NCF Nation: Zach Kline

What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 6

October, 3, 2013
10/03/13
10:15
AM ET
A few storylines to keep an eye on in Week 6 in the Pac-12. (Really? Week 6 already?)

    [+] EnlargeBrett Hundley
    AP Photo/Nati HarnikUCLA signal-caller Brett Hundley will lead the Bruins into Utah on Thursday night.
  • 50 for five? Oregon set a school record last week by scoring at least 50 points in four consecutive games. This week it faces a Colorado team that appears to be stronger than last year's but still has some holes on both sides of the ball. Sans De'Anthony Thomas, the Ducks had little trouble negotiating Cal -- and mother nature -- en route to a 55-16 win. Is a fifth straight 50-plus-point game in the cards?

  • Kicking it: Great stat from our friends at the Pac-12 offices: "Entering last weekend's play, Pac-12 teams were 186-of-188 on PATs (.989). However, weather conditions in the Pacific Northwest last weekend wreaked havoc on the kickers as high winds and rain contributed to a combined six missed extra-point attempts in games in Corvallis, Eugene and Seattle. While kickers struggled with extra points last weekend, combining for 38-of 45 (.844), they did have considerable success from further out as they connected on 8-of-9 field-goal attempts (.889)." What's the takeaway? Don't try to understand kickers.
  • Nine in a row: UCLA has both of its bye weeks in the rearview mirror and will play nine consecutive games to close out the season, starting tonight with a trip to Utah. Quarterbacks (and their offensive coordinators) take center stage in this matchup. UCLA's Brett Hundley and Utah's Travis Wilson are both off to fantastic starts. And UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone was the OC for Dennis Erickson at Arizona State. Erickson is of course now the OC at Utah.
  • Quick starts? There are lots of intriguing storylines in the Washington-Stanford matchup. For starters, it's a pair of top-15 teams, which is always exciting. But the Huskies have outscored opponents 38-0 in the first quarter and are yet to trail in a game this season. Stanford is outscoring teams 37-12 in the first frame. This kicks off the first of three straight games for the Huskies against ranked opponents, who are home to No. 2 Oregon next week and at No. 22 ASU on Oct. 19.
  • Irish x 3: The Sun Devils travel to Arlington, Texas, to take on Notre Dame -- the first of three games between the Irish and Pac-12 teams. Notre Dame will host USC under the lights on Oct. 19 and then close out the season at Stanford on Nov. 30. The Sun Devils are trying to become the first team to beat USC and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks. It has happened only 13 times that a team has played USC and Notre Dame in back-to-back weeks.
  • Raids a'plenty: Washington State travels to Cal in a showdown of the Air Raid vs. the Bear Raid. Cal coach Sonny Dykes, of course, learned his offensive philosophies from working under Washington State coach Mike Leach at Texas Tech and was his GA at Kentucky.
  • Quarterback change? Cal, which has gone with true freshman Jared Goff as its signal-caller this season, released its depth chart this week with an "or" between Goff and redshirt freshman Zach Kline. Dykes said he felt Kline deserved to get some reps, and both quarterbacks took reps with the first team offense this week. Does it mean Goff is out? Not necessarily. Goff said he's fine with the competition -- despite averaging 329.2 yards per game. Goff was 3 of 6 for 11 yards and lost a pair of fumbles in unfavorable weather at Oregon. Kline stepped in, making his collegiate debut, and was 18 of 37 for 165 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
  • Arms race: Half of the Pac-12 quarterbacks rank in the top 25 of Total QBR heading into the week: Marcus Mariota (2), Kevin Hogan (5), Brett Hundley (11), Travis Wilson (16) and Keith Price (21) are all in action this week. Sean Mannion (22) is on bye. Four of those QBs are going head to head with Wilson and Hundley tonight and Hogan and Price on Saturday.
  • Catching on: Per the hard-working folks of Arizona State's media relations office, ASU's Jaelen Strong is off to one of the best starts of any ASU wide receiver in school history. Through his first four games, he has more catches and yards than any other receiver. So far he has 31 catches for 433 yards and two touchdowns. Lenzie Jackson and Jon Mistler had four touchdowns through their first four games, but Strong is way out in front in catches and yards. He faces a Notre Dame defense that gives up 364 yards per game.
  • Taking a breather: Arizona, Oregon State and USC are on a bye this week. The Trojans return to action for the first time without Lane Kiffin when they host Arizona next Thursday. Oregon State travels to Pullman to take on Washington State on Oct. 12.

 
It's probably self-indulgent to look for deeper meaning in California coach Sonny Dykes naming true freshman Jared Goff his starting quarterback Friday. Going beyond the notion that Goff simply straight-up won the competition with redshirt freshman Zach Kline and junior Austin Hinder is mostly an academic exercise, some preseason navel gazing.

Dykes picked Goff because he was the most consistent player in preseason camp. He picked him because he believes he gives the Bears their best chance to win. There are no other reasons to pick a starting quarterback, particularly when the guy who finished No. 2, Kline, is just a redshirt freshman.

But in terms of fleshing this out, it's also reasonable to believe Dykes particularly liked how Goff looked in preseason camp compared to spring practices. Decided improvement leads to projection -- Goff went from this to this over the summer; what might he do with first team reps and coaching for two weeks?

If two guys are in nearly a dead-heat, the tag goes to the guy who improved the most to get there.

Goff flashed potential in the spring. He showed maturity. He didn't seem intimidated. And he played a similar offense in high school. Still, he looked skinny and had plenty of freshman moments.

At the end of spring practices, while Dykes revealed nothing, most observers thought the big-armed Kline was the front runner. The rationale not being much beyond his being a year older.

But Goff put on six or seven pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame, and that filling out accentuated his developing polish. Goff got better over the summer. And probably more confident. That Goff truly believed he could win the job, and Dykes saw that in him, surely played a role in Dykes envisioning a true freshman leading the Bears' new up-tempo, spread offense.

