Pac-12: 2014 Pac-12 spring team wraps

Arizona spring wrap

May, 2, 2014
May 2
11:00
AM ET
Three things we learned this spring about the Arizona Wildcats:
  1. The wide receivers are good: How good? Well, that probably depends on the quarterback situation (see below). But Austin Hill is back from injury after being a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist in 2012 and transfer Cayleb Jones is an awards candidate. Davonte' Neal also adds an intriguing element that could make Arizona’s corps one of the best in the country.
  2. Secondary leadership: Key players, such as Jared Tevis, Jonathan McKnight and Jourdon Grandon impressed the coaching staff this spring. However the Wildcats have lost a few defensive backs here and there. So look for a safety -- or even a wide receiver or two -- to get some work at corner in the fall while that trio holds the group together.
  3. Solid line: Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele bring a lot of experience to a group that will have to make holes for a new running back and protect a new quarterback. The addition of Jim Michalczik as offensive line coach last season was a boost to the unit, which showed steady improvement throughout last season and is blossoming into one of the better lines in the league.
Three questions for fall:
  1. QB of the O: Arizona has one of the most intriguing quarterback competitions in the country. The winner will likely have strong numbers running Rich Rodriguez’s offense. And with a group of wide receivers that stacks up with just about any other in the country, whoever runs the show will not be lacking in talented targets. As for settling on one guy…
  2. QB of the D: The departure of linebacker Jake Fischer leaves a defensive void as well as one in the locker room. Fisher was quietly one of the top linebackers in the league the last few years. Scooby Wright has the talent and will have to grow into a leadership role despite being a sophomore. Hank Hobson has dealt with injuries, but is capable.
  3. Something special: The Wildcats ranked in the bottom half of the league last year in kick and punt returns, though significant progress could be on the way with T.J. Johnson and Neal in the return game. Last year the Wildcats were ninth in kick returns (20.5 average) and seventh in punt returns (7.2 average).
One way-too-early prediction: After back-to-back eight-win seasons in Rodriguez’s first two years, the Wildcats will surpass that win total and get to nine wins – which includes a third consecutive bowl win. The nonconference slate sets up for a 3-0 start. Then it’s a matter of finding five conference wins plus a bowl victory. In the third year of RichRod’s system – and with that WR stable – the Wildcats are capable of doing a lot of damage.

Arizona State spring wrap

May, 2, 2014
May 2
10:30
AM ET
Three things we learned this spring about the Arizona State Sun Devils:

1. Kelly rising: Taylor Kelly is heading into his third season as the starting quarterback, and it looked like it this spring. He was fully in command of both his team in the huddle and the nuances of coordinator Mike Norvell's offense. With a strong supporting cast around him, including WR Jaelen Strong, RB D.J. Foster and a good O-line, Kelly will be in the mix for All-Pac-12 honors, which will equate to All-American honors in 2014.

2. Speaking of that O-line: While the Sun Devils are replacing two quality starters on their offensive line, the general feeling is the crew should be saltier in 2014. Nick Kelly is an upgrade athletically at center, and Auburn transfer Christian Westerman is a physical presence who has impressed with the way he finishes his blocks. The big question is whether Jamil Douglas, an NFL prospect at guard, will stick at left tackle. In any event, this group goes eight deep, which is the sign of a maturing program.

3. Foster is ready: Foster was a dual threat last year running and catching the ball, but he was second fiddle to TD machine Marion Grice. With Grice gone, Foster stepped up this spring. For one, he showed up bigger and stronger -- tipping the scales at 210 pounds, 15 more than a year ago -- while looking just as quick. While he will still be a versatile guy who can play slot receiver, Foster seems headed for 1,000 yards rushing.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Replacing nine: The Sun Devils' 2014 season hangs on how well it replaces nine starters on defense. And that's not just nine warm bodies. Six of those guys were first-team or second-team All-Pac-12 last year. On the positive side, the defense mostly held its own this spring against a very good offense.

