NCF Nation: Darius Bell

Pac-12 spring preview: South Division

February, 22, 2013
Here are some keys and storylines to watch this spring in the South Division. Yesterday Ted looked at the North Division.


Start date: March 3

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
  1. New battery: The Wildcats are looking to replace a top-notch quarterback-center combo in Matt Scott and Kyle Quinn. The rock-solid duo helped produce one of the top offenses in the league. Jesse Scroggins and B.J. Denker are among those in the mix to run the offense and several returning offensive linemen are versatile enough to move around. Chris Putton and redshirt freshman Beau Boyster could be in the mix at center.
  2. Many happy return(er)s: Arizona returns a big chunk of its offensive production -- including running back Ka'Deem Carey and receiver Austin Hill. Both should be on all sorts of preseason teams and awards watch lists. But behind the big names, there's also David Richards, Johnny Jackson, Tyler Slavin and Garic Wharton back in the mix.
  3. No learning curve: Last spring, the talk was about Rich Rodriguez calling out his team for its lack of physical conditioning. The fact that the majority of the team understands what is expected -- and they don't need to spend the whole spring learning new systems, should be a huge help. Consider that the Wildcats return their entire defense from a group that was, at times, shaky, but will certainly benefit from another full season of playing in the 3-3-5 scheme.

Start date: March 19

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
  1. Plugging the middle: One of the few losses to ASU's roster is middle linebacker Brandon Magee -- a leader on and off the field and an all-around heck of a player. Carlos Mendoza looks to be a good fit -- though he's likely to miss spring while continuing to recover from a shoulder injury suffered against Illinois. Folks might remember his two interceptions before going down for the year.
  2. Catching on: Unlike last spring, the Sun Devils have their quarterback. And he's a good one. Now, they need to find folks he can throw to. JC transfers De'Marieya Nelson (H-back, 6-3, 230) and Jaelen Strong (WR, 6-4, 205) are both big bodies who could step in and contribute immediately.
  3. Wait and see: The kicker here is a lot of these players who are expected to compete won't arrive until the fall. So in the meantime, a lot of the younger players and redshirts will get a ton of reps in the system. And speaking of kicker, don't underestimate how much of an impact Josh Hubner made at punter. Iowan Matt Haack, who arrives in the fall, is a rugby-style kicker who can kick with either foot. That's just cool.

Start date: March 7

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
  1. Meet your QB: Whomever it will be. There are five on the roster and a sixth coming in. Safe to say, quarterback play was extremely inconsistent last season for the Buffs. With an entirely new coaching staff coming in and installing the pistol, this could be one of the more interesting and wide-open position battles in the league.
  2. Curious defense: One needs only to review Colorado's national rankings last year to realize they struggled. As one Buffs insider mentioned to me, they were ranked No. 1 in a lot of categories. Unfortunately, that "1" was followed by two more numbers. Only three defensive ends have playing experience. However a secondary that lacked experience in 2012 has a lot more looking into 2013.
  3. Receiver options: The Buffs welcome back Paul Richardson, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Colorado's premier offensive playmaker will be a nice veteran presence to whomever wins the quarterback job. Grayshirt Jeff Thomas also is back. An improved passing attack should help give the quarterback some confidence and open up the running game.

Start date: April 2

Spring game: April 27

What to watch:
  1. Life after Franklin: The Bruins say goodbye to the best statistical back in school history -- leaving a huge void in the backfield. Johnathan Franklin was a great presence for young quarterback Brett Hundley, but now someone has to step up to fill that role, either solo or along with a committee. Look for Jordon James, Steven Manfro and Damien Thigpen to all get looks.
  2. New No. 1: The Y-receiver, aka hybrid tight end, was filled wonderfully by Joseph Fauria -- Hundley's favorite red zone target. Darius Bell and Ian Taubler both had looks last year, but Fauria too will be tough to replace. Shaq Evans, Devin Fuller, Jordan Payton and Devin Lucien round out a pretty good receiving corps.
  3. Secondary solutions: The Bruins must replace two corners and a safety -- Sheldon Price, Aaron Hester, Andrew Abbott -- and there isn't a ton of starting experience. Randall Goforth has five starts, but veterans such as Brandon Sermons and Anthony Jefferson have more special-teams experience than actual secondary play. Keep an eye on the secondary too when the Bruins start fall camp to see if any freshmen jump into the mix immediately.

Start date: TBD

Spring game: April 13
  1. New defensive scheme: The Trojans will move to a 5-2 defensive scheme under Clancy Pendergast, and the spring drills will be the first opportunity to see the defense in action. The Trojans will have an experienced front seven, but four new starters are expected in the secondary.
  2. Replacing Barkley: Max Wittek got the first extended audition in the battle to take over for Matt Barkley, but he didn’t do enough in two late-season starts to claim the job. Cody Kessler and freshman spring enrollee Max Browne also will be looking to take the reins at one of the glamour positions in college football.
  3. Lane Kiffin on the hot seat: The Trojans are coming off a disappointing season, and the fans are howling in protest, but so far his boss Pat Haden has maintained full support for his coach. Now is the time for Kiffin to show why that support is warranted. -- Garry Paskwietz, WeAreSC

Start date: March 19

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
  1. Erickson impact: The biggest question was what sort of role Dennis Erickson would play in the offense once he arrived. We'll know sooner than later. He already has talked about putting an identity on the Utah offense. That starts in spring when routines are established and expectations are set. And with Erickson on board to give the offense a push, the expectations will be much higher.
  2. Wilson maturing: That leads us to the presumptive starting quarterback -- Travis Wilson -- who jumped in midseason after Jordan Wynn got hurt and Jon Hays struggled to produce. Wilson went from OK to pretty good in just a few weeks. A nice jump considering his experience level. With an entire offseason knowing he'll be the starter -- and with Erickson and Brian Johnson molding him -- it will be interesting to see what progress he makes this spring.
  3. D-line makeover: The Utes lose some talent on the defensive line -- specifically All-American defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Look for DE/LB Trevor Reilly to spend more time with his hand down. Tenny Palepoi, LT Tuipulotu and JC transfer Sese Ianu could all see time in the mix at defensive tackle.

