Media day final: Answers, remaining questions

August, 3, 2011
8/03/11
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Media days across the nation are winding down. So what was answered in the Pac-12? And what are the remaining questions?

Thanks for asking.

Four answers

1. Oregon will ignore the NCAA and Willie Lyles, at least until it can't: No one thought Ducks coach Chip Kelly was going to say much at media day about the NCAA inquiry into scout/street agent Willie Lyles and his dealings with Kelly and the program, specifically pertaining to running back Lache Seastrunk. But there was no lack of trying to coax Kelly into saying something revealing: "We look forward to when we can [comment]," Kelly said. "I'd love to talk about it. There are a lot of answers I'd love to make sure we can get out there." Somewhat obscured by this back-and-forth: This is a pretty good football team with high hopes. Kelly and the Ducks' job henceforth is to focus entirely on football, at least until the NCAA comes calling.

2. California coach Jeff Tedford doesn't believe the Bears will have any Lyles repercussions: Some forget that Oregon is not the only program to use Lyles' recruiting, er, "service." Not the only team in the conference, in fact. Cal also used Lyles, though it paid him $5,000, not $25,000, as Oregon did. Tedford was asked if he was worried about the NCAA's focus on Lyles, which could trickle down to his program. He replied, "I'm not concerned one bit." Tedford and Cal administrators insist they've provided documentation to the NCAA and aren't worried about any potential exposure. We shall see.

3. Criner? Much ado about nothing: There was some good news at media day: Mysterious summer questions about Arizona WR Juron Criner apparently have been resolved. At one point, Criner was said to have "a non-injury medical issue" that threatened his season. Coach Mike Stoops clarified things a bit at media day: "Juron just had some personal and family issues with his mother that he had to attend to," Stoops said. Criner's mother was ill so he spent time in Texas. Said Stoops, "I think he feels much better about his mother and he feels a lot better about her condition."

[+] EnlargeJames Rodgers
Tim Heitman/US PresswireOregon State doesn't know if it'll have a healthy James Rodgers this season.
4. The Pac-12 networks were announced: The conference announced the formation of a TV network that will include a national and six regional networks in conjunction with four of the nation's largest cable operators: Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks. Starting in the fall of 2012, the new networks will combine to televise 850 events -- 350 on the national network -- including every football and men's basketball game not broadcast by national network partners ESPN and Fox. There will be a network for each of the six regions that have two conference schools: Washington, Oregon, Northern and Southern California, Arizona and Mountain.

Four questions

1. Health and suspension issues: The status of a number of key players remains up in the air. Kelly wouldn't commit on the status of cornerback Cliff Harris, who has been suspended for at least the LSU game, or linebacker Kiko Alonso. It's uncertain if Oregon State receiver James Rodgers (knee) will be ready to play this fall, and what about DT Castro Masaniai, whose spring arrest clouds his status. Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said running back Deantre Lewis still hasn't recovered from a gunshot wound he suffered this offseason. UCLA doesn't know when it will get guard Jeff Baca back from an ankle injury. USC's leading rusher, Marc Tyler, is indefinitely suspended. Utah QB Jordan Wynn is coming back from shoulder surgery. Washington has questions at DT with the health of Sione Potoa'e and Semisi Tokolahi.

2. Stanford is uncertain at receiver: QB Andrew Luck is back, but who's he going to throw it to? Coach David Shaw made it clear that the health of receiver Chris Owusu, Stanford's only true deep threat, is critical. "Since Chris' last surgery, I haven't said anything to him besides 'play every game.' That's all I said to Chris. ... We need Chris to play in every single game." The goal in fall camp is to find other options besides Owusu and Griff Whalen. Shaw seemed to be challenging his crew of receivers when he noted that if none stepped up, then the offense would be creative with its use of a deep collection of tight ends.

3. Lines in the sand? Arizona State is the only team with certainty on its offensive line. The Sun Devils welcome back all five starters. Oregon State only needs to replace one starter, but the Beavers struggled up front last fall and significantly shifted personnel this spring. Everybody else needs to replace at least two O-linemen. The situation is the same on the defensive lines. Only Washington and Colorado welcome back an intact D-line, and the Huskies have injury questions and the Buffaloes are switching from a 3-3-5 to a 4-3.

4. What's the Pac-12 going to feel like? We know Utah and Colorado have joined the conference. We know there will be a North and South Division. We know there will be a championship game. We know a big TV deal is coming in 2012. And we know there's also going to be a new Pac-12 Network. We know the details. But how is it going to feel? For the first time since 1978, the conference is dramatically different. We have never experienced the Pac-12, so there figure to be some surprises -- pleasant and perhaps otherwise -- along the way during the inaugural season.

Ted Miller | email

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