The PAC-12 features a number of fine football players. Believe it or not, many of their best happen to play for other teams.
I know, hard to believe.
In today's countdown debate, I'd like to play a little fantasy game that serves no useful purpose but is sure to provide hours of entertainment. No, I'm not talking about Pokemon Go.
What if we could have a free agent draft and select one offensive player from another PAC-12 team? What kind of player would complement what the Huskies are trying to do on offense? Who among those other teams is an OKG with the skill set that could put the Dawgs over the top? If you could pick one, who would it be?
To make this debate a bit more interesting, let's set the bar a little higher with some ground rules. First, let's just assume that other programs would never let their superstars reach the free agent market. Thus, no Christian McCaffreys, Zach Banners, or JuJu Smith-Schusters qualify for this debate. Second, the scope of this discussion needs to be just offensive players who wouldn't be counted on to participate in special teams. Finally, no one-and-dones. Let's keep the discussion focused on players who would give UW at least two seasons.
So, here are the candidates:
WR Jordan Villamin, Oregon State, Junior
Villamin is the kind of big ballhawking receiver that just about any team can use. He's 6'5" and a legit 225 lbs of pure athlete. Somewhat underutilized in an Oregon State offense that struggled with the QB position a year ago, Villamin has been teasing the PAC-12 with his talent for the last two seasons.
There is no need to explain the obvious need that Chris Petersen has in his receiving corps. While receivers with questionable hands can sometimes frustrate fans, it is hard to find talents that have the muscle to fight for jump balls in the red zone while being able to blow the top off the back ends of secondaries. Villamin is that kind of guy.
OL Salesi Uhatafe, Utah, Junior
WANTED: Big, OKG, offensive lineman with significant starting experience and minimum two years of remaining eligibility. PREFERRED: requisite athleticism and a nasty streak comparable to that of a rabid honey badger.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to one of my favorite players in the PAC. Salesi Uhatafe, Jr (called "Leka" by his family and friends) is a 6'5" 315-lb offensive guard with 13 career starts under his belt. He is a rising offensive lineman with great power and impressive athleticism for a man of his size. In a Chris Petersen offense, built on a run-first philosophy and requiring interior lineman to be comfortable getting into space, a talent like Uhatafe is a natural fit.
In addition to his football prowess, Uhatafe is a survivor of a terrible tragedy in which he played a role. Men who can endure things like this often come through it as men with higher levels of motivation, perspective and maturity. Programs like Chris Petersen's, and Kyle Whittingham's, are custom-made for men like him, and he is the perfect fit for them.
RB Gerard Wicks, Washington State, Junior
At 6'0" and 226 lbs, Wicks is the experienced big back that would be a perfect complement to the slashing style of Myles Gaskin. Big backs are tough to come by. A talent like Wicks is a strange fit for a WSU offense that obviously focuses more on pass than the run.
Still, Wicks flashes a number of skills that make him a great fit for a lot of programs. He's got the kind of power and lower body strength that you'd expect a 226-pounder to have and he shows great hands as a receiver. He might run a little too upright for a guy that might be counted on to play a goal-line role and he doesn't have the kind of explosiveness that would be ideal, but he looks to be an effective blocker and his versatility is impressive. In a Chris Petersen offense, Wicks could be an effective replacement for the Dwayne Washington role, even if he doesn't have the same kind of top-end speed.
WR Jordan Villamin
It's gotta be Villamin. UW is one big outside receiver away from being a team with a decent offense to one that can beat you from anywhere on the field. It is no secret that RB depth and OL experience are also issues that UW still must resolve. However, in both cases, there are potential options that could well gain traction in 2016. The receiver group just doesn't have a talent the likes of Villamin anywhere on the roster. He's my guy.