NCF Nation: Austin Seferian-Jenkins

video
There are those who subscribe to the theory that a coach making the leap from a mid-major conference to one of the big five will need some time to adjust.

Then again, few coaches have the résumé that Chris Petersen brings from Boise State to Washington. Among his accolades: 92 wins, a pair of Fiesta Bowl victories and five conference titles. Oh yeah, he’s also the only two-time winner of the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award.

So if Petersen is fending off any challenges by way of transition, he isn’t letting on.

“The job is exactly the same,” Petersen said. “There hasn’t been one thing that has surprised me. It’s exactly the same. Our recruiting process is the same. When we were recruiting at Boise, we were recruiting against the Pac-12. We were in the same footprint. It was the same battles. All of that is the same. Everybody is regulated by the NCAA on how much time you can lift weights, so it really comes down to implementing your systems and your schemes.”

No question, Petersen has the coaching chops. And Huskies fans are universally proclaiming that they got the better end of the deal when Steve Sarkisian left Washington for USC after five seasons and a 34-29 record.

[+] EnlargeChris Petersen
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenChris Petersen's first spring at Washington involves finding replacements for three of the most important players from the Huskies offense.
“It’s a case of be careful what you wish for,” he said. “But nothing has surprised us. We knew for the most part what we’re getting into.”

So the biggest challenge facing the new Washington skipper isn’t transition, but replacing departed personnel. When Sarkisian left, he didn’t exactly leave a barren cupboard. But a talented trio will be noticeably absent in 2014: three-year starting quarterback Keith Price, 2013 Mackey Award-winning tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Doak Walker-finalist running back Bishop Sankey. All are expected to either be drafted or land on an NFL roster.

“That makes things really tough,” Petersen said. “When you lose a quarterback who has been a three-year starter and was as productive as Keith was, that’s hard. Everything on offense, no matter what style you run, is run through that guy. If he’s successful, your team is going to be successful.

“Bishop Sankey was tremendous. You put that tape on and study him, it’s like, ‘wow.’ He has tremendous vision. We played against him twice and we thought the world of him.”

Petersen has already had to deal with a little adversity when one of the quarterbacks vying to replace Price was suspended indefinitely. Cyler Miles, along with wide receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow, remain suspended after allegedly assaulting a Seahawks fan after the Super Bowl last month. Obviously, Petersen doesn’t ever want to have to deal with discipline issues. On the flip side, he has an opportunity early in his tenure to establish himself as a no-nonsense disciplinarian, which he’s done.

Now it’s a matter of filling holes -- knowing full well that most of them probably won’t be filled during the spring session.

“Aside from getting your systems in place, so much of it comes down to how much talent you have,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to. So much of this is just recruiting and how much talent you have.”

That and an awareness that he isn’t going to have any easy weeks in the Pac-12. For a while, the Mountain West was considered the strongest of the non-AQ conferences. But even in its heyday, there were always weak sisters. That's not the case in the Pac-12 -- especially in the top-heavy North Division.

“I’ve known about the Pac-12 forever,” Petersen said. “I think it’s extremely competitive conference. The parity from top to bottom is as good as it’s ever been. The coaches are fabulous. It’s as good as any in the country. I thought that before I got here, and now it’s confirmed.”

Expectations are high for Petersen and his staff. While Sarkisian did a fine job turning an 0-12 program into a consistent winner with four straight bowl appearances, the Huskies never ascended to the upper echelon of the league in his tenure.

Petersen brings a big name and track record of success matched by few. Now he has to get the Huskies to buy into what he’s selling.

“The culture is changing. And how quickly those guys buy in is the bottom line,” Petersen said. “It can be tough for the older guys who have been here for four or five years and are used to doing things a different way. We have to get everyone moving and believing in what we do as quickly as possible."
video
Earlier this morning, we took a look at who might replace the guys who jumped to the NFL in the South Division. Here’s a look at the North.

Leaving: Brendan Bigelow, RB, Cal

The replacement: Khalfani Muhammad and Daniel Lasco are both coming back, so there is at least some experience at the position. Jeffrey Coprich and Darren Ervin could also see some time. Incoming freshman Devante Downs is built more like a fullback but could also see some carries in the running game.

Leaving: Richard Rodgers, WR, Cal

The replacement: Stephen Anderson is a possibility to emerge at inside receiver. Darius Powe is going to see action regardless of whether it’s inside or outside and Raymond Hudson, Jacob Wark, and Drake Whitehurst are all possibilities.

Leaving: Khairi Fortt, LB, Cal

The replacement: Nathan Broussard is coming off an injury and Raymond Davison and Jason Gibson are moving back to linebacker from safety. Juco transfers Sam Atoe and Jonathon Johnson could help. Also, Downs (see the Bigelow section) comes in as an athlete, and putting him on the defensive side of the ball is a possibility.

Leaving: Kameron Jackson, CB, Cal

The replacement: Darius Allensworth and Trey Cheek will get the most looks. Cedric Dozier saw some starting time last season. He’s not a lock but has some experience. Isaac Lapite, Adrian Lee and Joel Willis are also possibilities. Stefan McClure should also be back from his 2013 injury, and Cameron Walker, who was playing out of position at safety, might move back to corner.

Leaving: Viliami Moala, DT, Cal

The replacement: Jacobi Hunter should be the main guy, but transfers Trevor Kelly and Marcus Manley should help out across the line. Austin Clark is still waiting to hear about his sixth year of eligibility, but if he gets it, he and Mustafa Jalil could shuffle up and down the line as they look to replace the graduated Deandre Coleman as well.

Leaving: Chris McCain, DE, Cal (Previously dismissed from team)

The replacement: Kyle Kragen and Puka Lopa were the top two guys to replace McCain after he left. Brennan Scarlett is also expected back and Johnson could be in the mix. The coaching staff seems to be really high on him.

[+] EnlargeDe'Anthony Thomas
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesDe'Anthony Thomas' unique set of skills will be hard for Oregon to replicate.
Leaving: De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon

The replacement: Unless Oregon is hiding another multitalented back who can run like DAT, there is no "real" replacement. Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner should continue to get the work as the primary 1-2 punch, but it will be interesting to see if the Ducks use either in a more dynamic way like they did Thomas.

Leaving: Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon (Left the team earlier in the season).

The replacement: Pharaoh Brown, Evan Baylis and John Mundt will all continue to get work, probably in that order. They all pitched in in some capacity after Lyerla left the team, so the Ducks should be in good shape at the position.

