The cream of the crop

ONLY THREE MAKE this elite list, and that made things especially difficult. When there are so many in a recruiting class who could emerge, when Mike Riley talks about several incoming signees at a position who can excel early, when there are so many so tightly bunched together in terms of skill and development, it's darned near impossible not to expand the field.

But we limited ourselves to only three, as difficult as it was. They're among the more ready to play in the Pac-12, though that doesn't mean they absolutely will. And we put no junior college transfers on this list because although they might have better chances to play immediately, this article is about four years worth of the big picture.

What the players on the list have most is star potential, both at Oregon State and in the Pac-12.

There's a long way between A and Z, and multiple factors along the way will influence their development. But if they do travel along the path we think they will, look out.

WR Brandin Cooks: Any of the class of 2011 wide receivers could be mentioned here instead of Cooks. In the end, however, two things led to Cooks' inclusion. 1) Because of the uncertainty surrounding the return of James Rodgers, Cooks might be a guy the Beavs count on more than most this year. That in turn could lead to a higher jumping off point in 2012. 2) He's a home run threat in a lot of different ways.

Cooks has gamebreaking potential and in three areas by land, air and special delivery. Whether as a receiver, running the fly sweep/reverse or as a return man, in the same way that the Beavs tweaked the offense to maximize Rodgers' impact, the same could eind up being true for Cooks.

Cooks will need to bulk up at 5-11, 165. But there's a reason his nickname at Lincoln High in Stockton, Calif. was "The Human Torch". He caught 66 passes for 1,125 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior and has been clocked with 4.4 speed in the 40.

DE Dylan Wynn: The numbers are against him playing this year – big time. Oregon State took a plethora of defensive-end types, including JC players. But there's still a possibility Wynn will line up on the edge as a true freshman – he's that good. 

A SuperPrep All-American out of storied De La Salle High in Concord, Calif., he's further along physically than many at 6-3, 235 pounds. Brandon Huffman, West Manager, saw a ton of recruits in person this past year and he said no one, no one out West that he saw had a motor like Wynn does. 

Wynn gave offensive linemen fits this season and he's quick enough that some analysts this past year even projected he might play linebacker at the next level. But OSU has been lacking that critical production off the edge since Victor Butler and Slade Norris graduated after the 2008 season. And Wynn might not only be a guy who can step into that role, he might do it as soon as 2010.

OL Darryl Jackson: A mountain of a lineman at 6-6, 334, he's one year removed from high school and has been drawing notice since he arrived in January. He has good feet and he isn't satisfied in just battling to a stalemate against a d-lineman, he wants to put him on his wallet.

There are lots of arguments as to why he won't play as a true freshman -- Offensive linemen just aren't ready enough to play their first year out of high school. Heck, the vast majority of redshirt freshmen aren't quite ready to win the majority of battles at the Pac-10 level. And OSU has four starters returning on the o-line.

But injuries can change things up in a hurry on an o-line. And OSU had four starters return last year, too, and the 2010 o-line was a disappointment in many fans' eyes, (though injuries and guys playing hurt had something to do with that.) Regardless, while Jackson would have to be special to play, there's some evidence to suggest he is. And the bottom line is that if Jackson is ready to play in 2011, he'll get his shot.

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