NCF Nation: Talia Crichton

Stepping up in the bowls: Washington

December, 28, 2010
12/28/10
4:44
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Few give the Washington Huskies much of a chance in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl -- in large part because they have already played the Nebraska Cornhuskers this year and the result didn't leave much intrigue: a 56-21 beatdown in Husky Stadium.

While the Huskies used a three-game winning streak at season's end to earn bowl eligibility, it's hardly certain they are a better team today than they were on Sept. 18, particularly with a decimated defensive line that will be missing three key players: Cameron Elisara, Talia Crichton and Semisi Tokolahi.

Obviously, the Huskies defense will have to play much better after giving up 533 yards in the first meeting. But can it? Or will the Huskies just have to outscore the Cornhuskers, which brings along the nation's No. 8 scoring defense?

So let's ask this question: Who might dramatically change this game if he stepped up with a marquee performance?

Quarterback Jake Locker: Too obvious? Well, it's the only answer. For the Huskies to have any chance, Locker needs to turn in his best work this season -- both with his arm and with his feet. And he should be plenty motivated to do so. Recall that the first meeting was widely seen -- here and other places -- as a showdown between Locker, the touted NFL prospect, and perhaps the best secondary in the nation. Well, if that was the case, the Cornhuskers won by knockout. Locker completed just 4 of 20 passes for 71 yards with two interceptions and a touchdown. He also rushed for 59 yards and a touchdown, but the performance was a public failure in a disappointing season for Locker. His NFL draft status started to apparently slide precipitously from sure-No. 1 overall to potentially the second-round. Locker, however, could redeem himself with a big evening, and that could send him into the NFL draft evaluation process with game film that might reignite flagging interest. The horrible result in the first game was hardly only Locker's fault. The Huskies played poorly in all phases. This Seattle Times article does a good job of explaining one area where Locker got little help: his receivers. But the only way the Huskies are going to produce a different result -- even if we're just talking about a competitive game -- is if Locker comes up big.

Pac-10 stock report

October, 27, 2010
10/27/10
1:19
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Who's running with a bull market? Who's battling the bears (not the Golden ones)?

Stock up

Darron Thomas: Oregon's sophomore QB completed 22 of 31 passes for 308 yards with three TDs and no interceptions in the 60-13 win over UCLA on Thursday. And he was named a semifinalist for the O'Brien Award, given annually to the nation's best quarterback.

Matt Scott: Arizona's backup QB was outstanding in relief of Nick Foles. He completed 18-of-22 for 223 yards with two TDs and zero interceptions against Washington. He also rushed for 65 yards on seven carries in the 44-14 victory. The performance means there's no need to rush Foles back, even though Foles' recovery from a knee injury is ahead of schedule.

Arizona's defense: If defense wins championships, then the Wildcats can't be counted out of the Pac-10 race. They rank No. 7 in the nation in scoring defense, No. 10 in total defense, No. 7 against the run and their 3.57 sacks per game ranks second. Three new LBs? Co-coordinators? Hey, no worries! (Oh, by the way, former coordinator Mark Stoops is doing pretty darn well at Florida State, too.)

California: If Cal were actually a stock, it would have made and lost fortunes for day traders across the country: The team that was humiliated by USC (buy low!) then blew out Arizona State. So, Bears, do you take the show on the road at Oregon State or is it time to sell high?

Marquess Wilson: Washington State true sophomore QB Jeff Tuel has found his go-to guy in Wilson, a true freshman. Wilson caught six passes for 150 yards with a TD at Stanford and he now leads the Pac-10 with 99.5 yards receiving per game.

Stock down

UCLA: The Bruins have been blown out in consecutive Pac-10 games and they've lost starting QB Kevin Prince for the season. Oh, and two offensive starters were suspended for Saturday's game with Arizona, which has the best defense in the Pac-10. Not a good week.