Leaving: Terrance Mitchell, CB, Oregon

The replacement: That Ifo Ekpre-Olomu opted to return bodes well for the Ducks. Troy Hill would have been the obvious selection, but he remains suspended indefinitely, and his future with the program is in question. Dior Mathis has experience and the coaching staff is high on redshirt freshman Chris Seisay. Juco transfer Dominique Harrison enrolled early and will participate in spring ball, so there are options.

Leaving: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

The replacement: Much like USC’s dilemma with Marqise Lee, The Beavers' task of replacing a Biletnikoff winner is no easy one. Victor Bolden is the logical choice. He returned kicks, ran a few fly sweeps and was Cooks’ immediate backup. But a big wide receiver class last year that included Bolden, Hunter Jarmon and Walter Jones could make things more interesting in the spring.

Leaving: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State

The replacement: Lavonte Barnett was the backup all season but didn’t have much production. Jaswha James has bounced around a bit -- mostly at linebacker -- but has finally settled at DE and had a nice bowl performance. Titus Failauga is also a possibility as Mike Riley went out of his way to specifically mention him during a recent teleconference. There are also rumblings that Obum Gwacham -- a talented athlete who hasn’t worked out at wide receiver -- could move to defensive end.

Leaving: David Yankey, OL, Stanford

[+] EnlargeDavid Yankey
AP Photo/Ben LiebenbergStanford has a lot of offensive linemen with experience, but replacing an All-American such as David Yankey is never easy.
The replacement: A member of Stanford’s lauded offensive line recruiting class of 2012, Joshua Garnett has already seen his share of playing time. That’s one of the big advantages of being an offensive lineman at Stanford. With their multiple offensive-linemen sets, there is plenty of rotation. Then again, Yankey was a two-time All-American -- it's tough to replace that.

Leaving: Cameron Fleming, OL, Stanford

The replacement: Like Garnett, Kyle Murphy was part of the ’12 class and has also seen his share of action on the offensive line. The Cardinal are replacing four offensive linemen, but most of those replacements -- such as Garnett and Murphy -- already have some playing experience.

Leaving: Ed Reynolds, FS, Stanford

The replacement: Good question. All of Stanford’s free safeties are gone, while returning strong safeties include Jordan Richards and Zach Hoffpauir. Someone could make a switch, or it’s possible that former quarterback Dallas Lloyd, who is now making the transition to safety, could play here.

Leaving: Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington

The replacement: Jesse Callier started the 2012 season, but a season-ending injury gave rise to Sankey. Dwayne Washington seems like he could be an every down-type back, while Callier excels in third-down situations or as a changeup back. Deontae Cooper will also see carries.

Leaving: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington

The replacement: Joshua Perkins was the No. 2 all season, so there’s little reason to think he won’t graduate to No. 1. He’s more receiver than blocker, but he’s got talent and shouldn’t have a problem assuming the role of the outgoing Mackey winner.

Early entry talent drain for Pac-12

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
12:30
PM ET

While the return of UCLA QB Brett Hundley for his redshirt junior season was the weekend's big news, an early-entry to the NFL draft talent drain is hitting the Pac-12 hard.

While a number of big-name players have not yet formally announced their intensions -- such as Arizona RB Ka'Deem Carey, Stanford OG David Yankey, Oregon CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Arizona State LB Carl Bradford and Oregon State QB Sean Mannion -- already 17 players have announced they will give up their remaining eligibility to turn professional.

The deadline to declare is Jan. 15.

There has been good news at quarterback. Hundley joins Oregon's Marcus Mariota as pretty significant surprises that they opted to return to school, and that means the 2014 class of Pac-12 quarterbacks will be without peer in the nation by a wide margin.

Here's the early-entry list so far:

Dion Bailey, LB, USC
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
George Uko, DT, USC
Marcus Martin, C, USC
Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon
Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon*
Terrance Mitchell, CB, Oregon
Khairi Fortt, LB, California
Kameron Jackson, CB, California
Richard Rodgers, TE California
Jake Murphy, TE, Utah

*Lyerla was kicked off the team at Oregon in October.

Big Ten predictions: Week 3

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
9:00
AM ET
After two relatively easy weeks of picking games, the challenge gets much tougher with a delicious slate of Week 3 games. Last week, our picks mirrored one another. There will be some disagreements this time around.

Let's dive in ...

BOWLING GREEN at INDIANA

Brian Bennett: Bowling Green has looked terrific in its first two games, while Indiana's defense was all but absent last week versus Navy. Different styles, but I think the Falcons seize on the Hoosiers' weaknesses. They kick a field goal late for my not-very-special upset special. ... Bowling Green 37, Indiana 34

Adam Rittenberg: I had Indiana beating Navy and losing this game entering the season, so naturally, I'm picking the Hoosiers to win after falling to Navy. The defense bounces back a little against a more conventional offense, and Nate Sudfeld consistently attacks downfield to Kofi Hughes and Shane Wynn. Sudfeld rallies IU in the fourth quarter and finds Ted Bolser for the game-winning touchdown. ... Indiana 38, Bowling Green 35

WESTERN ILLINOIS at MINNESOTA

Rittenberg: Can you wake me when Minnesota finally starts playing someone? Quarterback Philip Nelson adds two more rushing scores as the Gophers pull away early in the third quarter following a Ra'Shede Hageman forced fumble. Then we can look ahead to San Jose State. ... Minnesota 37, Western Illinois 17

Bennett: There's not much interesting about this game, except that we get to throw around the word "Leathernecks." It's a good week to get Mitch Leidner some experience. ... Minnesota 35, Western Illinois 13


UCLA at NEBRASKA

Bennett: I've gone back and forth on this all week, but in the end I worry that Nebraska's home-field advantage won't be enough to overcome its youth on defense. Brett Hundley amasses five total touchdowns, and the Huskers come up just short on their final drive. ... UCLA 38, Nebraska 34

Rittenberg: Nebraska's defense remains a big concern, especially against Hundley, but with no Johnathan Franklin, the early kickoff and a long trip, I expect UCLA to be a big sluggish. Martinez delivers a turnover-free performance in a big game and finds Quincy Enunwa for the game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute. ... Nebraska 35, UCLA 34

AKRON at MICHIGAN

Rittenberg: UCF's Blake Bortles abused Akron for big plays in Week 1. Devin Gardner, eat your heart out. The Gardner-Gallon connection cranks up again as Jeremy Gallon hauls in two more touchdowns. Fitzgerald Toussaint goes for 120 rush yards and a score as Michigan rolls. ... Michigan 45, Akron 17

