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The Pac-12's Top Freshmen to Watch in 2015


Aaliyah sang, "Age Ain't Nothing But A Number." The title track off the late R&B singer's debut album may have been released in 1994, well before any of the Pac-12's freshman class were born, but it's a sentiment the group's standouts will prove.

Related: The Pac-12's Top 15 Must-See Games of 2015

What the conference's top freshmen lack in experience, they make up for in promise. Many will get an opportunity to make an immediate splash on the Pac-12 scene in the upcoming campaign.

CB Ugo Amadi, Oregon

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The departures of All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Troy Hill and Dior Mathis leave a considerable hole in the secondary — typically a strength of the Duck defense. Reports emanating from early Oregon practices suggest Amadi is prepared to help fill the gap. Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, the star of this Oregon defense, told Pete Martini of the Statesman Journal Amadi is performing well in practices.

WR Shun Brown, Arizona

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Brown joins a loaded wide receiver corps at Arizona, with the Wildcats returning Cayleb Jones, Nate Phillips, Trey Griffey and Samajie Grant from a unit responsible for 3,945 yards of offense. While finding a spot in such a deep rotation is a challenge, the speedy and elusive Brown is reportedly playing his way into a role, per Bard Allis of

QB K.J. Carta-Samuels | Jake Browning, Washington

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Washington's three-man quarterback race between Jeff Lindquist, Carta-Samuels and Browning appears headed into the Huskies' Week 1 matchup with Boise State. Redshirt freshman Carta-Samuels and true freshman Browning should be in the mix, and starting either signals an investment in the long-term future of Huskies football.

Carta-Samuels has the slight experience edge over Browning as a redshirt. He was Washington's Offensive Scout Team MVP in 2014.

QB Seth Collins | Marcus McMaryion, Oregon State

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Oregon State will have a new starting quarterback for the first since 2012 this season. And the Beavers will have two of them.

True freshman Collins and redshirt freshman McMaryion have been locked in such a tight battle that new Beavers head coach Gary Andersen plans to start both.

"I'm pretty impressed with those guys, how they carry themselves," said senior running back Storm Barrs-Woods. "They command the offense pretty well."

An early enrollee, Collins had the opportunity to participate with the Beavers in spring practices. He electrified in his first collegiate workouts, breaking out a front flip in the Beavers' spring game.

RB Dominic Davis, USC

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A variety of newcomers making noise in USC fall camp should came as no surprise, given the lofty billing of the Trojans' recruiting class. That Davis is one of those commanding attention is somewhat unexpected, however.

A 3-star recruit, Davis has quickly turned heads with his quick feet and ability to find holes. He was a standout of USC's traning camp-concluding scrimmage on Aug. 22, earning kudos from head coach Steve Sarkisian.

"Dom did what Dom's been doing all training camp," Sarkisian said. "No. 16 showed up today and said, 'You know what? I'm capable of playing football for USC.'"

DE Canton Kaumatule, Oregon

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With the departure of Arik Armstead, an opportunity for playing time on the Oregon defensive line is wide open. Kaumatule got a jump on contributing when he enrolled in the spring and particated in practices then. He's now settling into a more prominent role through training camp and preparations for the Ducks' opener against Eastern Washington.

QB Josh Rosen, UCLA

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Hype was brewed around true freshman Rosen from the moment he committed to UCLA. The 5-star prospect enrolled early and participated in spring practices, almost immediately leaping to the front of the competition to replace Brett Hundley — at least, in terms of public sentiment.

It took awhile, but Bruins head coach Jim Mora validated that sentiment on Aug. 26 by naming Rosen UCLA's starter for the season opener against Virginia. "Chosen Rosen" has drawn comparisons to Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck — only two of the best college and NFL quarterbacks of the last 20 years. No pressure.

LB Cam Smith, USC

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The USC linebacker corps is loaded with talented newcomers. Five-star prospects Osa Masina and Porter Gustin have both seen first-team reps in early-season practices, and you can anticipate both seeing extensive field time come autumn.

Of the group thus far, however, Smith stands out as the leader. His early enrollment allowed him to acclimate in spring ball.

S Marvel Tell, USC

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USC played one of the nation's youngest secondaries last season, in part because of lack of depth. A freshman, Tell doesn't make the unit any older, but he certainly gives defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox more option. Along with 5-star cornerback prospect Iman Marshall, Tell was expected to have an instant impact for the Trojan secondary.

While the talented Marshall will indeed see plenty of action, Tell has stood out as a potential starter through initial workouts. He's impressed with his uncanny athleticism and Tell's demonstrated keen instincts while manning the Trojans' backline.

DT Joseph Wicker, Arizona State

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In Todd Graham's first two seasons at Arizona State, the Sun Devil defense built around star tackle Will Sutton. Arizona State might have its next Sutton in the talented Wicker.'s Chris Karpman reports Wicker is seeing repetitions with the first team, playing both on the interior of the line and in the blitz-heavy devil-backer position. Such versatility goes a long way in the Arizona State defense.

Best of the Rest:

WR Britain Covey, Utah
RB Taj Griffin, Oregon
RB Ronald Jones II, USC
RB Lonny Powell, Cal
OT Keenan Walker, Arizona

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.