2. Incoming! Arizona State expects many of its incoming players -- JC transfers and freshmen -- to immediately battle for spots on both sides of the ball, though most particularly on defense. Already this spring, early enrollee D.J. Calhoun made an impact by pushing for a starting job at weakside linebacker. Players such as Dalvon Stuckey, Darrius Caldwell, Kweishi Brown, Connor Humphreys and Tashon Smallwood are being counted upon to immediately contribute or even start. Will they be ready?

3. Special teams? Coach Todd Graham was frequently chagrined by his special teams play in 2013, particularly in punting. Can sophomore punter Matt Haack carry the consistency that he showed this spring into the fall? The lefty was booming kicks in practice, but will he be able to produce the same results in games?

One way-too-early prediction

Senior safety Damarious Randall is going to make a bid for All-Pac-12 honors and the interception lead in the Pac-12 this fall. He was a standout this spring as one of the few returning starters on the Sun Devils defense. The unit's fourth-leading tackler a year ago, he also grabbed three interceptions. In what figures to be a pass-happy league -- and with an inexperienced defensive front -- Randall should get plenty of opportunities to showcase his best ball-hawking.

California spring wrap

May, 2, 2014
May 2
10:00
AM ET
A recap of what we learned about Cal as it heads into its second season under coach Sonny Dykes.

Three things we learned in the spring:

1. Staying healthy. Without question the biggest contributing factor in Cal’s 2013 disaster was the relentless rash of injuries that left an already young team without a puncher’s chance. This was such a problem that just the fact that Cal survived spring practice without any significant injuries was arguably its most important accomplishment.

2. Depth at receiver. Chris Harper, Bryce Treggs and Kenny Lawler figure to make a dangerous trio of receivers for the Golden Bears, but there is depth in the receiving corps beyond them. Trevor Davis, a transfer from Hawaii, is expected to make an immediate impact on the outside, along with Maurice Harris. Treggs spent the spring learning the inside position and will present a more versatile option this season.

3. Jared Goff ready to take next step. With no one to seriously challenge Goff for playing time -- Zach Kline is headed to Butte College -- he has settled into more of a leadership role. The rising sophomore has all the talent to eventually be among the conference’s best quarterbacks, but that could be dependent on the offensive line and running game.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Can they run the ball? Getting an accurate gauge of how improved the run game is won’t be an easy task until the season begins. Khalfani Muhammad, the team’s leading rusher from a season ago (74 carries, 445 yards), split his time between football and track during spring and will see competition from a pair of incoming freshmen -- Tre Watson and Vic Enwere.

2. Will the Bears stay healthy? If they don’t, there won’t be much reason for optimism. Cal isn’t in a place where it will have much success in the conference with less than its full compliment of weapons. The Bears have a lot of talented players, but their depth is lacking compared to others in what should be a loaded Pac-12 in 2014.

3. What is considered success? After going 0-for-FBS last season, it’s fair to say a four-win season should be looked at as a considerable improvement. The nonconference schedule includes a trip to Northwestern, home games with BYU and Sacramento State, and they miss Utah and Arizona State during conference play.

One way-too-early prediction:

Goff will finish in the top five in the county in passing yards. He has the receivers, is in the right system and has the talent. If this happens, there’s still the potential he finishes No. 3 in the conference behind Oregon State’s Sean Mannion and Washington State’s Connor Halliday, who finished No. 2 and No. 3 in the country last season.

Colorado spring wrap

May, 2, 2014
May 2
9:30
AM ET
Three things we learned this spring about the Colorado Buffaloes:

1. Backup plan: Attrition at quarterback left the Buffaloes with just two scholarship players behind center entering spring practices, but returning starter Sefo Liufau took a step forward as a true sophomore participating in his first spring practice, and, perhaps as important, sophomore Jordan Gehrke more than eased fears that he is a capable backup. As a better threat running the ball than Liufau, Gehrke might even find his way into the plan this fall.

