Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Best of the Pac-12's spring
By Ted Miller
Best spring game performance: USC WR Marqise Lee made like, well, Marqise Lee in the Trojans spring game, hauling in eight passes for 148 yards with touchdowns of 70 yards -- first play of the game, in fact -- five and 30 yards. The 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner looked a lot like, well, the 2013 Biletnikoff Award winner.
Best spring game performance II: Oregon QB Marcus Mariota looked like a budding Heisman Trophy candidate, despite lasting just four drives. He scored TDs on three of them, completing 13 of 15 passes for 169 yards with a pair of scoring tosses to Josh Huff.
Ready for their close-up: Arizona DE Kyle Kelley, Arizona State OT Jamil Douglas, California DE Brennan Scarlett, Colorado WR Paul Richardson, Oregon WR Bralon Addison, Oregon State TE Connor Hamlett, Stanford OT Andrus Peat, UCLA WR Devin Lucien, USC WR Nelson Agholor, Utah OT Jeremiah Poutasi, Washington LB Shaq Thompson and Washington State WR Gabe Marks.
Worst imitation of the team it will be this fall: Stanford passed 62 times and and ran just 36 times in its spring game, generating 377 of its 484 total yards through the air. While Stanford had a returning starter at QB in Kevin Hogan and a much-improved cast of receivers, the Cardinal are most certainly going to be a run-first, smashmouth team this fall.
Most interesting coaching change: Kyle Whittingham hired Dennis Erickson to be co-offensive coordinator with Brian Johnson. Erickson has been the head coach of six different college programs -- including three in the Pac-12 -- and two NFL teams since he was last an offensive coordinator in 1981. Whittingham said the transition was "seamless" this spring. Of course, the measure of things will be the Utes offensive fortunes this fall.
Worst injury: Arizona receiver Austin Hill, who earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors last fall after catching 81 passes for 1,364 yards with 11 TDs as a sophomore last fall, blew out his knee the last week of spring practices. It's unclear whether he will be able to play this fall.
Best chance to join Pac-12 blog's All-Interview team: Some quotes from Colorado WR Paul Richardson from a 15-minute interview:
" "I expect nothing less than for people to sell us short or pick us to finish last. I even joked before in another interview that if there was a spot below last they'd pick us there as well. But you never know what will happen in the Pac-12."
" "I don't think Coach MacIntyre is in a bad position at all. I think he was given an opportunity to move up to this coaching job at a really good time. We're going to have some key players back and our young guys are going to have experience. To me, he came at a perfect time."
" "I was very upset to say the least [at coach Jon Embree's firing]. It was very surprising. I had a really good relationship with Coach Embree. It caught us all off guard. Some of us were pretty bitter."
" "I think we'll be .500 or above. The best thing I can say is don't sleep on Colorado football. We're a work in progress, but it is progressing over here."
Best new spring tradition: New California coach Sonny Dykes opened practices for Bears fans and media. While the national trend is to close off access, Dykes understands he risks nothing while helping generate buzz for his team.
Best (fairly) new spring tradition: For the fourth consecutive year, Oregon used its spring game to honor those serving in the U.S. Military, a tradition started by Chip Kelly after he toured Iraq with several other football coaches. Nike again created a custom designed uniform and, following the scrimmage, Oregon players presented their jerseys to approximately 100 uniformed men and women representing all branches of the military.
Best meta-coachspeak: Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez on his unresolved quarterback competition: "The typical coach will tell you he doesn't know, but he really does and just won't say anything until the fall. But I truly don't know." Hmm. Is Rodriguez simply telling us we know he knows but he knows he's not going to tell us he knows and we should know that?
Best position change: USC's Morgan Breslin went from an undersized defensive end to a well-proportioned outside linebacker in the Trojans new 3-4 look, and he dominated the spring game with 3.5 sacks.
Oregon: Good news, bad news … old news, new news?: On April 16, we learned that Oregon and the NCAA agreed that the football program committed major violations in connection to the Willie Lyles case. The problem with that report was it was based on documents that were months old, in large part because Oregon delights in stalling on media Freedom of Information requests. Then, on April 24, we learned that Oregon and coach Chip Kelly had already appeared before the NCAA's committee on infractions, which means we could finally -- finally! -- have a resolution on L'Affair de Willie Lyles in advance of the football season. Of course, if Oregon is unhappy with sanctions, it can always appeal, which could drag things out past the New Year.
Best bounce-back, backup QB division: A year ago, Mike Bercovici was the front-runner to start at quarterback for Arizona State, but he did a reverse Taylor Kelly. Kelly jumped from No. 3 to No. 1 in the fall of 2012, while Bercovici fell to No. 3 behind Kelly and Michael Eubank. But instead of transferring, Bercovici decided to return and posted a very strong spring. He's not going to unseat Kelly but he might become the backup ahead of Eubank.
Best increased verbiage: Stanford does things its own way. It doesn't have a head football coach, it has a Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football. Last May, it decided its offensive coordinator was actually the Andrew Luck Director of Offense. This spring, defensive coordinator Derek Mason became the Willie Shaw Directorship of Defense. The Pac-12 blog believes it should be endowed as the "West Coast Distributors of Awesome."
Worst spring decision: Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, an All-American candidate, was cited for suspicion of driving under the influence in early March. It remains unclear whether he will be suspended for the season-opener against Boise State in renovated Husky Stadium.
Best "To be continued in the fall …": Arizona quarterbacks, Arizona Arizona State receivers, Oregon linebackers, Oregon State defensive tackles, UCLA defensive backs, USC quarterbacks and Utah defensive backs.
Best honest quote: UCLA QB Brett Hundley explaining one of the reason he bulked up during the offseason, "After 52 sacks, no one is going to feel good."
Worst moment that turned out OK: Motivation comes from all directions, but we'll let Washington State QB Connor Halliday describe how the Cougars turned a poor spring practice into a good one: "Coach [Mike] Leach was yelling at me that they were dropping balls and then the strength coach came up and said something to me. So it was boiling over and boiling over. This one kid had dropped like five balls. I kind of got in his face and he shoved me. So I took his helmet off and kind of started punching him. We had a great practice after that so it kind of did its job."
Best confidence: Oregon State RB Storm Woods was asked to fill in the blank on this statement: "In 2013, Oregon State football will be …." His response? "Among the top-five in the nation."