The bad news is the schedule. Goff could use a couple of early-season patsies to get accustomed to game-day environments and the speed of opposing defenses. Instead, he gets Northwestern in Week 1 and national title contender Ohio State in Week 3. The good news is both games are in Berkeley. Of course, the schedule doesn't get any easier, as the Bears' only scheduling break is missing Arizona State.

Playing young quarterbacks, particularly true and redshirt freshmen, used to be almost unheard of in college football. But with the success of redshirt freshmen such as Oregon's Marcus Mariota, UCLA's Brett Hundley and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, it's obvious that guys are arriving at college far more advanced and ready to compete, physically, mentally and, perhaps most important, emotionally.

The question now is will Goff hold onto the job? If he falters early, say throws a few picks against the Buckeyes in a blowout defeat, will Dykes be tempted to give him the hook and see what Kline might be able to do? Quarterback carousels, typically, are not a good thing.

Of course, that was the question last year with Hundley, Mariota and then sophomore Taylor Kelly at Arizona State. But all three thrived from the get-go.

Is Goff poised to be the next young Pac-12 QB phenom? We should have at least a preliminary answer to that before September is over.

Take 2: B1G vs. Pac-12

July, 12, 2013
7/12/13
9:00
AM ET
Your B1G and Pac-12 bloggers have been grinding away on their respective leagues' nonconference primer series. Here's the Big Ten series, and here's the Pac-12 series. Part of the fun is learning about other teams in other conferences and what they bring to the table. The Pac-12 and Big Ten face each other five times during the regular season. The Pac-12 got the better of the matchups last year. Will this year be different? Brian Bennett and Kevin Gemmell decided to talk it over.

Brian Bennett: The first thing I look at for Big Ten-Pac-12 matchups in any given season is where the games are staged. Big Ten teams don’t seem to think the West Coast is the Best Coast; they are just 5-20 in true road games against the Pac-12 since 2000, and that includes an 0-3 mark on the road versus the Pac-12 last year. (The league also has just one win in its past 10 Rose Bowls, but not all of those games came against the Pac-12.)

[+] EnlargeGary Andersen
AP Photo/David StlukaNew coach Gary Andersen and the Badgers will have their hands full at ASU this season.
So it’s not good news for the league that I cover that three of these five matchups are located far left of the Midwest. If there’s any reason for optimism, it’s that the Big Ten teams should be substantial favorites in two of the road games -- Northwestern at Cal in the opener and Ohio State against those same Bears in Week 3. Cal is intriguing because of new coach Sonny Dykes, but Northwestern and Ohio State are both legitimate Top 20 teams with conference-title aspirations; if they can shake off the jet lag and contain the Bears’ passing attack, they should take care of business.

The two most interesting games -- and what look like virtual toss-ups -- are Wisconsin at Arizona State, and UCLA at Nebraska. The Badgers have a lot of returning talent, but a new head coach and different schemes on both sides of the ball. It’s also going to be a clash of styles, with the Badgers’ power running game going up against Arizona State’s spread offense. Will Gary Andersen’s team have its new systems figured out by then, and is Wisconsin’s defense -- particularly its inexperienced secondary -- fast enough to handle the Sun Devils?

UCLA-Nebraska is probably not getting enough attention as a must-watch game this year. Last year’s shootout in Pasadena, Calif., featured nonstop pingpong action, and both teams figure to have topflight offenses again. The Cornhuskers have a perilously young defense, but Bo Pelini’s teams usually defend much better at home than on the road. Quarterback Taylor Martinez -- who grew up a Bruins fan but was recruited by them as a defensive back -- will be highly motivated to beat UCLA his senior year. This is Nebraska’s only major test in the first seven games, and it’s one I think the Huskers have to find a way to win.

Finally, there’s Washington at Illinois. The Illini get the benefit of home turf, sort of, as the game will be played at Soldier Field in Chicago. We’ll see if Tim Beckman’s crew will inspire enough fans to show up by Week 3. While Washington has been mediocre for what seems like forever, I can’t confidently pick Illinois to beat any half-decent power conference opponent at this point.

In the end, I say the Big Ten manages a winning record this time around against the Pac-12, taking the two games in Berkeley, Calif., and the one in Lincoln, Neb. A 3-2 mark sounds about right, though if Wisconsin can pull off the win in the desert, that could be a good sign for both the Badgers and the league as a whole.

Kevin Gemmell: I'm going 3-2 also, but in favor of the Pac-12. After all, if we were in total agreement, it would make for a pretty boring Take 2. So I'll play the contrarian when it comes to UCLA-Nebraska.

[+] EnlargeJim Mora
William Mancebo/Getty ImagesCoach Jim Mora and UCLA allowed just six points in the second half of last year's win against Nebraska.
We agree on the Cal games versus Northwestern and Ohio State -- though I think Cal is going to give both of those teams a better run than they are banking on. I like what Andy Buh is doing with a defense that could be sneaky good. And the Bears have some explosive depth at wide receiver. But ultimately it's a rookie quarterback -- whomever Dykes chooses among Zach Kline, Jared Goff and Austin Hinder -- and a team that will still have some growing pains as new systems are installed on both sides of the ball. Like you with Illinois, I'm not ready to give the Bears the green light yet. However, last year's game in Columbus, a 35-28 win for Ohio State, should serve as a reminder not to take Cal lightly. No doubt, the Buckeyes will remember Brendan Bigelow and his four carries, 160 yards and two touchdowns.

Both halves of the Pac-12 blog have been saying we believe Washington is going to get over that seven-win hump this year after three straight seasons of mediocrity. The Huskies have a lot of pieces in place with a returning quarterback, a 1,400-yard rusher, good receivers, a good line and the top tight end in the country. Their defense made huge strides last season in the first year under Justin Wilcox, and we're expecting another leap forward in 2013. What scares me is Washington's inconsistent play on the road the past few seasons. During the Huskies' trio of 7-6 seasons, they are 14-5 in Seattle (last year they played at CenturyLink Field) and 6-11 on the road. The past two years they are 11-2 at home and 3-8 on the road (0-2 in their bowl games at neutral sites). If the Huskies want to have a breakout year, they are going to have to win away from home. Steve Sarkisian actually talked about this in a Q&A we did back in April. But they certainly have the talent to win this game.

