College football season is slowly approaching. With teams getting ready for action, here is a look at five players to watch in the PAC-12.
Pac-12 Players to Watch in 2023
Shadeur Sanders – Quarterback, Colorado
Shadeur Sanders joins the University of Colorado football program after spending two years with the Jackson State Tigers. This move was to be expected after his father, Deion Sanders, was named head coach of the Buffaloes on December 3rd.
Sanders thrived at Jackson State, throwing for 70 touchdowns to go along with nine rushing touchdowns in 24 total games. He is a gifted athlete who is not afraid to take chances with his arm and fight for extra yards on the ground. Sanders received many accolades during his tenure with the Tigers including being named the SWAC Offensive Player of the Year (2022) and the winner of the Jerry Rice Award and Deacon Jones Trophy. The latter award he received as the nation’s top HBCU player.
Sanders, along with his brother Shilo, will look to change the culture in Colorado and revitalize a team that won just one game in 2022.
Craig Woodson – Defensive Back, California
Craig Woodson returns to the fold for the Golden Bears following a solid 2022 campaign. He recorded a career-high 75 tackles to go along with three tackles for loss, five pass deflections, and two interceptions in his first full year of action.
His performance earned him All Pac-12 honors as an honorable mention. Prior to 2022, Woodson saw limited action but made the most of his opportunities. In just eight games from 2019 to 2020, Woodson recorded 19 tackles and two pass deflections.
His speed to go along with his tackling ability and flexibility as a punt returner makes him an intriguing prospect for the Golden Bears. Just two years removed from a serious knee injury, Woodson will play an important role in California’s defense in 2023.
Mario Williams – Wide Receiver, USC
Following the departure of Jordan Addison to the Minnesota Vikings, Mario Williams will look to take on a bigger role with the USC Trojans in 2023. He had a nice season in 2022 for USC with 631 yards and five touchdowns.
At five-foot-nine, Williams does not have great size but he makes up for this with his speed, hand-eye coordination, and route running. Caleb Williams, reigning Heisman Trophy Winner, is expected to continue his dominance this year and this will give (Mario) Williams the opportunity to shine even brighter. Look for Mario Williams to be one of the best wide receivers in the PAC-12 this season.
Joshua Gray – Offensive Tackle, Oregon State
Joshua Gray was one of the unsung heroes of Oregon State in 2022. The team finished 10-3 and he was a big reason why the team was so successful.
Gray started all 13 games, recording a 79.8 PFF grade, which takes into account players’ quality of play. He had a grade of 85.8 in run blocking, which ranked him third in the PAC-12. He possesses good awareness, coordination, and plays with good leverage.
If Gray can improve his strength and balance, he has the potential to be one of the best tackles in all of college football. Look for him to take another step in the right direction this season.
Karene Reid – Linebacker, Utah
Karene Reid’s journey to Utah is one of hard work, grit, and determination. Reid was a walk-on who joined the team in 2021 before receiving a scholarship after the season. In two years with the program, Reid has posted a statline of 117 tackles, six sacks, seven pass deflections, and two interceptions.
He was a force in the run defense, leading a Utah unit that finished with the second-fewest rushing yards allowed per game (111.4). Expectations are high for Utah in 2023 following a 10-4 record and Reid will look to continue his storybook career and anchor the Utes defense.
With just three weeks to go until kickoff, fans can eagerly anticipate the performances of these standout athletes and the overall excitement that the PAC-12 delivers on a yearly basis.
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