2. More skilled than you think: While the big story entering spring drills on offense was the challenge of replacing receiver Paul Richardson, the feeling at the end is the skill is more than adequate both at receiver and running back. At receiver, Nelson Spruce and D.D. Goodson are the veterans, and redshirt freshman Bryce Bobo was a big riser this spring, claiming the top spot at X receiver. Top WR recruit Shay Fields arrives in the fall. At running back, there's good depth with 230-pound Christian Powell, Tony Jones, Michael Adkins and surging redshirt freshman Phillip Lindsay.

3. Looking the part: Since joining the Pac-12, Colorado has been younger, smaller and slower than most other conference teams. It also often played like it knew that. This spring, the second under coach Mike MacIntyre, the team seemed to take a step forward both physically and mentally. The players are in sync with their coaches -- no staff changes this offseason -- both in terms of scheme and how practice is conducted. After a mostly competitive performance in 2013, there's a belief the program can take a step forward this fall.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Sorting out the offensive line: The Buffaloes need new starters at center and left tackle and little was settled this spring, particularly with the return of Jeromy Irwin and the arrival of juco transfer Sully Wiefels in the fall. Marc Mustoe was listed No. 1 at left tackle and Alex Kelley at center on the post-spring depth chart.

2. Getting physical: MacIntyre and defensive coordinator Kent Baer both -- repeatedly -- talked about the need to be more physical on the line of scrimmage, so this goes for both sides of the ball. A lot of that is about what happens between now and fall camp in the weight room. The Buffs need to be stronger and better conditioned at the point of attack.

3. Who gets the sacks? The Buffaloes have played with a promising, but young secondary the past two years. Now that youth should fulfill its promise. But a secondary is only as good as its pass rush, and it's uncertain who will lead the charge to the QB with the departure of end Chidera Uzo-Diribe.

One way-too-early prediction:

Colorado improved dramatically in Year 1 under MacIntyre, and the depth chart is far more promising than a year ago. But in the rugged Pac-12, it's difficult to project six victories and bowl eligibility. That said, this team is good enough to beat someone it’s not supposed to beat. And it will in 2014. The Buffs will post a major upset in 2014.

