NCF Nation: Verran Tucker
There is, however, a lot of potential at the position. Many of the names below who appear as secondary options could end up competing for All-Pac-10 spots.
Note: Tight ends and running backs don't count here.
- Washington: The Huskies entire two-deep is back, topped by second-team All-Pac-10 pick Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar, who ranked seventh in the conference in receiving yards per game in 2009. James Johnson was probably the best freshman receiver in the conference last year.
- Oregon State: James Rodgers is clearly the No. 1 returning receiver in the conference. Markus Wheaton, Jordan Bishop and Darrell Catchings offer promising depth, but they combined for 25 receptions last year (Catchings was injured).
- Oregon: The Ducks aren't flashy, but they welcome back their top three receivers from last year. By season's end, Jeff Maehl was one of the best in the conference. Things would have been better if Tyrece Gaines and Diante Jackson weren't ruled academically ineligible.
- Arizona: After Delashaun Dean got himself kicked off the team, the Wildcats must replace their Nos. 1 and 4 WRs, which is why they aren't in "great shape." Still, Juron Criner tops a solid returning crew.
- UCLA: The Bruins welcome back their top-two WRs -- Taylor Embree and Nelson Rosario -- and Colorado transfer Josh Smith figures to make an immediate impact. Sophomores Damien Thigpen and Morrell Presley also seem poised for breakthroughs.
- USC: While he was hurt much of last year, Ronald Johnson is a top home run threat. Brice Butler and David Ausberry will have to fight to stay ahead of a talented crew of incoming freshmen.
- Stanford: The Cardinal welcome back their top-two receivers in Ryan Whalen and Chris Owusu. That's the good news. The question is who will become options No. 3 and 4?
- California: The Bears only lose No. 2 WR Verran Tucker and the underwhelming Nyan Boateng, but, other than Marvin Jones, they didn't get much production here in 2009.
- Arizona State: The Sun Devils lost their top-two WRs, but the cupboard isn't empty, with Oregon transfer Aaron Pflugrad, who would have started for the Ducks in 2009, and JC transfer George Bell, Gerell Robinson, Jamal Miles and Kerry Taylor. Still, it's not a proven group.
- Washington State: The Cougars went through spring with just four scholarship receivers, a crew topped by Jared Karstetter and Gino Simone. The incoming recruiting class features five receivers, and at least a couple will get on the field. The Cougars are OK here but they did rank last in the conference in passing in 2009.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Revelations from the past weekend's action:
1. USC's offensive inconsistency is consistent: For the second time in three weeks, USC scored just 17 points in a victory. In the 17-3 win over Cal, unlike the 17-10 win over Arizona, the Trojans moved the ball fairly consistently. They just couldn't make plays once they got inside Cal territory, which happened nine times. It wasn't turnovers; the Trojans had just one. Cal's defense, just like Arizona's, deserves some credit, but 17 points was well below the 21 the Bears have been giving up this season. Afterwards, coach Pete Carroll said the game plan was conservative because of how many takeaways the Cal defense has forced this year, and he praised quarterback Mark Sanchez. Sure, a win is a win, but it's clear that the Trojans offense is the character actor while the defense is laden with leading men.
2. California's quarterback situation is no less murky today: Coach Jeff Tedford started Nate Longshore but benched him at halftime for Kevin Riley. Then he stuck with Riley while he played much worse than Longshore had. Longshore completed 11 of 15 for 79 yards with no interceptions in the first half, though a pair of apparent picks were killed by penalties. He was sacked once. Riley, who was sacked three time despite his superior mobility, completed 4 of 16 passes for 59 yards with an interception. His only impressive play, a 31-yard completion, was mostly about a circus catch by Verran Tucker. Nine games into the season and heading into a critical matchup with Oregon State, the answer to who should be the starting quarterback isn't clear. Here's a guess that, fully recovered from his concussion, Riley still will get the call at Oregon State on Saturday.
3. It's time to put Oregon's quarterback debate to bed; Jeremiah Masoli is the man: Masoli didn't post huge numbers in the comeback win over Stanford, and the sophomore is still developing as a passer. And a pair of fumbles won't charm fans or coaches. But his clutch play suggests he's got the mental side whipped, which might be the most important quality a quarterback can possess. He only completed 11 of 21 passes for 144 yards, but he led the Ducks 74 yards in 11 plays for the winning touchdown, completing 3 of 6 passes for 39 yards and running for 30 more, including a 25-yard scramble on third-and-8 to the Stanford 8-yard line. It appears that this question already has been answered in coach Mike Bellotti's mind -- Justin Roper didn't play in the 35-28 win.
4. Oregon State appears ready to face the meat of its schedule with the Rose Bowl on the line: The Beavers have won four in a row since a 2-3 start. The four wins have come vs. teams with a combined 7-30 record. The three teams that remain between them and the Rose Bowl all have winning records and are a combined 19-9. Yet the Beavers' second-half surge against UCLA -- they outscored the Bruins 31-3 after the break -- suggests this team is (again) peaking late in the season. What's more, while other teams are still struggling at quarterback, Sean Canfield's performance shows Oregon State has two quarterbacks it can win with. Stepping in for starter Lyle Moevao, Canfield completed 16 of 22 passes for 222 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Of course, Canfield got a lot of help from the Rodgers brothers: freshman Jacquizz (31 carries for 144 yards) and sophomore James (6 receptions, 115 yards).
5. The state of Washington still has a small spark of fight left: In their showdowns with the state of Arizona, Washington and Washington State both turned in semi-respectable performances and perhaps -- for the moment -- dispelled feelings that both teams had quit on their respective miserable seasons. Washington was actually leading 19-16 in the third quarter over Arizona State before Rudy Carpenter rallied the Sun Devils for a 39-19 win, the Huskies school-record 11th defeat in a row. Meanwhile, Washington State scored a season-high 28 points -- against FBS competition -- and didn't surrender more than 60 points for a fifth time this season in a 59-28 loss to Arizona. Sure, the Wildcats had 531 total yards, including 317 on the ground, against the woeful Cougars defense, but it's something, right?
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona just plays better at home. Way better. Particularly against ranked teams.
It certainly owned the third quarter. Owned with a capital O.
As in 28-3 owned. The Wildcats took a 42-27 lead into the fourth quarter after trailing 24-14 at the half.
There was more Keola Antolin, whose 59-yard touchdown run gave the Wildcats a 28-27 lead.
And there was a 21-yard pick-six from Devin Ross when he wrestled a Nate Longshore pass away from Verran Tucker.
But the overriding theme was getting the ball back in the hands of the Wildcats money players: Money Mike Thomas and Big Freak Rob Gronkowski.
They combined for just six catches for 61 yards and no touchdowns a week ago in the loss at Stanford.
Through three quarters, Thomas has six catches for 104 yards and a 56-yard TD on Arizona's first possession of the second half that swung momentum the Wildcats' way.
And Gronkowski had six receptions for 91 yards, including the 35-yard TD that made it 42-27.
Here's where Arizona got the idea to throw the ball to Thomas and Gronkowski.