Former Pac-12 Stars Who Will Shine at the 2014 NFL Combine
The Pac-12 Conference has long been known for producing offensive stars, and this year's crop of players fits that bill.
Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas and USC's Marqise Lee are among several touted playmakers entering this year's draft.
However, this season, the West Coast is also pumping out an excellent group of defensive players.
UCLA's Anthony Barr, a perceived top-five lock for the upcoming NFL draft, headlines the group.
Click on for seven Pac-12 names to keep an eye on in this weekend's NFL combine.
RB De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
Could this be the year Chris Johnson's NFL combine record 4.24-second 40-yard dash goes down?
If it does, Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas might be the one to break the mark.
An elite runner, Thomas' 40-yard dash will be one of the most highly anticipated moments of the entire weekend. He anchored Oregon's 4x100-meter NCAA Championship-qualifying relay team and ran the fastest 200-meter dash of all high-schoolers in the nation in 2010, per his UO bio.
Thomas might not be a first-round pick, but he'll be one of the combine's main attractions.
DL George Uko, USC
USC's George Uko tallied seven tackles for loss and five sacks in 2013, and at 6'3", 275 lbs, he has a very high ceiling.
However, the defensive line position is very crowded this year and Uko will need a good combine performance to stand out, per Gary Paskwietz, ESPN.com (Subscription required):
Outside of (tight end Xavier) Grimble, Uko is the USC player with the most to gain from the combine. Uko had flashes of good play in his career but not nearly enough to warrant an early to mid-round selection at this point. The good news for Uko, however, is that there are only a certain amount of men with the combination of size and ability to play on the defensive line, and he is one of them. The combine will offer him a chance to do something special to start moving up the defensive line depth chart because, as of right now, Uko does not crack Kiper's top 10 at the position.
Sometimes, those flying under the radar, like Uko, end up having the best performances in front of the scouts.
Look for the former Trojan to do just that.
WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
With the 2013 Biletnikoff Award in his collection, Oregon State's Brandin Cooks will be one of the most highly sought after prospects in a deep wide receiver class.
Cooks boasts some impressive versatility and was fifth in the Pac-12 in all-purpose yardage last year.
He'll be viewed similarly to how West Virginia's Tavon Austin was last year—when, after bolting to an impressive 40-yard dash, Austin was at center stage of the combine.
"Dubbed 'the next Steve Smith' by (ESPN's Mel) Kiper, the short and explosive Cooks set Pac-12 receiving records as a junior," Person wrote. "Cooks hopes to run the 40 in 4.3 seconds. If he does, he could vault into the first round."
He was a standout as a Beaver and he'll shine at the combine as well.
LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
UCLA's Anthony Barr had a fantastic senior season, amassing a ridiculous 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, five forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.
His draft stock started high and stayed high. He has been viewed as one of the best players available, and he recently told Ross Jones of Fox Sports that he believes he is the best available:
“Absolutely,” Barr told FOXSports.com when asked if he should be the No. 1 overall pick. “I think I am the complete package. I can help a team right away win football games, playoff games and championships. It’s something that I always dreamed about. The teams that do pass on me will regret it.
“I’m going to let my play do the talking. I’m not going to say much or act out in any type of way but when I get on the field, those teams that do pass on me, it’ll always weigh on me and make me have a chip on my shoulder."
At 6'4" and 245 pounds, Barr is an incredible athlete and he'll show that at the combine. With high hopes, Barr will show why he thinks he is the top player coming out of college.
WR Marqise Lee, USC
The 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner, USC's Marqise Lee was slowed by injury in 2013.
Lee missed three full games and was limited in several others, but he still caught 57 passes for 791 yards and four touchdowns.
He added that to a pair of 1,000-yard seasons and finished with 3,655 yards and 29 touchdowns for his career. He isn't the tall, dominant receiver that some teams will look for, but he has some great quickness.
Lee has just the type of physical ability that will shine through at the combine, and, as Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times reported, he has been training with Athletes First to make sure that happens.
Look for Lee to make that hard work pay off when the time comes.
DL Scott Crichton, Oregon State
The defensive line class is a crowded group and Oregon State's Scott Crichton believes he is the best of the bunch, per Louis Bien of SBNation:
I can't wait to get on the field right now, I miss football that much. I just want to compete against the best because I want to be the best, honestly. I feel like I'm the best defensive end in this draft right now. I want to be the best to play in the NFL.
Crichton, at 6'3" and 265 pounds, has the size to be considered among the best defensive ends and has been training to make sure he jumps off at the combine as well.
If he performs well in Indy, he could vault into the first round—and he has the athleticism to do so.
He might not be a household name just yet, but a strong showing at the combine will make Crichton a name to know when the draft rolls around.
WR Josh Huff, Oregon
Josh Huff hasn't been high on the list of most talked about wide receivers in the upcoming draft.
The receiver class is deep and Huff has mostly been one of many names, but the buzz around him is building.
He was a major part of Oregon's explosive attack last season, amassing 1,140 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. And as reported by Andrew Greif of The Oregonian, Huff went to the Senior Bowl looking to show that he's ready for the next level:
The record-setting former Oregon wide receiver said he entered the week of Senior Bowl with two priorities: Remind teams of his versatility on returns as well as routes, and show he can stretch the field with better-than-expected speed.
"I came out here to prove something, and that was just to prove I'm a receiver and guys are going to have to respect that and understand that I'm not just a system guy," Huff said. "I definitely feel like I've turned some heads. There have been numerous scouts coming up to me just telling me about the job I've done and that they're surprised about how well I've been able to stand out these last three days."
He'll have similar priorities when he heads to the combine. Grief also detailed the work ethic that set Huff apart at that showcase, which should shine through during the interview process.
Whichever team drafts Huff will be getting a player who is ready to be a pro, and he'll show that in Indy.