Pac-12 helmet stickers

September, 30, 2012
With great performances come great rewards. And there is no greater reward than a helmet sticker from the Pac-12 blog. Here are this week’s winners.
  1. Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington: In a game without many offensive highlights, Sankey provided one of the contest’s most exciting plays, taking a fourth-and-1 handoff at the Washington 39 and darting ahead for a 61-yard touchdown in an upset win over No. 8 Stanford. He finished with 144 yards on 20 carries.
  2. Justin Wilcox, defensive coordinator, Washington: Beat a top-10 team, and you get a helmet sticker. Beat a top-10 team that has outscored you 140-35 in three previous meetings by not allowing an offensive touchdown, then your new defensive coordinator gets a helmet sticker. Most impressive was how the Huskies limited Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor to 75 yards on the ground on 21 carries.
  3. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA: The Bruins signal-caller accounted for four touchdowns -- throwing for two and running in another two. He was 25-of-38 (65.8 percent) for 281 yards through the air. He threw a 17-yard touchdown to Darius Bell, an 8-yard strike to Joseph Fauria and ran for scores of 12 yards and 1 yard.
  4. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon: Time to start adding him to the Heisman tracker? Barner rushed for 195 yards and three touchdowns in the victory over Washington State. He averaged 9.8 yards per carry and ran for scores of 22, 10 and 80 yards.
  5. Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State: He continued his recent tear by tossing a career-high 433 yards and three touchdowns on 29-of-45 passing. Twice he connected for touchdowns with Markus Wheaton and he found Connor Hamlett for a 9-yard score in the closing minutes to seal a 38-35 win on the road at Arizona. He was interception-free and 6-of-6 for 52 yards on the game-winning drive.
  6. Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State: Let the Kelly lovefest continue. He was 26-of-45 for 292 yards with three touchdown passes in ASU’s road win over Cal. Twice he connected for scores with Kevin Ozier and once to Darwin Rogers. More importantly, another game with no interceptions.

UCLA will be down four in bowl game

December, 21, 2011
Two things happened at UCLA today.

One thing was about the dreary present: Backup quarterback Richard Brehaut has been suspended for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, and three Bruins have been ruled academically ineligible.

The other is about a potentially better future: The Bruins acting Tuesday on their "tradition" of "going over the wall" made new coach Jim Mora want to claw his eyes out, just like it did many Bruins fans.

Said Mora: "It's completely unacceptable and it will not be part of the program going forward."

Good. End of "tradition." Mora immediately sends a message that should resonate in a locker room that needs some resonance.

Now on to the bad stuff. Joining Brehaut in time out are, are safety Tony Dye, starting offensive lineman Albert Cid and backup linebacker Isaiah Bowens, who are the academically ineligible for the Dec. 31 bowl game.

Without Brehaut, starter Kevin Price will be backed up by either Nick Crissman or Darius Bell. There is zero chance that talented true freshman Brett Hundley will play after redshirting this season.

“All four of these student-athletes are disappointed that they will miss the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, but they all understand that they have let their teammates and the program down and that there are consequences for their actions,” interim coach Mike Johnson said in a statement.

Question: Do you think Johnson, who was only with UCLA during this one miserable season, is eager to get this bowl game over and get on with his life?

Brehaut played in seven games, starting four, and completed 67 of 121 passes for 948 yards and six touchdowns. Dye played in five games, starting all of them during an injury-plagued season, tallying 23 tackles. Cid participated in nine games, starting five of them. Bowens played in 12 games coming off the bench, making nine tackles and recovering two fumbles.

Final: Washington 24, UCLA 7

November, 18, 2010
Well, who saw this one going like it did?

The MVP of Washington's 24-7 win over UCLA goes to the much-maligned Huskies defense, which held the Bruins to just 163 yards -- 92 of which came on the Bruins only touchdown drive on their second possession of the game.

But after we give credit to the Huskies D, wow, that was a bad offensive night for the Bruins.

Bruins quarterback Richard Brehaut got knocked out of the game in the third quarter with a concussion. But it didn't really affect the outcome. Brehaut, who became the starter only when Kevin Prince went down with a knee injury, was 5-of-17 for 42 yards with an interception at the time.

First, the Bruins went with No. 3 quarterback Darius Bell. He went 0-for-3 with an interception.

Then Clayton Tunney was put in. He went 1-of-8 and his interception set up the Huskies final touchdown.

The offensive star for Washington was its running game, which ground out 253 yards. Chris Polk rushed 138 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown. Jesse Callier had 107 yards on 10 carries.

Washington quarterback Jake Locker, playing his final game in Husky Stadium, completed 10-of-21 for 68 yards with an interception. He also ran for a touchdown.

With just 123 combined passing yards, it was not your typical Pac-10 offensive evening. UCLA had 99 penalty yards, which is more than it gained in the second half against what entered the game as one of the nation's worst defenses.

The Huskies improve to 4-6 overall and 3-4 in the Pac-10. They need to win their final two games on the road -- California and Washington State -- to become bowl eligible.

UCLA falls to 4-6 and 2-5. It also needs to win its final two games -- at Arizona State and USC -- to become bowl eligible.