Brian Bennett: Akron has won four games since the end of the 2009 season. Notre Dame hangover? Maybe, but it won't matter one bit. ... Michigan 48, Akron 10


YOUNGSTOWN STATE at MICHIGAN STATE

Bennett: Is Jim Tressel back coaching Youngstown State? Maybe then the Penguins would have a chance. The Spartans play Connor Cook and Damion Terry and get only two touchdown drives out of both of them. But the defense scores again. ... Michigan State 27, Youngstown State 3

Rittenberg: I'm tempted to go with the Penguins since Michigan State's offense is ice cold (be sure to tip your waitress). This will be close for three quarters, but Michigan State's Terry steps up late with a touchdown pass and a touchdown run (yes, two offensive touchdowns). Sadly, no touchdown for Bane this week. ... Michigan State 24, Youngstown State 10

IOWA at IOWA STATE

Rittenberg: Do I have to pick a winner here? Iowa took a step back last week in many ways, although the power run stepped up when the team needed a lift. This will be a sloppy game on both sides, but Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock, along with the offensive line, prove to be the difference in the fourth quarter. ... Iowa 19, Iowa State 17

Bennett: Kirk Ferentz really needs this game. Then again, so does Paul Rhoads after losing to Northern Iowa in the opener. I don't expect many fireworks, either, but the Cyclones are just a little more desperate and have the momentum in this series. They win it on an overtime field goal. ... Iowa State 16, Iowa 13

UCF at PENN STATE

Bennett: UCF is a trendy sleeper pick and has an experienced quarterback. But Penn State's defense is a major step up from Conference USA/American Athletic competition. It's close for a half, but Christian Hackenberg gets going in the third quarter with a pair of touchdown tosses to Allen Robinson, and Bill O'Brien tops George O'Leary. ... Penn State 27, UCF 17


Rittenberg: Tricky game for Bill O'Brien's crew, but I expect Penn State's defense to do enough against Blake Bortles and a talented UCF offense. UCF jumps out to an early lead, but Zach Zwinak and Akeel Lynch spark Penn State's rushing attack in the second half, each scoring a touchdown as the Lions prevail. ... Penn State 34, UCF 27

WASHINGTON vs. ILLINOIS (at Chicago)

Rittenberg: Washington is the more talented and experienced team, and a lot needs to go right for the Illini to pull off the upset. I see another fast start for Illinois against a Huskies team that struggles on the road and might be a little sleepy following a bye week. Nathan Scheelhaase throws two more touchdown passes, but Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins proves to be the difference with 120 receiving yards and a score. ... Washington 31, Illinois 21

Bennett: I'd like to pick the Illini here because it would be a great story. They certainly proved me wrong last week in a big way. I still think Washington is just a little too talented, though. Keith Price throws four touchdown passes, making him the best quarterback Soldier Field has seen in a while. (That one's for you, Adam.) ... Washington 37, Illinois 23


OHIO STATE at CALIFORNIA

Bennett: Cal played Northwestern pretty tough and then ... almost lost to Portland State? Inconsistency should be expected, I guess, with a freshman QB and a new coach. There are going to be a whole lot of big plays in this one, and I suspect Kenny Guiton will see the majority of the action. Big coming-out party for Dontre Wilson here. ... Ohio State 49, Cal 28


Rittenberg: Cal provides a nice test for Ohio State's young defense, but the presence of cornerback Bradley Roby should help hold one of the Bears' standout wide receivers (Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs) in check. Ohio State has too much at the line of scrimmage and will use its ground game of Jordan Hall, Rod Smith and Wilson to outlast the Bears. ... Ohio State 38, Cal 27

NOTRE DAME at PURDUE

Rittenberg: The Boilers have shown me nothing to suggest they can knock off a team like Notre Dame, which is pretty darn good despite last week's loss in Ann Arbor, Mich. Purdue starts strong but can't finish two early drives. The Irish then take over with their rushing attack, led by Amir Carlisle, and force two second-half takeaways. ... Notre Dame 38, Purdue 17

Bennett: Circle the wagons, Purdue. It's going to be a long couple months. ... Notre Dame 35, Purdue 7


WESTERN MICHIGAN at NORTHWESTERN

Bennett: Western Michigan just lost to Nicholls State. OK, then. Northwestern might not be quite as sharp after two big games, but it won't need to be. Kain Colter rushes for 100 yards and a pair of scores, and he and Trevor Siemian both get an early rest. ... Northwestern 38, Western Michigan 10


Rittenberg: Previous Northwestern teams might be ripe for a letdown, but not the 2013 squad. Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian deliver another strong performance, combining for five touchdowns (three pass, two rush), including two scoring passes to Christian Jones. The defense forces two more turnovers as the Wildcats cruse. ... Northwestern 41, Western Michigan 17

WISCONSIN at ARIZONA STATE

Rittenberg: I just don't like the matchup for the Badgers, even though they've been so impressive early on. Arizona State's strength (pass game) goes up against Wisconsin's weakness (secondary), and although the Badgers control the clock with their run game, the Sun Devils hit in too many big plays. Too much Taylor Kelly in this one. ... Arizona State 35, Wisconsin 28

Bennett: I think big Will Sutton will be a shock to the system to Wisconsin offensive linemen used to dealing with the UMass and Tennessee Tech lines of the world. The secondary also gets burned a few too many times. Joel Stave throws two interceptions to thwart a comeback attempt, and Big Ten teams stay thirsty in the desert. ... Arizona State 28, Wisconsin 20.


Wait, we're not done yet. It's time for our guest picker of the week. Oh, you haven't heard? Throughout the season, we'll choose one fan/loyal blog reader each week to try his or her hand at outsmarting us. There's nothing but pride and some extremely limited fame at stake. If you're interested in participating, contact us here and here. Include your full name (real names, please) and hometown and a brief description why you should be that week's guest picker. Please also include "GUEST PICKS" in all caps somewhere in your email so we can find it easily.

We found this week's picker in the desert: Adam Fraser from Gilbert, Ariz.

The floor is yours:
I'm a lifelong Husker fan living in Arizona. I'm a season-ticket holder and couldn't make it back for the UCLA game. I just started a new career at Prudential and my boss played football for UCLA. I've followed your blog for years and constantly smash your predictions. Let me put it on record at least one week, the Huskers biggest week of the year!! Thanks Adam (do it for your fellow Adam).

Other Adam's picks ...

