Ranking the Pac-10 cornerbacks

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Might the pass-happy Pac-10 become pass-unhappy in 2008?

Here are two interwoven issues that could restrain the typically spectacular passing numbers this fall:

  • Only three teams welcome back sure-things with experience at quarterback (Arizona, Arizona State and Washington).

  • Every conference team welcomes back at least two starters in the secondary other than UCLA (one). Six have three starters back.

And three teams enter the season with outstanding tandems at cornerback: Oregon, Oregon State and USC.

Those tandems account for six spots in our top-10 at the position.

  1. Jairus Byrd, Jr., Oregon: A two-year starter, he led the Pac-10 with seven INTs a year ago (12 for his career) and was third in pass break-ups (15). Also, recorded 64 tackles -- four coming for losses-- and recovered three fumbles.

  2. Brandon Hughes, Sr., Oregon State: He's started 31 games and was second-team All-Pac-10 a year ago. Seven tackles for a loss among his 57 total tackles, he also intercepted three passes and broke up 12 others.

  3. Alterraun Verner, Jr., UCLA: Finished fourth on the Bruins with 75 tackles, he also had 15 pass breakups and four interceptions, returning one for a TD. A good student, he earned first-team Pac-10 All-Academic honors.

  4. Omar Bolden, So., Arizona State: Touted recruit broke into the starting lineup by the season's fifth game and showcased elite skills that should make him an All-American candidate sooner rather than later. Had 33 tackles with six pass breakup and one interception, which he returned for a TD.

  5. Walter Thurmond III, Jr., Oregon: He's broken 27 passes in 25 career starts over the past two season. Good tackler and Ducks' second-fastest player. Tallied 103 tackles -- eight for a loss -- with five interceptions and 18 pass breakups in 2007.

  6. Cary Harris, Sr., USC: Starting for his third season, Harris recorded 48 tackles, seven pass breakups and one interception last year. Doesn't have elite speed -- and surgery this spring on both ankles may not help -- but he's a reliable player.

  7. Keenan Lewis, Sr., Oregon State: A physical player who leads the Beavers with 34 career starts, he might end up a better NFL prospect than teammate Hughes. Led the Beavers with three interceptions in 2007. He's been Pac-10 First-Team All-Academic for three consecutive years.

  8. Syd'Quan Thompson, Jr., California: He's started every game of his career. Had 78 tackles -- six for a loss -- with an interception and 10 passes defended in 2007. Fell a little short of high expectations after earning accolades as a true freshman.

  9. Shareece Wright, Jr., USC: The Trojans' nickel back a year ago, Wright is an outstanding athlete who has a chance to break out in 2008. Had 29 tackles, 3.5 for losses, with four pass breakups last fall.

  10. Wopamo Osaisai, Sr., Stanford: Who? Let's just say NFL scouts can pronounce the name of the Pac-10's 100-meters champion. Named the Cardinal's most improved player during spring practices, he started seven games last year and recorded 45 tackles with an interception in 2007.