NCF Nation: Terrance Mitchell


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
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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.

What are Oregon's weaknesses?

October, 23, 2013
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Oregon is terrible on fourth down. The Ducks have converted on just seven of 18 fourth-down plays this year. Their 38.9 conversion rate ranks 10th in the Pac-12, behind struggling teams like Colorado and California.

We point that out because that's about the only thing Oregon isn't doing well right now.

[+] EnlargeMark Helfrich
Steve Conner/Icon SMIOregon appears to have no glaring weaknesses, yet first-year coach Mark Helfrich says the Ducks can get better in every phase.
The Pac-12 keeps track of 33 statistical categories, covering offense, defense, special teams, penalties, turnovers, etc. The Ducks rank first in the conference in 11 categories, including the two most important: scoring offense and scoring defense. They rank in the top three in 18 categories. Most of the categories they are not doing well in -- time of possession, onside kicks, opponent penalties -- evoke a "neh."

Others are deceptive. Oregon ranks sixth in total defense but is No. 1 in the far more revealing stat of average yards surrendered per play, where they rank eighth in the nation at 4.46 yards. The Ducks are 10th in red-zone offense, but their touchdown percentage in the red zone -- 72.1 percent -- ranks second.

This seems like a team with few, if any, holes. So what are the Ducks' weaknesses?

"I haven't seen any," said California coach Sonny Dyke, whose Bears lost 55-16 at Oregon on Sept. 28. "They are incredibly fast. I think the difference this year is they are throwing the ball so much better. Their receivers are faster, bigger, stronger, more physical, making more plays than in the past."

In the preseason, there were three questions about Oregon: 1. How would Mark Helfrich do stepping in for Chip Kelly? 2. What would be the pecking order at running back and how would De'Anthony Thomas be used? 3. How would the Ducks replace the dynamic linebacking troika of Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay?

Check, check and check.

The 7-0 record, No. 2 ranking in the national polls -- No. 3 in the BCS standings -- and 40-point average margin of victory suggest that Helfrich is doing fairly well. He might be a softer touch than Kelly -- though he's not afraid to tweak a reporter or two -- but he's not taking any mercy on the field.

Running back? The bottom line is the Ducks are No. 2 in the nation in rushing with 332.4 yards per game, 17 yards better than last year's average, and they've done that with DAT missing the last four games with an injury. Backups Byron Marshall and true freshman Thomas Tyner are both averaging 6.7 yards per carry and have combined for 16 touchdowns. Marshall, a sophomore, ranks 19th in the nation with 106.6 yards rushing per game.

Linebacker? Tony Washington, who replaced Jordan, has nine tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Jordan had 10.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2012. Derrick Malone leads the Ducks in tackles with 59. And, really, the bottom line is the defensive numbers, including a run defense that ranks 22nd in the nation.

"I think [the Ducks defense is] certainly the best they've been," Dykes said. "The secondary is really, really good. They are good at linebacker and they are pretty active up front."

Of course, Dykes is a first-year Pac-12 coach who hasn't been dealing with Oregon during its rise to consistent top-five team, though he was Arizona's offensive coordinator from 2007 to 2009. If we're going to ask whether this version of Oregon might be the best yet, we need to ask someone who's seen them all.

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, whose Huskies have lost 10 in a row to Oregon, including five defeats during his tenure, let out a big breath when asked if this was the Ducks' best team.

"Hooof," he said. "We've played some pretty good ones. I think the balance they have on offense is probably the best that they've been."

The general consensus is Marcus Mariota is the Ducks' best quarterback during its recent run. He might, in fact, as former Ducks All-American QB Joey Harrington recently volunteered, be the best in program history. Mariota brings a dangerous downfield passing game to a longstanding dominance running the ball. As for the defense, it's very good, though it remains to be seen whether it's as good as the 2010 unit or even the talented crew of 2012 that battled numerous injuries.

Still, every coach who has played the Ducks probably feels there's something he wishes he might have attacked more or tried to exploit.

"I think there is a lot of places," Washington State coach Mike Leach said. "There's always a lot of places."

Washington State lost 62-38 at Oregon last weekend, with Leach's Cougars adding two late touchdowns to make the gap less dramatic. Quarterback Connor Halliday set a number of Pac-12 and NCAA passing records in the game -- he completed 58 of 89 passes for 557 yards -- but also threw four interceptions, one of which Terrance Mitchell returned 51 yards for a touchdown.