Oregon spring wrap

May, 2, 2014
May 2
9:00
AM ET
Three things we learned in the spring:
  • The O-line is going to be much more physical. Minor tweaks were made in the offseason strength and conditioning plan and it meant major strides for the Ducks, specifically the offensive linemen, who put on more than 100 pounds as a position group. Center Hroniss Grasu said the group felt like it was pushed around last season against Stanford and Arizona and wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again.
  • The receivers will be young. With Bralon Addison injured, the staff is searching for where those passing yards will be made up because the receivers are going to be very young next season. It’s not very often that a redshirt freshman at Oregon is getting quality reps at such a key position, but it’s going to happen at receiver.
  • The linebackers are going to be the core of the D. The spring only amplified this feeling. With Don Pellum now coordinating the defense from the middle of the field and still working with the inside linebackers, this group is going to be scary good. It’s not crazy to think all four starters could be among top six tacklers this season (last season all four starters were in the top eight).
Three questions for the fall:
  • How much will they spread the ball around? Last season, 68 percent of the Ducks' passes were thrown to receivers. Now, with Addison injured and the leading receiver being Keanon Lowe (he caught just 18 passes in 2013), will passing game coordinator Matt Lubick try to get the ball to the tight ends and running backs more? Maybe. Especially considering there’s more receiving experience in those position groups than at receiver.
  • Who will become the lead back? The compliments have seemed pretty evenly split between Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall this spring. But when push comes to shove and the Ducks need a first down, who will Helfrich call on? Both averaged 6.2 yards per carry in 2013. Both were almost equally productive -- Marshall averaged one touchdown every 12 carries while Tyner averaged one touchdown every 12.8 carries. Who becomes “the” guy in 2014?
  • Can the defense stop the run? The Ducks struggled in stopping the run in 2013. Opponents averaged 3.8 yards per carry vs. the Oregon defense, and 34 percent of rushes went for at least five yards. The linebackers will be solid. The defensive backs should be all right. But can the D-line make a statement at the point of attack?
One way-too-early prediction: The Ducks will win the Pac-12 North. Oregon doesn’t have to play USC or Arizona State and its road schedule is pretty kind. Stanford, on the other hand, plays USC and has tough road games at Washington, Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA. This’ll be a close race, but the Ducks will come out in front.
Three things we learned in the spring:
  • John Garrett is a good fit with the Beavers. Some offensive coordinators come in and change the scheme, the verbiage, the whole system. Garrett came in, realized he had a very, very good senior quarterback and an offense that works around him, so he learned the Beavers’ scheme, the Beavers’ verbiage, the Beavers’ whole system. He works really well with coach Mike Riley and seems to be a great addition to the Oregon State staff.
  • The D-line is further along than expected. Coming into this spring the Beavers needed to replace three starters along a D-line that gave up a dismal 5.1 yards per rush last season. However, between a few position moves and players finally stepping up, the defensive line seems to be one of the more pleasant surprises of the spring.
  • The linebackers will be the core of the defense. The linebackers lost no player of note from last season and got back Michael Doctor, who missed the 2013 season due to an ankle injury. They’re going to be one of the better linebacker units in the Pac-12 this season and they continually impressed with their talent and depth throughout spring practice.
Three questions for the fall:
  • Who will become Sean Mannion’s top target? The senior signal-caller lost his security blanket and the nation’s top receiver when Brandin Cooks declared for the NFL draft. The Beavers receivers need to make up that yardage and chances are that it’ll be spread around to several different guys. Richard Mullaney is the only veteran so he seems the best bet. And Victor Bolden and Malik Gilmore are also names that have popped up ... but they combined for 13 catches and 138 yards last season.
  • Can the offensive line better protect Mannion? There were a few injuries along the O-line this spring which allowed some younger players to take meaningful reps. In the long run, that’ll help. But what the Beavers need right now is an O-line that’s going to protect Oregon State’s most valuable commodity -- Mannion. Last season, the Beavers allowed 25 sacks. There were only 23 QBs nationwide who were sacked more than Mannion. That needs to change.
  • Can this defense stop the run? In 2013, the Beavers managed to stop 115 of 485 opponents rushes at or before the line of scrimmage, but the problem came when opponents got past the line of scrimmage. About 41 percent of opponent rushes went for at least five yards, and 16 percent went at least 10 yards. All of those stats need to improve.
One way-too-early prediction
From a total passing yards perspective, this won’t be an “impressive” year for Mannion ... but (yes, there’s a but) Mannion is still going to have another 3,000-yard passing season. No, it won’t be quite the 4,600-yard season he had last year, but look for him to increase his touch even though he decreases his yardage. Last year he accounted for about one interception for every two touchdowns. Quarterbacks like Marcus Mariota and Teddy Bridgewater accounted for about eight touchdowns for every one interception. In his final go around, Mannion will be a much more polished, accurate signal-caller who accounts for four touchdowns for every one pick.

Stanford spring wrap

May, 2, 2014
May 2
8:00
AM ET
What we learned about the two-time defending Pac-12 champion Stanford Cardinal in spring practice.

Three things we learned in the spring:

1. Defense is ahead of the offense. That shouldn’t be taken as a slight against the offense, either. Stanford’s defense is loaded back to front and set the tone for most of the spring. Replacing defensive coordinator Derek Mason, linebackers Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov, defensive ends Ben Gardner and Josh Mauro and safety Ed Reynolds is daunting, but not reason for panic.

2. Henry Anderson is a potential All-American. He has flown under the radar at times, but Anderson will be among the best defensive ends in the country next season. The fifth-year senior has the size (6-foot-6, 295 pounds) and skill to alter opposing gameplans.

3. Kevin Hogan is ready to lead. With a 10-1 career mark against Top 25 opponents, it’d be easy to argue he arrived ready to lead, but there’s now no question that he's a leader. With a talented group of receivers coming back, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if his passing numbers make a big jump this season.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Who will win the starting jobs on defense? One safety spot and one inside linebacker spot appear to be the biggest question marks going into the summer. Kodi Whitfield still figures to have a good shot at starting next to Jordan Richards at safety after converting from receiver, but Dallas Lloyd, Kyle Olugbode and Zach Hoffpauir will factor in. At linebacker, Blake Martinez and Joe Hemschoot are the frontrunners to replace Skov.