The ASU-Wisconsin game is really a critical one for the Sun Devils. It kicks off a four-game stretch (with no bye weeks) that also includes Stanford, USC and Notre Dame. ASU is another team looking for some national credibility, and this is its first opportunity to get some. You're right to talk about the ASU offense, but that defense -- which ranked first nationally in tackles for a loss and second in sacks last season -- is going to be crazy good with Will Sutton and Carl Bradford leading the attack. I'm banking on a good game, but ultimately one ASU wins at home.

That brings us to UCLA-Nebraska, a game I'm also surprised more people aren't geeked up about outside of the respective fan bases. This should be a fantastic showcase for both leagues. Brett Hundley impressed in his freshman campaign, and I think this game is going to be a spotlight for two of the country's most athletic quarterbacks. I was in Pasadena for the game last season, and what actually stood out to me was UCLA's defense -- particularly in the second half. The Bruins allowed only six points, and kept Martinez to 11 yards rushing and the Huskers to 106 total yards in the final 30 minutes. They should be improved in Year 2 under Jim Mora and Lou Spanos. If the Bruins pull this one off, it's going to be because of what they can do defensively.

Pac-12 QB competitions update

April, 16, 2013
4/16/13
1:00
PM ET
Four of the five Pac-12 teams that entered spring with wide-open quarterback competitions are now finished with practices and are headed into the offseason.

So ... what did we learn? A little but not a lot. We didn't expect much resolution and we didn't get it. So, hey, we lived up to expectations.

Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon State and USC entered the spring with wide-open battles. Of them, only Oregon State is still practicing, and coach Mike Riley has said he won't decide between Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion until the fall.

Which is sort of the message with the other four, too.

Still, here's our best tea leave reading.

Arizona

When I was in Tucson at the beginning of spring practices, coach Rich Rodriguez and offensive coordinator Rod Smith kept saying they just wanted to find a QB with whom they could win.

At the time, I kept thinking, "Well, duh." But I get it now. The translation: Matt Scott isn't walking back down the stadium tunnel. It's difficult to imagine 2013 production at the position will approximate what the Wildcats had in 2012.

The general takeaway from spring practices? The Wildcats probably can be at least adequate on offense and win a few games and be competitive throughout the season with B.J. Denker at quarterback.

The second takeaway? The guys who weren't able to participate this spring -- USC transfer Jesse Scroggins and incoming freshman Anu Solomon -- are Denker's true competition.

So ... this is still wide open and it's wide open in a predictable way.

Denker has the most experience in the offense. Scroggins has a significantly better arm. Solomon is seen as the future. The question with him is readiness and whether he will benefit more from a redshirt season (Pac-12 blog guesses "yes") than playing immediately, even if in only limited packages.

California

California's QB competition also remains officially unresolved, but the scuttlebutt seems to strongly favor redshirt freshman Zach Kline.

Further, there was some movement. For one, senior Allan Bridgford, quite reasonably, recognized he was the odd man out and opted to transfer. Second, it became a three-man race between Kline, junior Austin Hinder and surprising true freshman Jared Goff.

The post-spring depth chart was sort of interesting, though it's likely the Pac-12 blog is reading more into stuff than it should. While all three were separated by the time-honored "OR," Goff was first, Kline second and Hinder third.

Typically, "ORs" go in alphabetical order. You don't need a Berkeley degree to know that's not what happened there. Perhaps this is a case of youngest to oldest?

A further wrinkle: Hinder is the best runner of the troika by a wide margin. It wouldn't be surprising if he's given some specific, situational packages to run next fall.

Colorado

Colorado started with six candidates -- though not with equal standing -- and the top two after spring practices might surprise some, particularly those hoping for new blood: juniors Connor Wood and Nick Hirschman.

Before spring practices began, more than a few folks believed redshirt freshman Shane Dillon was the favorite. But he often looked raw while Wood and Hirschman seemed far more comfortable with the new offense under Mike MacIntyre, something that likely is due to their having significantly more experience.

Of course, there's no reason Dillon can't find his stroke this summer and jump back into the competition. The most obvious precedent of a guy overcoming a poor spring to win the starting job is Arizona State's Taylor Kelly, who was well behind Mike Bercovici and Michael Eubank a year ago.

Further, just like Arizona, Colorado has its own touted incoming true freshman: Sefo Liufau.

Youth is an advantage in some ways. The Buffaloes aren't going to win the Pac-12 in 2013. There's something to be said for, if the race is close, going with Dillon or Liufau and accepting immediate growing pains with an eye toward 2014 and beyond.

++USC

USC's QB situation is interesting, in large part because one guy clearly outplayed the competition this spring: Sophomore Cody Kessler.

But Max Wittek is undeniably a more talented passer; he might have the strongest arm in the Pac-12. He also is a strapping 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, while Kessler is a scrappy 6-foot-1 215.

USC isn't known for scrappy. Some might call that, on occasion, a shortcoming.

So there is a bit of controversy here as coach Lane Kiffin didn't seem inclined to say after the spring game -- Kessler passed for 242 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions compared to Wittek's 145 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions -- that Kessler was ahead.

Of course, this could just be a minor, media-driven quibble. For one, Kiffin might release a depth chart in a few days and put Kessler ahead. So there you go, media!

Or Kiffin, unlike his mentor and predecessor Pete Carroll, might want to keep the competition going as long as possible. He might want to see who asserts himself as the screws tighten. Nothing invalid about that. Will we media sorts similarly harrumph if Riley does the same even if Vaz/Mannion decisively outplays Mannion/Vaz?