"Oregon is really fast," Leach said, echoing a common theme. "As you play Oregon, everything they do -- they can reel plays in quicker. They react to everything quicker. Very explosive... Oregon hits you in the mouth when you throw one up."

Of course, speculating on Oregon's seeming lack of weaknesses and its standing among other accomplished Ducks teams is a mostly a meaningless academic exercise when five regular season games remain ahead, including a visit Saturday from No. 12 UCLA. In fact, the next five Pac-12 games (combined opponent record of 26-7) are far tougher than the first four (combined record of 12-16).

Helfrich isn't really biting, either. When asked about areas of concern, he pointed back to the preseason questions and implied the jury is still out at linebacker.

Yet his overriding conclusion sounded very Chip Kelly-ish, while also offering plenty of room to read between the lines.

"I think everything," he said. "In every phase we can get better, starting with me, everything we do."

That's either coachspeak -- we need to get better every day -- or carries a more ominous implication: No weaknesses? Best Oregon team? You haven't seen anything yet.

Pac-12 defenses closing the gap

August, 21, 2013
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Changing the perception of a league is no easy task. And for the Pac-12, bucking its offense-first image may never happen.

As long as Oregon keeps gobbling up points by the minute and yards by the mile; as long as Rich Rodriguez does what RichRod does and there are Air Raids and Bear Raids about, offense will always be associated with the Pac-12. As long as De’Anthony Thomas and Marion Grice can score from anywhere; as long as Marqise Lee keeps turning a 4-yard slant into an 80-yard touchdown; as long as Ka’Deem Carey is running wild and Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley are burning up stat sheets, Pac-12 defenses will continue to be overshadowed.

And yet …

[+] EnlargeAnthony Barr
Jonathan Moore/Getty ImagesUCLA linebacker Anthony Barr leads an impressive group of defenders in the Pac-12.
“I would love to see an all-star game with our conference’s defensive players on the same team,” said Stanford coach David Shaw. “I think it would be phenomenal, and scary. Anthony Barr is borderline unblockable. Will Sutton gets in the backfield seemingly every play, single block, double block, whatever. Morgan Breslin, Sutton and Ben Gardner on the line and Shayne Skov sideline to sideline with Barr coming off the edge.

“Maybe we’re getting to a golden era for defensive players in this conference because you’ve got good defensive units and some really elite standout players.”

Last season, five Pac-12 teams ranked in the top 15 nationally in sacks per game including Stanford (first), Arizona State (second), USC (fourth), UCLA (eighth) and Washington State (14th). That’s up from three teams in the top 20 in 2011, two teams in the top 20 in 2010 and zero teams in the top 10 in 2009.

ASU and Stanford were first and second, respectively, in tackles for a loss per game, and WSU and USC ranked in the top 11. It’s a given that a lot of points will be scored in the Pac-12. But defenses are making it tougher.

“It’s been an interesting evolution,” said Oregon State coach Mike Riley, the dean of the Pac-12 who is entering his 13th season. “What you’re seeing is a premium on speed and guys with a lot of flexibility. There are still big people that need to play on the interior. But your edges -- if you’re going to lead the league in sacks -- then having a great edge rusher is always at a premium.”

Guys like the aforementioned Barr, Sutton and Breslin, Stanford’s Trent Murphy, Oregon State’s Scott Crichton, Cal's Deandre Coleman and ASU’s Carl Bradford are in that conversation. All of them are expected to rank among the nation’s best in sacks and TFLs. That should make for a heated debate when picking the league’s defensive player of the year.

And who says it will be someone from the front seven? Four Pac-12 teams were among the top 20 in interceptions last year, and Oregon led the country. The Ducks have the nation’s best cornerback duo with Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell, while Stanford boasts the outstanding safety tandem of Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards. Oregon State’s Ryan Murphy, USC’s Dion Bailey and WSU’s Deone Bucannon are also elite safeties.

Washington might have the best young defensive player in the league in Shaq Thompson.

“You can have a high-powered offense that puts up big points, but if you can’t stop anybody, it’s anyone’s game,” said Sutton. “With a great defense, you can accomplish anything.”

Those who follow the league know there have been great defenses in the past. Washington in the early '90s and Arizona’s Bear Down defense come to mind. Behind all of USC’s Heisman quarterbacks a decade ago were outstanding defenses.

