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Pac-12 spotlight: Schools with most active NFL players

The NCAA recently released an interesting list of players on NFL opening weekend rosters by college. This week we’re taking a look at which teams in the Power Five conferences produce the most pros and we continue with the Pac-12.

Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.


1. USC (45)

Clay Matthews
Clay Matthews (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The skinny: With USC being one of the top recruiting programs in the country over the last two decades, it should come as no surprise that it has NFL players all over the league. Defense currently leads the way for ex-Trojans, as Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, Jurrell Casey, Leonard Williams and Everson Griffen are just a few of the stars in the NFL. On offense, Carson Palmer and Tyron Smith lead the way, while younger players such as Nelson Agholor, Su’a Cravens (if he returns), Marqise Lee and Robert Woods continue to try and make a greater impact.

Farrell’s take: This is the way it is supposed to be based on recruiting rankings and essentially results. USC’s scholarship reductions hurt this number as well, otherwise it would be pushing LSU for the top number overall. Clay Helton’s recruiting is impressive and the youth on the current team bodes well for this number pushing above 50 soon.

2. CAL (32)

Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The skinny: There is plenty of star power, a majority of it coming on the offensive side of the ball. It starts with Aaron Rodgers, but Keenan Allen, Marshawn Lynch, DeSean Jackson, Alex Mack, C.J. Anderson, Shane Vereen and Marvin Jones have also made their mark in the league. Now, all eyes will be on Jared Goff this season as he tries to prove to everyone that he was worthy of the No. 1 overall pick in 2016.

Farrell’s take: Cal at No. 2 is a bit surprising, no? Many of these players are veterans, so it’s not a great representation of recent recruiting, but you have to hand it to Cal – it develops NFL players. This number doesn’t appear to be rising based on the current level of recruiting and I expect UCLA and Oregon to rise a bit while Cal and perhaps Utah slide.

3. UTAH (31)

Alex Smith
Alex Smith (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The skinny: This may surprise some people, but the Utes have long proven themselves to be a consistent producer of NFL talent. Leading the way on offense is quarterback Alex Smith, while on defense Eric Weddle continues to be one of the top safeties in the league. Many of the ex-Utes may not be household names, however several, including Zane Beadles, Star Lotulelei, Brice McCain and Sean Smith, have become reliable NFL players. The Utes also had a program-record eight players get drafted earlier this year. Can they continue producing players at this pace?

Farrell’s take: Utah ahead of UCLA, Stanford and Oregon is surprising as well but the Utes do a great job, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and put up their biggest number of draftees this past year. Are they on the rise here and can they keep the Bruins, Cardinal and Ducks at bay? This will be a great battle to keep an eye on.

4. UCLA (30)

Anthony Barr
Anthony Barr (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The skinny: There is plenty of young talent in the NFL coming out of UCLA, but will any of them become stars? Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr both have star potential in Minnesota, while Myles Jack, Paul Perkins and Kenny Clark have the talent, but have yet to put it together. The elder statesman of the group is tight end Mercedes Lewis, who has accumulated more than 350 receptions and 4,100 yards in his 11-year career.

Farrell’s Take: How is UCLA this low with the recruiting advantage of being in Los Angeles and at the very least getting the leftovers from USC at times? This number should be much higher and it speaks to player development, especially under Jim Mora. His recruiting classes have been highly ranked, but the results on the field have been erratic.

5. Stanford (28)

Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The skinny: Despite his recent injury issues, this group is still highlighted by Andrew Luck. Doug Baldwin, the tight end trio of Austin Hooper, Coby Fleener and Zach Ertz, and Ty Montgomery, who has reinvented himself at running back, are productive offensive players. On the defensive side, Richard Sherman continues to lead the way. Rookies Solomon Thomas and Christian McCaffrey will also be given every opportunity this season to shine.

Farrell’s take: Stanford’s recruiting has been impressive under David Shaw and the roster is loaded with future NFL players, especially in the younger classes. The academic restrictions are tough to overcome in recruiting as Stanford has to pass on many kids others can take, so that might have to do with this number being a bit lower.


Oregon: 27 – Most successful ... Haloti Ngata

Oregon State: 25 – Most successful … Brandin Cooks

Washington: 23 – Most successful ... Marcus Peters

Farrell’s take: Oregon State is the surprise here, way ahead of Arizona and Arizona State. Washington is rising rapidly on this list. Oregon’s roster is very young and Willie Taggart is recruiting as well as anyone in the Pac-12 so watch for a jump for the Ducks in a few years.


Arizona: 13

Arizona State: 13

Colorado: 13

Washington State: 8