Bowling Green 42, Indiana 40
Minnesota 30, Western Illinois 20
Nebraska 41, UCLA 37
Michigan 45, Akron 6
Michigan State 20, Youngstown State 13
Iowa 20, Iowa State 16
Penn State 24, UCF 13
Washington 31, Illinois 30
Ohio State 30, California 28
Notre Dame 38, Purdue 14
Northwestern 48, Western Michigan 10
Arizona State 34, Wisconsin 20

SEASON RECORDS


Brian Bennett: 22-2
Adam Rittenberg: 21-3
Guest pickers: 18-6

Mature Huskies head to Illinois

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
12:04
PM ET
Washington made a strong statement with its season-opening win over Boise State. The Huskies dominated a ranked team on both sides of the ball in a 38-6 victory, and that's why they vaulted to No. 19 in the AP poll.

Steve Sarkisian
AP Photo/Tom HauckAfter an impressive win against Boise State, Steve Sarkisian's Huskies can take another step forward with a victory against Illinois in Chicago on Saturday.
Yet, one game does not make a season, and a faceplant against Illinois on Saturday at Solider Field could be all the more damning. Everyone saw what the Huskies can do when they play well, so a bar of high expectations has been set. Crashing into that bar now would feel like a major underachievement, a failure of focus and mental toughness.

And Huskies coaches, players and fans are well-aware of their team's struggles on the road. They are 3-10 away from Seattle over the past two seasons so a visit to a Central Time Zone to take on a better-than-expected Illini team, which is 2-0 after whipping Cincinnati, presents another test for a program trying to take a step forward after three consecutive 7-6 seasons.

Coach Steve Sarkisian thinks he's found a cure for the road woes and inconsistency of his program: Maturity. He's repeatedly said he believes this is his best team since he took over the Huskies in 2009. That's based on talent, but growing up is also a part of it.

"As much or more than anything, our football team has really matured over the last few years," Sarkisian said. "This is as mature as we’ve been since I’ve been here."

That maturity revealed itself against Boise State, but it also is about the practice and preparation. That needs to be consistent with every opponent, and the Illini will present challenges, particularly to the Huskies' defense.

Illinois senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has been lights out thus far working under new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, who was fired last year after coaching at Western Michigan for eight seasons. Scheelhaase has passed for 728 yards in two games, with six touchdowns and just one interception. He's completing 74 percent of his throws with a sturdy 10.6 yards per attempt.

Sarkisian called the Illini offense "dynamic," and noted that six different players have produced plays of 30 or more yards.

"We have to try to find a way to affect the quarterback, whether it’s via pass rush or disguising our coverages," Sarkisian said. "Because when he gets comfortable, they’re really hard to stop."

As for the Huskies' offense, it's hoping to get the same results from quarterback Keith Price, who was dynamic himself against Boise State, overcoming an early interception to throw for 324 yards and two touchdowns. Price also gets a key weapon back as All-American tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins will play at Illinois after being suspended from the Boise State game due to a spring DUI.

The Huskies looked deep at receiver against the Broncos, but Seferian-Jenkins offers a big target who should be particularly valuable in the red zone.

“Austin’s obviously a very talented player," Sarkisian said. "He’s a weapon for us in the passing game and the running game. He’ll have a significant role in the game plan to catch the ball, whether it’s short, intermediate or long."

While the Illinois offense has put up impressive big numbers, its defense also has, but not in a good way. It's yielded 431 yards per game. Southern Illinois scored 34 points against the Illini in the season-opener.

A mature, nationally-ranked team goes into Chicago and takes care of business decisively. That's the next test for the Huskies as they try to take another step forward in the Pac-12 and national pecking order.

What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 2

September, 5, 2013
9/05/13
9:01
AM ET
A few storylines to keep an eye on in Week 2.

    1. Heavy favorites: The Pac-12 is favored in all eight of its nonconference games this week. In fact, the league is favored by at least 10 points in every game and by at least 20 points in six of the eight. It should be a strong week for the conference. Should being the operative word.

 

  • League play kicks off: The ninth game this week features the first conference showdown of the season with Washington State traveling to USC. The Cougs are coming off a tough loss at Auburn, where Connor Halliday completed 35 of 65 passes for 344 yards and a touchdown. Cody Kessler is expected to start for the Trojans, but Max Wittek likely will see time again. USC’s defense had four interceptions and seven sacks in its Week 1 win over Hawaii. WSU's last win at USC was in 2000.
  • Debuts: After spending last Saturday lounging around and watching football, Arizona State coach Todd Graham and Stanford coach David Shaw have to get back to work. The Sun Devils open the season on the cusp of the Top 25 and host Sacramento State on Thursday night. Stanford hosts San Jose State in the Bill Walsh Legacy Game. The Cardinal opened the season ranked No. 4 but got bumped down to No. 5 for their Week 1 laziness.
  • Off and running: The Pac-12 had seven players rush for at least 100 yards in Week 1, headlined by Washington’s Bishop Sankey. He and the Huskies are off this week prepping for their game against Illinois on Sept. 14. Three of those seven came from Oregon -- a school record with De’Anthony Thomas, Byron Marshall and Marcus Mariota all eclipsing 100 yards. The other 100-yard rushers were Jordon James (UCLA, which is off this week), Daniel Jenkins (Arizona) and Tre Madden (USC).
  • 2-oh? Colorado snapped an eight-game losing streak last week with its win over Colorado State. The Buffs host Central Arkansas on Saturday with a chance to start 2-0 for the first time since 2008.
  • Crazy eights: Stanford and San Jose State are both riding eight-game winning streaks dating back to last season. That’s the first time in all of the years the schools have played that both have enjoyed simultaneous streaks.
  • Dominating the MWC: The Pac-12 went 5-0 against the Mountain West last week with Utah (Utah State), Colorado (Colorado State), USC (Hawaii), Washington (Boise State) and UCLA (Nevada) all scoring victories. The Pac-12 has three more games against the Mountain West this week with Arizona traveling to UNLV, Hawaii visiting Oregon State and San Jose State at Stanford. It was a rough opening weekend for the West Coast’s little brother league, which went just 3-9.
  • Road warriors: No. 2 Oregon goes on the road for the first time this season and is riding the nation’s best winning streak away from home. The Ducks have won 15 straight road games. Alabama and Northern Illinois are tied for second with nine. Oregon’s last road loss was at Stanford in 2009.
  • Strong debuts: The three new coaches in the Pac-12 went 2-1 in their season openers. Mark Helfrich (Oregon) rolled over Nicholls State (no shocker there). Mike MacIntyre led Colorado to an emotional win over an in-state rival in Colorado State, and Sonny Dykes’ California team put up a gritty effort in defeat against Northwestern.
  • Suspensions lifted: After being suspended for Week 1, Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey, the nation’s leading rusher last season, will make his debut against UNLV. Daniel Jenkins filled in quite nicely, rushing for 139 yards on 12 carries, including a 91-yard touchdown run. Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who was also suspended for Week 1, is expected to be on the field when the Huskies return to action next week. Cal linebacker Chris McCain had his suspension rescinded after he was ejected per the NCAA’s new targeting rule and will play against Portland State.