(Carroll liked to "anoint" -- his frequently used term -- a QB as early as possible so he could take over requisite leadership for the position).

The problem Kiffin has is some see him sometimes prioritizing talent over performance (see, OT Aundrey Walker), which diminishes the perception of true competition. Carroll seemed to fall into that during his later years at USC before bolting for the Seahawks.

Anyone remember the old USC glory days of "Competition Tuesdays?"

Wittek might end up earning the starting nod. But it will not benefit him if there's a sense in the locker room that he didn't truly win the job. If Kiffin hands him the keys to the offense -- not saying he will, only "if" -- then it will be a disservice to Wittek as much as his teammates.

BERKELEY, Calif. -- While California has hired two coaches over the past 12 years, it didn't hire them to do the same job.

Jeff Tedford took possession of a dilapidated and unlivable house on college football's skid row in 2001. Sonny Dykes this winter moved into a nice home in a posh neighborhood that needs some minor interior renovations.

Sure, Cal went a dreary 3-9 last season, its second losing season in three years, which got Tedford fired. But he took over a program that went 1-10 in 2001, played in a crumbling stadium that averaged 30,000 in attendance and featured some of the worst facilities in major college football.

Dykes has inherited a team that went 82-57 under Tedford and plays in front of 55,876 fans even during a 3-9 season. And the facilities? Sparkling. Brand freaking new. Among the best in the Pac-12 and the nation.

Tedford made the Bears respectable and then made a push for the top of the Pac-10. That initiated the process -- glacial in pace -- of facility upgrades. But he couldn't reach the top of the conference. The program plateaued and then reversed course. In 2004, it seemed certain Tedford would get the Bears to their first Rose Bowl since 1959. In 2012, the Rose Bowl seemed infinitely far away, and it didn't help that stricken Old Blues had to watch crosstown rival Stanford win the darn thing.

Enter Dykes.

"Jeff had a rebuilding job. His job was different," Dykes said. "He made this place credible. He made people take notice and say, 'Cal is a good job. You can do things at Cal.' If it hadn't been for his success, we wouldn't be sitting in this facility right now. He did a great job with the program. They kind of fell off the last couple of years, but he's what made this place a good place."

Dykes is expected to make it a great place.

That won't be easy. Stanford and Oregon are in the way, for one. Washington and Oregon State, potential top-25 teams in 2013, also are looking to take the proverbial "next step." And that's just the North Division.

Further, there are some things that need to be cleaned up, not the least of which is team academics.

Cal is the nation's most celebrated public university. It's difficult to walk around campus without running into someone wearing a Nobel Prize medal. Yet the football program not only ranked last in the Pac-12 in graduation rate last season at 48 percent -- 5 percent behind No. 11 Arizona -- it ranked second worst among automatic qualifying conference teams, 1 percent ahead of Oklahoma, where folks believe the Nobel Prize is something a person gets for visiting the "Rock Rose Capital of the World."

On the football side of things, the Bears seemed mired in a general malaise over the past few seasons. Quarterback play, upon which Tedford built his strong reputation, was mediocre to bad post-Aaron Rodgers. Further, when Cal lost, it didn't mess around. Over Tedford's final four years, the Bears lost 16 games by at least 17 points. That happened while the Bears nonetheless remained a major pipeline to the NFL.

Top-to-bottom talent didn't seem like the problem. It seemed like the Bears had become a bit of a head case. Chief among Dykes' first-year tasks is creating a mentally tougher team.

"This is not a traditional rebuilding job," Dykes said. "But some things do need to be rebuilt. I think the psyche needs to be rebuilt. Maybe expectations need to be rebuilt. We need to do a good job of balancing athletic and academic success."

As for X's and O's and quarterback woes, Dykes and his spread-guru offensive coordinator Tony Franklin averaged 51.5 points per game last season at Louisiana Tech, with quarterback Colby Cameron ranking 22nd in the nation in passing efficiency while throwing 31 TD passes with just five interceptions.

Too pass-happy? The Bulldogs averaged 227 yards rushing, which ranked 17th in the nation. Dykes, who also coached Nick Foles as Arizona's offensive coordinator before going to Louisiana Tech in 2010, has the offensive bona fides, without question.

In terms of putting it all together at an elite academic institution -- Cal fans might want to cover their ears -- Dykes sees a pretty good model playing ball a bit to the south.

"The thing Stanford has done is they've done it the right way," he said. "Their kids are graduating. They've proven you can have high academic standards and still have success on the field."

Dykes says his charge is "not about building a team; it's about building a program." That means creating a culture aimed at long-term and high-level success.

Yes, more than a few Old Blues have related to Dykes their singular wish to experience a Rose Bowl before they die. Tedford used to joke that many Cal fans wanted the Rose Bowl more than a national title.

Tedford took over a team that hadn't posted a winning season in eight years. He made winning seasons the standard. Now Dykes is charged with pushing the Bears back into the national rankings and into the Pac-12 title picture, while maintaining high academic standards.

And if he produces a Rose Bowl victory, they'll probably build a statue of him outside remodeled Memorial Stadium.

Youth movement at QB expanding?

March, 14, 2013
3/14/13
1:00
PM ET
If someone had asked me before spring practices began who California's starting quarterback would be in 2013, I would have quickly said with my all-knowing look: "Zach Kline."

If that someone had gently protested with a "But what about..." I would have interrupted with another all-knowing look, "No. It will be Zach Kline."

Unfortunately, that would have been the same all-knowing look I gave while asserting USC's national championship prospects before the 2012 season. It might be wise for me to mothball that all-knowing look, and I just want to add that my wife and children owe Lane Kiffin and the 2012 Trojans an eternal debt of gratitude.

