Pac-10 spring position battles

February, 12, 2010
2/12/10
10:04
AM ET
Coaches will tell you there's competition everywhere, but we all know there's more competition at certain spots.

Here are top competitions in the conference this spring.

Arizona State, quarterback

Top candidates: junior Steven Threet, junior Samson Szakacsy, sophomore Brock Osweiler

This one is wide-open, particularly with a fresh set of eyes in offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone now overseeing things. All three have some playing experience. No one has a lot. Or was particularly impressive when he played. Threet, a Michigan transfer, might be the frontrunner, based on early scuttlebutt, but that might just be folks leaning toward the unknown, new guy. Issue with Szakacsy is whether his arm strength will be consistent because he's struggled an elbow injury.

Oregon State, quarterback

Top candidates: sophomore Ryan Katz and junior Peter Lalich

How much of a competition will this really be? Katz has steadily improved and owns a clear advantage over the Virginia transfer before spring practices start. Both have good arms, though at least one Oregon State beat writer has taken to calling Katz "Nolan" Ryan Katz. Still, Lalich has playing experience -- albeit limited -- and he could make a move during the spring that could make things interesting in August.

California, quarterback

Top candidates: Senior Kevin Riley, sophomore Beau Sweeney, junior Brock Mansion

This is an interesting one. Riley has started 22 games, but he's been consistently inconsistent. Coach Jeff Tedford said the competition will be open this spring, just as it was last year when Riley triumphed over Mansion and Sweeney. This time, Sweeney, who eclipsed Mansion on the depth chart last fall, will be the top challenger. Is Riley really going to lose his job as a senior? Well, it happened just across town at Stanford last year, with fairly positive results.

Arizona, linebacker

Top candidates: junior Derek Earls, junior Paul Vassallo, senior C.J. Parish, sophomore R.J. Young, sophomore Jake Fischer

Coach Mike Stoops talked last fall about being thin at linebacker behind his three senior starters, so this wide-open -- and fairly urgent -- situation isn't a surprise. Earls and Vassallo are JC transfers who are already enrolled and were not brought in to watch from the sidelines. Parrish, Young and Fischer were listed on last year's depth chart but combined for just 16 tackles.

Stanford, running back

Top candidates: sophomore Stepfan Taylor, senior Jeremy Stewart, sophomore Tyler Gaffney.

Just so you know: quarterback Andrew Luck was Stanford's second-leading rusher last year behind Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart. All three candidates have experience, though Stewart is coming back from a knee injury. An incoming freshman, such as Anthony Wilkerson, could join the fray in the fall.

UCLA, running back

Top candidates: sophomore Johnathan Franklin, junior Derrick Coleman, sophomore Milton Knox, sophomore Damien Thigpen, senior Christian Ramirez

This is a logjam of talented players who have yet to break through -- note that senior fullback Chane Moline became the go-to guy by the end of the 2009 season. However the pecking order establishes itself this spring, expect the outstanding incoming freshmen class -- Malcolm Jones, Jordon James and, if he stays at running back, Anthony Barr -- to get a chance to break into the rotation.

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