NCF Nation: Isaac Seumalo

Our list of the top 25 players in the Pac-12 continues.

No. 20: Washington DT Danny Shelton

2013 stats: Started all 13 games, made a career-high 59 tackles, recorded a pair of sacks and blocked two kicks.

Why he's ranked here: The first of four Washington defensive players who will appear during the countdown, Shelton -- who is listed at 6-foot-2, 339 pounds -- is as imposing a defensive lineman as can be found in the country. An All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection a year ago, he enters his senior year with 115 career tackles and is an elite defender against the run.

Shelton has started the past 28 games for the Huskies, including a stretch last year in which he played through a left shoulder injury that required offseason surgery. If Washington takes the next step under new coach Chris Petersen, Shelton will likely be a main reason. Looking down the road, he has the potential to be one of the first defensive tackles selected in the 2015 NFL draft and has also twice been named first-team Academic All-Pac-12.

No. 19: Oregon State OL Isaac Seumalo

2013 stats: Integral part of the offensive line that blocked for QB Sean Mannion as he set the Pac-12 single-season record with 4,662 yards passing.

Why he's ranked here: From the day Seumalo stepped foot onto the Corvallis, Oregon, campus, he has been one of the Beavers’ best players. He didn’t redshirt in 2012, has started all 25 games he’s played in and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection a year ago playing predominately at center. He’s already been named to the preseason watch lists for the Rimington Trophy, Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award. Where Seumalo winds up on the line this year -- he started a pair of games at right tackle last year -- is still to be determined and will likely have as much to do with the development around him as anything else.

At Pac-12 media days last week, Oregon State coach Mike Riley said he’s thinking of pairing Seumalo with Sean Harlow at the two guard positions. “I'd like that picture physically inside against all the interior guys that we see in there,” Riley said. It could take some time before that situation gets ironed out because Seumalo is still recovering from a foot injury he suffered during the Hawaii Bowl that kept him out of spring practice. Riley doesn’t anticipate the injury will keep him out during the regular season, but didn’t rule out the possibility he could sit the first week against Portland State.

18. Washington CB Marcus Peters

2013 stats: Recorded 55 tackles, 5 interceptions, defended 14 passes and recovered 2 fumbles.

Why he's ranked here: Along with USC defensive end Leonard Williams (first team), Peters (second) was one of two defensive players to receive first- or second-team All-Pac-12 honors as a sophomore last season. His five interceptions (tied for fifth) and 14 passes defended (tied for first) were among the best numbers in the conference. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Peters the Huskies’ most important player on defense this season as the lone returning starter in the secondary. For new defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski, Peters will ideally serve as a measure of consistency while the rest of the secondary takes shape early in the season.

Peters has the attention of NFL scouts, too. Among underclassmen, ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Peters as the No. 2 corner in the country Insider and currently has him as the No. 19 player on the Way-Too-Early 2015 Big Board Insider. Peters has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

17. Washington DE Hau'oli Kikaha

2013 stats: Among the conference leaders with 13 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss.

Why he's ranked here: What Shelton means to the Huskies on the interior, Kikaha means to the pass rush. In 13 games a year ago, Kikaha recorded 13 sacks to rank second in the Pac-12 behind Stanford's Trent Murphy, who led the nation with 15. Not only did his sack total rank second in the conference last year, but it fell just 1.5 sacks shy of Jason Chorak’s single-season school record from 1996.

Kikaha finished last season on a high note when he was named defensive MVP of the Fight Hunger Bowl after he registered three sacks, nine tackles and a forced fumble in Washington’s win against BYU. With an inexperienced secondary playing behind him, Kikaha’s role as a pass-rusher will be even more important this year, especially considering the level of quarterback play expected across the conference.

16. Stanford S Jordan Richards

2013 stats: Recorded 69 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions and defended 3 passes.

Why he's ranked here: The top-ranked safety in the conference (at this point Richards is still a more proven commodity than USC's Su'a Cravens), Richards will be an All-American candidate playing in what has the potential to be one of Stanford’s best secondaries in years. Even playing next to Ed Reynolds last season, who left early for the NFL and was drafted by Philadelphia in the fifth round, Richards proved to be the most consistent player in the Cardinal’s secondary. He’s fast enough to stay with players in coverage and strong enough to step into the box and help against the run.