[+] EnlargeKevin Hogan
Ed Szczepanski/US PresswireThe success of young QB's like Stanford's Kevin Hogan is no longer a rarity in college football.
Kline might well end up the Bears' starting quarterback, but that's not what this is about. It's about Cal's quarterback battle looking like it's going to be a showdown between Kline, a redshirt freshman, and true freshman Jared Goff, who opted to graduate early from high school, skip all the riotous things high school seniors do during their final spring frolic and begin the serious business of Pac-12 football.

A redshirt freshman is the "veteran." A true freshman is the challenger.

There are two notable things about the Conference of Quarterbacks this spring: 1. There's an impressive crew of talented and already accomplished ones returning; 2. Youth now rules a position where that very quality was nearly a disqualifying negative not too long ago.

California is not the only school that might tap a true freshman. Arizona has Anu Solomon coming in this fall, and the look on both coach Rich Rodriguez's and co-offensive coordinator Rod Smith's faces when talking about him suggest his candidacy is legitimate.

"If the kid is good enough and he can handle it," Smith said." Some kids transition better than others. Anu is a kid who was a four-year starter in high school. That doesn't mean anything for college, but at least he's been in the mode when he's the new kid on the block competing with older kids and he performed well. He was 56-4 as a starter. The kid is a winner. He knows how to move the football and win."

That is not too far from the case Pete Carroll made in 2008 when he opted to go with true freshman Matt Barkley, only Carroll went all Pete Carroll-y and made Barkley into some metaphysical quarterbacking beast, citing Malcolm Gladwell and labeling Barkley an "outlier."

Still, that was a precursor to the new reality.

A redshirt freshman, Texas A&M's Johnny "Football" Manziel, won the Heisman Trophy, and a redshirt freshman, Oregon's Marcus Mariota, was first-team All-Pac-12, over seniors Barkley and Arizona's Matt Scott. Stanford's season transformed when it handed its offense to redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan. Utah started a true freshman, Travis Wilson, a few games into the season. Redshirt freshman Brett Hundley led a UCLA resurgence.

Further, USC again has a early arriving true freshman who is a legitimate candidate to win the starting job in Max Browe. More than a few folks believe the front-runner to win the job at Colorado is redshirt freshman Shane Dillon.

We might not be at the end of 2013's youth movement. While Washington and Washington State both welcome back veteran quarterbacks in Keith Price and Connor Halliday, there is a sense they both could be threatened by, yes, true and redshirt freshmen challengers.

The only Pac-12 teams certain to start upperclassmen at quarterback: Arizona State with junior Taylor Kelly, and Oregon State with junior Sean Mannion or senior Cody Vaz.

This youth movement doesn't include a sacrifice of quality and high-prospects. It's not primarily about a failure of the older guys. Does any conference offer a better array of returning quarterbacks than Mariota, Kelly, Hundley and Hogan? The answer is no.

There are many explanations for this youth movement. First of all, quarterbacks are better prepared in high school. They get private coaching, go to summer camps, play 7-on-7 in the offseason, etc. In high school, they don't just show up in August for two-a-days and draw plays in the dirt anymore.

Further, a player's recognition of and respect for the natural pecking order has been reduced, as has patience. If a touted guy loses out in a quarterback competition, he seems more likely to transfer now in search of playing time. A couple of coaches also have told me it's more difficult to recruit the position when a team has an entrenched, underclass starter. That then means the junior and sophomore quarterbacks on the roster might not be as good as the younger players who sign only when the starter is a junior or senior.

Or the job will be vacant, as is the case with Browne at USC.

Yet just because a guy starts as a freshman doesn't mean the death of the upperclassman quarterback. In fact, it should in most cases increase its likelihood of occurring.

The logic is simple: If a guy is good enough to start as a freshman and plays well, then you can project forward two or three years of improvement and future success. The most important position on the field is locked down and secure and worry-free. A good thing.

It doesn't always work out like that -- see Price at Washington this past season. Or the Barkley of 2011 versus the lesser version in 2012.

That noted, it's not unreasonable to hold high hopes. Know that just about every Oregon fan has projected improvement for Mariota over the next two years, though he could enter the NFL draft as a third-year player after this season. Even moderate improvement sets him up as an All-American and Heisman Trophy candidate. Same could be said for Hogan, Hundley and Kelly, by the way.

The youth movement at quarterback is a substantial shift in thinking. An experienced, veteran quarterback used to be the first preseason measure of a team. Now all a team needs to be highly esteemed is a returning starter, even if that's just a sophomore.

It's getting to the point, in fact, that youth at quarterback will be weighted less as a potential problem by prognosticators.

At least, it's possible that the next time someone frets a lack of experience at quarterback being a problem, I'll resurrect my all-knowing look and say, "No, it's not!"
The Pac-12 likes quarterback talk. After all, it's the conference of quarterbacks.

Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford and UCLA each have A-list signal-callers returning in 2013, but there's at least some degree of quarterback intrigue at the other eight schools. Arizona, California, Colorado and USC have wide-open competitions with no clear front-runner, while Oregon State, Utah, Washington and Washington State have varying degrees of uncertainty behind center.

So which situation is most interesting?

Kevin Gemmell: What makes the Oregon State quarterback competition so interesting is the fact that you have two players who are already proven. Sean Mannion could probably start for most pro-style teams in the country. And so could Cody Vaz.

[+] EnlargeSean Mannion and Cody Vaz
AP Photo/Don RyanThe Beavers are not in a rush to pick a starter between Sean Mannion (4) and Cody Vaz (14).
There is no single element in football more important than quarterback play. You could have the greatest defense in the world. But if the offense can't score points, it's a wasted effort. You could have an outstanding wide receiver -- but if no one can get him the ball, what's the point? A great running back is nice, but when teams load the box, you have to be able to pass.

