Monday, June 10, 2013
Pac-12 offenses set to rebound?
By Ted Miller
In 2011, UCLA ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in scoring offense with a measly 23.1 points per game. Oregon State was even worse, ranking 11th with just 21.8 ppg.
Both finished with losing records. The Bruins fired coach Rick Neuheisel. Oregon State fans were grumbling about coach Mike Riley.
Yet in 2012 both made huge improvement on offense.
Under coordinator Noel Mazzone, the Bruins ended up ranked fourth in the Pac-12 with 34.4 points per game, a dramatic 11.3 points improvement.
Oregon State, despite being undecided at quarterback much of the season, ended up fifth with 32.5 points per game, a 10.7-point improvement.
Our, er, point? Units can make major improvements from one year to the next.
So who is poised to make a big jump this fall?
Well, the first question is can we glean anything from UCLA and Oregon State?
UCLA welcomed back seven starters but was looking for a quarterback. Of course, everyone knew that QB would be Brett Hundley, a touted recruit who had hinted at his big-time potential. There were also three offensive linemen coming back, but only one would be a starter in 2012 -- Jeff Baca.
There was a certifiable star returning on offense in RB Johnathan Franklin, and none of the departed players were All-Conference guys.
Oregon State welcomed back eight starters, including QB Sean Mannion. It would get a little messy with him and Cody Vaz. There also were three starting offensive linemen coming back.
There was a certifiable star returning in WR Markus Wheaton, and none of the departed players were All-Conference guys, though James Rodgers was a strong team leader.
And so we have the bottom five offenses from 2012:
If we were a betting blog -- titter -- we'd tap the Huskies. It's not just that Price seems poised to reverse course after a disappointing 2012 season, it's that he's got 10 returning starters around him, including such stars as Seferian Jenkins, RB Bishop Sankey and receiver Kasen Williams. Not to mention the injury issues of 2012 have created eight linemen with starting experience heading into 2013.
Second would be Washington State, mostly because of coach Mike Leach's track record. It's difficult to imagine the Cougs not scoring at least in the mid-to-high 20s. And they'll probably cross the 30 threshold.
In fact, I'd expect all five of those offenses to post better numbers in 2013.
Utah expects to be much better on the offensive line, and Wilson should do well as a second-year starter working with new co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson. Further, the receivers along with Murphy are solid.
Colorado can't be any worse, really. New coach Mike MacIntyre created an explosive offense at San Jose State. And the return of Paul Richardson -- he missed 2012 with a knee injury -- gives the Buffs a A-list playmaker.
Cal might be the most questionable one, but new coach Sonny Dykes has produced good offenses at both Arizona and Louisiana Tech. The Bears have plenty of questions, but there's also some intriguing talent, including QB Zach Kline, receivers Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper.