Shortly after the Big 10 postponed its 2020 football season earlier this week, the Pac-12 conference followed suit and postponed all sport competitions through the end of the calendar year. This marks the second power five conference that will not play football this fall.
The decision has ramifications that will ripple so far as to change the entire landscape of college football permanently, and it starts with the student-athletes who were scheduled to play this fall in a conference that is not. Phones are already ringing off the hook from SEC, ACC and Big 12 teams, hoping to sway potential transfers from spring football teams to regularly scheduled regions.
Here are the top Pac 12 players that the Rebel staff should get on the next plane to Oxford:
Penei Sewell — Offensive tackle, Oregon
Penei Sewell is confidently the top player in the conference and is arguably the top offensive lineman in the nation. A player of his caliber will foreseeably forgo his swan song and be drafted as high as the top-five. So why would he transfer?
Well, for some ridiculous reason, the league is not as sure on the 6-foot-6, 330-pound Samoan as everybody else.
He’s the top tackle on my board but scouts say Dillon Radunz, Sam Cosmi and Walker Little could all be drafted ahead of Sewell.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) July 16, 2020
In 2019, Sewell started 13 of 14 games at left tackle, did not allow a sack over 926 snaps and became the first sophomore to win the Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s best interior lineman on either side of the ball. He was the Associated Press’ Pac-12 Co-Offensive Player of the Year, a unanimous first-team All-American and finished as the top-graded big ugly in Pro Football Focus history. What more does he have to prove? I’m not sure.
Penei Sewell, OT, #Oregon:— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) May 6, 2020
• Still only 19 years old (+++)
• In sync upper and lower half mover
• Run game movement generation (+)
• Plays the game pissed off (++)
• Effective 2nd & 3rd level climber
• Always aware of stunts/twists (+)
• Extreme comfort in space pic.twitter.com/wShn6M1WyJ
If he decides there is something left to show NFL scouts, Sewell choosing to do so against the SEC’s top pass rushers would make a lot of sense. Much of Ole Miss’ offensive line is sured up and ready to move the rock, but the right tackle spot remains a question mark. Nick Broeker is currently slated to start on the left, but he could move to the right for 2020 while Sewell locks down the left side for Jerrion Ealy, Snoop Conner, John Rhys Plumlee and a passing attack that will be more highly utilized under Kiffin and Jeff Lebby.
Here’s another fun one for good measure:
backside fold by LT #58 Penei Sewell, who would like to remind you that there are no white tees allowed in the club pic.twitter.com/Co9EXk8gvC— Mike Golic Jr (@mikegolicjr) November 21, 2019
You know what, here’s a highlight rip because he’s just so fun to watch:
Hamilcar Rashed Jr. — Outside linebacker, Oregon State
Hamilcar Rashed Jr. is another player who is coming off of a strong season and could opt-out of 2020 to focus on his combine and hear his name called early the NFL Draft. He isn’t quite a first-round talent just yet, but another season of production could get him there and doing so in the SEC would make it a lock.
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound senior was a three-star prospect out of high school without any standout offers. He redshirted in 2016, played on occasion in 2017, started in 2018 and burst onto the national scene last year. He set school records with 22.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks in 2019 and picked up multiple All-American nods.
We have talked a lot about how D.J. Durkin’s multiple-scheme defense requires versatility and Rashed Jr. is exactly that. He saw snaps at middle linebacker, outside linebacker, and as an edge rusher at Oregon State and flourished with his explosive get-off and fluidity moving with the ball. He bends well, moves fast, uses his hands to break through strong-armed pass protections with ease and lays lumber.
Hamilcar Rashed Jr. is a monster, 14 sacks (third in the country) and 22.5 tackles for loss for #OregonState. I love his hand usage on these two sacks, swipes the hands, bends really well on the first play and makes a quick inside move on the second play. pic.twitter.com/uAwBp6w8Oj— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) June 25, 2020
The linebacker core at Ole Miss seems to be wide open, and Durkin loves to use a rotation of athletes depending on the look he wants to show and the play he is calling. Rashed Jr. would find himself at the top of the snap count for the Rebels right away and if he works with Durkin and Deke Adams to improve his rush technique on the outside track, he could play himself into some serious money on the next level.
Nate Landman — Inside linebacker, Colorado
As opposed to the first two guys on this list, Landman is a senior that cannot afford to sit out in 2020 and should be on the phone with any team that might play this season. The one they call “The Hammer” is a 6-foot-3, 235-pound inside linebacker and hasn’t received the recognition he deserves for simply being a dude.
The Zimbabwe-born California native played in 35 games over the course of his three years in Boulder, Co. and made 24 starts with 277 career tackles, 25 tackles for loss and six sacks. Landman was named the Pac 12’s Defensive Player of the Week after making 16 tackles in a rivalry game against Colorado State in his first career start in 2018 and has held that spot down ever since.
