We break down the most explosive players in the past 10 years since the Pac-12 expanded.
Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images
Article by Nick Battey
1. Marcus Mariota (Oregon)
The only Pac-12 player in the last decade to win the Heisman Trophy has to be #1. Mariota carried the Ducks with class both on and off the field. He ended up with Fiesta and Rose Bowl wins to show for it along with a trip to the CFP National Championship.
2. Christian McCaffrey (Stanford)
The best Running Back in the Pac-12 era, Christian McCaffrey led Stanford to a Rose Bowl win when they demolished Iowa in 2016. McCaffrey should have been the Heisman Trophy winner in 2015 and constantly broke big plays with 22 30 yard plays that season and 9 plays of 50 or more yards.
3. De’Anthony Thomas (Oregon)
Quite possibly the quickest player the Pac-12 has ever seen, De’Anthony Thomas was everything Chip Kelly wanted in a player. Whenever he had the ball he was a threat and he will be forever known for his opening kickoff return in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl against Kansas State.
4. Marqise Lee (USC)
USC’s Wide Receiver talent in the Pac-12 era has been simply incredible. Marqise Lee was someone you had to locate at all times on the field with a career of over 3500 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns.
5. John Ross (Washington)
Ross was possibly the best returner in the Pac-12 era and someone you never wanted to cover. He had 4 kick return touchdowns at Washington and helped the Huskies reach the College Football Playoff in 2016.
6. LaMichael James (Oregon)
LaMichael James had over 2000 total yards in his final season leading Oregon to their first Rose Bowl win in 95 years.
7. Bryce Love (Stanford)
Replacing McCaffrey was an incredibly hard task but Bryce Love was more than up to the challenge. Love went on to win the 2017 Pac-12 Player of the Year and had 24 plays of 30 or more yards that season.
8. Brandon Aiyuk (Arizona State)
In 2019, Aiyuk led the Pac-12 with 22 plays of 30 yards or longer. The next highest total that season was 12 such plays. The speedster averaged 18.3 yards per catch and has quickly translated his big play ability to the NFL with the 49ers.
9. JuJu Smith-Schuster (USC)
Smith-Schuster was dominant in 2015 with 1,454 receiving yards and an average of 16.3 yards per catch.
10. Kaelin Clay (Utah)
Kaelin Clay is among the best return men in the Pac-12 Era. He had four kick or punt return touchdowns in his only year with the Utes in 2014 and close to 900 kick/punt return yards that season to go along with 523 receiving yards.
Ty Montgomery (Stanford)
Khalil Tate (Arizona)
Nelson Agholor (USC)
Dante Pettis (UW)
Brandin Cooks (OSU)
Adoree Jackson (USC)