2. How will the young offensive line come together? Left tackle Andrus Peat is the only full-time starter back, but it’s a unit that won’t be light on talent. The other four players, like Peat, were from the lauded Class of 2012 and need time to gel. There was little rotation among the first team during spring practice as Stanford tries to ready the group. There won’t be much time either, with USC on the schedule in Week 2.

3. Will running-back-by-committee last? Coach David Shaw predicted a committee approach in 2013, but Tyler Gaffney forced his hand and took the lion’s share of the carries. This time, with four players close in skill level, the Cardinal will probably stick with it longer, which will jeopardize the school's six-year streak with a 1,000-yard back.

One way-too-early prediction:

Kelsey Young will lead the team in carries. He arrived at Stanford as a running back, switched to receiver and is now back at his natural position. He and Barry Sanders appeared to be the most dangerous of the backs with the ball in their hands, but they need to improve in pass protection. If Young proves to be a capable blocker, he’ll see the most snaps.

UCLA spring wrap

May, 2, 2014
May 2
7:30
AM ET
Three things we learned this spring
  1. Raising the (next) Barr: All indications are that Kenny Orjioke probably has the inside track at outside linebacker to replace the departed Anthony Barr. Aaron Wallace (dealing with grade issues) and Deon Hollins are still very much in the mix. Several members of the staff said they were pleased with what they saw from Orjioke -- though it’s worth noting he didn’t play in the spring game for reasons not revealed.
  2. Welcome back, Owa: After missing last season with a hip injury, defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa (aka the scourge of spellcheck), returned with a very strong spring session that included a pair of sacks in the spring game. His return bolsters a pass rush that has to replace Barr and Cassius Marsh.
  3. Back depth: The staff has been very pleased with the progress of running back Jordon James. But they feel equally solid about Paul Perkins, Steven Manfro and redshirt freshman Craig Lee. Combined with the scrambling ability of quarterback Brett Hundley, the Bruins should build upon last year’s average of 196.6 yards per game.
Three questions for the fall
  1. Line-up: While the coaching staff feels pretty good about its offensive line, finding the right replacement for Xavier Su'a-Filo is still paramount. They think they might have it in graduate transfer Malcolm Bunche from Miami. But a couple of starting spots should still be up for grabs when the Bruins return for fall camp.
  2. Backup plan: A lot rests on the legs and arm of Hundley – a Heisman trophy candidate and presumptive top 10 pick in 2015. Whether it’s Jerry Neuheisel or Asiantii Woulard backing him up remains to be seen. Neither were particularly sharp in the spring game, with Neuheisel throwing two interceptions and Woulard completing just 4 of 13 passes.
  3. More D-to-O coming? We know about Myles Jack and the impact he made on offense for the Bruins last season. He didn’t get any carries in the spring, though Jim Mora said they’ll likely have some packages for him. Will we see others? Eddie Vanderdoes? Ishmael Adams? Not that they’ll give it away in the spring, but it will be fun to watch this fall to see how many defensive players see offensive time.
Way-too-early prediction: The Bruins will win the Pac-12 South for the third time in four years. With Hundley at the helm and an experienced defense, the Bruins not only have the fewest question marks among their Southern brethren, but they have plenty of talent to match on both sides of the ball. Staying healthy will be key, as will gaining some early momentum with critical conference games against ASU, Utah and Oregon in the first half of the season.