Richards is currently on the watch lists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, Bednarik Award and Nagurski Award and was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection the past two seasons. With Reynolds gone, Richards will see extended playing time next to a different safety for the first time in his Stanford career. As things sit, Kyle Olugbode, Zach Hoffpauir and Kodi Whitfield figure to be the top three candidates for that role and none of them has much experience -- or in Whitfield’s case, no experience as a safety in college football.

The countdown

25-21: 25. Stanford DE Henry Anderson; 24. Utah WR Dres Anderson; 23. USC S Su'a Cravens; 22. Oregon RB Byron Marshall; 21. Arizona WR Austin Hill

Pac-12 media days wrap-up

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That's a wrap. Media days have come and gone, and we are officially in full football mode.

The big news from Day 2 was that Washington Huskies quarterback Cyler Miles will be suspended for the first game of the season when the Huskies face the Hawaii Warriors on Aug. 30.

What does this mean for the Huskies in the short term? Nothing. As my colleague Ted Miller tweeted, a certain member of the Pac-12 blog could probably start at quarterback against Hawaii and win (though Ted is giving said member more credit than he deserves). Either Jeff Lindquist or Troy Williams will be fine.

But it hurts Miles' development in the sense that you are only guaranteed 12 (or 13, in the case of the Huskies this season) opportunities a season to improve, to learn, to develop. And when you lose one of those opportunities, you can't get it back.

We're confident that Miles (whom we all can assume would have won the starting job anyway) would have loved the opportunity to get that first touchdown throw out of the way, that first hit, that first good read and bad read. He'll likely get that shot a week later against Eastern Washington -- a team that gave Oregon State fits last season. Not saying the Huskies will share the same fate as the Beavers, but the Pac-12 blog would like its starter to at least have had a game under his belt.

On the flip side, it does give the Huskies a chance to get some valuable playing time for another quarterback. Miles already has some game experience. Last season he completed 37 of 61 passes for 418 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions. He also rushed 23 times for 200 yards.

So I guess it depends on whether you view the glass as half empty or half full. But for coach Chris Petersen, it's a glass he'd much rather have not had to drink from in his first year with the team.

Hundley stereotyped?

An interesting read from Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports on UCLA Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley. Coach Jim Mora doesn't want Hundley to fall prey to the stereotype that African-American quarterbacks are just runners.

Here's what Mora told Mandel:
“People have a tendency at times to see an African-American quarterback and say, 'Oh, he's a runner.' I hate that stereotype and I always have," said Mora. "I coached Michael Vick and my belief [is] that we stereotype those guys started with him. I don't want that to happen with Brett, and I'm going to make sure that it doesn't, because it shouldn't. The guy's a passer."

Hundley doesn't want to get pigeonholed, either. Here's a story the blog did on him back in April, for which he talked about training with several NFL quarterbacks in the hopes of becoming a "complete" player.

He knows the Heisman hype is coming, telling the Pac-12 blog earlier Thursday, "There's nothing I can really do to stop other people from talking about it. I'm just going to do the best I can to block it out and focus on wins."

Is it boring? Yeah. Is it plain? Yeah. But considering some of the questionable off-the-field résumés of some recent Heisman winners, maybe we could all do with a little boring and plain off the field and center our focus on what happens on it.

Stanford-SJSU Take 2

Following up on a link we brought you yesterday, about San Jose State coach Ron Caragher addressing the possibility of the Stanford Cardinal and the San Jose State Spartans reuniting at Levi's Stadium, Stanford coach David Shaw says he's on board.

Shaw told Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, "I never wanted to stop the series. I hope we get back to it."

For the Bay Area, for the schools and for the fans, we can all agree we'd like to see the game reinstated.

Injury notes

Some injury updates that came out of media days:

Oregon State's Isaac Seumalo should be available early in the season, according to Gina Mizell of the Oregonian.

Christian Caple reported that Washington defensive lineman Jaimie Bryant has taken a medical retirement.

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News first reported that wide receiver Ty Montgomery might be inactive for Week 1 against UC Davis.
Considering its long history of Polynesian influence, it should come as no surprise that the Pac-12 led the way with 15 players named to the preseason watch list for the inaugural Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award.

Headlining the list is Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, USC safety Su'a Cravens, Oregon State center Isaac Seumalo, Washington linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha and BYU linebacker Alani Fua.

The award was established by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame, which inducted its first class of members in January. That group of seven included Kurt Gouveia (BYU), Olin Kreutz (Washington), Kevin Mawae (LSU), Junior Seau (USC), Jack Thompson (Washington State), Herman Wedemeyer (Saint Mary's College) and Ken Niumatalolo (Navy/Hawaii).

