Monday, May 9, 2011
Pac-12 spring superlatives
By ESPN.com staff
Everyone loves "best of" lists. Here's one for the Pac-12 after spring practices concluded.
Best performance by an offense: Noel Mazzone's crew saved its best for last. Arizona State's offense gained 601 yards in the spring game: 446 yards passing and 155 yards rushing. Junior quarterback Brock Osweiler completed 17 of 22 passes for 237 yards and five touchdowns.
Best performance by a defense: Utah's "Red" defense held the "White" offense to 106 total yards in a 7-0 "Red" victory.
Best performance by a defense II: The Oregon "Green" limited the "White" to 164 total yards, including only 63 rushing yards on 31 attempts, in a 16-0 Green win.
Best QB troika: Arizona's three senior quarterbacks -- Nick Foles, Matt Scott and Bryson Beirne -- combined to complete 31 of 42 passes for 380 yards and four touchdowns in the Wildcats' spring game. Foles (11-16-133), Scott (11-14-134) and Beirne (8-9-115) found a total of 13 different receivers in 60 plays.
Best QB-TE connection: Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and tight end Zach Ertz connected six times for 56 yards and three touchdowns in the spring game.
Best "Jake Locker-who?" moment: In Washington's spring game, QB Keith Price completed 20 of 28 passes for 212 yards with three TDs and no INTs, while also rushing for 53 yards and a TD on just five carries.
Best catch: In a scrimmage on April 14, UCLA WR Nelson Rosario made a leaping one-handed catch in the end zone over perfectly-positioned CB Sheldon Price for a 30-yard touchdown.
Best performance by a redshirt freshman tight end: Oregon State's Connor Hamlett had 11 receptions for 153 yards in the spring game.
Best run: In California's spring game, running back Isi Sofele dashed for a 65-yard TD run where he dove into the end zone just outracing safety Vachel Samuels.
Best run II: Oregon RB LaMichael James sprinted for a 67-yard touchdown run on his third and final carry of the spring game.
Best run III: Washington State RB Logwone Mitz broke off a 70-yard run down the left sideline for his first score of the Cougars spring game.
Best crowd: Oregon played its spring game in front of a conference spring game record crowd of 43,468.
Best performance by a walk-on: Colorado's sophomore walk-on running back Josh Ford rushed 17 times for 164 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown in the Buffaloes spring game.
Best performance by a backup QB: While starter Ryan Katz was out with a wrist injury, Cody Vaz cemented his status as the backup with a consistent strong performance all spring.
Best newbies: Arizona got a likely starter at receiver in Texas transfer Dan Buckner. Arizona State's big-armed trued freshman quarterback Mike Bercovici might end up as the Sun Devils backup QB. One of Cal's starting linebackers is likely to be grayshirt freshmen Cecil Whiteside and Chris McCain. Oregon freshman TE Colt Lyerla lived up to his recruiting hype and looks like he'll be in the rotation in 2011. JC transfer defensive end Rusty Fernando is on track to win a starting job at Oregon State. UCLA true freshman QB Brett Hundley is still in the race to start. Utah's three candidates to start at running back are newbies: JC transfer John White, freshman Harvey Langi and walk-on Thretton Palamo. Washington freshman TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins is listed as an "Or" for the starting spot with redshirt freshman Michael Hartvigson. Washington State JC transfer Ian Knight finished spring No. 1 at DE.
Most international interest: Speaking of Utah's Thretton Palamo, he's best known as an international rugby star. A first-year sophomore who walked on this spring, he was the youngest player ever at age 19 to play in the Rugby World Cup. He played rugby for the Samoan national team in 2007 (his father captained Samoa’s national team as a teenager) and then switched to the U.S. National Team. He also played professionally for the French team Biarritz Olympique.
Best "you've never heard of me but you will": Colorado DT Conrad Obi had just four tackles last year and has played just 100 snaps in his career, but the 310-pound fifth-year senior was selected as the Buffaloes Most Improved Player this spring. In the three scrimmages, he had 20 tackles (17 solo, six for losses, two sacks), four third-down stops and four tackles for zero yards (so 10 of the 20 were at or behind the line of scrimmage). Oh, and he also forced fumble.
Best "graduate-a-semester-early-from-high-school-enroll-in-the-spring-earn-a-starting-job-by-default": USC fullback Soma Vainuku went from high school to Stanley Havili's replacement the first week of spring practices.
Best buzz, non-football division: Arizona State's "It's Time" campaign created plenty of a national buzz in advance of the April 12 launch of the rebrand, which included a new logo. The Sun Devils joined Oregon as the most fashion-forward Pac-12 team.
Best "Thank you for Starbucks" decision: USC starting all weekday spring practices at 7:25 a.m.
They said it (best quotes of spring)
Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton on QB Andrew Luck:
"He was able to complete 70 percent of his passes last year. Our goal is for him to complete 100 percent of his passes."
California coach Jeff Tedford on falling short of expectations in Berkeley:
"Eight wins is not what they want. And that's because that's where we put the standard. I get that now."
Washington State coach Paul Wulff on turning things around in Pullman:
"As those things start to grow and age -- like a fine wine -- your team is going to start winning football games. I think this team is going to win football games and I think we can compete for a bowl game, without question."
Arizona State receiver Gerell Robinson on the Sun Devils new logo:
"It's different. I like it. It's more aggressive. Sparky had a smile on his face."
USC coach Lane Kiffin on where the Trojans stand:
"There's too many questions. I think it would be a little tough to say this team is better than last year."
Arizona coach Mike Stoops on his receivers:
"I think he gives us the two best outside receivers maybe in the country. Having [Dan] Buckner and [Juron] Criner on opposite sides is going to create problems for people."
UCLA Rick Neuheisel on potentially being fired:
"If it were to happen that they were to replace me, I'm confident I would find another job. It wouldn't be the end of the world. I don't think my kids would starve. But I'm adamantly wanting to be here because this is my school and I believe we're closing in on where we want to go."
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham on whether he feels any sentiment for the Mountain West Conference:
"Not really. I'm not a sentimental guy so there's really no emotional ties or anything of that nature. I can say the Mountain West was very good for us. It was a good run."
Colorado coach Jon Embree on what his team needs to do to win:
"We've got to attack. We can't just sit back. I'm an honest person. We are not good enough to just line up and say we're going to beat you. From a talent standpoint, we're not at that elite level yet."