No team enjoyed the spoils -- or spoilers -- of quarterback play more last season than the Oregon State Beavers, which seemed to have a love/hate relationship with its signal-callers all year long. Had it not been for outstanding quarterback play, there's a good chance Oregon State doesn't beat UCLA or Arizona (courtesy of Mannion). And had it not been for outstanding quarterback play, there's a good chance Oregon State doesn't beat BYU (courtesy of Vaz). Then again, if it hadn't been for shaky quarterback play, maybe the Beavers beat Washington (courtesy of Mannion) or Stanford (courtesy of Vaz).

At times, both quarterbacks were life preservers for their teams -- bailing them out in tough situations. Other times, they did the Santa thing, handing out free footballs. Both quarterbacks have outstanding potential and could certainly make waves for all-conference honors -- if they can square up their consistency. And if Mike Riley can decide on one.

It's a great problem to have. I promise you that Sonny Dykes, Mike MacIntyre, Rich Rodriguez and Lane Kiffin -- four coaches breaking in new quarterbacks this spring -- would love to have two quarterbacks with multiple starts competing for the gig. And not just starts -- but quality starts in big games at home, on the road, against ranked teams. Both guys know what it's like to win -- and lose -- a big game.

It's unlikely we're going to get an answer about the starter this spring. In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if it's not until a week and a half before the Beavers kick off the season at home against Eastern Washington (we're not expecting any Week 1 hurricanes in Corvallis), before Riley picks his guy. And with a rejuvenated running game and a rising star in Brandin Cooks catching balls -- whoever wins the job will have a nice well of experience from which to draw from. And whoever carries the clipboard will be the most experienced backup quarterback in the league. That's what makes this competition so intriguing.

Ted Miller: This is a hard one for me. I think there are a lot of interesting quarterback situations in the Pac-12 this spring.

When USC has a quarterback competition, it's always national news. Just because it's USC.

I'm curious about how quickly new Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre can teach his quarterbacks the pistol offense -- and then pick one to lead his team. It seems as though new California coach Sonny Dykes and former elite recruit Zach Kline are a perfect match, but Berkeley has done funny things to promising quarterbacks the past few years. And do Utah (Travis Wilson), Washington (Keith Price) and Washington State (Connor Halliday) have decided front-runners to lead their offenses next fall? Probably, but you'd think at least one might surprise us.

Yet no team's trajectory seems so tied to what it can do at quarterback in 2013 as Arizona.

The Wildcats have 11 starters back on defense. Yes, it was a rotten defense in 2012, but that returning experience -- really the entire two-deep -- strongly suggests it should improve next fall. They also have six starters back on offense, including All-America running back Ka'Deem Carey, second-team All-Pac-12 receiver Austin Hill and three starters on the offensive line, including both tackles protecting the new quarterback.

Yet Rich Rodriguez's spread system demands a lot of a quarterback. Further, the next Wildcats quarterback will have huge shoes to fill, as you guys well know the Pac-12 blog thinks very highly of the departed Matt Scott, who was second-team All-Pac-12 and ranked sixth in the nation in total yards.

The question is whether B.J. Denker, Jesse Scroggins, Javelle Allen or incoming freshman Anu Solomon, who doesn't report until the fall, can approach the numbers and leadership Scott offered last year.

The Pac-12 blog, alas, is skeptical, and is therefore worried many, many Arizona fans will come to his Scottsdale home in December -- hat in hands -- and say, "You were right. Matt Scott was really that good. Sorry we participated in the bludgeoning of you in the comments section. Here's a chilled bottle of Grey Goose. And some fresh belon oysters. And $10,000."

Denker played pretty well in relief of an injured Scott against Colorado, but, well, that was Colorado, and Carey was going nuts against the hapless Buffs. Scroggins was good enough to be a USC backup, but he washed out academically and fell out of favor before going to a junior college. Allen is a redshirt freshman. Solomon a true freshman.

In other words, the position is a complete mystery. The Pac-12 blog loves mysteries. Fans, not so much.

If the Wildcats can get solid quarterback play in 2013, they will be a factor in the South Division. But if the position is shaky, they could stumble below .500.

The question is whether Arizona's quarterback mystery is like something Hercule Poirot will tie a nice bow around, producing satisfying clarity at the end, or if it will end up looking like something from Dennis Lehane -- dark, messy and fraught with human fallibility.
Continuing with the hits and misses from Pac-12 recruiting.

CALIFORNIA

Needs filled: The Bears added nice depth to the offensive line with tackles Aaron Cochran and Erik Bunte. Junior-college transfer Sione Sina can also be a nice stopgap at defensive end. They went heavy in the trenches with five offensive linemen and seven defensive linemen.

Holes remaining: Cal is looking for a quarterback to run the new-look offense under new head coach Sonny Dykes. Could be Zach Kline of the 2012 recruiting class. Could be Jared Goff of this year's class, an early enrollee. The Bears addressed a lot of positions, but whether some youngsters can step up remains to be seen. The 11th-hour flip of offensive guard Cameron Hunt to Oregon has to sting.

OREGON

Needs filled: The Ducks went heavy on offense, and running back Thomas Tyner highlights a group that is loaded with speed (what did you expect, it's Oregon). They added two stellar offensive guards in Hunt and Evan Voeller and a premier defensive end in Torrodney Prevot, previously a USC commit. There are speedy receivers down the line like Darren Carrington. And they added kicker Matt Wogan. The Ducks were 11th in the conference in field goals made in 2012.

Holes remaining: The Ducks still have holes to fill at linebacker. Junior-college transfer Joe Walker, an outside linebacker, could step in to help immediately. But with the losses of inside linebackers Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso, the Ducks have mostly untested talent at the position and this year's class didn't add much depth to a position that is already a question mark.

OREGON STATE

Needs filled: When you look at the top two players the Beavers lost -- Jordan Poyer and Markus Wheaton -- it's nice to look at their recruiting class and see a cornerback and wide receiver as the two highest-rated players. Dashon Hunt and Hunter Jarmon might never develop into a Poyer or a Wheaton, but the Beavers saw the holes and addressed them. JC defensive tackles Kyle Peko and Edwin Delva should help immediately and Kyle Kempt could develop into the quarterback of the future in a couple of years. a href="http://espn.go.com/college-sports/football/recruiting/player/_/id/136903/jordan-villamin">Jordan Villamin, 6-foot-4 wide receiver, might also develop into a nice red zone target.

