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The Pac-12's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015

Daniel Lasco

Daniel Lasco

Every college football team has players most would consider underrated. However, defining underrated players is no easy assignment, as that term varies in meaning between fans and experts.

The Pac-12 should be an intriguing league once again in 2015. Oregon and USC top the list of favorites, but Arizona State, Stanford, Arizona and UCLA will be in the mix. And the depth of this conference extends to teams like Utah, California and Washington. Offense is usually the strength for the Pac-12, but this league has a good core of defensive talent in place for 2015.

Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015

With the 2015 season approaching, Athlon Sports wanted to take a look at some players deserving of more preseason accolades or discussion. In an effort to get to 10 names, we tried to stick to players that had yet to earn all-conference honors in their career. However, a few exceptions were made.

Pac-12's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015

Chidobe Awuzie, DB, Colorado

Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, Colorado has never finished higher than 11th in scoring defense. Improving that side of the ball is a priority for new coordinator Jim Leavitt, and the Buffaloes return nine starters for 2015. Awuzie is slated to start in the nickel role for Leavitt, and the California native should thrive after recording 64 tackles in nine appearances last year. Awuzie also broke up eight passes in 2014. With Awuzie and cornerback Kenneth Crawley returning, Colorado’s secondary should take a step forward this season.

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Tyrell Crosby, OT, Oregon

Starting as a true freshman in the trenches is no easy assignment. After all, most offensive linemen could use a full year in the weight room to develop to match the physical strength of opposing defensive ends or tackles. But Crosby was an underrated piece of Oregon’s offensive line last year. The Ducks were hit hard by injuries up front in 2014, yet this unit tied for fifth in the Pac-12 in fewest sacks allowed. Crosby finished last season with nine starts, including six consecutive to close out the year.

Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015

Joe Dahl, OT, Washington State

It’s no secret Washington State’s offensive line has to improve after allowing 68 sacks over the last two seasons. But improvement should be expected in 2015, as the Cougars return five starters, including an all-conference candidate in Dahl. The Montana transfer started all 13 games in 2013 and anchored the line with 12 starts at left tackle in 2014. Having solid protection on the blindside is critical in Washington State’s Air Raid attack, and all signs point to Dahl having a standout senior season.

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Daniel Lasco, RB, California

The Pac-12 is loaded with talented running backs, as six players eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in 2014. While Utah’s Devontae Booker and UCLA’s Paul Perkins usually grab the spotlight, Lasco quietly rushed for 1,115 yards and 12 scores on 210 attempts in 2014. Additionally, Lasco caught 33 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns. California’s Bear Raid offense should have no trouble scoring points in 2015. While quarterback Jared Goff and the explosive passing attack generate most of the attention in Berkeley, Lasco should hit the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season.

Related: Pac-12 2015 All-Conference Team

Blake Martinez, LB, Stanford

Despite leading one of the nation’s stingiest defenses in tackles last year, Martinez only earned honorable mention all-conference honors in 2014. Expect the senior to be an even bigger focal point of the defense in 2015 though, as Stanford returns just four starters on this side of the ball. Not only did Martinez lead the defense in tackles, he also recorded seven for a loss, generated 4.5 sacks, picked off three passes and forced two fumbles in 2014.

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Related: College Football's Top Transfers to Watch in 2015

Conor McDermott, OT, UCLA

UCLA’s offensive line had its share of ups and downs last season, as this unit gave up 40 sacks in 13 games. But there was noticeable improvement late in the year, as McDermott started the last seven games at left tackle. During McDermott’s stint anchoring the left side, UCLA went 6-1 and scored at least 30 points five times. In the 38-20 win over USC, the Bruins gave up only two sacks. With a true freshman taking over at quarterback (Josh Rosen), the offensive line has to step up in 2015.

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Viliami Moeakiola, LB, Arizona State

Arizona State should have one of the Pac-12’s top linebacker groups in 2015, as Moeakiola, DJ Calhoun, Salamo Fiso, Antonio Longino and Christian Sam provide plenty of depth and talent for coordinator Keith Patterson. Moeakiola finished fourth on the team with 72 stops (10.5 for a loss), generated five sacks and one forced fumble last year. After earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors in 2014, expect Moeakiola to push for all-conference accolades in 2015.

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Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015

Jared Norris, LB, Utah

Norris or fellow linebacker Gionni Paul deserves a mention in this space. Norris led the team in 2014 with 116 tackles and finished third on the team with 13 tackles for a loss. The California native also recorded four sacks and one pass breakup. Norris posted three consecutive double-digit tackle performances early in the year and finished with eight stops in the 45-10 blowout victory over Colorado State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

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Will Parks, S, Arizona

Arizona’s defense has room to improve after allowing 451 yards per game last season, but there were a few bright spots for coordinator Jeff Casteel. Linebacker Scooby Wright is arguably the top defender in college football, and Parks had a breakout campaign in his first year as a full-time starter. Parks started all 14 games for the Wildcats and recorded 81 stops (13 for a loss), one sack, two interceptions and eight pass breakups. With some new faces stepping into the starting lineup around Parks, the senior should be the leader for Arizona’s secondary this season.

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Related: Pac-12 2015 All-Conference Team

Kevon Seymour, CB, USC

With the emergence of star of sophomore Adoree’ Jackson, along with Seymour’s development, USC’s cornerback tandem could be among the nation’s best this season. Seymour started 11 games in 2014 and finished the year with 49 tackles, one interception and 13 pass breakups. The California native also started 11 games in 2013 and recorded 48 tackles and one interception. Seymour should push for All-Pac-12 honors this year. 

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