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Sports >  NCAA football

The Pac-12 decade: From Mariota to McCaffrey to Marqise, our look at the best players from the 12-team era

By Jon Wilner Bay Area NewsGroup

During our deep dive into the best players of the Pac-12 decade, it quickly became clear that recent bias would not be a problem.

The conference was substantially more talented during the first five seasons after expansion than it has been for the last five.

That’s true even if you account for the disruption in 2020.

Consensus All-Americans

2011-15 seasons: 24

2016-20 seasons: 14

Heisman Trophy top-10 finishes

2011-15 seasons: nine

2016-20 seasons: four

AP top-25 teams (end-of-season)

2011-15: 21

2016-20: 13

NFL first-round picks

2012-16 drafts: 24

2017-21 drafts: 19

We can only speculate on explanations: The coaches aren’t recruiting as well. The talent pipeline is weaker. The competition (from other leagues) is stronger. The lack of exposure on the Pac-12 Networks has hurt. The lack of revenue (from conference distributions) has hampered resources.

Most likely, it’s all that and more. But as our all-decade team indicates, the talent tilts heavily to the first half of the decade.

Notes on the following:

• For players to qualify, at least half their career had to fall within the 2011-20 timeframe — hence the reason Andrew Luck, who left Stanford after the 2011 season, is not the second-team quarterback.

• We opted for three receivers and five defensive backs to mirror the personnel groupings most often deployed.

• The all-purpose (AP) role was defined as impacting the game on both sides of the ball.

• The first installment in our retrospective, which examined the best and worst of the 12-team era, can be found here.

First team


QB: Oregon’s Marcus Mariota

RB: Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey

RB: Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey

WR: USC’s Marqise Lee

WR: Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks

WR: Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry

TE: Stanford’s Zach Ertz

OL: Oregon’s Penei Sewell

OL: Stanford’s David Yankey

OL: UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo

OL: Oregon’s Hroniss Grasu

OL: Stanford’s Joshua Garnett

AP: UCLA’s Myles Jack


DL: Washington’s Vita Vea

DL: Oregon’s DeForest Buckner

DL: Arizona State’s Will Sutton

DL: USC’s Leonard Williams

LB: Arizona’s Scooby Wright

LB: UCLA’s Anthony Barr

LB: Stanford’s Trent Murphy

DB: Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

DB: Washington’s Budda Baker

DB: USC’s Adoree Jackson

DB: Utah’s Marcus Williams

DB: Washington’s Sidney Jones


K: Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez

P: Utah’s Tom Hackett

RS: Washington’s Dante Pettis

Second team


QB: Oregon’s Justin Herbert

RB: Washington’s Myles Gaskin

RB: Stanford’s Bryce Love

WR: Washington State’s Gabe Marks

WR: USC’s Robert Woods

WR: Colorado’s Laviska Shenault

TE: Oregon’s Pharaoh Brown

OL: Washington’s Trey Adams

OL: USC’s Zach Banner

OL: Washington State’s Andre Dillard

OL: Stanford’s Andrus Peat

OL: Oregon’s Jake Fisher

AP: Washington’s Shaq Thompson


DL: Oregon’s Dion Jordan

DL: Utah’s Star Lotulelei

DL: Washington State’s Hercules Mata’afa

DL: Utah’s Nate Orchard

LB: UCLA’s Eric Kendricks

LB: Cal’s Evan Weaver

LB: Colorado’s Nate Landman

DB: Utah’s Jaylon Johnson

DB: Washington’s Byron Murphy

DB: Oregon State’s Jordan Poyer

DB: Stanford’s Ed Reynolds

DB: Washington State’s Deone Bucannon


K: Utah’s Matt Gay

P: Utah’s Mitch Wishnowsky

RS: Stanford’s Ty Montgomery

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