“I think what we’re starting to see is the individual players and coordinators starting to get some notoriety,” said Shaw, whose team ranked fifth nationally against the run last year -- an amazing statistic considering the running backs they faced in 2012. “When Oregon started being really good and scoring a ton of points, people didn’t realize they were keeping people from scoring too and playing great defense. To this day I still think they have the most underrated defensive coordinator [Nick Aliotti] in the country.”

One of the major challenges of being a defensive coach in the Pac-12 is the diversity of offenses. Oregon’s spread is considered run-based, yet the Ducks had the most efficient passing attack in the league. Arizona’s spread is considered pass-based, yet its running back led the nation in rushing. Stanford is considered “conventional” with its pro-style, but it’ll use personnel groups with seven offensive linemen.

“I don’t even know what pro-style means anymore,” said UCLA coach Jim Mora. “The perceptions are distorted. You can break down a spread offense or a pro-style and they’ll have the same route concepts. There are only so many. But the formations are different. The personnel is different. The motion before the snap is different. The league has so many speed athletes so one of the reasons we play a 3-4 is to get more speed athletes on the field.”

It’s time, says Bucannon, to let rest of the country know the Pac-12 can play a little defense, too.

“We have fast, up-tempo teams and marquee offensive players. At the same time, there are some great defensive players on that side of the ball,” he said. “And we refuse to be overshadowed.”
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.

Take 2: Underrated Pac-12 players

December, 14, 2012
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In a league loaded with depth, sometimes really good players get overlooked when postseason awards are handed down. Today your Pac-12 bloggers are looking at which players we believe were the most underrated in the Pac-12.

Ted Miller: While I'm already on record as saying Oregon cornerback Terrance Mitchell is the Pac-12's most underrated player, I'm going to go in another direction here. Why? Well, I want to list statistics, and Mitchell's value most reveals itself in his not having many numbers because opposing offenses don't throw his way very often.

[+] EnlargeEric Kendricks
Rick Scuteri/USA TODAY SportsUCLA sophomore LB Eric Kendricks set himself up for preseason Pac-12 honors in 2013.
My pick for most underrated is UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks, who was a tackling machine this year.

Tackling machine? Well, he led the Pac-12 with 137 tackles. He averaged 10.5 tackles per game, which is a full tackle ahead of Arizona State's Brandon Magee in the No. 2 spot, ranked 12th in the nation. Moreover, he did a lot of things well for a defense that was significantly better than it was in 2011, giving up 5.5 fewer points and 36 fewer yards rushing per game.

The 6-foot, 230-pound sophomore finished the regular season with six tackles for a loss, two sacks, an interception, five pass breakups, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick.

He also came up big in big games. How many of his 17 total tackles -- seven more than any teammate -- made the difference in the nailbiting win over Arizona State? Or what about his effort in the Win of the Season, a 38-28 triumph over USC? He recorded 10 tackles, a tackle for a loss, an interception, a forced fumble and blocked punt against the Trojans.

The forced fumble in the first quarter set up a Bruins touchdown. His punt block, which came after USC had closed to 24-20 in the third quarter, led to another UCLA touchdown, extending its lead to 31-20. The interception was a key play in the fourth to seal the red-letter victory.

That performance earned him Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week.

There were a lot of good linebackers in the Pac-12 this year. But four of the six on the coaches' All-Pac-12 teams were seniors. We expect Kendricks to get a first-team preseason nod in 2013.

Kevin Gemmell: It's so easy for us to take our running backs for granted in the Pac-12, isn't it? That's why I'm tapping Washington's Bishop Sankey as the most underrated player in the conference this year.

Playing in a league with Ka'Deem Carey, Kenjon Barner, Johnathan Franklin and Stepfan Taylor, it's easy to see why Sankey was left off of the first and second team. And no, I wouldn't replace any of those guys with Sankey. The running backs in the league this year were so ridiculously deep that a 1,200-yard rusher on a 7-5 team is an afterthought. That's not to say Sankey isn't a really good player -- because he is. It just speaks to the depth of the conference.

[+] EnlargeBishop Sankey
James Snook/USA TODAY SportsA tremendous crop of Pac-12 running backs kept Bishop Sankey from getting more attention.
If Sankey played in pretty much any other conference, he'd be either first- or second-team all league. But he doesn't. He plays in the Pac-12, where three of the four All-American running backs come from.

Sankey rushed for 1,234 yards and 15 touchdowns. Looking at the other five BCS conferences, those numbers would have led the league in rushing in the ACC and Big East. They would put Sankey second in the SEC and Big 12 and fourth among running backs in the Big 10 (fifth overall if you count Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller). Those are first- or second-team credentials. In the Pac-12, it's just a mention ... even if it is honorable.

