With defensive backs Patrick Chung and Jairus Byrd gone to the NFL, Thurmond takes over as Oregon's defensive leader. Thurmond's great athletic ability and competitiveness make him a difference-maker in the secondary, but he contributes greatly on special teams as well, where he served as Oregon's primary kick returner in 2008.
2 of 10Peter Read Miller/SI
Rodgers exploded onto the scene in 2008, becoming the first true freshman to win Pac-10 offensive player of the year honors. His true coming out party came in an upset win against USC, in which he rushed for 186 yards and two scores. The 5-foot-7 spark plug darts through gaps with ease and possesses the strength to get the tough yards on short downs.
3 of 10Donald Miralle/Getty Images
The juco transfer set a single-season Ducks record by notching 17 rushing TDs last season. The powerful rusher should see his numbers swell further now that he's the featured back.
4 of 10Stephen Brashear/Icon SMI
Locker's powerful running ability has earned him the moniker "Tim Tebow of the West." He needs to improve his passing accuracy, but his value is indisputable -- the Huskies failed to win a game last season while he was sidelined with injuries.
5 of 10Tommy Whitcomb/Icon SMI
The underrated pass-rusher has notched at least 10 sacks each of the past two seasons. In addition to wreaking havoc from the outside, Davis has been a consistent defensive presence, starting all 38 games of his Sun Devils career.
6 of 10Robert Beck/SI
Masoli entered 2008 as Oregon's fifth-string QB. The dual-threat talent enters 2009 as a Heisman candidate. A capable passer and powerful runner, Masoli excels in Oregon's spread-option attack.
7 of 10Ric Tapia/Icon SMI
Few clog the middle as well as Price, the anchor of UCLA's strong defensive line. He led Pac-10 interior linemen with 14 tackles for loss in 2008 and is exceedingly difficult for opposing linemen to block.
8 of 10Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Gronkowski missed three games last season and still finished with 47 catches for 672 yards and 10 TDs. After averaging a touchdown per every 4.7 catches, the 6-foot-6, 265-pounder will be the focal point of Arizona's offense in 2009. An excellent blocker, he contributes on non-passing downs, too.
9 of 10Simon Bruty/SI
The explosive Best ranked second nationally last season with 187.3 all-purpose yards per game. A threat to go the distance whenever he touches the ball, Best is a legitimate Heisman contender and the kind of gamebreaker opposing defenses must plan around.
10 of 10Robert Beck/SI
Mays doesn't put up eye-popping stats like fellow All-America safety Eric Berry, but he possesses unparalleled speed and delivers bone-jarring hits. His lethal combination of size (6-foot-3, 235 pounds) and quickness (he's been credited with running a sub-4.3 40) make him arguably the most intimidating defensive presence in the game.
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