The full breakdown of players on the watch list by conference is as follows: Pac-12 (15), Mountain West (12), Independents (4), American Athletic (1), Big 12 (1) and Sun Belt (1).

Here is the complete list (34 total):
Five finalists will be announced on Nov. 20 with the winner set to be named on Dec. 9.
In typical Mike Riley fashion, when asked to name his biggest concern heading into spring ball, the dean of the conference coaches countered with a quip: “Do I have to just name one?”

[+] EnlargeStorm Woods
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY SportsStorm Woods may be one of the keys to a more balanced attack this season.
Well, at least he doesn’t have to worry about a quarterback competition this spring. But there are several to-do’s on his checklist. Among them: Rework the offensive line, solidify the defensive line, shore up the secondary and pick a backup quarterback.

Oh, yeah: “Find a way to replace 128 catches,” he said, referring to Biletnikoff Award winner Brandin Cooks, who left school early for the NFL draft.

It’s actually the success of Cooks and quarterback Sean Mannion that led to one of Riley’s biggest pet peeves last season: the inability to successfully, consistently, run the football.

Several times last year, Riley stated that he wanted the Beavers to be more balanced. Then again, when you have a strong-armed quarterback such as Mannion and a phenomenal receiver such as Cooks, the temptation is there to air it out as much as possible.

But with Cooks gone, Riley said he’s looking to make a return to a more balanced rushing attack. In 2011, the Beavers averaged just 86 yards per game on the ground -- last in the conference. Then, in 2012, they brought that number up to a respectable 124 yards per game. But they slipped again in 2013 with just 94 yards per game on the ground.

“I think ... what caused the most problems for us in the season offensively was when we got to the real good defenses,” Riley said. “We played the top three defenses in the league three weeks in a row -- Stanford, Arizona State and USC -- and not running the ball is really a detriment to winning those games. We didn’t. We’ve got to be more balanced.”

The Beavers rushed for more than 100 yards in five of 13 games last season. In six games, they gained 74 yards or fewer, including a season-low 10 against San Diego State and 17 against Stanford. However, the final two games offered a glimpse of what Riley wants his offense to look like. The Beavers rushed for a season-high 231 yards in a Civil War loss to Oregon and 195 yards in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl victory over Boise State.

“Those were two good-looking football games offensively,” Riley said. “That is a way better picture of our ideal look. Good balance, good play-action passes. I think it really helps the offensive line. It helps the quarterback. It helps in protection if you can run the ball.”

Storm Woods and Terron Ward are already separated by an “or” on the depth chart and the status of the offensive line further complicates things. The Beavers have to replace three starters on the offensive line: left tackle Michael Philipp, left guard Josh Andrews and right guard Grant Enger. Though standout center Isaac Seumalo returns, he’ll miss spring ball with a foot injury and Josh Mitchell will miss the session with a shoulder injury. Both are expected back for fall camp. Returning tackle Sean Harlow is tentatively slated at left guard, but he’s versatile enough to move around the line and will get some snaps at center.

“You’d love to start developing the chemistry with the starting five as soon as you can,” Riley said. “Because of competition reasons and injuries, we’re not even going to be close to that in spring ball. We just have to develop players and then find out who fits into that top five.”

As for the guy who is handing the ball off, there’s no debate this spring. Mannion is back after a record-setting 2013 season. The battle to be the backup, however, is up for grabs between Brent VanderVeen and Kyle Kempt.

“It is an open competition,” Riley said. “Even though Brent is a year ahead, I think we need to let that thing evolve and let those guys compete to see who is going to be the backup.”

Pac-12 all-bowl team

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Who were the Pac-12 standouts this bowl season? Here are our picks.

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeBrett Hundley
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsBrett Hundley finished the season with a strong performance in the Bruins' bowl win.
QB Brett Hundley, UCLA: Hundley accounted for four touchdowns in the Bruins' 42-12 win over Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl. He rushed for 161 yards on 10 carries -- 16.1 yards per run -- with two touchdowns and he also completed 16 of 29 passes for 226 yards and two scores. Other QBs had nice games, but Hundley put up big numbers against an outstanding defense.

RB Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona: In the AdvoCare V100 Bowl win over Boston College, Carey rushed for 169 yards on 27 carries and two scores, averaging 6.3 yards per rush. He decisively outplayed Boston College RB Andre Williams, who won the Doak Walker Award and was a Heisman Trophy finalist.