 
Washington had a singular, overriding goal entering the opening weekend of the season: Win. Beat Boise State. Walk out of renovated Husky Stadium at 1-0.

So mission accomplished.

But 1-0 is not all the Huskies got out of that 38-6 victory.

For one, there's winning and then there's delivering the sort of whipping that really good teams do to pretty good teams to make a national statement. We don't know yet how good the Broncos are, but the Huskies stomped the nation's No. 19 team like you'd expect, say, LSU to take care of business. The Huskies recorded plenty of style points on both sides of the ball.

Keith Price
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenThe season opener against Boise State was more than just a victory for Keith Price and Washington.
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins also sat out because he was suspended for an offseason DUI. Winning the way the Huskies did without him is a positive on several levels. First, it shows that the offense can roll up nearly 600 yards without the nation's best tight end. That speaks to the number of weapons the Huskies offense has. The biggest revelation in the game might have been the depth and talent of the Huskies receivers even after Kasen Williams.

Further, and beyond Xs and Os, coach Steve Sarkisian was able to score a point for his discipline. There was plenty of thinking that ASJ would play -- Kevin and I have debated it for weeks, with me predicting he would play (and, as Kevin quickly pointed out via text, me being wrong, wrong, wrong). That means no media snark putting an asterisk on the win for a lack of accountability.

And, in a more Machiavellian coaching sense, let's not forgot that ASJ gets to rest his surgically repaired pinkie for two more weeks before going to Chicago to play Illinois, as the Huskies are off this week. That, quietly, is a big deal.

This off week also feels fortuitous.

A lot was put into this game by the Huskies. Even though Sarkisian and his players relentlessly beat the drum of "it's just one game," the reason they relentlessly beat that drum is because few saw it that way. This game was a grand opening of not only a stadium, it also was the "hello world" moment for what Sarkisian has repeatedly described as his best team. A face plant would have substantially lowered Sark and the program's Q-rating. It also, by the way, would have devalued whatever the Huskies might have accomplished thereafter -- taking the perception of the Pac-12 down with it -- because a loss to a non-AQ team has a lingering transitive effect that's hard to shake.

What does that mean? Well, did you ever bring up Georgia's loss to Boise State to open 2011 as a way to diminish the SEC? But of course we, er, you did.

So the off week means the Huskies can enjoy the game tape, put ice on some bumps and bruises and not worry about the proverbial "let-down game" a week later. They get extra time to get ASJ back into the swing of things. They get extra time to refocus.

The eventual quality of their refocusing is the next test. The Huskies take on a struggling Illinois team -- the Illini barely slipped by Southern Illinois on Saturday -- at Soldier Field on Sept. 14. While the Huskies get extra time to rest and game-plan this weekend, Illinois will have its hands full with a tough Cincinnati squad on Saturday.

Still, Washington has not been good on the road of late. They are 3-8 the past two seasons away from Seattle, and among those defeats are plenty of flat performances. If Washington approaches the efficiency and focus it showed in the win over Boise State, it rolls by two or more touchdowns. But if it just goes through the motions and gets upset, the entire positive narrative of the Boise State victory could reverse course in an equally negative way.

Part of the challenge of being a good college football team is being good every week. It's about not settling. It's not about pining for eight wins. Heck, it's not really about victory totals and postseason rewards.

It's about an obsessive focus on every moment of preparation and game-day execution. It's about "winning the day," but we won't type that because the phrase has been taken.

Washington showed everyone Saturday what it can be this fall. The performance produced credible grounds for optimism. But it also raised a bar over which the Huskies now must consistently leap over. Or end up wondering what might have been. Again.

3-point stance: First impressions

September, 2, 2013
9/02/13
5:00
AM ET
Three-Point Stance, It’s Only One Game, But … Edition

1. … Washington backed up the confidence that head coach Steve Sarkisian placed in a team that has been 7-6 for the last three years. The Huskies moved back into their home after a $280-million renovation and looked as if they couldn’t have been more comfortable. The 38-6 victory over Boise State, the Broncos’ first loss by more than six points in six years, is evidence enough. But the 592 yards of offense without suspended preseason All-American tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a sign that the Pac-12 North may be the best division in the FBS.

2. … the union of LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger appears to be a success. Mettenberger completed 16-of-32 passes for 251 yards and a touchdown, nearly doubling his raw QBR of a year ago (74.6/3did 9.3). Moreover, Mettenberger put up those numbers against TCU, year in and year out one of the toughest defensive teams in the nation. Mettenberger made big, precise throws, putting them in places where defenders couldn’t reach them. That’s what NFL quarterbacks do.

3. … Oklahoma may be out of its long defensive slump. The team that allowed at least 34 points in four of its last five games whitewashed Louisiana-Monroe, 34-0. That’s the Sooners’ first shutout in three seasons, and came against a team that went 8-5 last season and has eight returning offensive starters, including four-year starting quarterback Kolton Browning. The Sooners allowed 166 total yards and only 2-of-16 third-down conversions. In other words, they looked like a Bob Stoops team.

Washington needs Price to shine

August, 31, 2013
8/31/13
9:15
PM ET
SEATTLE -- The day is postcard perfect. Renovated Husky Stadium is spectacular. Now, what about the team that will call it home?

No. 19 Boise State isn't a team that gets intimidated by the big-time atmosphere in an AQ conference team's stadium, fancypants remodel or not. In fact, the Broncos thrive on encountering that very thing. The Huskies could have scheduled a patsy for their stadium opening, but they opted to challenge themselves. The payoff for a win could be substantial, starting with a national ranking. And a loss could have the same effect, only in a negative sense.

Keith Price
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/USA TODAY SportsIf Washington is going to topple Boise State on Saturday night, Keith Price will have to be his 2011 self.
There should be some familiarity considering that Boise State beat the Huskies 28-26 in the Las Vegas Bowl last December, a back-and-forth affair that saw the Huskies fall behind early, mount a massive comeback to take the lead, then fold in the waning moments.

That familiarity will be more for Boise State, though. The Broncos only have 10 starters returning from last year's 11-2 team. The Huskies have 20 from a 7-6 squad that ended the season with a dreary two-game losing streak.

