Pac-12: 2010 media day

Video: Arizona coach Mike Stoops

July, 29, 2010
7/29/10
10:00
PM ET

Ted Miller checks in with Arizona coach Mike Stoops at Pac-10 media day in Pasadena.

Lane Kiffin confident amid controversies

July, 29, 2010
7/29/10
9:45
PM ET
PASADENA, Calif -- They amassed two-deep around the table of the new coach of the team that finished tied for fifth in the Pac-10 last year. And they waited. And waited. Other coaches were available. Chip Kelly, leader of the defending Pac-10 champions and 2010 conference favorites, stood off to the side casually chatting with a couple of reporters.

But USC coach Lane Kiffin seems like a controversial story waiting to happen. You don't need to add water. You just wait and listen.

"You better say something interesting for as long as we've waited," said one reporter as Kiffin sat down.

"We've made up a bunch of quotes for you," said another.

It was all in fun for the most part, but everyone knows the media mantra "if it bleeds it leads," and the perception -- with justification -- is Kiffin and the Trojans are bleeding. There are severe NCAA sanctions. There are transfers that have left the Trojans with just 71 scholarship players. There are NFL teams filing lawsuits against Kiffin and the program.

Kiffin acknowledges that some view USC as a dynasty in decline. The term he uses to describe the perception is "crumbling." But he also doesn't make any effort to plead for patience or to warn USC fans that tough times might be ahead.

"I cannot imagine USC fans ever lowering their expectations," Kiffin said. "And we like it that way. I'd be shocked if they ever lowered their expectations. I hope they don't. We didn't come here just to make it through this. We came here to play at a championship level, regardless of the sanctions."

Yes, Kiffin was surprised by how severe the NCAA sanctions -- 30 scholarships over three years, a two-year bowl ban -- were. But, yes, he still believes USC is his dream job.

As for the controversies that seems to seek him out like moths to a flame, Kiffin repeatedly returns to a simple and mostly meaningless phrase that amounts to a "whatever": "It is what it is."

What he really wants to do is direct. Everything, he said, will feel much better when he and the Trojans return to the field next week and a tumultuous offseason gets pushed to the background as practices begin. Perhaps the football part of football will offer an escape.

"It will be exciting to get to next week so we can get to football and get on the field," he said.

Video: Cal coach Jeff Tedford

July, 29, 2010
7/29/10
9:30
PM ET

Ted Miller checks in with Cal coach Jeff Tedford at Pac-10 media day in Pasadena.

Ducks determined to stay top dog

July, 29, 2010
7/29/10
9:06
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PASADENA, Calif. -- It's one thing to beat out USC for the Pac-10 title. It's another to change perception. Oregon did the first in 2009, and it opens 2010 seemingly doing the second by earning the top spot in the preseason Pac-10 media poll.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
AP Photo/Damian DovarganesChip Kelly and Oregon are looking to defend their 2009 Pac-10 championship.
For the first time in seven years, a team other than USC is the favorite.

But there's a third step for Oregon: Replacing the now wounded Trojans as the lead dog -- lead Duck? -- in the Pac-10 pecking order. To do that the Ducks need only repeat as champs in a conference that features seven teams, that at least one reporter, deemed worthy of a first-place vote.

The Ducks can't motivate themselves by trying to prove their doubters wrong, an approach many coaches and players adopt when they are unhappy with the perch in media polls. They can't claim they are being disrespected. They are the favorites.

"What do you say when you're on top?" defensive tackle Brandon Bair said with a shrug.

Oh, but you know what they do say: Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. Or not.

"Preseason rankings don’t mean anything to us," coach Chip Kelly said.

Thing is, Oregon might have been an overwhelming favorite instead of just nipping USC by three points and three first-place votes -- one pollster even dumped the Ducks into ninth place. If Jeremiah Masoli hadn't thrown what had been an outstanding career into the dumpster, he would have been hanging out in New York this week with the other Pac-10 quarterbacks, answering a hundred questions about his Heisman Trophy candidacy.

As it is, the Ducks still have 18 starters back and appear deeper and faster than any other team in the conference. But quarterbacks are, you know, important.

"It’s always a question mark when you lose your quarterback," Kelly said. "We have two competent players in Nate Costa and Darron Thomas who will battle it out in preseason camp."

Bair said the Ducks are treating Masoli's, er, departure like a graduation -- next guy steps up. But Bair rejected the notion that it's "Rose Bowl or bust" for the new conference frontrunners. Sort of.

