arizona State
Who would have thought that Arizona State was Pass Rusher U. in the Pac-12? Gastineau was dominant for a stretch in the early 1980’s, but injuries cut his dominance short, while Suggs has been terrorizing the AFC for years.
Defensive Tackles: Curley Culp, Arizona State; Haloti Ngata, Oregon
Curley Culp is the only defensive lineman to get selected to the Hall of Fame so far. Ngata plugged the middle for some great Ravens defenses and made the Pro Bowl five straight years.
Linebackers: Junior Seau, USC; Hardy Nickerson, California; Lance Briggs, Arizona
RIP Junior. Nickerson (who started 200 games in the NFL) and Briggs get the selection in the other two spots over the likes of Clay Matthews, Clay Matthews, Jr., Ken Norton, Rod Martin, and Chip Banks.
Cornerbacks: Mike Haynes, Arizona State; Jimmy Johnson, UCLA
Cornerback is so deep we can leave off Richard Sherman, Eric Allen, and Mel Renfro. Haynes and Johnson are both in the HOF, and Haynes was a member of the best cornerback tandem of the 1980’s when he paired up with Lester Hayes for the Raiders.
Safeties: Ronnie Lott, USC; Troy Polamalu, USC
Lott is a lock for this list. Polamalu gets the nod, but it means leaving Hall of Famer Larry Wilson, John Lynch, Darren Woodson, and Joey Browner out.
Kicker: Jason Hanson, Washington State
Hanson kicked for 21 years (it seemed like longer) and is 4th all-time in field goals made.
Punter: Rich Camarillo, Washington
Camarillo had a big leg, and played for 16 years, making 5 pro bowls, most of them during his time with the Phoenix Cardinals.