Our countdown of the top 25 players in 2012 continues.
No. 8: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
2012 numbers: Taylor rushed for 1,530 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry and scoring 13 touchdowns. He also caught 41 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns.
Preseason ranking: No. 12
Making the case for: Taylor, second-team All-Pac-12 the past two seasons, is not the Pac-12's fanciest back but he is the best all-around running back in the conference. He can run, catch and, most notably, he's the best pass blocking RB in the conference by a wide margin, something that was noted by NFL scouts at the Senior Bowl. With the departure of Andrew Luck and two All-American offensive linemen, opposing defenses ganged up against Taylor this fall, daring the Cardinal to beat them with someone else. Yet Taylor still produced eight 100-yard games, including three against the three best run defenses he faced: Notre Dame, Oregon State and Oregon. In fact, his 33 carries for 161 yards at Oregon weres probably one of the more underrated performances this year. Just ask Ducks fans how annoying he was. He finished his career as Stanford's career leader in rushing yards (4,300), touchdowns (45) and 100-yard games (21). He also won the offensive player of the game award for Stanford's 20-14 Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin and was a key reason the Cardinal played in three consecutive BCS bowl games with him as the starter. The 5-foot-9, 216-pounder is projected to be selected in the NFL draft this spring by the third round.
No. 9: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
No. 10: Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
No. 11: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
No. 12: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 13: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
No. 14: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
No. 15: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
No. 16: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
No. 17: Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford
No. 18: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
No. 19: David Yankey, OL, Stanford
No. 20: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
No. 21: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
No. 22: Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
No. 23: Michael Clay, LB, Oregon
No. 24: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
No. 25: Reggie Dunn, KR, Utah