Friday, June 4, 2010
Who's fully stocked in the Pac-10?
By Ted Miller
While reviewing depth charts trying to guess who the Pac-10's most "irreplaceable" players were, I got stuck on Oregon. There are plenty of players the Ducks wouldn't want to replace but there aren't many they couldn't.
Heck, they already lost a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback in Jeremiah Masoli and they are still a Pac-10 favorite and likely will be highly ranked in the preseason polls.
Chip Kelly has depth at all positions on his defense.
Oregon has three question mark positions: receiver, tight end and kicker. The latter might be more pressing because the Ducks looked promising at receiver and tight end this spring.
On defense, the Ducks have capable backups who will see plenty of action this fall on all three levels. Things are particularly good at linebacker and in the secondary. On offense, the line isn't deep but there are six or seven guys whom coaches would be comfortable playing. If running back LaMichael James went down, there's always Kenjon Barner. Even at quarterback, where senior Nate Costa and Darron Thomas are locked in a tight competition, the Ducks wouldn't be crushed to go with either-or.
Who else in the Pac-10 is deep? You'd naturally next look at USC. There are certainly plenty of former prep All-Americans on the roster. And the Trojans look good at quarterback, running back and on the defensive line. But the offensive line struggled during the spring, things are clearly thin at linebacker and the secondary already lacks experience.
If "returning starters" indicates depth, then Washington and Washington State should be OK. That's far more true for the Huskies, who look good at receiver and running back and have competition in the secondary. Still, both the Huskies and Cougars are questionable at many positions if the projected starter goes down. And, obviously, the Cougars' returning starters didn't exactly distinguish themselves last year.
Arizona and Arizona State are opposites (what a shock). The Wildcats look good on offense. They have two quarterbacks who can play and good depth at running back and receiver. Yet the defense can't afford too many hits, particularly at linebacker. The Sun Devils look good on defense, despite losing seven starters, but are questionable on offense, particularly on the line.
California and UCLA both have areas of uncertainty, where there's some experience and potential but things are far from sure. Cal's offensive and defensive lines could be pretty darn good, but it's harder to be confident with the receivers, linebackers and secondary. UCLA can trot out some good players on both sides of the ball, but there's a clear lack of depth on the offensive and defensive lines and at linebacker.
Stanford and Oregon State both look like that can roll out a starting 22 who could play with anyone -- 24 if you include specialists. But neither looks like it could maintain an elite level of play with more than a couple of injuries to starters.
So the verdict here is Oregon is the Pac-10's deepest team.