- David Lombardi, ESPN Staff Writer
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Pac-12 football media days are happening this Thursday and Friday in Burbank, California, so we'll continue our preview of the event with a look at the teams from the South. Each of these squads will bring their head coach and two players of their choosing. This blog is willing to bet its entire existence that there'll be at least one overarching theme of discussion at the event -- hint: "Is the Pac-12 South better than the SEC West?" -- but since that discussion is inevitable, let's take team-by-team look at some more nuanced angles that may potentially get some run.
The Wildcats are bringing wide receiver David Richards and safety Will Parks to media days, and we already know that the latter is a great player to talk with regarding Arizona's arduous strength and conditioning efforts. He's been hammering away at an intense cross-training regimen that involves boxing and sprints in the 100-degree desert heat, and that's fitting because every bit of mental and physical stamina may come in handy for an Arizona team that doesn't get a bye week in 2015. Due to a scheduling quirk, the only open date in the Wildcats' slate comes on November 28 -- after their regular season finale. Rich Rodriguez obviously isn't thrilled about this, so expect at least a few conversations about Arizona's unique challenge.
Consecutive 10-win seasons and a formidable collection of returning talent make this a big year for expectations in Tempe, so one can be assured that quarterback Mike Bercovici and safety Jordan Simone -- the team's veteran representatives at media days -- will be asked about the team's strong core of experience and its lofty 2015 goals. Arizona State returns nine of 11 starters on the defensive side of the ball, and they've expressed confidence that they can replace big-time weapons like Jaelen Strong with electric, versatile offensive talent. Receiver Devon Lucien's rare intra-division transfer from UCLA should get some attention.
Despite 2014's winless record in conference play, the numbers suggest that Colorado was a significantly improved football team last year, and the construction of their new facilities at Folsom Field has only enhanced the optimistic vibe entering 2015. A gung-ho attitude regarding the fresh season is the one unofficial prerequisite of media days, and we expect the Buffs to bring just that in the lead-up to Mike MacIntyre's third season, which is precisely when he saw a breakthrough in his previous job at San Jose State. Colorado will bring offensive lineman Stephane Nembot and linebacker Kenneth Olugbode to the event.
The Bruins' most pressing on-field issue remains the void that Brett Hundley left at the quarterback position. This is a team that's returning a boatload of talent elsewhere, so there'll be massive pressure on either Josh Rosen or Jerry Neuheisel to fill his shoes and keep a treasure-laden ship afloat. The former seems to be the favorite to win the job, so media days should feature plenty of discussion about how a true freshman might perform at the position that attracts the most glaring spotlight. UCLA will drive center Jake Brendel and defensive back Randall Goforth to the event, which isn't far from their home stadium.
And yes, there'll be at least one question about Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' arrest and subsequent avoidance of a felony charge after a reported incident between him and Bruins' strength coach Sal Alosi at the UCLA's football facility.
Is USC back? That's a question we've heard about a thousand times already this offseason, and we're sure to face more of that discussion later this week. Like the Bruins, the L.A.-based Trojans don't have to come far for this event. Quarterback Cody Kessler and versatile defender Su'a Cravens will drive up the freeway with coach Steve Sarkisian, who'll surely answer questions dealing with the pressure that falls on a traditional power that finds itself in the top five of some preseason rankings. There are also skeptics out there, though, so expect the Trojans to discuss the tall task of replacing Leonard Williams, Nelson Agholor, Buck Allen, and Hayes Pullard.
There seems to be consensus that 2015 is shaping up to be the "year of the running back" in the Pac-12, and Utah may well be at the center of this golden age since they feature stud Devontae Booker at the position. He's coming to media days, and lofty goals like a 2,000-yard season and the Heisman Trophy should make for good discussion points. Linebacker Jared Norris will also make the trip from Salt Lake City, and he's sure to provide insight on the deep Utah defensive line in front of him and the Utes' chances to continue their rugged 2014 success.
An off-field issue should also get attention. Felony robbery charges have been dropped against former Ute cornerback Dominique Hatfield, and coach Kyle Whittingham said that there's a "possibility of future reinstatement" if Hatfield meets "certain expectations" moving forward. Expect some follow-up questions on that offseason saga.
Utah also gets the first, season-opening shot at a former Pac-12 (well, technically Pac-10) coach whose name might ring a bell. Welcome back to college football, Jim Harbaugh. Your name may earn mention in Burbank.