Holes remaining: The JC transfers help with the defensive line in the immediate future, but the Beavers signed only two high school defensive linemen, leaving some questions about depth in the future. It's likely a position they'll address heavily next season.

STANFORD

Needs filled: This is a class low on numbers, but extremely high on potential. If quarterback Ryan Burns is as advertised, it's possible he could challenge for the starting job as early as 2014. Francis Owusu has tremendous upside as a receiver and Peter Kalambayi adds depth to one of the best front sevens in the nation. Plus, three tight ends (Austin Hooper, Greg Taboada and Eric Cotton Jr.). How very Stanfordish of them.

Holes remaining: The Cardinal loaded up on defensive linemen with five last year and there is plenty of depth, albeit untested, at running back. The Cardinal didn't sign any running backs or defensive linemen this year. It's not a bad thing -- for now. But if a couple of guys get injured or if there is any attrition, it could bite them. For now, the Cardinal seem to be in good shape across all positions.

WASHINGTON

Needs filled: The Huskies added some much-needed depth on the defensive line with five linemen -- headlined by ESPN 150 defensive tackle Elijah Qualls. Damore'ea Stringfellow and Darrell Daniels -- both ESPN 150 wide receivers -- provide a nice one-two offensive punch. Troy Williams, the nation's No. 3-rated dual-threat quarterback -- could potentially be the heir apparent to Keith Price. It was a good class that fills a lot of needs.

Holes remaining: For solid as the defensive line class was, the Huskies signed only three offensive linemen -- though one of them is Dane Crane, the nation's No. 4-rated center. If you recall, however, the Huskies were decimated with offensive line injuries this year and coach Steve Sarkisian made it a point to talk about the team needing more depth to be able to absorb that kind of injury hit. Three more guys helps; but is it enough to sustain them if another injury bug ravishes the line?

WASHINGTON STATE

Needs filled: This was quietly a very good encore recruiting class for Mike Leach in his second season at the helm. It's heavy on linemen, heavy in the secondary and it's headlined by a four-star wide receiver in Vince Mayle -- a JC transfer from Rocklin, Calif. Interestingly enough, it also has two fairly highly rated running backs. We know Leach isn't going to be a run-first guy -- but the Cougars could certainly use the help after rushing for 29.1 yards per game last season.

Holes remaining: Who is going to run the offense? It could be Connor Halliday. But it's also possible Leach pulls the trigger on Tyler Bruggman, the No. 22-rated pocket passer in the country from Phoenix. That remains the No. 1 priority for the Cougars in the offseason. Otherwise, this recruiting class plugged a lot of holes. The question is whether they are the right guys to help immediately.
How much can we really learn from spring? Funky scrimmages with backwards scoring systems; depleted depth charts; completely new installs for four teams. Actually, more than you'd think. Here are five things we learned about the Pac-12 during spring.

  1. Quarterbacks are still in limbo: Be it Stanford, Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon or Colorado, almost half of the teams still don’t know who is going to be under center when the season starts. Stanford funneled its list of five down to two, Josh Nunes and Brett Nottingham. ASU still has a three-way battle with Michael Eubank, Mike Bercovici and Taylor Kelly -- though coach Todd Graham said they have a better idea than they are probably letting on publicly. The very private competition between Marcus Mariota and Bryan Bennett at Oregon remains in question -- though Mariota was spectacular in the spring game while Bennett faltered. Still, coach Chip Kelly said that one game isn’t going to be his basis for comparison. UCLA coach Jim Mora wanted to name a starter by the end of spring, but no one has “grabbed” it, so we’ll have to wait until August before learning whether Brett Hundley, Kevin Prince or Richard Brehaut gets the gig. And at Colorado, the competition was put on hiatus when Nick Hirschman broke a bone in his foot and couldn’t compete in spring drills. One has to think that was a huge advantage for Connor Wood to get almost all of the reps with the first-team offense.
  2. Not everyone has quarterback issues: Teams thought to have quarterback question marks heading into spring seemed to have resolved them. In Utah, Jordan Wynn is completely healthy, and both coach Kyle Whittingham and offensive coordinator Brian Johnson have declared Wynn their guy. While Mike Leach hasn’t officially declared Jeff Tuel his starter, it’s hard to imagine anyone else winning the job in the fall, short of Tuel suffering a significant injury or amnesia. He had a splendid spring, and appears to be a great fit for Leach’s offense. And at Arizona, Matt Scott seized the job early and left little room for any competition. Coach Rich Rodriguez has been gushing about how quickly Scott has adjusted to the offense. At Cal, Zach Maynard, once thought to be challenged by freshman Zach Kline, appears to not only have held on to the job, but distanced himself from pursuers.
  3. Wide receivers aplenty: And there are plenty of those in the conference. USC has probably the best tandem in the country in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. Cal’s Keenan Allen (though he missed spring drills) should continue to put up big numbers, and Washington State’s Marquess Wilson should flourish in the Cougars’ new system with Tuel as his quarterback. Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks could challenge the USC duo statistically if quarterback Sean Mannion continues to develop. There are stars on the rise at Arizona State (Jamal Miles) and Stanford (Ty Montgomery), and a potential star at Washington (James Johnson). Look out Biletnikoff, the Pac-12 is a comin'…
  4. The conference of defense? The Pac-12 might never bunk its reputation as an offensive-centric conference (especially when it keeps churning out offensive talent). But there is a surplus of talented defenses and defensive players who were on display this spring. Washington seems to have plugged its leaks with new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. There’s a 3-4 trend sweeping the conference, and with notable playmakers like Star Lotulelei (Utah), John Boyett (Oregon), Dion Jordan (Oregon), Chase Thomas (Stanford), Josh Shirley (Washington), T.J. McDonald (USC) and DeAndre Coleman (Cal), it’s easy to see why some of the Pac-12 defenses will get the same kind of love as the offenses do in 2012.
  5. Confidence is at an all-time high: As it should be in the spring. The four new coaches all feel confident about the systems they have installed. Stanford feels as good as it ever has about its running game. USC and Oregon should get lofty preseason rankings, and this is the time of the year when fans go through the schedules game by game and always seem to come up with a minimum of six wins. Sorry to say, there are teams in the conference that won’t make it to a bowl game this season. But when you hear the coaches talk about their teams, you’d think the conference is going to go 12-0 in the postseason. This is a magical time for fans filled with hope and possibility. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Keenan Allen staying or going?