"I'm not going to say Rose Bowl or bust -- I'm shooting for Arizona," Bair said. "If we can be the best that we can, the Rose Bowl is the worst that can happen to us."

Arizona, by the way, is the site of this year's national title game.

Video: Oregon State RB Jacquizz Rodgers

July, 29, 2010
7/29/10
3:33
PM ET

Ted Miller talks with Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers at Pac-10 media days.

On stage ... Oregon

July, 29, 2010
7/29/10
3:28
PM ET
PASADENA, Calif. -- Some quick hits from media day.

  • Coach Chip Kelly with Brandon Bair. Oregon was picked first in the media poll after winning the conference in 2009.
  • Kelly on losing his starting quarterback and the competition between Nate Costa and Darron Thomas: "We've got two quality players who will battle it out and we'll name a starter a week before our first game."
  • Kelly was asked about the "rumor" that the Ducks have switched from a 4-3 defense to a "hybrid 3-4": "We haven't switched our defense. I don't know why that keeps coming up." (By the way, Kelly made this point in a very animated way to me on the flight from New York to Los Angeles when I told him it was a frequent mailbag item).
  • Bair on the Ducks defense not getting as much credit as the offense: "All that matters to me is we're successful."
  • Bair on USC's NCAA sanctions: "I don't think it matters that they are on probation."
  • Kelly on being picked first: "Preseason rankings don't mean anything to us."

On stage ... Arizona

July, 29, 2010
7/29/10
3:18
PM ET
PASADENA, Calif. -- Some quick hits from media day.

  • Coach Mike Stoops with quarterback Nick Foles. Arizona was picked fifth in the media poll after finishing tied for second in 2009.
  • Said Stoops: "It's nice to be a little later in the afternoon here." Teams appear on stage in reverse order of conference finish the previous season.
  • Stoops: "The ability to mature defensively will be key."
  • Stoops on replacing three linebackers: "We feel like we have some talented players."
  • Stoops on wide receiver Juron Criner: "He has to be the beast of a receiver outside."
  • Stoops: "We're not as deep a team as a year ago but I think we're a better team."
  • Foles on being the starter from Week 1 after taking the job in Week 4 in 2009: "The big thing it changes is confidence in the offseason ... I just feel a lot more comfortable going into the season."
  • Stoops on possibly playing his brother, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops: "That's not something we'd ever want to do purposefully ... but sometimes it's inevitable ... hopefully we could play him in the Rose Bowl or national championship game."

On stage ... Oregon State

July, 29, 2010
7/29/10
3:04
PM ET
PASADENA, Calif. -- Some quick hits from media day.
  • Coach Mike Riley with running back Jacquizz Rodgers. The Beavers were picked third in the media poll after finishing tied for second in 2009.
  • Riley said that linebacker Keith Pankey (Achilles) has been given "the green light" to be full go at the start of camp but the coaches will "keep a close eye on him."
  • Riley said he expects to get better pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season after struggling to do so last year.
  • Rodgers on Oregon State: "Everybody gets better as they go through the program." Said Riley: "We don't feel we do more with less. We feel like we evaluate players."
  • Riley on quarterback Ryan Katz: "I don't think he'll be intimidated by anything. ... This kid is going to be a good quarterback."
  • Riley on Stephen Paea: "He is a tremendously hard worker with about as much explosiveness for a big man as I've seen... he's one of the best players at that position that we've had."

Video: Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh

July, 29, 2010
7/29/10
2:54
PM ET

Ted Miller talks with Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh at Pac-10 media days.

On stage ... Stanford

July, 29, 2010
7/29/10
2:51
PM ET
PASADENA, Calif. -- Some quick hits from media day.
  • Coach Jim Harbaugh with fullback/linebacker Owen Marecic. Stanford was picked fourth in the media poll after finishing tied for second in 2009.
  • Harbaugh said Marecic will start at fullback and linebacker for the Cardinal. "He is the perfect football player," Harbaugh said. "The idea is to get him on the field as much as we can."
  • On replacing Toby Gerhart: "It might be two. It might be three."
  • Marecic on trying to learn two positions: "There's plenty of time in practice to get time on both sides of the ball."
  • Harbaugh on staying at Stanford: "If I were asked if I'd be coach at Stanford for life: I don't know."
  • Harbaugh: "We despise the word 'sustaining' and we despise the word 'satisfaction.'

