Coaches love to say, "We're young." Sometimes it's true. Sometimes it sounds like an excuse. Sometimes it's both.
Being young often is a negative -- experience is important -- but a lot of fans immediately start to imagine all those young players combining the talents that earned them starting jobs with experience in future seasons.
So which Pac-12 teams are "young"?
We went through the latest conference depth charts available and counted how many projected starter are freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores.
A qualifier. This is an inexact science. For one, many teams list more than 11 starters on one or both sides of the ball. We've included all position players listed as a No. 1 on the depth chart. Second, starting lineups are still fluid, so some of these guys might not end up as starters and some youngsters won't emerge until the final days of preseason camp.
But this is a best guess.
Washington (11):OG Colin Tanigawa (RFr.), OG Colin Porter (So.), OT Erik Kohler (So.), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TFr.), QB Keith Price (So.), WR Kevin Smith (So.), DE Hau'oli Jamora (So.), OLB Princeton Fuimaono (So.), OLB John Timu (TFr.), Rush Josh Shirley (RFr.), SS Sean Parker (So.).
Reaction: It's fair to say that if the Huskies improve upon their 7-6 finish of a year ago, there will be plenty of reasons for optimism in 2012. Must, however, make note that the Huskies list 24 positions on their depth chart, so, for example, "Rush" end Josh Shirley isn't an every-down player.
USC (9):OT Kevin Graf (So.), OG Aundrey Walker (TFr.), WR Robert Woods (So.), FB Soma Vainuku (TFr.), RB Dillon Baxter (So.), DT George Uko (RFr.), LB Dion Bailey (RFr.), Hayes Pullard (RFr.), CB Nickell Robey (So).
Reaction: These young players will form the foundation of a program trying to weather severe scholarship restrictions due to NCAA sanctions.
Washington State (9):WR Marquess Wilson (So), OG John Fullington (So.), FB Jared Byers (So.), DT Kalafitoni Pole (RFr.), LB Sekope Kaufusi (So.), LB C.J. Mizell (So.), CB Nolan Washington (So.), SS Deone Bucannon (So.), CB Damante Horton (So.).
Reaction: A nice crew of young players for coach Paul Wulff. Will be get to enjoy them as they become veterans?
Arizona (8):WR Richard Morrison (So), OT Mickey Baucus (RFr.), OG Chris Putton (So.), OT Fabbians Ebbele (RFr.), DT Justin Washington (So), NT Sione Tuihalamaka (So.), CB Jonathan McKnight, FS Marquis Flowers (So.).
Reaction: The Wildcats are young on both lines. On the plus side, all five O-line starters will be back in 2012.
Colorado (6):WR Paul Richardson (So), OT David Bakhtiari (So), C Daniel Munyer (RFr.), OT Jack Harris (So), DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe (So), CB Parker Orms (So.).
Reaction: There could be a seventh youngster on this list, depending on how things shake out at cornerback. Richardson is a guy you will hear about this fall. A little surprised by the youth on the O-line.
Stanford (5):OG Kevin Danser (So.), FB Ryan Hewitt (So.), DE Ben Gardner (So.), OLB Trent Murphy (So.), CB Barry Browning (So.).
Reaction: These guys -- all new starters -- will be critical for the Cardinal this fall, at least if it wants to remain a top-10 team.
Utah (5):OG Jeremiah Tofaeono (So), WR Dres Anderson (RFr.), DE Joe Kruger (So.), LB Brian Blechen (So.), SS Eric Rowe (TFr.).
Reaction: This feels like a list of guys who will -- at least one day -- get All-Conference consideration.
Arizona State (4):OT Evan Finkenberg (So), DT Will Sutton (So.), DE Junior Onyeali (So.), CB Osahon Irabor (So.).
Reaction: Ditto with the comment on the Utes. The Sun Devils are a veteran team, but this is a strong foursome of sophomores.
Oregon (4):C Hroniss Grasu (RFr), WR Josh Huff (So), DT Wade Keliikipi (RFr), DT Ricky Heimuli (So.).
Reaction: The two DTs are young but they are more talented than the Ducks 2010 DTs. Huff is expected to breakthrough this fall.
UCLA (4):OG Chris Ward (So.), F-Back Anthony Barr (So.), DT Cassius Marsh (So.), SS Dietrich Riley (So.).
Reaction: Going in, I thought UCLA would have a longer list. In fact, they likely will, seeing that there are plenty of undecideds on the depth chart.
California (3):WR Keenan Allen (So.), LB Dave Wilkerson (RFr.), CB Steve Williams (So.).
Reaction: Cal figures to play a lot of young players this fall, but at present it doesn't look like many will start.
Oregon State (3):OG Josh Andrews (So.), DE Scott Critchton (RFr.), OLB Michael Doctor (So).
Reaction: This low number shouldn't be surprising. Coach Mike Riley's system for success is development. He recruits guys who aren't there yet but get there after a few years in the program.