Washington's defense: The Huskies' defense ranks among the nation's worst in most major statistical categories, including 102nd in scoring (33.1 ppg) and 104th vs. the run (202.7 ypg). It doesn't help that they will play host to Stanford, owners of the conference's best O-line, with their best defensive lineman, Cameron Elisara out. He's the second D-line starter to go down -- the other is end Talia Crichton -- for a unit that isn't deep.

Steven Threet: The Arizona State QB got knocked out of the Cal game with a concussion, but not before throwing two more interceptions, giving him a Pac-10-worst 13, as well as the conference's lowest efficiency rating. In response, the Sun Devils' coaches are going to simplify the offense in order to get Threet back on track.

Jake Locker: He's banged up, the Huskies' bowl hopes are sagging and his numbers aren't good. Locker still figures to be a high NFL draft pick -- just probably not as high if he'd left after his junior season. His senior season, at least so far, can't be what he'd hoped for.

Stanford's pass defense: While the overall numbers are OK, the area that could hold Stanford back this year is pass defense. Tuel completed 21 of 28 passes for 298 yards with four TDs at Stanford, and the health of safety Delano Howell is a concern. Locker might be looking to reverse the course of his -- and the Huskies' -- season against the Cardinal secondary.

Pac-10 spring breakout players

February, 11, 2010
2/11/10
11:10
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Who will breakout and make a move toward stardom this season?

Most of these guys aren't "new," but they could make the next step up in their careers this spring.

Arizona
Juron Criner, WR, Jr
: Criner (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) is already a familiar name to Wildcats fans. Heck, he led the team with nine touchdown receptions in 2009. The reason he makes this list is this: It would be a surprise if he's not first-team All-Pac-10 at season's end.

Arizona State
Aaron Pflugrad, WR, Jr
: Hmm. Name seems familiar? Pflugrad is a transfer from Oregon, who left the Ducks after his father, Robin, was fired as receivers coach. He was expected to start for the Ducks in 2009, and he should be in the same position with the Sun Devils, who need help at receiver.

California
Ernest Owusu, DE, Jr
: Owusu looked like a budding star early last season when he recorded two sacks and three tackles for a loss against Maryland, but that was about it for his production in 2009. Still, he combines good intelligence and speed with special power -- he's the Bears' strongest player -- and that could all come together as he fights to break into the starting lineup.

Oregon
Diante Jackson, WR, RFr
: Many thought Jackson would offer immediate help to the Ducks' receiving corps as a true freshman, but, instead, he was a scout team star last year. The Ducks are looking for a dynamic, play-making presence at wideout and Jackson might be the guy.

Oregon State
The Unga brothers
: The Beavers lost Keaton Kristick to graduation and Keith Pankey may miss 2010 with an Achilles injury, so there are opportunities at linebacker. These twin brothers -- Kevin "Feti" Unga and Devin "Uani" Unga -- could fight their way into the mix.

Stanford
Shayne Skov, LB, So
: Skov started seven games last year as a true freshman and ended up third on the Cardinal with 62 tackles. The early returns are Skov will be first-team All-Pac-10 before he's done.

UCLA
Cory Harkey, TE, Jr
: With the departure of Logan Paulsen and Ryan Moya, Harkey will finally get his chance to take center stage. He caught eight passes for 41 yards and a touchdown in 2009. His production will be many times that in 2010.

USC
T.J. McDonald, S, So
: First off, the son of former USC legend Tim McDonald is listed at 205 pounds. Really? He looks bigger -- in a good way. And he's a hitter. He had seven tackles as a backup to strong safety Will Harris last year, but he could play either free or strong.

Washington
Talia Crichton, DE, So
: Crichton was forced into action last year as a true freshman -- he started four games -- because the Huskies lacked depth on the defensive line. With the departure of both starting ends -- and the questionable status of Kalani Aldrich's knee -- Crichton is almost certain to ascend to a first-team spot. Here's a guess he's better prepared in 2010.

