- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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The main storyline to watch with each team during media days:
All this offseason we’ve heard (and we’ve written) about how the Cal defense has taken a major step forward. There seems to be a lot of optimism coming out of Berkeley and we’ll probably hear Sonny Dykes, Jared Goff and Hardy Nickerson all discuss it. Dykes needs his defense to step forward because if he wants a chance to play Pac-12 North spoiler in the next few years, it’s now with Goff, who might be the best QB he has ever coached. Goff needs his defense to step up so he can get off the field every so often. And Nickerson is ready to finally get this defense to a place where he’s proud of it.
Past QB Vernon Adams, there will be two main storylines for the Ducks. First, is there enough offensive firepower around the Ducks' QB that it really won’t matter too much who’s playing there? And second, is this defense going to take a step forward this year and consistently force opponents into mistakes? Don’t expect Royce Freeman to say much because he never does, but watch how coach Mark Helfrich, who is a master of speaking around topics, addresses all of these issues.
Let’s play a little game. Over/under: The number of times Wisconsin/Madison is brought up during Gary Andersen’s time (6.5). By this point all of the Oregon State writers have exhausted their questions about Andersen’s transition and with them, that story is behind them. But for writers from other schools, it’ll be a hot topic. Especially with the Beavers' Week 2 trip to Big Ten territory to face the Michigan Wolverines.
The defense will be a major talking point because, well, Stanford. But the big question is: How can David Shaw get Kevin Hogan to perform in 2015 the way he did down the stretch in 2014? It’ll be interesting to see what Shaw has to say about his QB. Also, look for at least one question about Jim Harbaugh. The former Stanford coach has been making all sorts of news in Ann Arbor this summer. What’s Shaw’s take?
Like Andersen, Chris Petersen is going to find himself deflecting lots of “your former roots” questions in regard to the Huskies’ season opener at Boise State. But the real storyline to follow will be the kinds of questions asked of Petersen. A season ago expectations were sky-high in Seattle and the Huskies finished in a disappointing third place in the North and won only four Pac-12 games. This season, with so much lost from the defense and an offense that’s transitioning (which is a kind way to put it), it will be interesting to see how questions are posed for Petersen. There will be far fewer questions about the national stage and most will be focused on just improving from last year. It was a reality check in Seattle in 2014 -- what will 2015 bring?
Mike Leach is like a fireworks display. You know it’s going to be fun but you can’t really be sure what you’re going to see or hear until it happens. With Wazzu and Leach, just wait, the storylines will most likely be the most entertaining of the week, but to even venture a guess at what they'll be would be silly. Because reporters know they can pose all sorts of questions with Leach and he’ll take them seriously. Will this year’s media day beat last year’s when he was asked if he’d rather go bear hunting with Kyle Whittingham or Petersen? We sure hope so. (If you were wondering, this was his response: “But what I'm thinking is we get a large bag and we stick in Coach Petersen, Coach Whittingham, and we shake that bag up really high and really hard. That will be a tough guy to walk out of the bag on, I think.”)