Originally thought to be a by-committee guy, Sankey's role changed dramatically when Jesse Callier went down with a season-ending knee injury in the first game of the year against San Diego State. As he grew more comfortable in the role, Sankey's numbers and confidence skyrocketed. He ended the year with six 100-yard games and three games of at least 140 yards.

And since we're talking about showing up in big games, one of this best games of the year came against Stanford -- yes, top-five rushing defense Stanford -- behind a patchwork offensive line. He rushed for 144 yards and a season-high 7.2 yards per carry, including a 61-yard touchdown that sparked the Huskies come-from-behind victory. He went for 100-plus against Oregon and Utah -- considered two of the stingier fronts in the league. He had two touchdowns against Oregon State -- another elite defense.

At 5-10, 200 pounds, the sophomore has perfect size. He's the 11th Husky to rush for 1,000 yards; his total is the eighth-highest in school history and his 15 touchdowns are tied for second-most ever. With similar production next year -- coupled with the departure of Taylor, Barner and Franklin -- I wouldn't be shocked to see Sankey rise from the honorable mention ranks to the first- or second-team.

The 2011 Pac-12 All-Bowl team

January, 13, 2012
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Our All-Pac-12 bowl team has two quarterbacks and a position we made up. And it wasn't easy to pick the defense, because many of the conference defenses underwhelmed during a 2-5 bowl run.

[+] EnlargeKeith Price
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireEven Andrew Luck would admire Washington QB Keith Price's seven-touchdown effort in the Alamo Bowl.
Offense
QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
: Luck completed 27 of 31 passes for 347 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State.
QB II Keith Price, Washington: It's impossible to leave Price or Luck out. Price completed 23 of 37 passes for 438 yards with four TDs and zero interceptions in the Alamo Bowl loss to Baylor. He also rushed for 39 yards and three scores. Those numbers typically would eclipse what Luck did, but Baylor might have the worst defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
RB LaMichael James, Oregon: James rushed for 159 yards on 25 carries with a TD in the Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin.
RB Stepfan Taylor, Stanford: Taylor rushed for 177 yards on 37 carries with two touchdowns in the Fiesta Bowl.
WR Gerell Robinson, Arizona State: Robinson caught 13 passes for 241 yards with a TD in the Las Vegas Bowl loss to Boise State.
WR Lavasier Tuinei, Oregon: Tuinei caught eight passes for 158 yards and two scores in the Rose Bowl victory.
TE Zach Ertz, Stanford: Ertz caught four passes for 38 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinal's Rose Bowl loss.
OL David DeCastro, Stanford: The unanimous All-American dominated Oklahoma State's D-linemen in the Fiesta Bowl. The Cardinal rushed for 243 yards.
OL Mark Asper, Oregon: Asper is the senior cornerstone of a line that led the way for 345 yards rushing in the Ducks' Rose Bowl victory.
OL Tony Bergstrom, Utah: The senior tackle helped RB John White gain 115 tough yards against Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
OL Hroniss Grasu, Oregon: The Ducks freshman center made all the right line calls against Wisconsin.
OL Senio Kelemete, Washington: The Huskies gained 620 yards and didn't allow a sack in the loss to Baylor.
Freak: Our special position for De'Anthony Thomas, who scored TDs on runs of 91 and 64 yards in the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin. The Black Mamba also caught four passes for 34 yards and returned five kickoffs for 125 yards.