On stage ... USC

July, 29, 2010
7/29/10
2:33
PM ET
PASADENA, Calif. -- Some quick hits from media day.
  • Coach Lane Kiffin with quarterback Matt Barkley. USC was picked second in the media poll after finishing tied for fifth in 2009.
  • On lawsuit with Tennessee Titans: "We cannot comment on that."
  • Kiffin on transfers: "Our front-line players have stayed." The Trojans are down to 71 scholarship players.
  • Said Kiffin: "People expect USC to start crumbling right now with the sanctions."
  • On Barkley: "He's changed his body. We feel he'll be much quicker."
  • Said of D-line: "We feel like we've got seven guys who are special."
  • Kiffin: "Depth in general is going to be an issue. ... We have to be smart how we handle our practicing." Said USC will be "more NFL-oriented in how we practice." Said O-line is most worrisome.
  • On debunking any myth about himself: "I don't know. There are a lot of them out there."
  • Barkley on transfers: "Not as many guys were on the edge as you think."
  • Kiffin on NCAA ruling allowing players to transfer: "We created free agency in college football." Said players left to get more playing time.
  • While Barkley was talking about not being able to play for a national championship for the next couple of seasons, Kiffin piped in. "So are you announcing you will return for your senior season?" Barkley: "We'll see."
  • Barkley said Kiffin opening quarterback competition with him and Mitch Mustain helped both get better.

On stage ... California

July, 29, 2010
7/29/10
1:57
PM ET
PASADENA, Calif. -- Some quick hits from media day.

  • Coach Jeff Tedford with LB Mike Mohamed. The Bears were picked seventh in the media poll after finishing tied for fifth in 2009.
  • Tedford pointed out that QB Kevin Riley is the conference leader in TD passes, wins and starts.
  • As for defense, "We need to get better in pass defense." He said they're still in a 3-4 with their new coordinator (Clancy Pendergast) but the scheme is "a little more multiple."
  • Tedford: "It used to be eight wins was good ... but that's not enough any more. We have a burning desire to go to the Rose Bowl."
  • Mohamed on USC NCAA sanctions: "I definitely feel for the players."
  • NY trip: "I was a proponent of it ... it was a first-class trip all the way."
  • On divisions: "I do hope it works out that we play the Southern California teams every year."

On stage ... Washington

July, 29, 2010
7/29/10
1:42
PM ET
PASADENA, Calif. -- Some quick hits from media day.

  • Coach Steve Sarkisian with LB Mason Foster. Washington was picked sixth in the media poll after finishing seventh in 2009.
  • Sarkisian: "For us, the real challenge is taking that next step."
  • On coaching against Lane Kiffin, who is a friend from their days together at USC: "It will be fun to kind of see each other on opposing sidelines."
  • On QB Jake Locker staying: "I think all along if you asked him he really wanted to stay."

On stage ... UCLA

July, 29, 2010
7/29/10
1:34
PM ET
PASADENA, Calif. -- Some quick hits from media day.
  • Rick Neuheisel and free safety Rahim Moore. UCLA was picked eighth in the media poll and finished eighth in 2009.
  • Neuheisel on Pac-12 divisions: "I have a personal opinion for UCLA, but I understand there are more things than UCLA ... I'm just going to duck that question."
  • On Colorado joining Pac-10: "I think they will be a great player."
  • On N.Y. trip: "... taking the East Coast bias head-on ... I think it was a bold move ... brilliant."
  • Moore, on which passing attack is hardest to stop: "Arizona and Washington ... you can tell those guys put a lot of work in."
  • Neuheisel said he's been asked about USC's NCAA sanctions "100 times": "Is there a window of opportunity? Certainly." But he emphasized that UCLA needs to focus on itself, not USC.

On stage ... Arizona State

July, 29, 2010
7/29/10
1:15
PM ET
PASADENA, Calif. -- Some quick hits from media day.
  • Dennis Erickson and kicker Thomas Weber. The Sun Devils were picked ninth in the media poll after finishing ninth in 2009.
  • Erickson on offense: "We're going to be in four-wides more. No huddle."
  • On quarterback competition: "I haven't made a decision on what we will do yet."
  • Said offensive line is deeper and more experienced.
  • Said skill positions "are the best we've had since I've been here."
  • From the honesty category, said Erickson: "We have not been good on offense."
  • But ... "We have a lot of guys who have played a lot of downs who are back ... our offensive front is going to be a lot better than it has been."

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