Our countdown of the Pac-10's top 25 players continues.
No. 8. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
2009 numbers: The 6-f00t-4, 254-pound junior recorded 75 tackles with 14.5 coming for a loss. He also had six sacks, four interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Most recent ranking: Ayers was not ranked in our final Pac-10 top-30 list last year.
Making the case for Ayers: The above sentence hurt to type. Just so wrong. Ayers should have been not only on our list last year, he probably should have been in the top half. This year, he might rank among the nation's top 25 players. The Pac-10 blog wasn't the only one who skulled an evaluation of Ayers. League coaches only gave him honorable mention all-conference honors. So what can we say about Ayers? Start with this: He was involved in 10 turnovers. Then consider this: Of those 10, he turned three into TDs (two interception returns, one fumble return). Go here and see how many Bruins scored more TDs last year than Ayers. And, of course, UCLA fans are recalling those two interceptions -- vs. Oregon and vs. Temple in the Eagle Bank Bowl -- which might have been the two most-spectacular defensive plays in the nation last year. Ayers makes spectacular plays because he's a spectacular athlete who might bolt a year early and end up a first-round NFL draft pick in 2011. He already was named first-team preseason All-American by Phil Steele, while The Sporting News tapped him second team. He's also on the watch list for the Nagurski Award, given annually to the nation's best defensive player.
No. 9. Mike Mohamed, LB, California
No. 10. Trevin Wade, CB, Arizona
No. 11. Mason Foster, LB, Washington
No. 12. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona
No. 13. Kenny Rowe, DE, Oregon
No. 14. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC
No. 15. Cameron Jordan, DE, California
No. 16. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
No. 17. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
No. 18: Colin Baxter, C, Arizona
No. 19: Chase Beeler, C, Stanford
No. 20. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State
No. 21. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
No. 22. Owen Marecic, LB/FB, Stanford
No. 23. Kristofer O'Dowd, C, USC
No. 24: Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon
No. 25 Kai Forbath, K, UCLA