RB D.J. Foster, Arizona State: Despite being banged up, Foster rushed for 132 yards on 20 carries -- 6.6 yards per carry -- in the Sun Devils' 37-23 loss to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. He also caught five passes for 23 yards.

WR Marqise Lee, USC: In his career finale, Lee caught seven passes for 118 yards with two touchdowns in USC's win over Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

WR Nate Phillips, Arizona: Phillips, a true freshman, caught nine passes for 193 yards in the Wildcats' win over Boston College.

WR Josh Huff, Oregon: Huff caught five passes for 104 yards and a touchdown in Oregon's 30-7 win over Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA: Su'a-Filo led the Bruins' offensive line against a tough Virginia Tech defense. UCLA rushed for 197 yards against a top-10 rushing defense and yielded only two sacks.

OL Abe Markowitz, USC: The sixth-year walk-on stepped in at center for an injured Marcus Martin -- the Trojans' best offensive lineman this season -- and played well in the 45-20 win over Fresno State. The Trojans yielded only one sack and rushed for 154 yards. He was named the "Offensive Outperformer of the Game" by his coaches.

OL Jake Fisher, Oregon: Fisher led a strong effort from the Ducks' offensive line in the win over Texas. Oregon rushed for 216 yards and yielded only two sacks. Fisher did a good job against Texas' top defender, end Jackson Jeffcoat.

OL Micah Hatchie, Washington: Hatchie, the Huskies' left tackle, was the biggest reason BYU didn't record a sack in the Fight Hunger Bowl, a 31-16 Huskies victory. Washington also rushed for 190 yards.

OL Isaac Seumalo, Oregon State: Seumalo led perhaps the Beavers O-line's best effort of the season. Oregon State rushed for 195 yards and yielded no sacks.

K Travis Coons, Washington: Coons made a 45-yard field goal against BYU -- the longest Pac-12 postseason field goal -- and was good on all four of his PATs.

DEFENSE

DL Scott Crichton, Oregon State: Crichton had three tackles for a loss, a sack, a forced fumble and pass breakup in the win over Boise State.

DL Taylor Hart, Oregon: Hart had a game-high 11 tackles, with half a sack and a forced fumble in the Ducks' win over Texas.

DL Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington: Kikaha had nine tackles with three sacks and a forced fumble in the Huskies' win over BYU.

LB Shayne Skov, Stanford: Skov had nine tackles, three tackles for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble in Stanford's 24-20 loss to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl.

LB Jake Fischer, Arizona: Fischer had a game-high 14 tackles in the Wildcats' win over Boston College. He also had a sack and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Arizona held Williams to only 75 yards on 26 carries.

LB John Timu, Washington: Timu had a game-high 14 tackles, a sack and an interception in the Huskies' win over BYU.

LB Jabral Johnson, Oregon State: Johnson had a game-high 12 tackles, a sack and a quarterback hurry in the Beavers' win over Boise State.

DB Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State: Reynolds had 10 tackles and returned two fumbles for touchdowns in the Beavers' win over Boise State. The fumble returns went for 70 and 3 yards.

DB Avery Patterson, Oregon: Patterson had nine tackles and returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown in the win over Texas.

DB Josh Shaw, USC: Shaw held Fresno State receiver Davante Adams to nine receptions for 73 yards in the Trojans' win over the Bulldogs. He finished with six tackles and had an interception in the end zone.

DB Anthony Jefferson, UCLA: Jefferson had seven tackles, shared a tackle for a loss and had a pass breakup in the Bruins' win over Virginia Tech. The Hokies completed only 15 of 36 throws for 176 yards.

P Ben Rhyne, Stanford: With five punts, Rhyne averaged 49.8 yards per boot in the Rose Bowl.
Get comfortable, Oregon State fans. It's going to be a long quarterback competition.

Addressing the media Tuesday in a pre-spring conference call, Oregon State head coach Mike Riley said it's doubtful anything will be decided between Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz this spring. Mannion is listed No. 1 on the depth chart -- only because Riley and Co. didn't include an "or" between the two names. Anyone looking for meaning to Mannion being No. 1 can keep looking.

"You can't read anything into that," Riley said. "We're going to split their time evenly. You don't need to ask them daily about what's going on because I probably won't make a decision until the end of fall camp. I'm just going to let them play and grow and try to get better this spring. We'll give them absolute even turns as we go -- unless somebody just takes the bull by the horns and separates. But I don't know if that's going to happen. I think they both did a lot of good things and they both had some rough moments. It's a matter of who comes out of it with the most consistent, best play. And that might take some time. I think they are both knowledgeable. They both work hard and are well-respected. We're going to let them get as much preparation as they can."