Of course, one of those returning starters, All-American tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins -- the Huskies' best player -- won't play. He's been suspended due to an offseason DUI. That means quarterback Keith Price will be missing one of his most dangerous and reliable weapons.

Price may be where this game turns. If he's the efficient playmaker he was in 2011, the Huskies should be in good shape. If he's the guy who was inconsistent and turnover prone in 2012, they probably will struggle against a team that knows how to take advantage of bumbling AQ conference teams -- see a list of victims that includes powers such as Oklahoma, Georgia and Oregon, to name only a few.

Price's counterpart, Joe Southwick, is a second-year starter who played well over the latter third of the 2012 season. He doesn't, however, have a lot of experience playing in the sort of atmosphere he'll face tonight. The Broncos lost 17-13 at Michigan State to open their 2012 season with Southwick behind center for his first start, but that's his only experience in front of 70,000-plus fans.

So, in the end, Husky Stadium itself might have a role to play. With a hopeful and re-energized fan base packing the stands like the old days, this venue could again become one of the nation's loudest. The removal of the track that formally surrounded the field has moved the stands closer to the action, so the acoustics should be even better for making an opposing offense incapable of communcation.

Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian has tried to emphasize that one game doesn't a season make, win or lose. But Washington fans are impatient after three consecutive seven-win seasons. They want more, such as national rankings and Pac-12 titles.

Beating Boise State would be a big first step toward national relevance. And a loss would be a step in the opposite direction.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian likes his team's maturity. He likes its depth. He's appreciative it emerged from preseason camp mostly healthy. He's pleased with the focus and willingness to work. And he really likes the spectacular remodel of Husky Stadium.

[+] EnlargeSteve Sarkisian
James Snook/US PresswireSteve Sarkisian and Washington hope to improve on a string of 7-6 seasons.
Sarkisian sees plenty of positives as he enters his fifth season at Washington, including 20 returning starters, a number that doesn't include a handful of former starters who missed the 2012 season due to injuries who are back on the 2013 depth chart.

Don't think Sarkisian isn't aware, however, of the "but" coming, the qualifier, the pause that allows skepticism to walk into the room to confront this optimism. The last three times his team was 0-0 in August, it finished 7-6 in December. This is a program with a dedicated fan base that can recall a time when three consecutive seasons capped by no final game in January was seen as a worrisome downturn.

Of course, part of the problem is that portion of the Huskies dedicated fan base needs to be at least in its mid-to-late 30s to recall the golden age under Don James.

So the excitement of No. 19 Boise State coming to Seattle to open Husky Stadium on Saturday is accompanied by a sense of full-on urgency for Sarkisian and his team. It's time to be relevant again, both in the Pac-12 and nationally. It's time to eyeball Rose Bowls, not just bowl eligibility.

Simply: If not now, then when?

"What's really going to make this place special is how we play, the product we put on the field. Our guys understand that," Sarkisian said.

Sarkisian says his players are eager to prove this is the team; this is the year.

No Husky is more eager to move on to a new season than quarterback Keith Price. He lets out a big laugh when a reporter jokes that both of them are surely pleased that Boise State's arrival means no more talk about 2012. It's now time.

[+] EnlargeKeith Price
Steven Bisig/US PresswireKeith Price will need to make plays for Washington to compete against Boise State on Saturday.
"We understand that seven-win seasons are no longer acceptable," he said. "We're up for the challenge."

The Huskies know the Broncos will offer a challenge for a number of reasons, not the least of which is their having lost to them in last year's Las Vegas Bowl on a last-second field goal. In that game, the Huskies fell behind 18-3, rallied to take a fourth quarter lead but then yielded a 47-yard kickoff return and short drive for the winning kick.

It was emblematic of the season -- slow start, a positive swing in momentum but then an ultimate flop. The Huskies were floundering at 3-4 at the 2012 midpoint but then won four consecutive games as the schedule softened. With the Apple Cup against struggling Washington State and a bowl game ahead, they seemed poised for a potential six-game winning streak to close a nine-win season.

Instead, they epically collapsed in the Apple Cup -- surrendering an 18-point fourth-quarter lead to lose in overtime -- and then fell to Boise State.

You might have heard all this before, but -- apologies -- it's the prevailing narrative until the Huskies change that. Which is where Boise State comes in.

Sarkisian is as aware as anyone that putting too much on this game -- one way or the other -- could damage the season. Beating Boise State likely would push the Huskies into the national rankings, but they will only stay there by continuing to win when Pac-12 play begins. Conversely, allowing a loss to linger could prove catastrophic to the season. The latter could congeal random hotseat chatter into something legitimate for Sarkisian, even though he took over a program after it went 0-12 in 2008.

Another plot twist: The uncertain status of preseason All-American tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He's not been cleared to play due to an injury to his pinkie, Sarkisian said, but the real issue is whether he will face any type of suspension after a spring DUI. Sark isn't saying, giving a reporter seeking clarity a, "Come on dude," during a Monday news conference. If Seferian-Jenkins is out, Price loses a big target, particularly in the red zone.

Price is probably where this game turns. It's likely that Boise State, after giving up 205 yards rushing to Bishop Sankey in the bowl game, is going to gang up on the run and try to force Price to make plays. He'll have a much healthier and seasoned offensive line in front of him, and he's seemed to be back to his old playmaking ways after strong performances in spring practices and fall camp.

Meanwhile, the Huskies defense took big strides last year and seems poised to do so again in year two under coordinator Justin Wilcox. Not only are eight starters back, but Hau'oli Kikaha -- who was brilliant as a true freshman in 2010 when his last name was Jamora -- has won the starting nod at one defensive end, displacing Andrew Hudson, who had 6.5 sacks last year.

"Man, I think he’s better than ever, quite honestly," Sarkisian said. "He is flying around all over the field. You really notice him in practice. He’s creating turnovers, he’s moving all over the field at different positions for us."

Of course, the Broncos have starting QB Joe Southwick back. He was highly efficient over the latter part of the season, including the bowl win over the Huskies.

Price calls it "a good question" when asked if the Huskies should be concerned about being too fired up. They're eager to put last season's disappointment behind them. They're focused on becoming relevant again. And they will be goosed about their fancy new digs.

And those digs are really fancy.

"Aw man, it's awesome," Price said. "Going from our old facilities to our new facilities, it's night and day. But we understand those facilities don't mean anything if we don't win games in our home. That's what's going to make that place even more special."