USC spring wrap

May, 2, 2014
May 2
7:00
AM ET
Three things we learned this spring about the USC Trojans.
  1. The uptempo offense is here: On the first day of spring the Trojans ran 120 offensive plays, compared to the roughly 75-80 that had been run under previous coaches. The increased pace is noticeable and should only move faster as the players become more comfortable.
  2. The D-line is big: This is a talented group along the interior this year with a rotation that goes two deep, led by ESPN All-American Leonard Williams. But what really stands out in the overall size; it’s not too often that USC has a collection this big in the middle.
  3. Cody Kessler will remain the QB: There was some offseason scuttlebutt about the possibility of redshirt freshman Max Browne mounting a challenge for the starting spot, but Kessler put that to rest by steadily improving throughout spring and getting the official endorsement from Steve Sarkisian during the final week.
Three questions for fall
  1. Status of guard spots: The Trojans appear set at left tackle and center, with a likely starter in place at right tackle as well. The two guard spots, however, will be up in the air until fall camp due to injuries that forced the projected starters to miss spring.
  2. Running back rotation: Sarkisian used a primary ball-carrier in his time at Washington, but he listed Buck Allen and Tre Madden as co-starters coming out of spring, so it appears both players will be part of the mix. Justin Davis should also get a look once he returns from injury.
  3. Depth issues remain: The 2014 season will mark the final portion of the NCAA sanctions with a reduced USC roster that will feature 70 players who came to the school on scholarship. That means a thin margin for error with injuries or other factors.
One way-too-early prediction: The Trojans will be better on defense this season. The 2013 USC defense ranked atop the Pac-12 in total defense and in the top 25 nationally in eight different categories. But with a talented front seven -- led by Williams and four-year starting linebacker Hayes Pullard -- along with a much-improved secondary, don’t be surprised if the 2014 defense is even better.

Utah spring wrap

May, 2, 2014
May 2
6:30
AM ET
Three things we learned in the spring
  1. O-line depth: While no coach is ever satisfied with depth on the offensive line, the Utes staff is feeling pretty good about the current setup. The left side has solid experience with Jeremiah Poutasi and Junior Salt and junior Siaosi Aiono, a former tackle, brings some experience in the middle. There are multiple options on the right side.
  2. Ground control: Right now it looks like Bubba Poole survived a push from Devontae Booker and is still the “starting” running back. But Booker impressed the coaching staff, and there’s depth behind him with Troy McCormick. Some good options for Utah to build on last year's 160.3 rushing yards per game.
  3. Improved secondary: The Utes had the second to worst turnover ratio in the league last year, which included a league-low three interceptions. But the staff feels good with Brian Blechen back at strong safety and some competition at the corner spots with Davion Orphey and Eric Rowe on one side and Justin Thomas at nickel.
Three questions for the fall
  1. LB depth: The Utes had a run of injuries to starters and key reserves, which signals an alarm that depth could be an issue heading into the fall and beyond. For now, it looks like Uaea Masina, Jason Whittingham and Jared Norris hold down the top three spots.
  2. WR questions: Dres Anderson, the leading receiver last year with 53 catches for 1,002 yards and seven touchdowns, is back at one spot. But there’s some competition continuing for the other two spots between Delshawn McClellon and Kaelin Clay at one position and Kenneth Scott and Dominique Hatfield at the other.
  3. Many happy returns: While it looks like Geoff Norwood is slated to handle the punt returns, he might have to split some time with Poole. Norwood is also in the mix with Hatfield for kickoff return duties, but that probably won’t get worked out until practice resumes in the fall.
One way-too-early prediction: Travis Wilson will play and the Utes will make it to the postseason. Craziness, right? The big nonconference game this year is at Michigan, a program with a big name but not very big results the last couple of years. Kyle Whittingham had the upper hand on Brady Hoke when he was in the Mountain West. The Utes broke through with a win over Stanford and almost knocked off UCLA and ASU. It’s not out of the question to imagine them winning six games and getting back to the postseason -- especially with a healthy Wilson at QB.