This will be one of the more closely watched quarterback competitions in the conference -- and nationally, as the Beavers are expected to start the season in the preseason top 25.

Mannion helped the Beavers to a hot start in 2012, guiding them to victories in their first four games before hurting his knee against Washington State. That paved the way for Vaz, who engineered back-to-back wins at BYU and against Utah.

[+] EnlargeSean Mannion
Rick Scuteri/US PresswireSean Mannion is listed as Oregon State's No. 1 QB, but nothing's been decided, coach Mike Riley said.
Then came the first loss of the season, to Washington, in which Mannion threw four interceptions. Oregon State was off and on the rest of the season -- as were its quarterbacks. After a 6-0 start, the Beavers went 3-4 down the stretch, culminating with a 31-27 loss to Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Mannion finished the year with 2,446 yards and 15 touchdowns to 13 interceptions on 64.7 percent passing. Vaz completed 58.9 percent of his throws for 1,480 yards, but also had 11 touchdowns to just three interceptions.

"We've talked to both of them about the fact there is going to be competition," Riley said. "They have to learn to handle that and be a great leader and a great teammate and focus on doing their best. I think it will be good for both of them. I think it will bring the best out in both of them and then we'll have to see what we're going to do from there. I suppose in the long run we could come out of it stronger."

Other notes:

  • Players who will miss spring ball include: Safety Tyrequek Zimmerman, left tackle Garrett Weinreich, defensive end Scott Crichton, wide receiver Richard Mullaney and fullback Tyler Anderson. Left guard Chase Eldredge and center Isaac Seumalo will be limited.
  • Riley talked about the competition between Sean Martin and junior-college transfer Steven Nelson to replace departed cornerback Jordan Poyer: "[Martin] got more opportunities to play last year and that was all good for him, and we'll see if he can step up into what can be a reliable starting role. ... [Nelson] is always around working out, and in a short amount of time has seemed to fit in real well. I anticipate good things from him in spring ball. The best thing that can happen to this team is really develop good competition with good players at the corner. "
  • Riley on the depth at running back with Storm Woods, Terron Ward and Chris Brown: "That right there is good depth. I hate losing Malcolm [Agnew] because he's a good football player. He's all over special teams and when you watch our cutups or games, he's always doing something. But I think we have good players there. Storm can build on his freshman year for sure and Terron Ward looked really good in the offseason running and has really worked hard. Chris Brown is a young talent trying to break in where he can hopefully fill some of those roles that Malcolm Agnew played and bust into the rotation of playing in the game."

Cody Vaz stays cool under pressure

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Cody VazGeorge Frey/Getty ImagesCody Vaz threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns Saturday in his season debut.
Now that Cody Vaz is a week into his career as a starting quarterback for Oregon State, we have learned that he throws a pretty good deep ball. We've learned that he's cool under pressure and he can operate the West Coast offense with efficiency and protect the football.

But his blocking skills? Well, those leave a little something to be desired.

He was able to chip just enough on BYU's Bronson Kaufusi in the fourth quarter to spring Markus Wheaton on a 12-yard reverse for a touchdown. But it wasn't a pretty.

"It wasn't a classic," said head coach Mike Riley with a laugh. "We all had fun with that one in the aftermath."

Fun was the theme Saturday after the backup quarterback paced the Beavers to a 42-24 win at BYU in his first collegiate start.

Since replacing Sean Mannion last week, Vaz has been inundated with question after question about how the chemistry would work with receivers Wheaton, Brandin Cooks and the rest of OSU's playmakers. It's the one question, Vaz said, he was tired of answering.

No more questions about chemistry this week. Vaz opened the game by completing eight of his first 10 passes (the two incompletes were batted at the line) for 157 yards and two touchdowns. He was 6-of-6 to start the game.

"I was actually pretty steady," Vaz said. "I wasn't nervous. I was just anxious. I was actually kind of [ticked] off. I just wanted to get out and play. I was tired of just sitting around and waiting for the game to get going. I wanted to be out there. "

He finished 20 of 32 for 332 yards and three touchdowns.

"We just want to keep it going," Vaz said. "We have to build off of this last week. It was a good win, but at the same time, it's in the past. Right now, we're solely focused on Utah and we're just preparing for Saturday and trying to get ready for everything they throw at us."