1. Cal hired Sonny Dykes as its head coach in part because of what his spread offense created at Louisiana Tech. Midway through August workouts, the changes are beginning to show in Berkeley. Freshman Khalfani Muhammad, just the third two-time California high school champion in the 100 and 200 meters, got behind the defense for a 59-yard touchdown pass in a scrimmage this week. If Cal finds a deep threat to pair with running back Brendan Bigelow, Dykes’ rehabilitation of the Bears will be fast.

2. Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen has given no indication that he is close to naming his starting quarterback. Sophomore Joel Stave gave Badgers fans a reason to exhale earlier this week when he completed a 65-yard touchdown pass. Andersen digs the long ball. Sixth-year senior Curt Phillips has been solid in August as well. Stave started last season until he broke his collarbone. Look for Andersen to make an announcement as early as next week.

3. Washington has been ravaged by injuries the last few years, so in the offseason, Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian decided to revamp summer workouts and how the team practiced the first two weeks of the season. The result? Only one major injury, a freak event in which the player’s hand got caught under a body and resulted in a broken finger. Unfortunately, the player is preseason All-American tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
1. Oregon football just got a lot more interesting. Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich told me on the ESPNU College Football Podcast that he has ceded the play calling to offensive coordinator Scott Frost. Helfrich delayed making a decision until he and Frost went through spring practice and figured out how best to work together. Helfrich said he will maintain input, and the Ducks’ veteran staff means the program will never veer off course. But it’s another thing that will change from the very successful past four seasons.

2. Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian told me he isn’t quite ready to announce the punishment for tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who was convicted of driving under the influence earlier this month and was sentenced to one day in jail. But it’s possible that Washington won’t suspend Seferian-Jenkins, whom Sarkisian described as a good kid who made a bad decision. Good kid? Seferian-Jenkins, of his own accord, made an appointment with university president Michael K. Young, went to his office and apologized.

3. David Shaw, the head coach of defending Pac-12 champion Stanford, has avoided being seduced by praise for starting out 23-4. Shaw maintains that he returned to his alma mater with the intention to build a program over 20 years. In an age when coaches job-hop and the pressure to win can be excruciating, Shaw’s plan is so old-fashioned it’s almost quaint. It’s too soon to gauge history. But if Shaw stays and keeps winning, his hiring will be the example that every athletic director will try to emulate.
Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has pleaded guilty to a charge of driving under the influence stemming from his arrest after crashing his car in March, and he was sentenced Monday to 364 days in jail with 363 suspended.

So he'll serve a day in jail before fall camp begins on Aug. 5.

But the big question, at least for the Pac-12 blog's purposes, is what coach Steve Sarkisian will do now? Not only with Seferian-Jenkins but also receiver Kasen Williams, who had his own offseason legal scrape.

Sarkisian's two best weapons in the passing game appear to be due some sort of suspension, which would mean quarterback Keith Price could be severely hamstrung in the season-opener against Boise State, a likely preseason top-25 team.

[+] EnlargeAustin Seferian-Jenkins
Jesse Beals / Icon SMIWhat kind of suspension, if any, will Steve Sarkisian hand down to star tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins?
That game, of course, will be the first in remodeled Husky Stadium. It is a huge game for Sarkisian and the Huskies as they try to take a step forward after three consecutive seven-win seasons.

There isn't anyone who doesn't view that game as huge for the program -- a tone-setter for the season.

You can imagine that Sark is just a bit unhappy that his stars players, who should be barking in the locker room at teammates about not doing these stupid things that they were doing. They've screwed him and their teammates.

Where's the leadership, gents? Call a freaking cab. Heck, call Sark. I know he'd stop whatever he was doing and come pick you up in order to keep you from driving while impaired.

The Pac-12 blog is not going to get bent about underage drinking. But getting behind the wheel at any age after drinking is not a victimless, boys-will-be-boys crime, even if good luck prevails and no one else gets hurt. Putting others at risk by drinking and driving is not a minor mistake that can be addressed by a slap on the wrist.

So the easy answer for Sarkisian is to suspend these guys for one, two or three games. Last year, Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov was suspended for just one game for a DUI. That probably would satisfy the folks who expect Sarkisian to hold his players accountable. Some would say that would send a message to the Huskies as a whole about discipline and there being nonnegotiable consequences for their poor behavior. And maybe it would.

As for the win-loss column, while the opener against the Broncos would be put at risk, the Huskies should be able to handle Illinois and Idaho State without Seferian-Jenkins and Williams.

Yet there are two alternatives: 1. Sarkisian doesn't suspend either player and says punishment was internal; 2. He opts to suspend the players for Games 2 and 3 but plays them against Boise State.

He would not be the first Pac-12 coach to go wishy-washy over an off-field incident -- recall this expediency from Oregon State's Mike Riley.

In both cases, Sarkisian would get plenty of blowback, even some from the Pac-12 blog. He'd probably get more for No. 2, which would amount to an admission that winning the Boise State game mattered more than that whole "molding young men into upstanding citizens" thing.

Yet here's the reality: If the Huskies win 10 games and earn a final top-25 ranking this fall, no one will be talking about Sarkisian going soft on Williams and Seferian-Jenkins. For better or worse, winning cures just about everything in big-time sports, including college football.

Sarkisian, whether anyone at Washington would admit it or not, was hired to win football games, not teach his players tough life lessons that guide them down the path toward high character. He can try to do both -- and my personal opinion is Sarkisian legitimately cares about his players -- but winning comes first.

I remember covering the 1999 national title game between Florida State and Virginia Tech when Bobby Bowden opted to not penalize kicker Sebastian Janikowski for violating curfew. I thought Bowden was hilarious while defending himself against a media pounding, but I found myself in the minority amid much righteous indignation.

Bowden's reasoning was simple: Playing Janikowski improved his chances to win a national title. Suspending him would hurt them.

"I like him," Bowden said at the time. "Sure, it's favoritism, but we have the international rule [Janikowski was from Poland]. This isn't a democracy, and everyone doesn't have a vote. It's communism or whatever. I made the decision."

Bowden got his second national title. Any of you remember much about the Janikowski incident?

I also remember an interesting conversation with former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti after I wrote this in 2004, ripping him for allowing Richie Incognito and Rodney Woods to become Ducks. As was Bellotti's way, which is usual among football coaches, he was measured and objective.

To paraphrase a long-ago chat, he told me he understood my take, though he disagreed with it. He and I both had a job to do. His was winning football games and dealing with guys like me. And it's notable that the second-chance worked out for Woods (and Incognito lasted just a week with the Ducks).

Of course, decisions have ripples, and those ripples can lead to unintended consequences. Bowden and Florida State, though they played for the national title the next season, began a gradual decline that led to his awkward exit in 2009.