Washington spring wrap

May, 2, 2014
May 2
6:00
AM ET
Three things we learned in the spring:
  • 1. Despite losing so much, Washington’s offense will be OK. It’s hard to lose a 3,000-yard passer (Keith Price), a Mackey Award winner (Austin Seferian-Jenkins) and a 1,800-yard rusher (Bishop Sankey) and imagine the offense will be anything other than catastrophic. Since those three players took most of the game reps at their positions, there will certainly be growing pains. But with the depth and players who learned from Price, Seferian-Jenkins and Sankey, there is a lot of potential for this team.
  • 2. Shaq Thompson could be a two-way player for the Huskies. The inside linebacker made tons of huge plays for Washington throughout the spring and did enough on the offensive side of the ball to have the coaches consider him as a RB. The Huskies will need a few guys to tote the ball, so having the ILB jump to offense a bit as well doesn’t seem too crazy.
  • 3. Chris Petersen likes a good joke, too. The new coach decided to prank his team on April Fool’s Day by bringing in hideous uniforms and telling the Huskies that these were somehow representative of the team’s attitude and play. Players were less than impressed before realizing that the coach was pulling a fast one over on them.
Three questions for the fall:
  • 1. What will Petersen do about suspended players? Damore'ea Stringfellow was sentenced to five days on a work crew after pleading guilty to three misdemeanors and ordered to pay restitution following a post-Super Bowl assault. Cyler Miles was also connected to the event but not charged. Petersen already dismissed one player from the team, freshman cornerback Patrick Enewally, for punching a teammate. Could more dismissals be coming? Or will Miles and Stringfellow be reinstated?
  • 2. Who will be the starting QB? Petersen spent the spring evaluating Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams and following the spring game, Lindquist seemed to be the front runner for the job. But that doesn’t factor Miles in and it’s a long way off until the Huskies’ season opener. If this is a three-man race, who starts against Hawaii?
  • 3. How big will the learning curve be for the offense? The Huskies have four games to get it together before Stanford comes to Seattle on Sept. 27. The offense needs to be running smoothly by then. Can Petersen turn the potential into efficient talent by then? Last season the Huskies were No. 2 in the Pac-12 in total offense (499.3 yards per game). But will they even finish in the top half of the Pac-12 this upcoming season with the yardage Washington can put on the field?
One way-too-early prediction: Washington goes 5-2 at home. The three nonconference games should go Washington’s way, leaving the Huskies to go 2-2 against Stanford, Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon State. Best guess? The two wins come over ASU and OSU while the losses will be to Stanford and UCLA (this one will be close though). Give the offense time to gel and there’s a chance they could pick up a third win in that conference group over UCLA in November.
What we learned about Washington State in the spring as it prepares for the third season under Mike Leach.

Three things we learned in the spring:

1. Offensive line will have some beef. When Leach arrived, the offensive line simply didn't match up physically against teams in the Pac-12. The Cougars will replace three starters on the line, but for the first time in Leach's tenure, the unit will average more than 300 pounds across the board.

2. Falk, Bruggman competition will be good. There was a general sense that QB Tyler Bruggman was the heir apparent to Connor Halliday, but that perception isn't the same after a strong spring from Luke Falk, who was nowhere near the caliber of recruit. The two splits the reps with the second unit throughout the spring.

3. Depth on the DL. Ioanee Gauta is gone, but the Cougars return Toni Pole, Xavier Cooper and Destiny Vaeao, which presents the obvious strength of the defense. With Darryl Paulo, Robert Barber, Daniel Ekuale and Emmitt Su'a-Kalio the team should have improved depth up front.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Who will be the top two running backs? Marcus Mason and Teondray Caldwell, the team's top two backs from a season ago, are back, but that guarantees nothing. On Thursday, Leach told reporters Theron West and Jamal Morrow would be the primary backs.

2. How will young group of defensive backs develop? Only time will tell, but if the Cougars expect to take another step forward, it'll hinge on the ability of this group to develop quickly. Deone Bucannon is among five players gone from last season, and only safety Taylor Taliulu and cornerback Daquawn Brown saw extensive playing time last season.

3. Can Darryl Monroe be an all-conference caliber player? The unquestioned leader of the defense, Monroe was a steady force for the Cougars as a sophomore and has a chance to make a name for himself this season. With Cyrus Coen also back, the linebacker play should be improved.

One way-too-early prediction:

WSU will start 3-0. It begins with: Rutgers in Seattle; at Nevada; Portland State at home. It's an opening slate the Cougars will expect to navigate through without a loss before Oregon travels to Pullman in Week 4. A 3-6 Pac-12 record would be disappointing for the team and fanbase, but in this scenario it would still qualify the program for a second straight bowl.

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