Despite Utah's 2-4 record, the Utes still have one of the more formidable defensive lines in the conference, headlined by Star Lotulelei. One key matchup will be Lotulelei lining head up on true freshman center Isaac Seumalo. Still, Vaz isn't having nightmares of the 320-pound Lotulelei bearing down on him.

"I have a lot of faith in my offensive line that they'll be able to handle him," Vaz said. "Isaac Seumalo is one of the best young linemen in the country."

If there were folks inching their fingers toward the panic button when Mannion went down last week, Riley wasn't one of them. Having spent so much time with Vaz, he was pretty sure the junior wouldn't get too caught up in the moment.

"I was thinking the other day, I'm probably around the backup quarterback more than any other player on our team -- whether it's on the sidelines during games or in meetings or on the sideline in practice because he always stands with me if he's not in and he doesn't get as many turns as the starter," Riley said. "I know Cody real, real well. He's a neat guy, pretty darn cool and calm and he's always been very confident. The only thing I said to him all week, I said "whatever you do out there, just go play and do what you can do.'"

And he did. But as Vaz says, last week is in the books and a Utah team, desperate to salvage anything from this season, comes to town. The support from his teammates has been stellar. And having spent so much time in the offense, Vaz is well-versed in the scheme and feels confident he can get to any play in the playbook.

He also called last week the best situation possible for him. The fact that he knew he was going to be the starter and had a week to prepare took all of the pressure off of him.

"I'd rather have a whole week to prepare and know I'm the starter," he said. "Being a backup is a tough situation. You're always on edge the whole game wondering if you'll go in. Having a week to prepare and knowing you are going to be the starter, I'd much rather have it that way."
Points, points, points. This is the Pac-12 after all, where offense rules. Last season, five Pac-12 teams ranked in the top 30 in scoring average. Others, however, weren't as explosive. Colorado (12th in the conference/109th nationally), Oregon State (11/100), UCLA (10/88) and Utah (9/tied for 74th) all had trouble consistently finding pay dirt. So this week we're looking at which of these four teams has the best chance to show significant offensive improvement.

Ted Miller: Oregon State’s offense was bad last year. That’s the obvious bad news. More obvious bad news: It was bad for a fundamental reason: It couldn’t run the ball, ranking 118th in the nation with just 86.9 yards per game. The end result was an offense that ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring (21.8 points per game) and 10th in total offense (373.7 yards per game). And while we’re being party poopers, why not note there are only eight healthy offensive linemen this spring, which makes it impossible to field a full second team?

Ah, but we come not to bury the Beavers, but to praise them! This half of the Pac-12 blog is providing Oregon State fans an iron-clad guarantee: The Beavers' offense will be better in 2012. Perhaps much better. And that’s why we believe they will win enough to earn a bowl berth after consecutive seasons at home during the postseason.

[+] EnlargeOregon State's Sean Mannion
Jim Z. Rider/US PRESSWIREOregon State quarterback Sean Mannion should see some improvement in his supporting cast as he enters his sophomore season.
Why? Let’s start in the cockpit with quarterback Sean Mannion, who won the starting job as a freshman over returning starter Ryan Katz, only to discover THE NEW CAR! he’d been given the keys to was a Pinto. With little support from a running game to keep defenses honest, Mannion threw a lot but not always successfully, ranking ninth in the conference in passing efficiency with 16 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. But two numbers are notable: First, he completed 64.5 percent of his passes and was sacked just 27 times in 473 attempts. That suggests two things. Mannion is both accurate and has good pocket presence. Accurate? That completion percentage ranked fifth in the conference, ahead of Oregon’s Darron Thomas and Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler. As for pocket presence, the Beavers ranked fifth in the conference in sacks surrendered despite ranking third in pass attempts. And that was with no running game.

Mannion’s supporting cast at receiver is strong. Three of the top four receivers are back, including Markus Wheaton and speedy flanker Brandin Cooks. And essentially the entire cast at running back is back.

So, really, it comes down to the offensive line, where three starters are back, not including tackle Michael Philipp, a 2010 starter who is trying to get a once-promising career back on track. Don’t expect to hear glowing reports this spring. Tackle Colin Kelly and guard Grant Enger, both returning starters, are out with injuries, so there’s a lack of bodies. But in the fall they should be healthy just as a pair of intriguing reinforcements arrive: touted freshman Isaac Seumalo, rated the No. 19 overall player in the nation in 2012 by ESPN Recruiting, and junior-college transfer Stan Hasiak, who saw plenty of action during his tumultuous time at UCLA. Both are potential – even likely -- starters.

