With spring ball right around the corner, here’s a look at some players in the Pac-12 who could break out in 2016.
1. Transfer quarterbacks
Several transfer quarterbacks are going to be fighting for starting jobs this spring and they’re all names to watch. As graduate transfers, Oregon’s Dakota Prukop and Colorado’s Davis Webb are intriguing players. Prukop chose to leave the FCS ranks and follow in Vernon Adams Jr.’s footsteps after experiencing a lot of success at Montana State (45 passing touchdowns, 24 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons). Webb comes to Colorado by way of Texas Tech. During his first two seasons with Texas Tech, he attempted more than 700 passes and threw for 44 touchdowns. But last season he was beat out by Patrick Mahomes and attempted just 41 passes for the Red Raiders. Troy Williams, the former Washington quarterback, has transferred to Utah after a stint at Santa Monica College, where he threw for 2,750 yards and 31 touchdowns. Finally, Oregon State gets a boost now that former Utah State quarterback Darrel Garretson is eligible after sitting out last season following his transfer. Considering all of these guys have good experience at the college level and many have ties or experience with their new system, it’s not too much of a jump to imagine that all of these players could break out in 2016.
2. WR N’keal Harry | Arizona State | freshman
A good amount of Harry’s success will be dependent on the progress of the Sun Devils’ first-year quarterback -- whoever that turns out to be. But Todd Graham isn’t about to sign the No. 1 wide receiver in the nation and then not utilize him as much as possible. Not every top-rated recruit pans out during his college career, but give a look at the past few No. 1 wide receivers -- Alabama’s Calvin Ridley (2015), LSU’s Malachi Dupre (2014), Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell (2013) and Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham (2012). Each of those players had at least five touchdown catches during his true freshman season. Expect even more from Harry, especially since there's a good chance he’ll become the biggest and best target for the Sun Devils.
3. RB Soso Jamabo | UCLA | sophomore
Jamabo carried the ball 66 times this season, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. With Paul Perkins out of the picture, Jamabo should become the Bruins’ go-to back and with that, he’ll have the same expectations Perkins did -- a significantly increased role that should take some pressure off quarterback Josh Rosen. Without any offseason distractions and a chance to be the featured back from the get-go, Jamabo should be able to put up huge numbers for UCLA despite the offensive line turnover.
4. DL Canton Kaumatule | Oregon | sophomore
With new defensive coordinator Brady Hoke -- who loves to have feisty, physical defensive linemen -- look for the Ducks’ pressure to get a bit more interesting in 2016. Just look at how the numbers jumped during his first season at Michigan: During the 2010 season, the Wolverines tallied just 18 sacks, which put them at No. 94 nationally. In Hoke’s first year, that number jumped to 30 sacks (30th nationally). Michigan’s run defense went from allowing 189 rushing yards per game in 2010 (95th nationally) to giving up just 132 rushing yards per game (39th nationally). Kaumatule, who played in eight games for Oregon in 2015, could be the biggest beneficiary of Hoke's arrival. Between the open reps due to DeForest Buckner’s departure and Hoke’s new scheme and affinity for big, mean defensive linemen, Kaumatule could be an absolute monster in 2016.
5. RB Ronald Jones II | USC | sophomore
Clay Helton wants the Trojans to be a run-first offense, and considering they’ll be ushering in a new quarterback, expect the tailback to be that much more vital to USC’s success in 2016. Enter Jones. Look no further than his 177-yard performance against Arizona in early November to understand the havoc he can wreak on opposing defenses. Last year, Jones’ yards-per-carry average was the fourth best in the conference among the primary ball-carriers. In his second year, with a better understanding of the offense and a new running back coach in Tommie Robinson, expect those numbers to climb. He’ll have to fight off a few worthy adversaries for the job as the primary ball-carrier for the Trojans, but if he does manage to do that, expect nothing less than Arizona-like performances for Jones in his sophomore season.