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NCAA Football Pac 12 Football

2013 Preseason Pac 12 Power Rankings: Top 10 Cornerbacks

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2013 Preseason Pac 12 Power Rankings: Top 10 Cornerbacks

ifo ekpre-olomu
Scott Olmos - USA TODAY Sports

The Pac 12 is filled with high-powered offensive attacks designed to put points up on the board in bunches. That has forced programs to bring in some serious playmakers on the defensive side of the ball in order to fight back. Few positions can turn the tide in favor of the defense as quickly or dramatically as the athletes at cornerback.

While the conference some great corners last season, like Jordan Poyer and Desmond Trufant, there is still plenty of talent in the secondary for Pac 12 programs. Three corners made the Thorpe Award preseason watch list for the top defensive back in the country, and many more could force their way into the conversation by the time it’s all said and done. The talent level is at an all-time high in the conference with countless cornerbacks looking to make a name for themselves.

But which of them stand above the rest? Each team has their No. 1 guy that they lean on to shut down the opponents’ best receiver, but which No. 1 is the true No. 1? Looking down the list of corners in the Pac 12, there are a number of No. 2 corners who would be dominant No. 1 guys at just about any other school. Some programs just have depth to spare and that will make their defenses all the tougher when games get serious.

So with August upon us and fall camps opening across the country, let’s take a look at the best defenders that the Pac 12 has to offer and count down the top 10 cornerbacks of the conference heading into the 2013 season.

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10. Torin Harris, USC Trojans

torin harris
Debby Wong - USA TODAY Sports

The secondary for the USC Trojans is a bit in flux heading into this season as Lane Kiffin shuffles players around. Senior Torin Harris becomes the most experience corner on the roster this fall with nine starts. The 6-foot, 190-pound corner made 30 tackles in 2012, including one for loss and broke up six passes. His play has been a bit uneven over his collegiate career, but he has the size and talent to be a solid contributor in 2013.

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9. Stefan McClure, Cal Bears

stefan mcclure
James Snook - USA TODAY Sports

Stefan McClure missed all of 2012 with a knee injury, but showed a great deal of promise during his freshman season in 2011 when he recorded 24 tackles, an interception and two pass breakups. His talent is undeniable, but he will have to show he has recovered completely from his injury both mentally and physically. If he can trust that knee to plant off of, he should be a force in the secondary for the Cal Bears.

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8. Usua Amanam, Stanford Cardinal

usua amanam
Richard Mackson - USA TODAY Sports

The stars of the Stanford Cardinal secondary are the safeties, but they also have a gang of corners that can shut down opposing wide receivers. They are led by Usua Amanam who became a jack of all trades for the Stanford defense in 2012. He recorded 59 tackles, including an impressive 10.5 for loss with four sacks, which breaking up six passes with an interception and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. He has the playmaking chops to make an impact on every game and will make some noise in 2013.

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7. Jonathan McKnight, Arizona Wildcats

jonathan mcknight
Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports

While the Arizona Wildcats weren’t as stout on defense as they would have liked last season, there were some standouts that stepped up. Jonathan McKnight led the team with three interceptions last season, including one returned for a touchdown, to go along with four pass breakups and 51 total tackles. His ability to go up and get the football makes him a breakout candidate for 2013 and could be the playmaker Rich Rodriguez is looking for on defense.

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6. Terrance Mitchell, Oregon Ducks

terrance mitchell
Scott Olmos - USA TODAY Sports

The Oregon Ducks may boast the best secondary in all of college football next season, and Terrance Mitchell is just the second best corner on it. The 6-foot, 189-pound corner broke up eight passes last season as he blanketed receivers down the field. He also added in 40 tackles, but will be looking to generate a few more turnovers in 2013 after getting zero as a sophomore (he had two interceptions and a fumble recovery as a freshman).

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5. Marcus Peters, Washington Huskies

marcus peters
Kelley L. Cox - USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Peters got the opportunity to blossom during his freshman season while playing in the shadow of Desmond Trufant for the Washington Huskies in 2012. With Trufant now gone to the NFL, Peters steps up as the No. 1 corner for the Dawgs this fall looking to expand on his first season at the college level. Last year, he recorded 44 tackles, including two for loss, with three interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown, and eight passes broken up. He’ll move into the spotlight in 2013 with an opportunity to shine as one of the conference’s top young talents at corner.

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4. Shaquille Richardson, Arizona Wildcats

shaquille richardson
Jennifer Hilderbrand - USA TODAY Sports

Arizona may have struggled to keep their opponents off the scoreboard, but that wasn’t because there wasn’t talent in their secondary. Shaquille Richardson was a pass-defending fiend in 2012, breaking up 14 passes while snagging one interception and recording 58 tackles. At 6-foot-1, 186-pounds, Richardson has good size to go toe-to-toe with receivers and keep the ball out of their hands. If he can get his hands on a few more and turn them into interceptions next season, he may just become an elite defender.

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3. Osahon Irabor, Arizona State Sun Devils

osahon irabor
Matt Kartozian - USA TODAY Sports

As a three-year starter, Osahon Irabor has stepped up as a defensive leader for the Arizona State Sun Devils. Last season, he recorded 37 tackles while breaking up 13 passes and snagging an interception. He is one of the most experienced corners in the conference and can be counted on once again to be a steady presence in the secondary. If he can find a way to force some turnovers in 2013, ASU could take their game to the next level this

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2. Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State Beavers

rashaad reynolds
Ed Szczepanski - USA TODAY Sports

Trying to fill the shoes of the Pac 12 leader in interceptions in 2012, Jordan Poyer, is no easy task, but that’s what awaits Rashaad Reynolds in 2013 with the Oregon State Beavers. Luckily for Reynolds and the Beavers’ defense, he has the chops to get it done. Last season, Reynolds notched 75 tackles with 13 passes broken up and three interceptions. He’ll move into the No. 1 cornerback role this fall and could prove to be just as dynamic as his predecessor.

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1. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon Ducks

ifo ekpre-olomu
Scott Olmos - USA TODAY Sports

As the leader of the best secondary in the Pac 12 (and one of the best in the country), Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is poised to have a monster season with Oregon. Last year, he tallied 63 tackles, broke up 16 passes, forced six fumbles and picked off four passes, returning one of them for a touchdown. He is an athletic ball-hawk that can stick on team’s best receivers, creating turnovers and forcing incompletions in droves. If he continues to improve his game as he did last year, Ekpre-Olomu could become the best corner in the entire country.