K: Giorgio Tavecchio, California: Tavecchio capped a strong senior season with a 47-yard field goal in the Holiday Bowl loss to Texas.
RET: Rashad Ross, Arizona State: Ross returned the third-quarter kickoff 98 yards for a TD against Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Defense
DL Josh Shirley, Washington
: While it's difficult to recognize anyone from the Huskies defense against Baylor, Shirley did sack Robert Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner, three times.
DL Trevor Guyton, California: Guyton had five tackles, with two coming for losses, and a sack in the Bears' loss to Texas in the Holiday Bowl.
DL Star Lotulelei, Utah: The Utes DT had six tackles and a fumble recovery and generally blew up the middle of the Georgia Tech line in the Utes' Sun Bowl victory. He was named Most Valuable Lineman.
LB Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA: Zumwalt had 10 tackles, including two for a loss, and an interception in the Bruins' loss to Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
LB Kiko Alonso, Oregon: The Ducks LB had five tackles, including 2.5 for a loss, with a sack and a key interception in the Ducks' Rose Bowl win. He was named Defensive MVP.
LB Michael Clay, Oregon: The Ducks LB had 13 tackles, including two for a loss, and a critical fumble recovery in the Rose Bowl victory.
LB Mychal Kendricks, California: Kendricks had 10 tackles, including 1.5 for losses, in the Bears' loss to Texas in the Holiday Bowl.
DB Terrance Mitchell, Oregon: Mitchell had five tackles in the Rose Bowl, but his most important contribution was forcing a Wisconsin fumble on the Ducks 27-yard line with four minutes left in the game. Perhaps even more important than that, he inspired coach Chip Kelly to jump up and down in a wonderful -- and slightly goofy -- show of spontaneous emotion (search YouTube for "Chip Kelly jumping").
DB Clint Floyd, Arizona State: Floyd had seven tackles -- two for a loss -- and an interception in the Sun Devils' loss to Boise State.
DB John Boyett, Oregon: Boyett had a bowl-high 17 tackles and half a sack in the Ducks' win over Wisconsin.
DB Marc Anthony, California: Anthony had four tackles, one coming for a loss, and two pass breakups against Texas.

P Sean Sellwood, Utah: Sellwood averaged 49.5 yards on eight punts against Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.

Big East stock report: Week 6

October, 6, 2010
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Stock up

1. Ray Graham: Yeah, a 277-yard running day will make your stock go up. The Pittsburgh running back is averaging a whopping 9.5 yards per carry, and his 164 yards per game ranks third nationally.

2. UConn's second halves: In the past two weeks against Buffalo and Vanderbilt, the Huhttp://proxy.espn.go.com/blogadmin/bigeast/wp-admin/post.php?post=13288&action=edit&message=1skies have outscored their opponents 50-7. Now if UConn can just put together two halves like that in the same game.

3. Adam Froman: The Louisville quarterback has had two solid games in a row and now leads the Big East in total offense despite having several inexperienced receivers to work with.

[+] EnlargeRay Graham
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicRay Graham rushed for 277 yards and three touchdowns against Florida International last week.
4. Jeremy Deering: The Rutgers true freshman had four catches for 66 yards and was one of the lone bright spots in the loss to Tulane.

Stock down

1. Jon Baldwin's production: Baldwin had only two catches for 14 yards against Florida International and has just 15 catches for 211 yards on the season. It seems like he should put up those kinds of numbers every game, not over a four-game span.

2. Rutgers' offensive line: The Scarlet Knights have already allowed 13 sacks and have been a main cause of the school's continual offensive struggles.

3. Eric Schwartz: The USF kicker is just 1-of-5 on field-goal attempts this season and has now lost his job to Maikon Bonani.

4. D.J. Shoemate: Even with Robbie Frey injured, the USC transfer can't move up to No. 2 running back on UConn's depth chart right now.

Player of the year race: Offense

1. Jordan Todman, RB, Connecticut: Has more than 150 more rushing yards than the next closest player in the Big East.

2. Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh: At this pace, he'll make a serious case.

3. Zach Collaros, QB, Cincinnati: Leads league in passing yards; will need big finish.

4. Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia: If bone bruise is healed, he should keep putting up stats.

5. Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse: Top-rated passer in the league; schedule about to stiffen.

Player of the year race: Defense

1. Robert Sands, S, West Virginia: Back on top after idle week.

2. JK Schaffer, LB, Cincinnati: Leads league in tackles, is as steady as it gets.

3. Joe Lefeged, S, Rutgers: Drops a bit because of poor team performance.

4. Derrell Smith, LB, Syracuse: Leader of a solid defense that needs to prove it in league play.

5. Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh: Stepped up his game with Greg Romeus out.

Freshman of the year race:

1. Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia: Redshirt freshman has 10 catches for 137 yards and three touchdowns.

2. Marquis Spruill, LB, Syracuse: True frosh is starting at linebacker and has 24 tackles this season.

3. Terrance Mitchell, DB/KR, South Florida: Mitchell has already made an impact on special teams and is pushing for more playing time on defense.

4. Shamar Stephen, DT, Connecticut: Redshirt freshman has become a starting defensive tackle for Huskies.

5. Jeremy Deering, WR, Rutgers.

Week 4 review/Week 5 preview

September, 27, 2010
9/27/10
2:10
PM ET
The memory-wiping service featured in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is offering discounts to all Big East teams should they want to clear this September from their brains. Until then, let's review what happened in another tough week for the league:

Team of the week: Syracuse. Not much to choose from here, and all the Orange did was beat Colgate at home. But the Orange are 3-1 for the first time since 2003, and I don't see any other Big East teams celebrating milestone victories right about now.