He is great at diagnosing the play and has an intangible thumping mindset. He plays low, fights through traffic and hits hard. Landman’s hustle and grind is not something that can be taught and he could fit well as a violent centerpiece in the middle linebacker spot.
This CU LB Nate Landman is something else. CU won this 4th down. pic.twitter.com/xkX1xU5CV1— Sam McKewon (@swmckewonOWH) September 9, 2018
He’s also squatting over 400 pounds in the weight room.
Da “405” FSquat crew. These men have been working their asses off the last 7 weeks! I can’t wait to see these boys unleashed in the #pac12football this fall! #CUltured @_Nate_Landman pic.twitter.com/qZvKTsb0YK— Drew Wilson (@CoachWilsonDrew) February 25, 2020
Levi Onwuzurike — Defensive tackle, Washington
After losing Austrian Robinson, Benito Jones and Josiah Coatney to the NFL, the Rebels need help at interior lineman for 2020. Levi Onwuzurike was a four-star weak defensive end at Allen High School and received honorable mention All-State honors. His ties to Jaylon Jones may help lure the senior Husky to Oxford, and he would provide an immediate boost to Durkin and Chris Partridge’s interior group.
The 6-foot-3, 288-pound interior defensive lineman made 45 total stops in 2019 with six tackles for loss and two sacks. Onwuzurike consistently wins the battle for chest control and violent hands in the run game and has bull rush, swim and rip move as a pass rusher. When the play moves past his positioning, he covers a lot of ground after he disengages.
He is long, heavy-handed and great as a disruptor.
Levi Onwuzurike will toss bodies around.... pic.twitter.com/PwDIOUqcoz— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) August 19, 2019
Onwuzurike has been playing a true nose tackle position in Seattle, Wa., but his size may force him to play more in the A and B gaps or slide out to a 4 or 5 technique position in the SEC. If Durkin and Adams could get him to Oxford, the ability to line him up over the center in a three-man front or slide him toward the guard in a four-man front would be extremely valuable.
Elijah Molden — Cornerback, Washington
Sticking with the reigning Apple Cup champions, Elijah Molden would be a season-defining piece to the puzzle. The 2019 All-Pac-12 First Team cornerback could have gone pro after his junior season, but chose to play his way into a first-round pick as a senior— and he will.
He broke up 17 passes, snagged four interceptions and forced three fumbles last season and has a good shot to win the Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back, if he plays this fall. If he can continue his production in the SEC, it’s a lock.
Molden played the nickel role with the Huskies, and would fill the same role at Ole Miss. He sticks well with the play in run support and is not afraid to step up and take on a bigger block moving downfield or wrap up in the open field. He sees the whole field well in pass coverage, lets routes develop, knows when to jump the ball, and has great hands.
Watch Elijah Molden's eyes diagnose the play. Read-and-react instincts and quickness get him in position to make a play. Crucial INT in the bowl game. Outstanding nose for the football.— AJ Schulte (@AJDraftScout) May 13, 2020
Allowed a 0.0(!) passer rating in the bowl game. pic.twitter.com/zV1AmHQM5P
If there is a single player who would be most valuable in flipping the field as a Rebel, Molden is it.
Paulson Adebo — Cornerback, Stanford
Another player without the luxury of opting out to focus on his draft stock in 2020, Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo followed up a head-turning sophomore campaign with a baseline 2019 season. He missed the final three games of the year, and the Cardinal gave up 118 points and lost all three. It wasn’t a coincidence, as Adebo will change a defense.
He is a smart, quick corner with a 6-foot-1, 192 pound frame and would enter the season as a starter in Durkin’s defense. He is strong enough to play press coverage and step up against the run, fast enough to lock up a deep threat and moves with purpose.
Man, both of these plays from Stanford's Paulson Adebo are special. He's a damn good athlete with great timing/instincts. pic.twitter.com/0H1T8Mfdhi— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) September 1, 2019
Adebo would provide leadership to a young secondary and be the “it” factor to a defense that needs help stopping the nation’s top offensive weapons week-in and week-out.
Amon-Ra St. Brown — Wide receiver, USC
Surely, if Amon-Ra St. Brown is to transfer in the SEC, he will join his former high school teammate and “dynamic duo” quarterback J.T. Daniels at Georgia. However, if Kiffin and Lebby could convince him to join his former U.S. Army All American game teammate Matt Corral in Oxford, it would make for an unstoppable duo of St. Brown and Elijah Moore.
Matt Corral slings one to Amon Ra St. Brown pic.twitter.com/7Rfd4bYxEj— Sam Spiegelman (@samspiegs) January 4, 2018
I won’t dive too much into the 6-foot-1, 195-pound receiver, but his 77 receptions for 1,042 yards and six touchdowns last season proves his worth. Ole Miss’ offense was explosive on the ground in 2019, but adding St. Brown will help make the 2020 air attack a real threat. Even if Plumlee and his inaccuracies are under center, the (soon-to-be former?) Trojan playmaker will make things happen.
Why not Oxford?