We continue our countdown of the Pac-10's 25 best players from 2010.
Note: Because we are ranking players based on this past season, it's Pac-10, not Pac-12.
Here are the preseason rankings (click each name to read the blurb).
No. 21. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
2010 numbers: Ayers ranked fourth on the Bruins with 68 tackles. He also had 10 tackles for loss, four sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Preseason ranking: No. 8
Making the case for Ayers: There were two seasons for Ayers. Through the first five games, he was a surefire All-American and candidate for a number of national awards. When UCLA improved to 3-2 with a win over Washington State on Oct. 2, Ayers already had 6.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. In other words, just about all his numbers for the season. But injuries -- a shoulder and particularly a pesky turf toe -- reduced his production over the season's second half. He, however, still earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors from the coaches and is widely projected as a first-round pick in this spring's NFL draft. If Pac-10 coaches were picking teams right now, Ayers would easily be a top-10 pick. But this ranking measures 2010, so Ayers falls a bit from his high preseason perch.
No. 22. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
No. 23. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington
No. 24. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC
No. 25. Shane Vereen, RB, California