[+] EnlargeButch Jones
AP Photo/Al BehrmanCincinnati and coach Butch Jones showed flashes of promise in an exciting game against Oklahoma.
Best game: Cincinnati's 31-29 loss to Oklahoma. It was a game full of big plays and a stirring Bearcats comeback, in a unique atmosphere against a big-time opponent. Plus, it offered signs of what Cincinnati could become under Butch Jones.

Biggest play: This is a four-way tie, and it's all about kicking-game plays not properly executed.

D.J. Woods' fumbled punt for Cincinnati proved costly and maybe the turning point, along with a missed PAT that kept the Bearcats from being able to tie the score late with a two-point conversion. West Virginia allowed a punt return for a touchdown and missed two field goals (one of which was blocked) in a 20-14 loss at LSU.

Rutgers, normally so good at special teams, had a punt blocked that set up North Carolina's final field goal in a 17-13 loss. And Pitt's Cam Saddler fumbled away a punt return just as Pitt cut Miami's lead to 17-3 and finally appeared to have some momentum. The Panthers completely deflated after that.

Never underestimate the kicking game.

Best call: Randy Edsall's decision to lift Zach Frazer for Cody Endres at quarterback in the Buffalo game. The Huskies seemed to gain almost immediate confidence on offense, and Endres led them down the field to several scores in a 31-point second half. Edsall couldn't really have made the call any sooner since Endres was suspended until last week. But it was the right time to make a change.

Big Man on Campus (Offense): Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati. I totally blew it in my helmet stickers this week, giving a nod to Woods instead of Pead. I'd like to blame it on too many Abitas in Baton Rouge, but it was really a case of a bad internet connection in the LSU press box and no TV access. But no excuses. Throw the penalty flag on me. Pead was huge in the second-half comeback, running for 139 of his 169 yards after intermission. Cincinnati is a different team with a healthy Pead able to take pressure off the passing game.

Big Man on Campus (Defense): Jerome Junior, S, Connecticut. Junior had a pair of interceptions, including one he returned 27 yards for the Huskies' first score against Buffalo.

Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Terrance Mitchell, South Florida. The true freshman had 94 yards on two punt returns, including a 64-yarder that set up a score against Western Kentucky.

Worst hangover: Pittsburgh. Sure, West Virginia, Rutgers and Cincinnati all lost their marquee matchups, too. But the total margin of defeat against LSU, Oklahoma and North Carolina was 12 points, at least giving some hope that each team can get things going. Pitt offered no reason for optimism in a 31-3 home collapse against Miami. The Panthers likely aren't as bad they showed last Thursday night, but they looked nothing like the preseason league favorite.

Strangest moment: With USF clinging to a 24-12 lead against Western Kentucky and the Hilltoppers about to go for an onside kick, Skip Holtz put quarterback B.J. Daniels in on his hands team. And wouldn't you know it: the ball went to Daniels, and he caught it. How many coaches would put their starting quarterback in that situation? Then again, given the kicking problems plaguing the league all during Week 4, it makes sense.

The good news for the Big East is that September is over. Here's how the hunt for a better October begins in a really lackluster week (games listed in descending order of interest/importance):

Vanderbilt at Connecticut (2-2): Hey, it's a chance for the Big East to beat an SEC team! (Crickets). But Vandy already has a better win than anybody in the Big East -- a 28-14 victory at Ole Miss. (ESPN3.com, Noon ET)

Florida International (0-3) at Pittsburgh (1-2): It's Panthers vs. Panthers. Don't sleep on FIU, which has opened its season playing Rutgers, Texas A&M and Maryland tough. If Pitt's head isn't right, an upset is possible. (3:30 ET)

Tulane (1-2) at Rutgers (2-1): Hey, remember when Tulane used to have that high-scoring offense with Shaun King? That was fun. Hey, remember when Rutgers' offense used to score points, too? (2 ET)

Florida Atlantic (1-2) at South Florida (2-1): The Big East tries to maintain its tenuous hold over the Sun Belt in the ESPN conference rankings. (ESPN3.com, 7:05 ET)

Louisville (1-2) at Arkansas State (1-3): You don't just walk into Jonesboro and expect to beat the Red Wolves. No, sir. (7 ET)

Bye: West Virginia, Cincinnati, Syracuse

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