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January 23, 2012

Top DBs can't pass on chance to play in Pac-12

The Pac-12 already featured explosive offenses with Oregon, Stanford, USC and Washington all ranked among the nation's top 25 in scoring last season.

The hiring of Mike Leach to Washington State, Rich Rodriguez to Arizona and Todd Graham to Arizona State - all offensive-minded coaches - should only increase the video-game like scores the conference already produces.

Such offenses will make it easy for Pac-12 schools to attract some of the top playmakers in the country.

And, apparently, some top defensive players, too.

Many top prospects see the offenses as a challenge, a chance to prove themselves and great preparation for perhaps a career in the NFL.

Alex Carter, a four-star defensive back from Virginia, is traveling across the country to get a chance to prove his worth at Stanford.

"I think it's pretty exciting," he said from the Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio. "The Pac-12 is turning into a place where there is more opportunity for defensive backs to show what they have and to make plays. I'm looking forward to it."

He isn't alone.

Twenty-one of 103 prospects that are designated as defensive players on the Rivals.com Top 250 rankings have either committed or have made official visits to Pac-12 schools.

That doesn't suggest the Pac-12 will soon move past the Southeastern Conference as the dominant defensive league (37 top defensive prospects have committed or are visiting SEC programs), but it does seem to indicate West Coast defensive players aren't intimidated by the prospects of playing in a wide-open offensive league.

They even welcome it.

"It will make me a better player, mentally and physically, on and off the field," said four-star defensive back Kevon Seymour, who is committed to USC. "I'll have to be ready for anything."

They'd better, and not just defensive backs. Oregon, Arizona, Stanford and USC, for example, figure to field running games that are among the best in the country.

And then there are the new systems coming in.

Under Leach's passing version of the Spread offense, Texas Tech led the nation in passing offense six times and ranked among the country's top 11 in each of his 10 seasons there.

Rodriguez's run-oriented Spread system produced teams at West Virginia and Michigan ranked among the nation's top 13 in rushing offense in seven of his 10 seasons.

Graham's teams at Tulsa ranked among the nation's top 13 in passing and top six in scoring in three of his four seasons there.

>Even new UCLA coach Jim Mora, who favors a multiple pro-style offense, hired offensive coodinator Noel Mazzone, who took over a lackluster offense at Arizona State and transformed it into a unit that was 10th in the country in passing offense last season.

Shaq Thompson, a five-star defensive back from Sacramento (Calif.) Grant who has committed to Cal, is eager to join the league.

"It's crazy, but I think the Pac-12 will be even better," he said. "You'll see almost every offense there is. It's a good thing. You have to stay focused."

That could lead to tremendous opportunities later.

Consider Leach's former conference, the Big 12.

The Big 12 has been regarded as the country's most explosive offensive league in recent years. In fact, in four of the past six seasons it has had at least five teams ranked among the country's top 22 in scoring offenses.

Yet, in that span the Big 12 had 14 defensive players selected in the first round of the NFL draft, including nine in the last two drafts.

Prove you can defend against the best, and NFL scouts will notice.

Olin Buchanan is a senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.



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