March, 6, 2012
3/06/12
11:00
AM ET
Keenan Allen is going to get a breather this spring. It will give some of the younger guys a chance to develop while allowing Cal's top receiver to come into the 2012 season with fresh legs. But what about after that? Will this year be his Cal swan song?

Coach Jeff Tedford has no idea. And judging from his comments during yesterday's conference call with the media, it's something he doesn't really want to worry about right now.

[+] EnlargeKeenan Allen
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireKeenan Allen led Cal in receptions, yards and touchdowns last season.
"I don't know," Tedford said, "we haven't talked about that. Obviously, he's played very well for us the first two years. He caught 98 balls last year and he's one of the top receivers in the country, but we haven't talked about it."

So there you have it ... or you don't.

The conference is going to be loaded at the position with five of the top six statistical receivers returning next season. Allen, who was first-team All-Pac-12, finished second in total catches for 1,343 yards, six touchdowns and an average of 103.3 receiving yards per game. With another strong season, his draft stock should be trending up. And consider, if Zach Maynard starts all of next year before Zach Kline presumably takes the job in 2013, you'd think Allen would be more inclined to come out early rather than come back for another season with a first-time starter throwing him the ball.

But Tedford said there is plenty of time to worry about that in the future.

"I think he's focused on what needs to happen now," Tedford said. "We haven't really gone into that topic. I'm sure we'll have that discussion sometime through the summer, just to make sure that I know what's on his mind and he's able to handle it properly, whatever it may be.

"I know that one of the things his family is really eager about is to have him graduate, so we'll just have to see how it plays out. But right now, he's doing great, happy and working hard. We'll see what happens."

Like many of the veteran players on Cal's roster, he'll be taking it easy when the Bears get their spring practices underway next week. Spring will be an opportunity for Tedford to hopefully develop some depth around Maynard so that his primary weapons don't have to completely shoulder the load -- specifically at tailback where Isi Sofele carried 252 times last season.

"It's going to be a big spring for Brendan Bigelow, it's going to be a big spring for Daniel Lasco, Darren Ervin," Tedford said. "You have those young guys there that really need lots of work. We're pretty sure what Isi can do. He's played a whole year; he's a 1,300-yard ruhser. Not that he can't improve, he can ... the young guys need to step up and get some turns. Bigelow, Lasco and Ervin are all guys there that need to do that."

Finding some depth at wide receiver is also a priority, Tedford said.

"We scholarshipped five guys this year that are freshman coming in and obviously they are not here yet," Tedford said. "But Maurice Harris is a big one [that needs to get reps this spring]. Some of our guys like [Ross] Bostock and [Jackson] Bouza, Stephen Anderson is a guy who I'm really anxious to see what he can do as well. Keenan will get very limited reps."

Were Pac-12 recruiting needs met?

February, 2, 2012
2/02/12
12:44
PM ET
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
2/02/12
9:00
AM ET
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?
It's a beautiful thing to be able to recruit in the Golden State -- and even sweeter to be based there. But let's face it, almost every school in America wants to wet their beak and drink from California's recruiting fountain, one of the top four recruiting states in the union, where players of all positions are in abundance.

Interesting then, that cross-bay rivals Cal and Stanford both landed as two of the top five out-of-state recruiters, as described in a piece by ESPN The Magazine's LaRue Cook.

Cook and the folks at RecruitingNation teamed up to see which 10 programs land the most blue-chip recruits from outside of their home states.

Stanford checked in at No. 2 behind Auburn, and Cal is No. 5 behind Clemson and Alabama.
Cook on Stanford:

The Cardinal just can't compete with USC and UCLA for California's top talent, signing only two of the state's 73 ESPNU 150 recruits from 2007-11. But when Jim Harbaugh landed [Andrew] Luck, it proved that top prospects will travel to Palo Alto. After Harbaugh left for the 49ers, new head coach David Shaw convinced 2011's No. 2 ILB James Vaughters (Tucker, Ga.) to stick with Stanford, and the Cardinal currently have three out-of-state ESPNU 150 preps committed for 2012, including top-25 overall prospect OLB Noor Davis (Leesburg, Fla.).

Shaw has gone out of his way numerous times in his first year as head coach to talk about Stanford as one of the countries true national recruiters.
Cook on Cal:

When we calculated how many miles on average ESPNU 150 recruits traveled to attend their programs, Cal was second (1,179 miles) only to Stanford (1,466) in terms of distance. For that distinction, you can thank [Keenan] Allen, whose signature helped land his high school teammate, WR Maurice Harris, in 2011. (No. 6 S Avery Walls from McDonough, Ga., also added to the mileage.)

While this out-of-state trend is on hiatus in 2012, Jeff Tedford doesn't mind an off year that includes three in-state ESPNU 150 preps (S Shaq Thompson, QB Zach Kline, WR Darius Powe) and a possible top-10 class ranking.

Cal, of course, recently lost Tosh Lupoi to Washington. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact that has on the Bears in the coming classes. Though with a heralded class less than a week away from signing, the immediate impact seems minimal, and there don't appear to be any major defections.

SPONSORED HEADLINES