Washington State
Travis Long, DE, So
: Back in the Cougars' glory days -- folks, it wasn't really that long ago, either -- they always had ends who were disruptive. Long led the Cougars with 6.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks as a true freshman in 2009. Those numbers will more than double in 2010.

Pac-10: Biggest shoes to fill in 2010

February, 8, 2010
2/08/10
10:52
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After every season, starters leave. But not all starters are created equal.

Here are the biggest shoes to fill in the Pac-10 with spring practices just around the corner.

Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford

How do you replace the best running back in the nation, a guy who scored 28 touchdowns and rushed for 1,871 yards? You don't. Those sorts don't come around every season.

The Contenders: Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gafney will get first crack, as well as Jeremy Stewart, who's coming back from a knee injury. Incoming freshman Anthony Wilkerson could be a dark horse.

Sean Canfield, QB, Oregon State

The first-team All-Pac-10 quarterback became an NFL prospect during a strong senior season. He led the conference with 3,271 yards passing and 21 touchdowns, which tied with Washington's Jake Locker.

The Contenders: This will be a showdown between Ryan Katz and Peter Lalich this spring, with Katz starting as the leader.

Brian Price, DT, UCLA

Price could be an NFL first-round draft pick. He led the Pac-10 with 23.5 tackles for a loss in 2009. 'Nuff said.

The Contenders: Good question. The Bruins are perilously thin here, considering both tackles need to be replaced and only senior David Carter has much experience. The answers here might be in the Bruins' recruiting class.

Syd'Quan Thompson, CB, California

The Cal secondary was a huge disappointment this season, but Thompson, a four-year starter and two-time first-team All-Pac-10 performer, was mostly his usually stellar self.

The Contenders: Will Darian Hagan step up in his senior season? Perhaps the answer is sophomore Josh Hill? Or maybe a redshirt guy? The Bears only signed one player listed as a corner in their most recent recruiting class. Expect there to be a lot of competition here this spring.

Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DE, Washington

Te'o-Nesheim, a high-motor guy who started four years and earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors his final two seasons, ranking third in the conference with 9.5 sacks.

The Contenders: Considering the other end, Darrion Jones, also is gone, the Huskies will trend young here. Andru Pulu was listed behind Te'o-Nesheim on the depth chart, with Talia Crichton and Kalani Aldrich on the other side. There also will be opportunities for younger players here.

Ed Dickson, TE, Oregon

Dickson not only was the Ducks' second-leading receiver with 42 receptions for 551 yards and six touchdowns, the matchup problems he presented forced defenses to scheme specifically for him. That helps an offense in ways that aren't accounted for in statistics.

The Contenders: Junior David Paulson was Dickson's backup last year, and he had some nice moments, but he's no Dickson. JC transfer Brandon Williams and touted incoming freshman Curtis White will be in the mix here.

Kenny Alfred, C, Washington State

Alfred, a four-year starter, was a good player on a bad -- and beaten up -- line. His brain as well as his physical ability will be hard to replace.

The Contenders: Walk-on junior Chris Prummer was listed as Alfred's backup -- largely due to injury -- but Andrew Roxas, who redshirted this year after contracting viral hepatitis, is probably the leader here, though Steven Ayers could move inside to challenge him. Or there could be some reshuffling.

Jones back in for Huskies

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
4:11
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


SEATTLE -- Senior defensive end Darrion Jones, who's nursing a bruised knee, returned for Washington's second defensive series, replacing true freshman Talia Crichton.

It didn't help. At first.

The Trojans gashed the Huskies for a pair of long runs -- 25 yards from Joe McKnight and 27 yards from Stafon Johnson. But the defense stiffened and forced the Trojans to settle for a field goal.

Still, the Trojans have 111 yards rushing with 4:36 left in the first. That's a problem.

And if the Huskies completely gang up on the run, that should make things wide open for Damian Williams, who already made Aaron Corp look good on a couple of short tosses.

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