If Sarkisian shows leniency, it could end up loosening his grip on the locker room, where guys might believe they'll also get a pass. It could become a long-term negative for his tenure.

But is Sarkisian thinking longterm? He is under moderate pressure to produce this season or find his seat warming substantially. And he has the team to do it ... at least when you factor in having A-list guys at tight end and receiver.

It's a tough call.

But the only reason we'd still be talking about it in December is if the Huskies underachieve and fans are grousing about Sarkisian.
Another preseason list. But this one is different.

Athlon has released its preseason All-America team and 22 Pac-12 players were tapped for four teams at 23 spots, second only to the SEC's 25. However, the Pac-12 actually leads all of college football with eight players on the first-team (it probably should be nine, but Anthony Barr was relegated to the second team). The SEC is second with seven.

Here are the Pac-12 players selected:

First-Team Offense
First-Team Defense
Second-Team Offense
Second-Team Defense
Second-Team Specialists
Third-Team Offense
Third-Team Defense
Fourth-Team Offense
Fourth-Team Defense
Thoughts: As always, subjective lists are going to be debatable. For the most part, I think Athlon hit on almost all of the Pac-12 players who should be hit in the preseason. It's nice to see Su'a-Filo get some recognition because I think it's warranted and he'll prove worthy of it by year's end. Same with Sankey and Coyle. Cooks is a pleasant surprise. While I think he certainly has the potential to be on this list, we really need to see someone else step up opposite him to free him up the way Markus Wheaton did last year.

As noted above, I'd have Barr on my first team. But one glaring omission is Stanford safety Jordan Richards. I get Ed Reynolds being on the first team -- that seems to be a popular consensus among the preseason lists. But no Richards at all is a big miss. My guess is both will end up splitting AA honors at the end of the year because both are that good. I just have a hard time believing there are seven other safeties better than Richards.

I didn't mind Bailey on the list. And I think the move back to the secondary is going to be huge for him and for the Trojans. But he's taken some time off from the position and might need a readjustment period. And for that reason, I think second team is too high for him -- especially when Richards is off the board.

I think the same Reynolds/Richards argument can be made for Oregon's Terrance Mitchell (who could be on one of these teams as well) and Ekpre-Olomu, who certainly benefited from having a lockdown corner on the opposite side. As a result, his numbers ballooned. While Richards/Reynolds are the best safety duo in the league (probably the country), the Mitchell/Ekpre-Olomu tandem makes up the best cornerback duo in the league (probably the country).

Finally, I understand the rationale for not having Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota one one of the four teams. Heck, Teddy Bridgewater -- perceived to be the top quarterback in the country by many -- didn't make the list. But I think when all is said and done, Mariota will get All-America honors because his numbers will be too good to overlook. He's shown to be a true dual-threat with precision passing and pretty darn good running skills.

Pac-12's 1,000-yard receivers

May, 30, 2013
5/30/13
1:00
PM ET
Gabe Marks, Marcus PetersWilliam Mancebo/Getty ImagesIn Mike Leach's offense, WSU's Gabe Marks, left, looks like a good bet to have a 1,000-yard season.
We've looked at the Pac-12's 2,500-yard passers and its 1,000-yard rushers. Now we turn to the third wheel of the skill position tricycle: 1,000-yard receivers.

The conference featured four 1,000-yard receivers last year. One is off to the NFL: Oregon State's Markus Wheaton. One is out for the season -- or at least a significant part of it -- with a knee injury: Arizona's Austin Hill. Two others are back:
That's a good start. Lee was a unanimous All-American and Cooks could push for such recognition this fall.

There's plenty of talent after them. This is hardly a down position in the conference. In fact, several teams feel pretty good about their chances to produce a 1,000-yard pass-catcher.

Arizona: The Wildcats not only lost Hill, they also are replacing quarterback Matt Scott. Moreover, their No. 2 receiver in 2012, Dan Buckner, is gone, and the No. 3 guy was running back Ka'Deem Carey. There's solid experience returning at the position, but no one player looks like the go-to guy. The Wildcats are more likely to have three guys with over 600 yards receiving than to have one with 1,000.

Arizona State: Receiver is the Sun Devils' most questionable position. At this point, the most likely guy to go over 1,000 yards is tight end Chris Coyle. But if you were to imagine who will be the Sun Devils' top wideout in 2013, a good bet is touted juco transfer Jaelen Strong.

California: Keenan Allen is gone, but the Bears have plenty of young talent at receiver, a list topped by Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs. With new coach Sonny Dykes' new high-flying spread passing offense, it's difficult to imagine the Bears don't produce a 1,000-yard receiver.

Colorado: The Buffaloes' only legitimate A-list player is receiver Paul Richardson. He'd start for just about any Pac-12 team. And, considering how much new coach Mike MacIntyre likes to throw, Richardson seems likely to hit the 1,000-yard mark if he stays healthy.

Oregon: The Ducks are expected to throw more this season for a number of reasons -- new coach, questions at running back, etc. -- but the chief reason is because quarterback Marcus Mariota is a highly capable passer. Last year, we saw flashes of what he could do. We'll see plenty more in 2013. With De'Anthony Thomas slated to be primarily a running back, expect Josh Huff to become Mariota's favorite target.

Stanford: Stanford isn't the sort of team that produces a 1,000-yard receiver, and its most likely candidates in recent years were tight ends. But if things fell a certain way, Ty Montgomery might make a run at it.

UCLA: If you were to make a list of most likely new members of the 1,000-yard club in 2013, Bruins wide receiver Shaquelle Evans would be on it. He caught 60 passes for 877 yards last year in quarterback Brett Hundley's first year as a starter. With no Johnathan Franklin at running back, the Bruins should be throwing plenty.

Utah: The Utes should be much better throwing the ball this season. For one, quarterback Travis Wilson can only be more mature after starting as a true freshman. Second, new co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson likes to spread defenses out and throw the ball. Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott are a good tandem, and one or the other could make a run at 1,000 yards.

Washington: The Huskies have two legit candidates -- wide receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. But Jenkins is working through a DUI arrest that has him presently suspended. Williams, who caught 77 passes for 878 yards a year ago, is a strong bet to be Keith Price's go-to guy.

Washington State: That list with likely new 1,000-yard receivers? Colorado's Richardson, UCLA's Evans and Washington's Williams would be on it. But atop the list would be Washington State's Gabe Marks. If he stays healthy, he's almost a sure thing, considering how much coach Mike Leach likes to throw the ball.

SPONSORED HEADLINES