Thursday, July 11, 2013
Proving grounds: Pac-12 South
By Kevin Gemmell
Some players come in with plenty of hype, but never quite seem to match it. Others have a great season, then slip the following one, leaving many to wonder if they were one-year wonders. Still others have to bounce back from injury and show they aren't shells of what they used to be.
Either way, there are plenty of players in the Pac-12 with something to prove in 2013. Yesterday we looked at six players from the North. Here are six players with something to prove from the Pac-12 South. This is last year's Proving Grounds post for the South. (The Pac-12 blog fully expects Will Sutton to thank us in his Heisman acceptance speech after that post motivated him last year).
Terrence Miller, WR, Arizona: Injury and attrition have eaten away at what could have been considered the top wide-receiver corps in the Pac-12 coming into 2013. But Austin Hill's injury and Tyler Slavin's unscheduled departure leaves a void that wasn't accounted for. Enter Miller, a fifth-year senior who has the experience to put the unit on his back and lead. He might even see some time at tight end and try to take advantage of mismatches. There are others who could step up. And others probably will. After all, Arizona's offense lends itself to productive wide-receiver play. But in times of uncertainty -- and there is a lot more uncertainty with this group than there was five months ago -- you look to veterans. And Miller is a veteran.
Alden Darby, S, Arizona State: It's easy to get caught up in talking about what Arizona State has coming back on defense with Will Sutton and Carl Bradford. But let's not forget that the Sun Devils lose Brandon Magee and Keelan Johnson. Not only were they the team's two leading tacklers last year, but they were also the verbal and emotional leaders of the defense. Sutton is a lead-by-example guy, so the Sun Devils need a voice for the defense. That falls on Darby -- and ASU coaches have said that he has embraced the role. Darby was second-team all-conference last year, so the skills are there. But Arizona State faces an extremely challenging schedule in 2013 -- especially early on -- so leadership will be paramount, and the players will be looking to Darby to bring it to them.
Receiver Paul Richardson lost all of last season to injury, and Colorado's offense suffered as a result.
Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado: Richardson brings everything Colorado needed on offense last season: speed, the ability to stretch the field, speed, veteran leadership, speed. Is one wide receiver going to change the fortunes of a team? Probably not. Even the best wide receiver in the country could only do so much for USC. The Buffs did the best they could under tough circumstances last season. With a new coaching staff, some semblance of stability at quarterback (presumably) and a motivated Richardson, the Buffs should see their offensive production improve. When he's healthy, Richardson is one of the elite offensive playmakers in the league. At least that's what we said all last season when he wasn't on the field. Now is his chance to show it.
Shaq Evans, WR, UCLA: Tough to say the Bruins' leading receiver from last season has something to prove. And maybe that's the wrong choice of words. But without question, UCLA needs bigger things out of him. As quarterback Brett Hundley enters his second season as a starter, he's not going to have the security blanket in the run game that he did with Johnathan Franklin. Nor will he have the towering red zone target that he did in Joseph Fauria. Evans caught 60 balls for 877 yards last year. Very solid numbers. But of Hundley's 29 touchdown passes last year, only three went to Evans. Evans was a good wide receiver who last season showed that he could stretch the field -- as evidenced by his 14.6 yards per catch. But in this offense, with this quarterback, Evans has a chance to elevate himself into the class of the Pac-12's elite pass-catchers.
Silas Redd, RB, USC: From 1972-1981, USC posted a 1,000-yard rusher every season. Charles White and Marcus Allen were 2,000-yard rushers. Since 1981, only 11 Trojans have eclipsed 1,000 yards. Redd could be -- should be -- the next guy to do it. With the offense flowing mostly through Marqise Lee and Robert Woods last season, USC was seventh in the Pac-12 in rushing offense with 1,958 yards. But the Trojans were 11th in rushing touchdowns, better only than Washington State. Probably not by coincidence, they were 11th in red zone offense and ninth in third-down conversions. Coach Lane Kiffin was pinned as being too predictable as a playcaller last season. If Redd is let loose, 1,000 yards is very attainable. He did it in 2011, rushing for 1,241 yards while at Penn State. He's a hard-nosed back who averaged more than 5 yards per carry in seven games last year. Give him 250 carries, he'll give you 1,000 yards and open up a world of opportunities for Lee, Nelson Agholor and the tight-end combo of Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer.
Kelvin York, RB, Utah: It's no easy task to replace John White, the school's all-time leading rusher. But for new co-coordinator Dennis Erickson's spread offense to take flight, there has to be the ever-present threat of a running game. And the pressure will be on York to keep safeties honest. At 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, he has the kind of frame to be a bruising back in this league. Think of how Erickson used Cameron Marshall -- who had a similar build -- at Arizona State. In 2012, York's first season at Utah, he saw 10 or more carries in only four games, finishing the year with 60 carries for 273 yards (4.6 average) and three touchdowns. With White out of the picture, York's workload will increase significantly. And if Utah wants to make gains offensively, its best hope is that York is able to take some of the pressure off of Travis Wilson, who will begin his first season as a full-time starting quarterback.