Mannion flashed plenty of potential in 2011. He will be far more seasoned in 2012. The offensive line will be better, too, which means at least a mediocre running game to keep defenses from pinning their ears back and going after the quarterback.

In other words, the Beavers offense will be much improved overall in 2012. Now ... about that defense ...

Kevin Gemmell: I'm glad you brought up Osweiler, because he's somewhat pertinent to the team I'm picking to improve offensively -- UCLA.

All together now: "Ding, dong, the pistol is dead." And not a half-snap too soon. Time to make way for the shotgun.

To see where the Bruins are headed on offense, you need only to look back at what Osweiler did the past two seasons with the Sun Devils -- specifically what he was able to do with Noel Mazzone running the show.

Now Mazzone is new coach Jim Mora's offensive coordinator at UCLA. I know there is a multi-quarterback competition in the works. That certainly will have some bearing. But even so, it's almost impossible for the Bruins not improve on last year's 23.1-ppg scoring average with this time-tested offense.

Consider the Sun Devils of 2009, pre-Mazzone: 90th in total offense (334.4 yards per game) and 91st in scoring average (22.3 points per game). Now, look at Mazzone's first season in 2010: 29th in total offense (425.6) and 28th in scoring average (32.2). Last year: 25th in total offense (445.8) and 28th in scoring offense (33.2).

Translation: The guy knows how to move the ball and create points.

I talked earlier this week with Brett Hundley, one of those quarterbacks in the hunt for the starting gig, he says this offense is much simpler and allows the quarterback to play more quickly and think less. Makes sense. And whoever wins the gig will have an experienced running back in Johnathan Franklin beside him. The fifth-year senior was 24 yards short of a 1,000-yard season despite an impressive 5.9 yards per carry average.

[+] EnlargeBrett Hundley
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireSophomore Brett Hundley could prove to be UCLA's most athletic option at quarterback.
But this offense is about moving the ball in the air. And finding three or four receivers to consistently perform is going to be just as important as finding the right guy standing five to seven yards behind the center. Mazzone has said he's not married to four- or five-receiver sets. So bona-fide talent Joseph Fauria should get plenty of chances to catch the ball from the tight end position. Devin Lucien, Shaq Evans and Ricky Marvray are the likely wide receiver trio. But unlike the previous offense, the receivers won't be square pegs in round holes. This offense should accentuate the speed and athleticism that UCLA always seems to have, but never knows quite what to do with it.

The Bruins were in the bottom half of the nation in sacks allowed last year, but the return of tackle Xavier Su'a-Filo, who is back after an LDS mission, should help bolster the line. All indications out of spring are that he looks solid. Jeff Baca and Greg Capella both saw significant playing time last season (Capella started 14 games and Baca 13), so that experience should help cut back on the sacks.

Now, to the quarterback spot. Kevin Prince has the most experience, followed by Richard Brehaut. Both are seniors. But there is a call from fans to completely cleanse themselves of the previous regime and start fresh with Hundley, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound dual-threat quarterback who might be the most athletic of the bunch.

Whoever wins the job is destined for a pretty good season. Because given Mazzone's history of turning slugs into sluggers, UCLA looks like the team to drag itself up from the Pac-12's offensive cellar.

Were Pac-12 recruiting needs met?

February, 2, 2012
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Every team had needs going into 2012 national signing day. Last week, Ted Miller looked at the needs of each team in the North Division and South Division. Here’s a look at whether those needs were met.

Arizona: Either Javelle Allen or Josh Kern -- both Texans -- could be the long-term answer at quarterback. Noticeably missing is the lack of an impact linebacker. But there is some good depth to the offensive line.

Arizona State: Nice pickup with running back D.J. Foster. Richard Smith and Josiah Blandin boost the wide receiving corps. Nine JC signees? We’ll see.

Cal: QB Zach Kline (No. 2 QB) is the jewel of the class, and receiver Darius Powe could be an immediate impact player. Cal wins the award for bipolar recruiting season, but this is still a solid class.

Colorado: If Yuri Wright can keep his thumbs in check, he’s a huge addition. He and Kenny Crawley boost a secondary sorely in need of playmakers.

Oregon: Arik Armstead headlines a diverse class that, as expected, is heavy on speed and addresses depth across the board. Next to duct tape, few things are quick fixes than a juco kicker.

Oregon State: No. 1 offensive guard Isaac Seumalo and tackle Garrett Weinreich fill immediate needs on the line. A lot of unproven commits on a defense that still needs help.

Stanford: Business should be booming in the Stanford cafeteria with seven new offensive linemen. And they get to grow with and block for Barry Sanders. Noor Davis and Alex Carter are elite defensive playmakers.

UCLA: Four ESPNU 150 players, headlined by athlete Devin Fuller. Who said Jim Mora wasn't cut out for college? Keeping Ellis McCarthy in Southern California -- and out of red and gold -- is big time.

USC: Don't cry for this tiny class. It features seven ESPNU 150 players and adds speed on defense with Jabari Ruffin, size on the offensive line with Max Turek and Jordan Simmons and athleticism with wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Another great haul for Troy.

Utah: A quarterback of the future is needed, and Travis Wilson (No. 39 QB) and Chase Hansen (No. 43 QB) should have a heck of a competition in the coming years. Lots of help and depth added to the offensive line.

Washington: A shaky recruiting season was saved at the last minute by the commitment of Shaq Thompson and the ability to hold quarterback Cyler Miles. Brandon Beaver helps a secondary that was one of the worst in the conference.

Washington State: Running back Robert Lewis and receiver Alex Jackson could prove to be money in the Mike Leach offensive overhaul. A few juco transfers should be stopgaps until depth develops and Leach's plan comes together.

Pac-12 signing day wrap

February, 2, 2012
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National signing day is over. But life is not, even if it feels that way.

Clearing away the confetti and reviewing what happened.

Top class: Stanford signed a class that is the envy of all but a small handful of teams in the nation. ESPN Recruiting ranked Stanford's class 12th. Rivals rated the Cardinal No. 5; Scout ranked Stanford No. 6; 24/7 sports ranked the Cardinal No. 9; and Tom Lemming ranked Stanford 10th. Stanford's haul of offensive linemen might be one of the best in the history of recruiting rankings.

Biggest surprise: Is UCLA coach Jim Mora a rookie or a freshman? However the NFL lifer is best described, his first recruiting haul was outstanding by any measure, but particularly for a coach with basically zero college experience. What you have to credit is Mora hiring a great recruiting staff. The Bruins signed a top-20 class and hit plenty of need areas.

Biggest disappointment: There are very few people who believe that Rich Rodriguez wasn't a great hire for Arizona. Zero, maybe. That said, the Wildcats didn't get a recruiting bump based on that perception. They finished at or near the bottom of most rankings of Pac-12 recruiting classes and didn't sign any recruits with at least a four-star rating from ESPN Recruiting.

Fastest riser: Just over a week ago, Washington's recruiting was surprisingly mediocre, particularly after the Huskies lured ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi away from California. But the Huskies surged late, starting with a commitment from elite safety Shaq Thompson, a former Cal commitment. And the Huskies' surge didn't stop on signing day, as they moved up to No. 23 in the final national rankings.

Under the radar: While Pac-12 newbies Colorado and Utah didn't sign top-25 classes, both very quietly signed strong classes that addressed immediate needs, and they finished in the middle of the Pac-12 recruiting rankings. In their first season recruiting as real Pac-12 teams -- as in having a season of play under their belts -- here's a guess that both Colorado coach Jon Embree and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham are happy with how things went and are eager for another go-around in 2013.

Recruiter of the year: Many wondered if Stanford coach David Shaw could maintain the program momentum created by former coach Jim Harbaugh. Well, in his first season, he led the Cardinal to a BCS bowl game and top-10 finish. On Wednesday, he produced a better recruiting class than Harbaugh ever put together -- at least in terms of recruiting rankings. Those who think Stanford is going away because of the departure of Harbaugh and QB Andrew Luck might be in for a surprise.

Player you'll see next season: It would be surprising if Shaq Thompson isn't starting at safety for Washington in the opener against San Diego State. The same could be said for Isaac Seumalo on the Oregon State offensive line. In L.A., it will be battle between UCLA defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy, USC outside linebacker Jabari Ruffin and USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams for top freshman defender. It will be interesting to see how Stanford's elite class of frosh offensive linemen shapes up. There should be some hot competition there, with one freshman breaking through and at least earning playing time. Also interesting in the Bay Area: Is senior Zach Maynard the answer at QB for Cal, or might Zach Kline earn playing time as a true freshman?

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