Pac-12’s Top Players, Part III

Picking up from Part I and Part II, here’s the next five in our Pac-12 top 25 countdown.

15. Shayne Skov, Stanford

Two years ago, Skov was unquestionably Stanford’s best defensive player. He may have not have as sturdy a claim on that title now, but the 6-foot-3, 244-pound linebacker is still the Cardinal’s emotional leader. Skov wasn’t at full speed last season after losing most of 2011 to a torn ACL and MCL; expect him to return as a violent presence in the middle of Stanford’s front seven.

14. Scott Crichton, Oregon State

A lifelong Washington fan who wasn’t offered by the Huskies, Crichton has become Oregon State’s most valuable player. A powerful rusher at defensive end, he can still refine his technique after racking up nine sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in 2012. He missed spring practice recovering from shoulder surgery, but should be available for fall.

13. Ed Reynolds, Stanford

A former three-star recruit whose only other offers came from Virginia, Duke, UNC and NC State, Reynolds broke out in 2012 as perhaps the Pac-12’s top safety. He led the conference last season with six interceptions, returning three for touchdowns and another ruled down at the one-yard line in the Pac-12 Championship. That one yard kept him just short of the NCAA single-season record of 302 interception return yards (USC’s Charles Phillips, 1974).

12. Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA

Su’a-Filo will be a guard in the NFL, but can play just about anywhere on the line for UCLA. Easily the best Bruin lineman in years, his development was set back two seasons when he served a Mormon mission in Florida and Alabama; if he makes expected strides in strength and footwork, he could be a consensus first-team All-American.

11. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon

Already a third-team AP All-American, Ekpre-Olomu will enter 2013 as the best defensive back in the Pac-12. A fluid and athletic corner, the 5-foot-10 junior is disruptive at the line of scrimmage and has the timing and ball speed to make up for average speed. He led the conference with 20 passes defended last season and has the potential to become a first-round draft pick by next spring. He and Terrance Mitchell make up arguably the top cornerback duo in the country.